Each year I create a Kansas courthouse calendar for a few friends and customers who give them as Christmas gifts to their bosses (attorneys). In the past, I’ve done this myself at home using a calendar software program and inkjet printer. The last couple of years I’ve had a lot of issues with finding quality, affordable paper that could be printed on both sides and printer failures. I decided to outsource the project this year, and after seeing Lulu.com mentioned on NPN a number of times, went with them.

What a mistake!

The templates were easy to use and I had absolutely no trouble creating the calendar. However, when I tried to upload the file to Lulu to print a couple of “proof” copies on Nov. 30, I received a generic “error” message indicating there was a problem of some sort and my order could not be completed. The message did not go into detail what went wrong. Because Lulu does not have live customer service, I had to turn in a “help ticket” through their web site. To this date, the only reply I ever received to this “help ticket” was that it was being forwarded to a customer service representative. Several days later I got tired of waiting and decided to simply try uploading the file again. It worked the second time. “Great!” I thought, until I finished my order and saw that I had been duped. On their main calendar page, they advertise your calendar order ships within 3 days after placing your order. However, upon clicking the “place order” button, I soon discovered “3 days” was actually 3 to 5 BUSINESS days, which makes a huge difference if you order in the middle of the week (as I had on Dec. 3). Oops.

Several days after I placed an order for a “proof” copy, I decided I should just place my actual order and cross my fingers that the colors and everything turned out ok, or I might not make the Dec. 15 deadline. On Dec. 8 I placed my order for 25 calendars and paid an extra $60+ for expedited shipping, believing my order should be at my door by Dec. 18 according to their printing & shipping schedule posted on their web site.

Each day, I would check my order status. Each day, I kept getting a “fulfilling” message. The 5 business days passed and still “fulfilling.” I started digging around in Lulu’s forums and discovered something very disconcerting – a number of people with calendar orders placed around the same time (or even before) were having the exact same problem. I turned in a “help ticket” which got me a canned response that if I had ordered by the deadline, I’d have my order by Christmas. I started my own thread on the Lulu forum complaining that it appeared my order would not arrive in time for some of my customers to get their orders timely. I noticed others posting threads on the “escalation” thread which seemed to at least get a little attention from Lulu.

Everyone was getting the same canned responses, and when I expressed my frustration about this in my thread, a Lulu staff member had the audacity to tell me “I don’t know if you realize it, but I’m a real person…” Hey, SO AM I!! I’d just like a “real” answer as to what’s going on. Is the printing press broken? Are your workers on strike? Did little green men beam the Lulu staff to Mars? No one was getting concrete answers and nobody at Lulu seemed to care.

I was so angry that they couldn’t meet their own holiday printing schedule that I filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau and requested my expedited shipping fee be refunded since my order wasn’t arriving timely enough. The BBB got a pretty quick response from Lulu, who did indicate they’d refund the shipping fee, but I have as of yet to see the charge taken off my credit card statement.

Lulu went so far as to lock all the threads in which disgruntled customers were attempting to get answers. They said the posts were “inappropriate” and if these same people started other similar threads, they would be “banned.” None of these posts contained foul language or name-calling. They simply were frustrated they weren’t getting any definite answers.

How’s THAT for customer service?! You try to complain. They totally ignore you. You complain some more. They then lock your thread and threaten to “ban” you if you complain again. WTH??!! I understand the holidays are busy. If Lulu knew they couldn’t meet their deadlines (and I’m sure they knew well in advance they couldn’t), they should have revised their shipping deadlines on their web site to alert customers it just couldn’t be done. Pure and simple, I think this was deceptive advertising on their part.

I finally did receive my calendar order very late in the day on Dec. 23. Unfortunately, I lost about 5 orders from customers who really, really needed them prior to this date. I am very unhappy I could not satisfy my customer’s needs and I may have lost future orders since they may not have much faith in my ability to deliver my product in time in the future.

I will never use Lulu again and would strongely encourage anyone who is considering them not to use them.