Online photo printing comparison, and Customer Service Fun

Posted by james on Dec. 3, 2006

<b>Comparing Digital Photo Print Sites:</b>

I printed photos out at Walmart, Shutterfly, and Costco. I printed the same photos, unmodifed, without any corrections. The results...

<b>Walmart</b> ($.15 4x6 in store pickup): at first glance looks the most striking and sharp. Mostly because they tweak colors (brighter or more contrast, auto sharpening filter, slight red shift). It makes skin tones look good, and make details pop, but also causes halo-effects due to over sharpening. Annoying when you're hair is too sharp in the pic and looks like it's made of glowing wire.

<b>Shutterfly</b> ($.19 4x6 delivery plus <a href="http://www.shutterfly.com/help/pricing.jsp#delivery">shipping</a>): right in the middle. Did some brightness and red-shift color correction, but did pretty good. Decently sharp, no auto-sharpen like walmart. Probably the best all-around.

<b>Costco</b> ($.17 4x6 in store pickup): fuzzy, untouched colors/bright. Probably the best color levels if I do correction at home, but they're too fuzzy.

I'm going to use Walmart in-store for now, and deal with the super-sharp halo effects. Looks good for most stuff, unless you've got dust spots or bright contrast in your pic. At $.15, can't complain.

Funny thoughts: Costco uses "Snapfish by HP", and uses the same web interface as Walmart! They must use the same backend, and maybe Walmart uses Snapfish too?

<b>Customer Service Stories:</b>

Today's story regards calling Walmart Photo center about their super-sharp filter. I got a lady immediately (10 bonus points!), described the problem (photos get sharped and brighted), asked question (Is there a way to print/order without those auto-corrections?). Answer: "You can return photos if you're not satisfied. (Ooo, -2 points). Asked again, got "As far as I know, walmart does not alter photos." (-3 points) Asked again, she talked to her supervisor (short wait, 0 points lost) and then said that Walmart does not modify photos at all. Obviously wrong and unknowledgable, though polite about it, so final score:

-20 points: Unhelpful

Oh well walmart, not too bad... Definitely better than Roadrunner, may they burn in customer service waiting-line queue.