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Avoid thermal printers for long-term uses


We still see a lot of thermal printers out there, particularly for printing labels, receipts and the like. They are cheap, of course, though the paper costs extra so it's not always a long term win.

However, I am seeing them used for receipts that people may need to use some time later, and the problem is they fade. They definitely fade if you put them in a wallet or anywhere else that will be kept on your body. For my prepaid cell phone in Canada, for example, I need to buy the vouchers in advance so I can refill over the web before I travel back to Canada, and the most recent purchase came on thermal paper that is already faded partly and will be gone soon. I wrote down the number for protection, but it's just 3 weeks later.

So let's see a move away from thermal printers for receipts. They are OK for mailing labels which are very short lived, or places that will never see exposure to heat, or accidentally being left in the sun, but inkjets are so cheap now that there's not much excuse. (Though I realize inkjets have more moving parts.)

I also find for some reason that the thin thermal paper they use at Fry's for their receipts confuses the sheetfed scanner I use to scan receipts. It's not always sure there is paper in the scanner. I suppose that's mostly the scanner's fault, but it wouldn't happen if Fry's used a better paper or process.


The problem is that anything but thermal is expensive. Not in the paper (thermal paper is obviously more expensive than plain), but in total cost.

If it's got an ink cartridge or a ribbon, then that's a second consumable (ink+paper probably equals out to thermal paper). The more important problem is that when you have a second consumable, you have two different things that the operator has to deal with, probably at different times. Now, instead of just swapping out a roll of paper, the cashier will also have to swap out a ribbon.

That's an extra step, at probably a different time (ribbons/ink carts and paper are unlikely to run out at the same moment). It's one more thing to go wrong (either the ink cart can clog or the ribbon can twist up), and overall it's more of a maintenance hassle. When you run a high-volume operation, this hassle is not worth it.

It's easy to argue that thermals aren't as good, but unless you account for the whole chain that caused them to choose the thermal, you aren't going to make any progress in understanding or changing anything.

The only way they'll switch out is if they think it's in their best interest. Complain to them. Loudly.

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