Sunday, December 05, 2010

Biz Card Buyer Beware

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& 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.


  1. Their "free" cards are mediocre, but passable for what they are. I am still yet to see a decent home printed business card - usually the printing is poor, the paper is not very good, or the cards have rough edges from the perforations, or the edges have not been cut straight and so on.

    While Vistaprint's service is OK and their paid for products is also OK, I would also advise caution with Vistaprint - on their order page there used to be an option to join a VIP type club thing that offered discounts. What was not clear is that they would charge you something like $9.95 a month. I've not ordered from them for over a year now, so I don't know if this is still the case.

  2. i decided to get a few of their 'free' products too and while i was happy with my items, i am not happy with the company. i get emails from them two or three times a week, constantly bombarding me with deals and offers 'exclusive' to me for being such a great customer.
    I'm glad you posted about them

  3. I think it all depends upon who you are and what your needs are for these products. I am a high school librarian and the cost for the items I get through Vistaprint are much more economical than other places. I was able to purchase PR materials for my program at more than half of what it would have cost me with some of the other online (as well as our district materials center) services. While the emails are annoying, they offer me a new "free" vinyl banner every time and I'm able to create one using my own images and text for less than $10. I am very pleased with their quality and with how quickly they are delivered.

  4. Wow, that was a rip-off. O_O I'm sorry that happened. :( What a huge disappointment...and I wouldn't have thought B&N would do things like that.


  5. Vista print is a pain in the butt...what's really bad if you do't watch out, they'll stick you with... "you've won a free trial offer..."

    And that free trial offer comes with a $14.95 monthly something or other on your credit card bill every month.

  6. Wow. That is depressing O.o


  7. I wasn't impressed with vistaprint. It's more expensive, but I started ordering from Colored Images. Their customer service is awesome and I love their products. I decided I'd rather pay more for something really well done than something that I've printed with better quality on my old Laserjet from HP.

  8. I'm not at the point yet where I'm worried about business cards just yet, but I must get 15 emails a week from vistaprint for their services. From the amount of spam I've received, I'm not interested at all in ever ordering from them.

  9. Hugs on that experience. I find it handy to have business cards because at conventions or with people I meet and talk writing, by handing one out, I'm giving them a link to my website which has links to FM and other writing information, so they're convenient. However, I bartered with a friend's daughter to remake my rough design into something beautiful and then print them on my laser printer with the clean edge cards. They're only one sided (the back can be used for handwritten notes so it's a feature :D), and the design I wanted was spare and clean lines so maybe it prints better than most, but I've gotten nothing but compliments for them. If you don't have a very good printer, even going to Kinkos for the printing is probably not that expensive, but they might have issues with what paper you can use.

  10. I print my own at Kinkos, with a few considerations.

    I just lay it out in Illustrator, save the file (plus all graphics and fonts), 10 cards per page 1/8" apart so I can have full bleed on the top, bottom and left (so the ink runs over the edge). Kinkos will print one hi-res master copy on a color laser, that I'll then use to make sheets of ten cards whenever I need cards. I have cut marks on the sheet so, when I get home, I hand cut them with an exacto, and I always pick a nice, bright white cardstock.

    I even have different 'fan cards' (with just email, web info) and 'pro contact cards' with phone number and agent added to basic fan card info.

    Yeah, it might be cheaper to get a whole box done instead of doing it myself 10 at a time, but I can change things (including cover art) without wasting a whole box of cards. I don't like waste, and I don't see any reason to have a whole box when I think I've given out maybe 2 dozen since I started this wacky job. ;)

  11. a few years ago i decided to give them a try (based on a friend's advice). while the design was cool, the quality was not as good as what i could have done. i still have them somewhere...luckily if i ever decide to use them again i only used my email & not other contact info. they have raised their prices since i ordered mine. i didn't realize it cost so much to stay so cheap. must be so they can maintain that crappy website.

  12. I tried ordering business cards through one of the major printing companies for RWA this year. I wasn't expecting free, but still had to sort through lots of pages offering all the notebook/ink pad/stationary crap too. I used a stock design that I thought would work well for my combination of genres, and the on-screen proof looked great.

    The printed cards are almost illegible because the printing isn't crisp enough, and the extra $ spent on the glossy finish probably made it worse. I think I gave out about 12 (out of a box of 250), and had to re-write my name on the backs of each so that the taker could actually read something (luckily, I left the backs plain white, despite the pleas of the website to muck it up with more color, graphics, and illegible text). I think I did better the year before when I designed and printed my own. And I'm sure most of my 12 were chucked 5 minutes after receipt.

    On the bright side, I have an almost bottomless supply of "bookmarks" that I'm not afraid to lose....

  13. I've used the home-printed cards, and even used a service from the same company that printed our checks (the name escapes me).

    For the book, I found a local graphic artist and ordered postcards from him. I had the cover on one side and set up text on the back, using my old art program.

    All this went fine. I picked up the cards from him and they were beautifully printed. They also came with a return address from San Francisco. I hopped online and found that he had passed the job onto them and charged me a 40% markup. Clever lad, and if he had remembered to remove the return address on the box, I wouldn't have twigged it.

    So I went with them direct. They printed 100 bookmarks with the cover and my text for about ten bucks, and 100 business cards with the cover and my website info for nine. Add $16 shipping and the whole thing came to $34.81.

    Yeah, you have to follow their templates and check your proof real carefully (I didn't and paid a few bucks to change the order, my bad), but I'm real happy with them. And, no, I don't get a kickback for recommending them:


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