Erudite Expressions (Prints)

Imagekind Review: Prints and Customer Service

For many months now, I wanted to implement a system on my photoblog, Erudite Expressions, whereby customers could order prints and frames to go along with them. One company which would allow me to sell prints along with frames was Imagekind. I decided to give them a try by ordering two prints. The following is my experience with the prints and Imagekind’s customer service. The reason I am posting this review so late is that it took over a month and a half for Imagekind to resolve a print return issue.

Print Ordering
On April 10, 2009, I ordered two prints from Imagekind. The two prints were two of my high dynamic range (HDR) images, “Capri Unfolding” and “Old Blue Door,” shown below.

Capri Unfolding: A scene from the island of Capri

An old blue door seen in Adi Bou Said, Tunisia

An old blue door seen in Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia

For “The Blue Door” I chose the 16.0″x10.7″ print size with the Somerset Velvet Fine Art finish, and for “Capri Unfolding” I chose a 24″x16″ print with an Enhanced Matte finish.

Package Arrival and the Case for Flat Shipping
The package with the prints arrived around April 20, 2009 (the package was shipped domestic ground), so it took about ten days total for the package to arrive. When I received the package, I was immediately frustrated and disappointed. Why? Because the prints arrived in a tube, certainly something I am not used to when ordering prints from other places.

The prints which I ordered arrived in the tube shown

The prints which I ordered arrived in the tube shown

This was the first offense for Imagekind. It may be a personal choice whether you want to receive prints in a tube, but to me, there is no question about it: prints should be shipped flat. What’s really amazing is that the largest print size in the order was 24″x16″, and this print size is well within reason of being shipped flat. I made an informal inquiry as to why Imagekind shipped the prints in a tube, and their reply was:

Have to ship in a tube for the large sizes. We can ship flat for the smaller prints, but too much risk for large; they bend

Um, they bend? Not if the packaging in which flat prints arrive is secure. I have ordered prints as large as 30″x20″ from Mpix, and Mpix doesn’t have a problem shipping prints flat. In fact, every single order which I have placed from Mpix arrived in a secure, sturdy flat package, and I have yet to receive a print order from Mpix in which my prints arrived bent or otherwise damaged.

Look (and I am not sure if Imagekind gets it): if prints were meant to be shipped in a tube, then the expectation is that they prints are to be “consumed” rolled up. The fact of the matter is that it is impossible (or extremely difficult) to get the prints to lie flat after being rolled up. Is the intention of the rolled print to be dumped, or to be framed? If the intention is to be framed, then for me, the absolute requirement for print delivery is that the print is shipped the way it is printed: flat.

The images below show the two prints, as I received them:

Imagekind's print of the "Old Blue Door"

Imagekind's print of the "Old Blue Door." After being unrolled, notice that the print does not lie flat.

Notice something about the print above? After being unrolled, I placed the print under a number of heavy books, hoping that the print will spring back into a flat shape. Such wasn’t the case, as you can see. How about the other print?

Imagekind's print of "Capri Unfolding."

Imagekind's print of "Capri Unfolding."

Again, I had great difficulty flattening the other print, “Capri Unfolding.” Another angle of view of the print is shown below:

Another view of the "Capri Unfolding" print

Another view of the "Capri Unfolding" print

Again, notice that the print does not lie flat. I captured this image well over a month after receiving it. During that time period, I placed the print under a heavy load of books and other stuff. As you can see, even an extended period of time under a heavy load did not help the print regain its original splendor.

Image Quality
The next item to consider is the quality of the prints. First, note that the initial impression of the prints was already damaged because the prints were not flat, and non-flat prints necessarily means their quality is less than perfect.

As I mentioned, I ordered the prints on two different finishes/papers. The “Old Blue Door” had the Somerset Velvet Fine Art finish, described on Imagekind’s website as:

Somerset Velvet is a delicately textured fine art paper engineered to give you the highest resolution and color saturation possible. It has always been the first paper choice among serious artists and printmakers dating back to the 1700’s and the days of handmade paper. Somerset Velvet is 100% cotton, acid-free paper with luxurious weight, texture and finish that truly delivers museum quality appearance.

The print of “Capri Unfolding” was printed on Enhanced Matte paper, described by Imagekind’s website as:

For artists and photographers seeking a flat matte surface, Epson Enhanced Matte Paper is the ideal choice. This bright, white paper is perfect for images that do not require gloss. It yields highly saturated images, while maintaining excellent highlight and shadow detail. Professional photographers, digital artists and amateurs alike will find Epson Enhanced Matte Paper a remarkable choice for any project.

I thought that the print quality of the Enhanced Matter paper was excellent. The colours of the “Capri Unfolding” print were vibrant and saturated, just as with the image I uploaded to Imagekind’s server. Additionally, as Imagekind’s statement about the paper claimed, the shadows and highlights were well maintained. For the 24″x16″ print of “Capri Unfolding” with the enhanced matter paper finish, I paid a total of $12.99. Definitely a solid price.

However, my opinion of the “Old Blue Door” print (the one with the Somerset Velvet Fine Art finish) is different. I thought the print looked muddy, the saturated colours of the blues were washed out, and the overall print texture wasn’t appealing. The print size was 16″x10.7″ (which is roughly equal to the 1.5 aspect ratio of the original image I uploaded). The biggest deal killer regarding this print is that it is quite expensive: $19.49. So, combining the following facts: that the print came in irregular size (why not just do 15″x10″?), that the print quality wasn’t amazing (I actually prefered the Enhanced Matte finish more than the Somerset Velvet Fine Art finish), and that the cost of the print most certainly didn’t justify its quality, I decided to return the print back to Imagekind.

Returning the Print
Imagekind has a great policy regarding prints with which you are unsatisfied. If you are unhappy with your print order – for whatever reason – you can return the print within thirty days for a full refund. Per Imagekind’s website:

We are confident in the quality of our products and your satisfaction is 100% guaranteed. If for any reason you are not satisfied with your purchase, you may return it within 30 days of receipt for a full refund on the price of the item. To return it to us, please pack it in the original packaging and include the completed Return Form. Shipping charges will not be refunded.

I decided that I liked the 24″x16″ print of “Capri Unfolding,” but the 16″x10.7″ print of “Old Blue Door” didn’t warrant keeping. So as requested, I filled out a form in which I detailed my dissatisfaction with the “Old Blue Door” print, rolled the print back up and placed it in the original packaging.

I added "Attn: Imagekind Returns" before shipping the package back

I added "Attn: Imagekind Returns" before shipping the package back

I shipped the package back to Imagekind a few days after receiving a package from them. Since the tube is somewhat heavy, I shipped the package back by domestic ground (the cost was around $5). As Imagekind states, the company does not refund shipping charges.

Imagekind’s Customer Service
After shipping back the package with one of the prints, I expected that Imagekind would make an adjustment to my credit card within seven to ten days. Unfortunately, my experience was far from that case.

My assumption was that the print arrived back to Imagekind headquarters (at the latest) by May 1, 2009. I thus expected a refund of $19.49 visible on my credit card statement by around May 7 (that’s giving Imagekind a week to process the return and crediting back the amount). After checking my credit card statement for April 10 to May 15, I noticed that there was no adjustment made from Imagekind.

Frustrated, I contacted Imagekind customer service by email (care@imagekind.com) on May 17, 2009, asking them why my refund has not been issued. After making this initial inquiry I received a generic response from Imagekind letting me know that “We have received your inquiry and are assigning it to a representative. You can expect to receive a response from us within two business days.” The next day (May 18), I received a response from Tracy (one of the representatives at Imagekind) that they have “found a record of your returned item and issued a refund.  You should see a credit on your account statement for $19.49 in 2-3 business days.”

So I waited three more days. I checked my credit card statement. Still no refund from Imagekind. I waited a few more days, thinking that it might take another day or two for the refund to go through. On May 31, I checked my credit card statement, and there was still no refund. This time, extremely frustrated, I send Imagekind another email asking why the refund hasn’t been issued…The response I received is both baffling and inexcusable:

I’m sorry for the delay. Your refund was marked as complete in one area but we didn’t actually put the refund through.”

What? How does that even work? Complete in one area? Which area? A refund shouldn’t be considered complete unless the refund actually goes through and I see it on my credit card statement. Anything less on Imagekind’s part, and the words “refund” and “complete” should never be used together in the same sentence.

I sent Imagekind another email letting them know how unhappy I was with this customer service. Think about this for a second: when you send an item for a refund and the company receives said item, you expect the refund process to go smoothly and see it posted on your credit card statement in a reasonable amount of time. In my case, I had to send not one but two inquiries to the care team at Imagekind asking them what is taking them so long to process a refund. To me, that kind of customer service is most definitely sub-standard. My suspicion is that if I didn’t contact Imagekind (twice!), my refund would have never been issued.

However, this customer service story isn’t all bad. I finally received my refund on June 3, 2009 (after a month and a half of waiting). I also received a personal phone call from Tracy, who messed up processing the return the first time. She offered her sincere apology, and I received a $20 gift certificate for future purchases at Imagekind.

Verdict
Before ordering prints from Imagekind, I was almost certain I was going to use their services to offer customers the ability to buy prints and frames. However, after the two strikes (first, shipping the prints in a tube rather than in a flat envelope; and second, the major delay for issuing a refund for a returned print), I am hesitant in considering Imagekind for further print orders, and most certainly, for using their service to sell my prints with various options for prints and frames.

I must state that my review of Imagekind prints and their customer service is certainly not comprehensive: I only ordered two prints and possibly had an aberration with regard to receiving a print refund. Still, my review isn’t the only negative review of Imagekind you will find on the internet. I am sure there are hundreds, if not thousands, of customers quite happy with their experience (both in print order fulfillment and customer service) with Imagekind. Unfortunately, based on my experience, I will hold off offering the ability to purchase my prints via Imagekind, and I will continue looking into other alternatives.

Your Thoughts?
If you’ve had experience buying from Imagekind and/or offering customers the ability to buy prints/frames with Imagekind, feel free to chime in with your thoughts in the comments.


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June 5, 2009 - Posted by | prints, reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

10 Comments »

  1. You are certainly thorough!
    I get the sense, from reading your review, that you really value your work (good!) but also that Imagekind did not treat you or your art with the respect deserved. It was nice of you to point out your limited experience and qualify some of the harsher judgments you made, but after read this I don’t really feel the need to ever have anything to do with Imagekind. haha.
    Also I just wanted to say thanks for the print. I know I’m late in acknowledging this… but I really like it! I bought a pretty low-cost frame and I’m still debating on whether or not I should keep it. I’d love to see some framing suggestions on some of your prints!
    I also talked to Candis today, who’d mentioned to me earlier that Katheryn had turned her onto your photoblog. I know she is very pleased with the prints you sent her. You’ll probably be hearing more from her later.
    I hope you are doing well! — I was going to say something about purchasing more prints when I scrounge up the dough, but then I read your commentary following your GA Aquarium photo! hahah.

    Comment by Malia | June 9, 2009 | Reply

  2. Hi Malia,

    Thanks for your comment.

    I did try to be fair and thorough in my review of the prints and service from Imagekind. I hope that potential customers of Imagekind find the review useful.

    >you really value your work (good!) but also that Imagekind >did not treat you or your art with the respect deserved.
    Yes, I definitely value my work and I try to present it (in terms of prints) the best way I can. I don’t think Imagekind was purposefully trying to disrespect me, but the two most important things I’ve found that really are deal-killers are (1) shipping prints in a tube and (2) fairly expensive prices for prints and shipping ($10 is their cheapest option!). With regard to point (1), it is bad because prints can never be straightened out perfectly, but more importantly, because other companies (such as Mpix) CAN and DO ship flat. It is unclear why Imagekind is making excuses that they cannot ship flat.. With regard to (2), I mentioned that the Velvet print cost me $19.99. So I am thinking how much I would have to mark-up the price of the print if I were to sell that kind print (paper size and finish) through Imagekind?

    >I’d love to see some framing suggestions on some of your >prints!
    Perhaps it could be the subject of a future blog post!

    >I’d love to see some framing suggestions on some of your >prints!
    No problem, I sent you an email.

    Thanks,

    ~Eugene

    Comment by printsbyeugene | June 11, 2009 | Reply

  3. Thank you for your review. I agree with you about mailing prints that are flat, though I’ve received some flat envelopes that were bent. A tube is a no no all the way through for me.
    Have you found another place that offers high quality prints, as well as framing?
    Dya

    Comment by dya englert saugeron | July 9, 2009 | Reply

  4. Oops, forgot to click on follow-up comments via e-mail. If you respond, please respond to this post. Thanks, Dya

    Comment by dya englert saugeron | July 9, 2009 | Reply

  5. Thanks Dya for your comment.

    >I agree with you about mailing prints that are flat, though >I’ve received some flat envelopes that were bent.
    Really? These orders were from Imagekind or from somewhere else?

    >Have you found another place that offers high quality >prints, as well as framing?
    Yes, I do most of my prints orders from Mpix (www.mpix.com). They do a spectacular job with printing, packaging, and colour correction (if necessary). Mpix do offer frames also, but the selection is not as extensive as that offered at Imagekind.

    Comment by printsbyeugene | July 23, 2009 | Reply

  6. I agree about the tube to a degree. It seems nicer to get the print not in a cheap tube but I must admit that I have had more problems with MPIX prints being shipped flat. I don’t use either anymore but now use Finerworks. They ship in tubes unless it is a large volume but keep in mind that the paper comes from rolls so curling out is the natural state anyway. To flatten them I have a large roll of craft paper that I use to roll it in the opposite direction once I get the print. That seems to do a good job.

    Comment by Jimmy Matthews | January 25, 2010 | Reply

    • Hi Jimmy, thanks for the comment.

      What kind of problems did you encounter with your print shipments from Mpix? I’m curious because I’ve never had any problems with Mpix…

      Thanks,

      ~Eugene

      Comment by printsbyeugene | January 29, 2010 | Reply

  7. Wow! I work for one of Imagekind’s competitors and I have to tell you – you sound like a nightmare client. I sincerely hope to avoid super picky unreasonable, clients like you. It was a $19 print for god’s sake!! I spend more on my lunch each day! You also have no idea about the challenges of shipping art. Nor do you have any idea what it takes to ship thousands of on-demand art prints and what is involved in crediting orders through a larger company (although I agree your return should have been processed faster). I hope you never discover our service. No offense.

    Comment by Adrian | March 26, 2010 | Reply

    • Thanks for the comment, Adrian!

      Sorry you feel like I’m a nightmare client. It’s just that I have high expectations from printing services…

      >You also have no idea about the challenges of shipping art.
      I have some idea…

      >I hope you never discover our service.
      Is that a good way to go about marketing about your company?

      >No offense.
      Almost none taken.

      Thanks for the comment!

      P.S. Your lunches are expensive! Where do you eat?

      Comment by printsbyeugene | March 27, 2010 | Reply

  8. I am sorry you had such an awful experience with imagekind. I found when they made an error in framing my prints, they handled it with fairness. I told them that I didn’t want to be bothered shipping the framed photographs back and since they made the mistake, they should just send me another framed photograph the way I ordered it. They gave me no problem. They sent another framed photograph matted the way I requested it. This happened two times and both instances, I did not have to send the framed photographs back. Of course, they should have not made the mistake in the first place. I am a perfectionistic when it comes to printing my photographs. I print most of my photographs by myself. Their prints were excellent. I wish I could set margins when configuring the prints, but for some reason it doesn’t work. I have told them, but they have yet to fix it. Maybe it just happens on my computer. However, I call them up and give them the dimensions. I like my prints matted with a larger margin on the bottom. Will I order from them again? Most certainly!

    Comment by Madeline Ellis | May 20, 2011 | Reply


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