Back during my rookie year as a pro everyone told me I needed business cards. So I had some printed up and handed out maybe 2 or 3 in a year. Then I moved, which changed all my contact info, so I had to throw the rest away. I have not bothered with business cards since.
Fast forward to last month, when I placed an online order with B&N.com. After going through the checkout, an ad came up that offered me free complimentary business cards as a thank-you:
Now sure, I like free stuff, but I've learned that very few things offered as a purchase perk are actually 100% free. On the other hand, I still don't have any business cards. Thus I decided to click through and see how much I was going to get fleeced.
Navigating through the business card site was like running a sales barrage gauntlet. At the type-in-what-you-want-on-the-card page, they showed me a couple of stock designs, then offered to show me the premium designs ($3.99) Did I want 500 cards instead 250? $9.99. The flat/matte finish on my cards was included, but I could upgrade to a glossy finish ($8.99) 100 lb. paper ($8.99) or show everyone how much I cared about the environment by using the recycled paper option ($14.99)
I skipped all that stuff, designed my biz card and thought, okay, time to checkout.
Alas, the site decided, not so fast. It threw a back side printing options page at me (the free option noted that it contained vistaprint advertising, which btw looks like this) with blank/no advertising ($2.74) color ($6.99) black and white ($3.99) and designer (starting at $3.99) I went with the free option, and clicked through, expecting to checkout.
Nope. More pages of products and widgets printed with my biz card info were then lobbed at me: A pad of sticky notes ($3.74) self-inking address stamp ($13.49) printed pens ($3.74 each) notepads ($6.74). There were a lot more; custom-printed hats, car door magnets, lawn signs and equally ridiculous dreck that I clicked through to get to the checkout.
Which I didn't. I went to a page offering to sell me a web domain with my name (try 1 month for free then pay $9.98 per month.) It seemed to include a web site based on my biz card info, which was a little creepy. Then there were more "free" offers from Google ad words, Pitney Bowes, etc. etc.
After plowing through several more screens of this crap, I finally got to the place-your-order screen. The 250 cards I'd ordered were free, but shipping was not. Standard shipping (defined as 14 business days) was $9.52; Priority (7 days) $13.68; Rush (3+ business days) $26.20. I opted for Slow (21 Days) for $5.67 and that seemed to be it except for my credit card info or buying via Paypal (I went with the latter choice.)
So in reality my free/complimentary business cards cost me $5.67. That was the absolute cheapest I could get them, too.
I was curious to see what the quality of the printing was, and about three weeks later the cards arrived, not especially well-packed or packaged. Out of curiosity I checked with the post office to see what the actual shipping charges would be, and according to them it actually cost $2.38 to ship it to me. So the company tacked on $3.29 to the shipping (which probably covered the cost of their printing and packaging, so I won't begrudge them that; they simply shouldn't call it free.)
As for the cards, the quality is about what I could do myself on my ink jet printer if I set the printing quality at medium. There is no finish to the cards; the flat/matte finish is just the surface of the cardstock they used, which feels to be on the light side, maybe 50-60 lb. It's not horrible, and with the cost of toner cartridges it is probably cheaper than what it would cost me to design and print it out myself. The end result didn't impress me, though, and the ordering experience was so utterly obnoxious that I doubt I'll order anything from them again.