Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Ever increasing inflation, printing costs and mileage - but we still love what we do!

It's a constant battle to keep one step ahead of retailers on the price of printer cartridges, just another of those ever increasing costs for my workshops - I like to be generous with my worksheets, and print good quality colour sheets for students to take home. Using generic cartridges isn't something I want to do. I tried generics several years ago, and ruined another printer in the process, so I don't want to go down that route again. I also found generic cartridges to be a false economy in other ways, as my printer didn't detect when there were issues with the print quality - having 50+ pages printed out minus one of the ink colours is just a waste of the other inks and paper. Plus, I use my main printer, an Epson Stylus D88 Plus, for printing fabric, and trying to swap cartridges back and forth between generics and the manufacturer's high quality Durabrite inks (which don't fade so quickly on fabric) just resulted in dried up cartridges.

Usually, I order my cartridges online from a discount supplier, but occasionally I get caught short and need some cartridges quickly. I used to find Tesco was a good bet here - reasonable prices. But I got a shock there yesterday! After discovering they'd stopped making their own brand eco conditioner (one of their own brand products I actually like), I went upstairs to the computer section. I couldn't believe it when the shelf price on the 0611 cartridge had rocketed up to £17.97!

To put this in perspective, about a year ago, the 0611 cartridges were under £10, and even last Christmas they were £12.97. So a £5 increase on the last shelf price seemed ridiculous - almost double last year's prices. And the price of the multipack? £51.47!! Last time I bought some at Christmas, they were around £32. A £20 increase?!!! To put it further into perspective, when I first bought this printer a few years ago (probably about four years ago), the price of a multipack was about £23. I actually selected this printer because the running costs were more reasonable than others.

Click on the screenshot images to enlarge them so you can read the prices...

I went to Staples - about 400 yards from Tesco - and the price was the same as their website price -

I checked the prices on the Tesco website this morning. Their 'bargain bundle' (first pic at the top of this post) obviously isn't a bargain. I know they are notorious for pricing tricks like this i.e. the larger pack is more often than not WORSE value than the smaller ones.

Because I then checked the individual prices -

These are discounted down to similar prices to last year, but only online. '100s of better prices'? Not if you buy instore. A small discount online seems fair, but hiking the instore price massively instore and then putting a 'discount' on the online product, simply taking it down to last year's prices, seems ridiculous.

When I tackled Tesco staff about price increases on their cartridges towards the end of last year, they trotted out the line that printer manufacturers put up the prices of the cartridges for their older machines, in an attempt to phase them out of the market. Which seems believeable at first, but the cartridges for my newer Epson printer (an inexpensive, small footprint all-in-one bought a fortnight ago) are hardly any cheaper than for the D88.

Trying to keep printing costs down is just one part of the continual battle quilting tutors are having at the moment, trying to keep our workshop costs down as much as possible, in the face of everything else increasing. The pressure is on to keep our workshop fees from going up, to help out our customers, the quilters, but we have bills, mortgages etc. too. Remember, to do a 'day workshop' requires a fair bit of prep on the part of the tutor, so it isn't just the time on the day you pay for (printing and collating worksheets, packing the car, preparing any extra workshop samples and driving time, which can easily add up to a half or a full day before the workshop, plus the day of the workshop often sees me arriving home at 11p.m. or later).

I have had to increase my mileage rate to 40p per mile recently. I'm worried that the next government budget will hike petrol prices again. Hopefully they will see sense and realise that a significant cut in fuel duty would be the kickstart our economy needs. People would respond to a cut of say 20p on a litre of fuel by driving more, so in the longterm, there would be a similar amount of revenue from fuel duty, and perhaps even an increase for the govt's coffers. Of course, petrol is only part of a tutor's total mileage cost - depreciation of the car (tutors do high mileages - I've done over 15,000 since July alone), insurance (which went up for most women drivers in the UK after the EU decided it was discrimination to reward us via lower insurance premiums for having fewer accidents than men), road tax and repairs. Of course the road tax element is higher for older cars, but they are the ones with low depreciation and lower insurance, so that's often what quilting tutors will be driving - it works out a little cheaper per mile in the long run!

Inflation is hitting everyone, but I'm trying to keep my workshop fees and mileage as low as I can. One of the best ways to save on mileage is to book a workshop with me as part of a 'tour' of your area, which saves on mileage. Even if the other booking is some distance away, so long as it is in the right direction, there's usually a decent saving which can be up to 100+ miles.

To give you an idea of a not untypical day for a quilt tutor, on Saturday I drove a round trip of about 300 miles to give a talk to Glamorgan Quilters, at Cowbridge, near Cardiff. If you've ever driven from north to south in Wales, you'll know we don't have much dual carraigeway here and most of the route is on 'country' A-roads. The driving time was about 4 hours each way (plus a couple of stops of course) of what I'd call 'proper' driving i.e. navigating, plenty of gear changes, lots of speed restrictions to note etc. rather than the easier driving from A to B on motorways, all with a heavily packed car (this kind of talk would be impossible by public transport, in terms of time and luggage). We set out at 9 a.m. and were home around 11p.m. - a 14 hour day out. But we were lucky with the spring weather, the route has stunning scenery, the quilters were so welcoming, we had a great time and Cowbridge was a lovely place to look around for an hour after the talk. I guess that is why we do it - it is so rewarding visiting quilters around the country and sharing our love of quilts.

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