Jim Wares: Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves

I learned my printer/scanner/copier offends me. It’s whiney, manipulative and it lies to me. It represents all that is wrong with the world. Last week I changed the ink cartridges in the sinister thing. This week, every time I print a page, a window pops up warning me I am low on ink and need to replace the ink cartridges, which is why I changed the ink cartridges in the first place. Eventually, the printer won’t let me print anything until I change the cartridges. So I take the supposedly empty ink cartridges to Costco to have them refilled. They tell me my ink cartridges are still more than half full.

Here’s the thing, printers are machines incapable of lying. The low ink warning window shows up on my laptop screen and the printer refuses to operate until I change the cartridges because some engineers designed it to be so and some corporate executives willfully ordained it. This is no accident … it is a business model. Printer ink is a $16.4 billion per year industry even though it is made from some of the most common materials found on earth like carbon and water but is sold at the price of diamonds. To put this in perspective, a gallon of printer ink, sold in milliliters, markets for over $4,000 … it’s a racket. Independent studies have shown that often 40 percent of printer ink is thrown in the garbage because the consumers are led to believe they are out of ink.

The idea of greedy, immoral corporate executives deceiving me is not a surprising thing. What I find surprising is that they are allowed to get away with this fraud. How is it the people of America have come to tolerate the lies of corporate America? Is it that we have simply developed an immunity to truth and a willingness to be patsies?

In 2009 when we were going through a swine flu scare, boxes of Kellogg’s Rice Krispies were label with “Now Helps Support Your Child’s Immunity.” More likely, Kool-Aid is better for your child’s immune system. Kellogg also said that Frosted Mini-Wheats improved your child’s attentiveness by 20 percent. The Federal Trade Commission disagreed

Classmates.com, a website that supposedly links people with their high school friends, sent emails to their subscribers saying classmates were reaching out to them and that for a small fee Classmates.com would hook you up. They were lying. It wasn’t true. They were just taking their subscribers money. In 2010, Classmates settled a class action suit for $9.5 million.

Do you remember Airborne, the cold and flu product invented by a teacher, that claimed to kill the germs and bacteria that caused flu … well … it did … as well as a glass of water. Airborne settled the class action lawsuit for $23 million.

A few years back the Supreme Court of the United States declared corporations are people … weird idea. I recall a bumper sticker that said, “I’ll believe corporations are people when the state of Texas executes one.” I want to execute my printer.

I’m tired of being used, abused, mislead, lied to and robbed. It happens so often we hardly notice anymore. It’s as if we have come to accept and expect being made the patsy. Try a little experiment. Go to a fast food drive-through. Take a picture with your cell phone of the picture of the cheeseburger you are about to order displayed on the menu board. Now, drive to the next window. Take another picture of the cheeseburger you got. Is there any resemblance at all? Do you get the urge to throw said cheeseburger at someone but won’t because you just paid $7 for it.

When a laundry detergent says it has 75 percent less water do you ever wonder why it had any water to begin with? Do you ever wonder why your car gets 20 miles to the gallon of gasoline when the Model T got 21? Do you ever wonder why it is that we willingly pay for products that kill 99.9 percent of the bacteria in our mouths when our digestive and immune systems, our very lives depend on the bacteria in our mouths?

A dozen or so years ago, a girlfriend decided I should do something about my rapidly balding head. She hooked me up with a bottle Rogaine. The instructions on the bottle told me I needed to massage this stuff into my scalp for seven minutes every day … seven … long minutes. And I wondered, why seven minutes? I didn’t try the product at first. Something about the seven minute thing made me curious. Instead, I told my girlfriend I was using the product when in fact I had bought two fingernail brushes and for a whole month vigorously rubbed my scalp with these two brushes every shower, every day for a month … for seven minutes … with just water. After a month, we concurred. Peach fuzz was growing on my head. It got to be about a quarter of an inch long then stopped growing but I in fact was growing more hairs. You just had to look close to see it. A couple of months later I went ahead and gave the Rogaine a try. For 30 days, I spent seven minutes per day rubbing that stuff into my scalp. After 30 days …peach fuzz that stopped growing after reaching a quarter of an inch in length … the exact same result as just water. At that time, a month’s supply of Rogaine was over $40. I don’t recall what water cost back then. I do remember that two fingernail brushes were $1. Seven minutes per day … priceless. This is all I have learned today.

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James Wares lives in Marshalltown and can be reached at whatjimhaslearnedtoday@yahoo.com