I occasionally think it would be fun to have “business” cards that are just for fun, but I don’t usually want to pay a lot. I recently saw a VistaPrint ad for 250 free business cards, so I wondered: Is Vistaprint really free? Answer: It’s not quite “free” in the end because you pay shipping and handling, but you don’t get gouged.
I haven’t seen the cards yet, but and for $6 it’s a fun thing to do, with a couple of things to watch out for.
Update #2 (Jan 2013): I now prefer to use Prints Made Easy. There’s no “free” gimmick, but overall I find it easier to use, have more options at the base price and still be very cheap. If Vista Print were the only company out there, I’d be very pleased to do business with them. No problem. I just like Prints Made Easy better. Their name is accurate: they make it easy!
When I passed my doctoral exams, I made up cards that said:
Appointments by request
This time I wasn’t doing something quite that flippant. These cards are for my position has “Hiker in Chief” at Yosemite Explorer, so I didn’t care about a unique, custom, professional product. I was fine with the 30 or so free business card templates they offer. At every step, though, you’re tempted to upgrade: more templates, custom fonts, no Vistaprint.com URL on the back ($3.99 extra). Then of course you get offered all sorts of complementary, but not complimentary, products: address labels, letterhead, pens and so on. Then when you’re all done and you’ve kept your exuberance in check and resisted ponying up for that killer premium font, you do have to pony up $5.68 for shipping and handling. That’s not really free, but it’s awfully cheap for 250 business cards.
Watch out for the $10 cash back offer.
I was also hit up for a special offer for $10 cash back. This was the only part of the process that bothered me. It sounds great: spend $5.68, give your email address and get $10.00 back. Net gain: $4.32 plus 250 business cards. Who can beat that? If you take a minute to read all the small boring text on the left instead of just the main offer box where they ask for your email, you realize that by giving your email at this stage, you are in fact authorizing a $14.95 per month charge on your credit card.. I thought all the other come-ons were more or less what I expected, very clear and up front about costs and easy to pass on, but this one struck me as deceptive.
I haven’t tried to free t-shirt offer, but apparently you can get one of those too. In general I’m kind of picky about my t-shirts and I like to design my own from scratch so I passed on this one. So anyway, click on the banners below and you’ll get 250 “free” business cards for $5.68 or a “free” t-shirt (true cost undetermined). Best of all (from my point of view anyway), if you use that banner, I’ll actually get a commission!
[UPDATE. Randy R had this to add in the comments regarding the t-shirt offer:
Beware of the T-Shirt and other offers. I ordered 4 T-Shirts because the price was supposedly $4.99 and I got what I wanted on them. What the extremely fine print says is that the price is for the first shirt only and after that the price went up significantly. It was still not too bad of a price for the subsequent shirts, but it was sort of deceptive I thought. I am unable to get off of their list too.
So I think the short of it is, like with the business cards, VistaPrint uses a strong upsell model. If you resist the upsell, you get the goods at a reasonable price. But it’s easy to get sucked into paying more than you planned. I think to get good value out of it, you need to go in there telling yourself “I will not upgrade. I will not upgrade.” If you stick to that, you can get some pretty good deals.
Update: Nice cards accompanied by email barrage
My cards arrived quickly. The quality was better than expected and people who see them are generally really impressed. My wife was impressed enough, that she made up her own business cards using Vistaprint. All in all, I’m more than satisfied.
One little niggle: once you order, the email barrage from VistaPrint begins. You can of course just unsubscribe, but if you don’t you’ll get an email just about every day from them with their latest specials and so forth. To unsubscribe from Vistaprint: just click the link at the bottom of the email. You might get a couple more before their system updates, but at least in my case, once I unsubscribed, all emails ceased.
I wouldn’t exactly call this email barrage spam. It’s more like special sales and offers, like say premium business cards at a discount and things like that. But it was just more mail than I want to get from anyone except the state lottery commission informing me that my latest check is on the way. But they’re basically an honorable company and will honor your unsubscribe. The thing is, I think they make a mistake by sending quite so much mail. If they sent an email every two weeks, I would not be annoyed and would be more likely to actually open the email before deleting it. I would think it would be a better strategy to send the occasional email with a special offer and maybe an occasional newsletter that I would select. Depending on my role in making business cards, for example, I might sign up for the graphic design newsletter, the marketing newsletter or the small business newsletter.