Shutterfly – Good Customer Service, Marginal Product

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A few months back I took a trip to Minneapolis. Included on my trip was a stop at the Walker Art Center (highly recommended). From there I took this photo. I liked it so much I wanted to get a wall hanging of it and ordered a canvas wraparound from Shutterfly.

The hanging was not cheap, but I really wanted one so I ordered it up, at a total cost of $180. It arrived within one week and the results were spectacular. I was very happy.

Then something bad happened to the hanging. It warped. For whatever reason, this thing got all, for lack of a better word, kiddy-wompus. See below a photo of the hanging as of today. It is sitting “flat” on the floor. Obviously this will not do. It will not hang flat on my office wall.

I emailed Shutterfly to let them know that they needed to replace the product. I received back a canned email reply that said something about how they try to control their quality blah blah. I was a little scared that they would simply make the item again the same way and that the same thing would happen. In my email that probably went to Indonesia or the Philippines I even stated that they needed to use some sort of cross support so the picture didn’t warp again. But they didn’t listen, only the canned reply. Here is the backside of the hanging – it is pretty large for some very thin wood on the outside. The overall measurement is 2′ x 3′.

I am happy to report that they sent me a new one, no questions asked. I regret to inform the reader that the new one is constructed the same exact way. It does look nice on my wall, I have to admit. I hope this one doesn’t warp, or I will need to get my money back. So far so good. I wonder why the first one warped but this one has not as of yet? Tough to say.

Cross posted at LITGM.

9 thoughts on “Shutterfly – Good Customer Service, Marginal Product”

  1. Looking at the warp I don’t think it had anything to do with a lack of a crosspiece. A crosspiece in a rectangular construction prevents racking i.e. movement to side to side that converts a rectangle into a parallelogram.

    The warping in the photograph most likely resulted from poor wood selection. The wood was to green and of the wrong cross section of the tree. As the wood dried it shrank and compressed along the grain on one side more than the other producing the warp. If you examine the boards in the old and new picture I think you will see that the grains(growth rings) run differently between the two.

  2. I looked at the boards and they look pretty much the same to me. Perhaps humidity has something to do with it. But you would think that Shutterfly would assume that these items are going to all different areas of the country with all different humidity levels and would consider that. Then again, maybe I am thinking too hard about it.

  3. Dan From Madison,

    It has more to do with the innate water content of the board. If they do not dry the board properly, then it will warp when you put it in a climate controlled room where the air conditioner removes humidity as a matter of course.

    How much time did it take for the warp to occur? What kind of wood is it? It looks like a soft pine. Can you dent the surface with your fingernail?

  4. It was actually interesting. I received it in fine condition, but it warped as it hung on my wall over about a week.

    It looks to be pine, I can dent it with my fingernail.

    I have had the new one for about a week now and it shows no signs of warping.

  5. Softwoods can warp very quickly especially if they are green i.e. have a high water content. I think your looking at poor quality control somewhere in the manufacturing supply chain. Somebody didn’t bother to use a humidity meter on the wood before they used put it into the frames. They probably have an entire batch of frames, made on the same day from the same batch of wood, that all warped as well.

    Personally, I think that people get so used to working with stable manmade woods like plywood, MDF etc that they forget that live wood moves as it ages and the environment changes. Many of the stylistic designs we see in traditional woodworking, such as frame and panel construction that you see in old solid wood doors, actually evolved as a response to the need to compensate for how living wood moves over time.

  6. If it is cheaper for a company to replace items without asking than to do stringent quality control, and they are willing to pass on the savings, then I’m happy to accept the minor inconvenience in most things. Amazon got a dedicated customer in me when I complained about a few books being mangled in shipping, and they sent replacement books with a mailing label to send back the damaged books. I was about to move, and didn’t get around to sending back the damaged books, and never heard anything about it. Amazon trusted me, and did what was reasonable to make good on a mistake. So the experience boosted my opinion of them. This story boosts my opinion of Shutterfly.

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