In a way, I’m rather proud of myself. I managed to test the limits of an on-demand product site* relatively quickly. I pushed it to a bit of a breaking point, and learned that coordinated sets of products can’t be expected to coordinate on sites like Zazzle.

Think about it: They handle millions (or is it billions?) of designs on a growing number of products (at this writing, I count 163 different types of products). They are continuously seeking producers to handle the market demand. This means quickly receiving, processing, producing and delivering products of reasonable-to-exceptional quality. In many ways, it works brilliantly, and their commitment to excellent customer service makes up for the bloopers (well, most of them. See below).

So here’s what I did.

I created a set of coordinated wedding items, which included Zazzle wedding invitations, RSVP cards, postage stamps and envelopes. They look great! (click here to peruse and order)

Heartwings Wedding Stationery

Except for the envelopes.

Unfortunately, the color control for print (digital print, of course) varies so widely (and I mean wiiiiiiiidely) that it’s pointless to offer coordinated invitations and envelopes. To be clear, Zazzle’s invitations ship with white envelopes, so you’re really good to go if you want to stop there. But if you were to order both Zazzle wedding invitations and “coordinating” envelopes (no longer available on Zazzle), you’d be in for an unpleasant surprise.

Zazzle Wedding Set: Not very coordinated
Have a look at the photo above. The beige and darkest pink are the most obvious. Beige printed gray on the envelopes, and the darkest pink printed—what is that? Mauve? That strip of dark pink at the top of the invitation was given the exact same CMYK value as the envelope’s background color.

I can make adjustments if I don’t like colors that at least print consistently. But this test demonstrated that the attempt would be maddening, if not fruitless. Envelopes are especially problematic because they have a longer delivery turnaround than any other Zazzle product. This is totally understandable: custom envelopes require time-consuming “conversion”. They must be printed, die-cut, folded and glued. Expect them to take three weeks.

Now imagine you are a frenzied bride, or her mother, or her wedding planner. Decisions got pushed to the last minute, didn’t they. Envelope stuffing will have to begin the instant those envelopes arrive.

They’re here! Yay! Let’s get started!

Waitaminit.

This can’t be right.

Can we get them re-done? Not if it takes three weeks! We’ll just have to use the white envelopes that shipped with the invitations (did we keep them?), and call Zazzle for a refund (which they’ll gladly issue, as always).

From what I can tell, this would happen every time someone honored me with a purchase of my design.

If I could simply adjust my colors for the requirements of the different media, I’d be satisfied. I think the variance is pretty much with the envelopes. Unfortunately, there’s really no way to do this because there is no test system. Again, understandable. Their envelope printers don’t have an efficient way to provide color proofs.

So, the deal is off and while the Winged Hearts Zazzle wedding invitations are still available, the envelopes have been removed (at least, I’m pretty sure I’ve nabbed them all). Alas.

Oh. And I learned one other thing about Zazzle. I had initially posted a negative review about the envelopes, explaining the color problem. They saw it, their customer service person got ahold of me and tried to handle it (don’t infuriate a designer with 30+ years print experience by explaining print). They asked me what I wanted to do, but I took too long to answer (three days, I think), so they issued a refund. OK, fine. But they never posted my review. If you were to look at my reviews on Zazzle right now, you’d see nothing but positive reviews. My negative review will, apparently, never see the light of day, or your monitor.

Not pretty, Zazzle. Not pretty.

 

*On-demand products are created only after they’re ordered, often allowing the customer to order as few as one. This allows a manufacturer to offer many, many more designs because they don’t have to keep them in inventory. As production processes improve, the prices for on-demand products continue to fall. Selection continues to expand, including clothing, housewares, office products and more.

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