Friday, September 5, 2014

I've been TPed -- Bad web design at

I would like to share my recent experience ordering cards from your website. I spent a lot of time choosing and designing two invitations and my wife didn't like either, so we started over and did them together. Once we had the cards that we wanted, I began the process of ordering.

The problems began when I tried to upload an address list in csv format, which I made based on the template that I downloaded from the tinyprints website and got the following message:

No problem I thought. I'm a technical guy. I owned a software and web development firm. I'll use Tiny Prints help to figure out what the problem is. Unfortunately, every time I clicked on any of the links that might have gotten me information I needed (and I tried a number) I received the following error message:

Well, I'd invested a lot of time formatting the cards and getting addresses into Tiny Prints csv format, I decided to try live chat. That got me the following message:
Although the message you see above says that phone support is available at 5am if you call the number listed the recorded message tells you that they don't open until 6am. So, I posted my problem (never got a response) to Tiny Prints Facebook page. At 6AM I called back. Due to exceptionally high call volume nobody could get to me for forty minutes until 9:40. I then spent over an hour on the phone with support. I emailed the files, which the support person (who was very polite) imported for me. The first time it imported with every record duplicated. The support person did not know why it wouldn't import for me or why it imported twice for her. Eventually she said that she would call me back.

When technical support finally called me back, she mentioned that I had some blank addresses in my list. I thought that was odd, because I had spent a lot of time going over the addresses. So, I took a look while she was on the phone. Turns out that all of the foreign addresses just didn't import. No problem, she'd put them in and call me back.

Eventually she called back and I verified that the foreign addresses were there. After she hung up I tried to add the addresses to the envelopes by selecting all the addresses in the group, using the convenient checkbox at the top of the list.
Click to view full screen

You'll notice that on the upper right it tells me that there are 0 cards with recipients and 3 without.  That caused me to worry, so I looked at the list in more detail. Despite checking the box that selects all addresses not all of the addresses were selected and when it failed to select all the addresses THE SYSTEM DID NOT GIVE AN ERROR MESSAGE. Well, luckily I caught it even though the addresses that were not selected were off the bottom of my screen. I feel badly for people who missed getting an invite because the person using Tiny Prints selected all, didn't get an error message, and assumed everyone was getting an invitation. After going through the process several times I see that under the import recipients button it says "82 selected of 89 available."

So, I started investigating and found that none of the foreign addresses were selected. They all had the country typed into the address line and on the country drop down had United States selected. 

I tried to correct one and got the following error:
Click to view full screenshot

Well, I wasn't asking Tinyprints to mail them, just to print the address. So, I decided to change the address back and then got the following message:

So, I couldn't make them foreign addresses, using the country field provided. Foreign addresses are just not supported in any real way and they leave you to figure that out.

I gave up and just ordered extra blank envelopes. If I knew in advance that you did not support international addresses I would never have paid to address the cards, since I'll need to set up a mail merge anyway.  Oh well, on to the checkout. I get the following informative error message because I pick the wrong state.
Click to view full screenshot

I fix that and it blanks out my phone number and loses my Costco discount. (unfortunately I didn't screen shot it with and without the discount). So, I back up, put in the Costco member number again, and get the order done, carefully checking that the discount is there before I hit the final submit. I hit the button to place the order and it produces a receipt with no discount. The confirm e-mail also shows no Costco discount.

I emailed and snail mailed a few general suggestions:

1.     Fix the csv upload. I Googled it and I'm not the only one to have that issue. A csv file format is not esoteric or hard to deal with.
2.     Fix the infinite redirect issue. I will help your programming staff find it FOR FREE (though I'm sure they will hate me for seeming to be a know it all) if they need me to. That type of error can be tricky to find and fix.
3.     Correct the phone hours on your pop-up when live chat is closed.
4.     Display a warning message if some addresses in a list don't import (foreign addresses).
5.     Display a warning message if somebody clicks the select all checkbox if not everything is selected when addressing envelopes.
6.     Add support for printing (and I would argue for mailing to) foreign addresses. I can't be the only one to invite relatives from abroad to an event.
7.     On checkout, if a field is wrong, tell the user which field(s). Make sure that ALL data that the user input is echoed back to them.
8.     On checkout make sure that the process does not lose discounts.

 I got no response. 

Then the order arrived. One of the two sets of envelopes had no addresses printed. Oh well, I had to mail merge the foreign addresses anyway. 

I tweeted the CEO. I posted on FaceBook. I got a call back and they gave me a 25% discount, not minimum wage for the time I'd spent. I followed up about a week later saying that I'd noticed the address problem was not fixed and asking when it might be resolved. They answered that management was aware of the issue but they had no idea when it would be fixed.


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