Tuesday, March 01, 2005


My experience with Vistaprint -- they almost have it right

Well!! Last week at the urging of a colleague, I tried Vistaprint's (www.vistaprint.com) "free business cards" offer. It cost me $30. they didn’t say it was "free" they said it was "free*" --- yes, note the "*" --- you have to pay for shipping, and if you want a logo there's an extra charge, and --- get this--- if you want to remove the message on the back of the card which says something like "printed by Vistaprint" (if they're giving you free cards, there had to be a * after all, right?), you have to pay $10. And if you want another 250 cards, it's $10 (that charge is perfectly legit). After I placed the order I was barraged with all kinds of e-offers as I was completing the order process. It made me wonder what personal print sales would be like --- "now that I have your print order, I’ve noticed that the rugs around here are kind of worn-- I’ve got a great deal on some Berber, and shag is coming back, so you may want to get in on that trend early."

I wonder if they had an offer for "free shipping" and made me pay $10 for the cards if that would qualify as ok under an EU proposal where they would outlaw the word "free" http://www.directmag.com/news/eu-outlaw-022205/ . Whatever the case, it seemed like a bait-and-switch thing going on. I must say they had the best selection of card templates. Remember-- I have not had a business card for myself since 1997 or 1998. When I needed them for a show I printed them out myself or would the "oh gee, I just ran out" routine and took someone else's and sent them my info by e-mail. The cards will be here in about 10 days, they claimed, and they just arrived. They’re fine, as expected. I had skipped the on-screen proofing because it was taking so long (I have high speed broadband and it was taking longer than forever and just gave up), but I figured that since I was using a template and the text was correct, it wasn't all that risky.

Vistaprint (or at least businesses like them) is the wave of the future-- selling design services online as part of their process, etc--- but there is a bit of old style production-based print selling in their process that I wished was a bit more sophisticated. I’m still getting offers, way too many of them, from discounts to refer-a-friend, and I suspect others are being pulled from their bag of tricks as I write this. It’s overwhelming. What they've done is a quite an achievement, nonetheless. But the constant barrage of offers makes them seem just a bit too desperate for sales. Consultative e-selling isn't in their vocabulary yet, I guess.

By the way, in my hunting around, the iprint.com site is still up, and the online ordering for staples.com for cards is pretty bad with a horrible selection. I wonder if staples.com or someone else might not make a play for Vistaprint or someone else of its ilk. If not, they should do something to come up to Vistaprint’s level of selection or services. I suspect that staples.com probably has that in their nefarious plans somewhere... In the meantime, I'm going to see if "free*" is listed in the dictionary.

(UPDATE: on 3/10/05 WTT has a story about Vistaprint's new plant: http://members.whattheythink.com/news/newslink.cfm?id=18560 )

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