I have been planning to create a business card to use when I meet people in relation to Fitzroyalty and the 10 local news sites, and I prepared the design some time ago. I thought printing the cards would be easy. As Clarkson says, how hard can it be? It should be easy to do it all online: obtain a quote; upload the artwork as a print-ready PDF; pay via credit card; and organise postage or pickup.

I like to do business locally when possible, so I started searching for a printer in the Fitzroy area. This turned into a three week saga of frustration. First, Snap on Budd St in Collingwood. They have a ‘request a quote’ function on their website. I filled in the form and submitted it. Nothing happened. I never received the quote by email.

After a week I looked at the website of Kwik Kopy on Smith St in Fitzroy. No quote function. I moved on to Discount Printing on George St in Fitzroy. Their business card quote form gave me a price of $105, but when I tried to upload my PDF files the uploader failed. Repeatedly. At work on a Windows PC using IE7 and Firefox 3, and at home on an Apple using Firefox 3. Different platforms, different browsers and different networks. It’s not me, it’s you. Fail fail fail.

I decided to start again. I emailed Snap and Kwik Kopy with the specs of the job (500 standard 90mm x 55mm business cards, full colour both sides, laminated, artwork supplied as PDFs with embedded CMYK images and text converted to outlines). Having already been unhappy with Snap, I expected nothing from them. I had not had a bad experience with Kwik. I was merely disappointed that their site was not more helpful. Discount Printing does not list an email address on their site so they did not get a second chance.

Confounding my expectations, Snap emailed back within a day and was ready to take the job. The quote was much higher than Discount Printing, but by now I was so annoyed at how tedious it had become that I wanted to get it over and done with. I tried to upload my files via their site, and it worked first time. I emailed back accepting the quote and organised to pay via credit card when picking up the cards. Easy. Another week went by and Snap phoned me to say the cards were ready to pick up.

I still have not received a return email from Kwik. How can three local small businesses get their customer service so wrong, and how bad can their online tools be? Surely they test them by using them as customers would? Surely they check that their email accounts actually work? No? No fucking idea? I though not.

With so many providers online, I need not have any loyalty to local businesses. That I do is apparently an old fashioned courtesy that is not adequately appreciated. Snap was lucky to get my business after their initial failure, and I am pleased with the cards but I could not honestly recommend the customer service of these businesses.

If buying locally becomes unnecessarily complicated, I’ll give up my preference for it, revert to rational self interest and find someone online who wants to provide the customer service I deserve. This is the challenge that many service industries face in the online era. As a consumer, I have for more choices now than I used to, and you the business owner need to recognise this and try harder to earn my business and my trust.

how not to do business online in Fitzroy / Collingwood

6 thoughts on “how not to do business online in Fitzroy / Collingwood

  • 28 January 2010 at 8:49 am
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    It’s a shame that this has been your experience with this situation. An experience that is, unfortunately, becoming all too familiar with some local businesses. I deal with printing quite often for work, and have utilised the services of all three of the printers you mentioned. I haven’t, however, ever used their online quote request services. While it is the case that these online services should be provided, I’ve *always* had quotes issued promptly following a direct phone call to the printer. Printing can be a complex procedure, and there’s often more options than you realise. It’s for this reason that a phone call can be better suited to the order process than an online form or “sales@…” email.

    Reply
    • 28 January 2010 at 9:05 am
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      Agreed, but… if you offer an online service, then it should work! I replicated all the information from their forms in my later emails and, having worked in print publishing for over 10 years, I know exactly what printers need from clients. Having done the work for this late at night, I cannot call them at my convenience to get a quote…

      Reply
  • 28 January 2010 at 4:36 pm
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    If you’re getting business cards done, I highly recommend MOO.com in the UK. I’ve found their service and site so easy to use, and it doesn’t cost any more (even with postage.

    Jetsetting Joyce

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    • 29 January 2010 at 2:18 am
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      This is exactly what local businesses have to compete with. Next time I will probably choose an online supplier like them.

      Reply
  • 12 March 2010 at 2:32 pm
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    Snap, Kwik and Discount aren’t really ‘local’ businesses: they are large companies with offices in the Fitzroy area. If you are really looking for a local printer, I’d suggest Arena Printing in Kerr St.

    They were really helpful when I was looking and didn’t want to deal with a big company. They’ll quote you and accept your designs by email and turn it into your product without any troubles.

    Reply
    • 12 March 2010 at 3:05 pm
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      A google search for ‘business card printing Fitzroy’ did not find Arena so they may need to work on their SEO. I never knew they existed so how could I ask them for a quote?

      Reply

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