Adding up the money spent on consumable supplies
Photo by Ben Charlton / Creative Commons license 2.0
When you buy a receipt printer, the original purchase price is only a small fraction of what you’re signing up for in the long run. For starters, there’s the paper: At about 40 cents for a 150-foot roll when purchased in bulk, it may not strike you as a major expense – but how much does paper cost over the lifetime of the machine? Well, assuming an average of 9 inches per receipt, which is common, you can get about 200 receipts out of each 150-foot roll. (Actually, some of that length at the very start and end of the roll goes to waste, but there’s enough uncertainty that we can call it an even 200.) That means that over the 2-million item rated life of a typical receipt printer (which is 10-15 years of heavy retail use), you’ll go through 10,000 rolls of paper, at a cost of $4,000! That’s likely several times higher than the cost of the device itself.
Now, regular plain white receipt paper is slightly cheaper than thermal paper – about 0.4 cents per foot compared with 0.5 cents. However, most banks and many retailers issue receipts with their company logos pre-printed at fixed intervals or in the background; this can raise the cost of plain receipt paper by almost double. That’s why many stores now use thermal devices to print the logo at the top of each receipt as it is created, which costs nothing. Next time you go to Target, Safeway, or Home Depot, take a close look at the receipt: It’s probably got the logo printed in thermal black and white, not pre-printed on the paper. The bottom line is that if you’re doing anything more artistic than a bare white receipt with printed text, thermal paper tends to have a final cost that’s the same as or less than plain paper.
What about the ink? Every once in a while, the ribbon or inkjet cartridge needs to be replaced, though far less frequently than the paper. How often? Most dot-matrix ribbons cost $3.00 and last about 3 million printed characters; the cost of inkjet cartridges varies greatly, but they can last anywhere from 7-20 million depending on their size. With a typical receipt of the length we’re discussing containing 300-400 printed characters, that’s 10,000 receipts per ink ribbon or 20,000-50,000 per cartridge. That means that over the lifetime of the device, you’ll replace a ribbon 200 times at a cost of $600, or an ink cartridge between 40 and 100, a $600 to $2,000 expense.
Below we’ve included two calculators to help you estimate the annual cost of supplies for both ribbon and inkjet receipt printers across an entire organization.
Instructions: Enter the number of locations (stores, branches, etc.) in your company, along with the number of receipts printed at each. If you have multiple registers at each location, do not count them separately. Hit Enter to update the totals.
Estimates based on the following:
Ink ribbon: 3 million character lifespan, $3.00 cost
Inkjet cartridge: 10 million character lifespan, user enters cost