Sunday, July 15, 2007
Recently we planned for Is.'s upcoming birthday party. Which invitations would we use? Paper and the USPS or something online? I went about developing a short list of online invitation services, eventually settling on evite.com and sendomatic.com. Evite.com is free, and it incorporates advertising so that it can remain free. Besides that, it is adequate for what we wanted--customizable invitations and a tracking system for RSVPs. Sendomatic.com is free if you are inviting four or fewer people to your event. If you want to invite between 4-100 people, it costs $12.95. But no advertisements. Free with advertisements or for-pay without advertisements: as far as I can tell, this sums up the two sites. They're even on most other counts.
Initially, we opted for evite, set up an invitation, and prepared to send it off to 17 invitees for the small party later this month. However, when we previewed the invitation, the sidebar included a Victoria's Secret ad, and, whatever was Victoria's secret, it if involved the in-your-face skin-flesh of a supermodel, um, the secret was out. Not quite the image we had in mind for a first birthday. So we scrapped that plan and resigned ourselves to handing over 13 bucks for Send-o-matic. I wish they had more scalable options (i.e., a $4.95 option for <50 invitees or a per invitation rate...the company that does this and also includes a free option with advertising will win the market lead, no doubt). But, what the heck. First birthdays must be just right, and for 13 bucks, the invitations and RSVPs would be handled digitally so we could keep up with them easily.
Only, there was a hitch. And yes, it turns out that I am not above using this blog to review crappy products and services. We signed up for a Send-o-matic account. Selected a design. Input the details. Added the addresses of recipients. Paid the fee. And hit send. Within 48 hours, we heard back from nearly half of the people on the list that the email message they received was blank.
There is no telephone number for Send-o-matic customer service. I sent a message of concern through their online form:
[Summary of system failure.]
I wonder if there is anything you can recommend to resolve this disappointing turn of events. Are refunds available? And if so, how might we go about formally requesting one given that the system has, by and large, failed to work as we hoped it would?
D. & D.
Sendomatic's answer came within the day. They acknowledged a system glitch, noting that invitations sent out during a certain day and time were, in fact, blank. They would offer us another invitation to use at a later date. In other words, we could use their service to send out invitations for a future event. I was also told that a refund would be available if I followed up and asked for it. The refund makes sense to me because we don't have plans to host another event. The second set of invitations are of no value to us. Furthermore, what reassurance do we have that this so-called "glitch" won't happen next time?
I responded and said I would prefer to take the refund, but I also wanted to know whether taking the refund would mean that our current invitation--the one that was blank for half of the invitees and accessible for the other half--would be removed from the system. I asked because some of the guests already RSVPed to the Send-o-matic system. Accept/decline was registered by some of the guests, and it was visible for other to see. Guests are able to see a list of others who are coming and who have declined. But this list is misleading because it doesn't include any explanation that half of the people on the list received blank invitations. Customer service told me: If you accept the refund, the current invitation will be removed from the system.
So that's the story with Send-o-matic and Is.'s first-year birthday party. We will not pursue the refund. Nor will we pursue the "free gift" of a future, never-to-be-used invitation set via Send-o-matic. As far as the party is concerned, we're only inviting a few close friends, so it's easy enough to send an email to everyone who didn't receive the invitation the first time. Their glitch coupled with the "refund" (i.e., removal of the invitation) simply adds layers confusion on top of an already embarrassing scenario. No thanks. Let this be a permanent reminder never to bother with such unapologetically lousy services as this one.Posted by Derek Mueller at July 15, 2007 12:30 PM to Slouching Toward