Flutterby™! : WTF?

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2009-03-01 15:33:57.306132+00 by ebradway 3 comments

Asha recently finished a big multi-year project. She put together a salad cookbook. She made up the recipes. Her mother did the photography. I did the book layout. We used Lulu.com (no link-love - read on) to print test copies. Lulu provides an amazing service - one-off bound, full-color books at about 20 cents a page. Amazon CreateSpace has a similar program but it's geared around actually publishing though them (they assign an ISBN and list it on Amazon).

So I ordered a stack of books the other day and failed to check the shipping address. Like so many modern web store front ends, it remembers my last shipping address and automatically fills that in (but I don't remember it asking me if it was OK). The last time I ordered, Asha was doing a series of workshops in the Southeast, so the books were drop-shipped to an address in Alabama. So guess where Lulu is sending this order?

But wait, this is Print-on-Demand. They haven't even printed the books, much less actually shipped them. So changing the ship-to address should be an easy database change. After two tries to get customer service to respond, here's what they said:

I am sorry but we have an automated system that does not allow us to change the shipping address once the order starts fulfilling and is sent to our print partner. We do not have control over the order at this point and are unable to make changes. I am sorry that we will not be able to accomodate your request.

So they have an amazing 21st Century printing system with a circa 1950s fulfillment database. WTF?

[ related topics: Interactive Drama Books Photography Software Engineering Graphic Design Machinery Databases ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2009-03-01 18:28:58.199101+00 by: Dan Lyke [edit history]

So, a guess: What if Lulu (and most of the other print on demand places) are just re-sellers for some organization like Quad/Graphics?

They take their cut and forward your order on to the fulfillment organization, and it's already gone.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-03-02 02:14:25.813918+00 by: ebradway

I figure that's likely - but that doesn't mean they can't have a pipe into the shipping process so that changes can be made mid-production. I mean, I'm sure Q/G doesn't print the shipping labels until the units are boxed up. So, theoretically, we're just dealing with some bits that need to be flipped in the database until then.

Note: Lulu has been telling customers since at least 2005 that they can't modify the shipping address. They've had over three years to resolve a known issue.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-03-02 02:34:48.375099+00 by: Dwayne

I hear a lot of good things about Blurb.com :)