Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Company Comparison: Frame USA vs Frame Destination

Following up on my last post comparing Crescent and Bainbridge, this time I'd like to present a comparison of another pair of companies I dealt while choosing new materials for this years product line. In choosing frames, I looked at a number of options, but based on a number of factors (price, style, flexibility, etc) I narrowed my choice down to 2 frame suppliers: frameusa.com and framedestination.com

Frame USA

Frame USA offered a large variety of frames in a number of colors, and they also offer samples for $1 each. Unfortunately, they only offer straight samples, not corner samples, but I figured I'll take what I can get.

After picking out about 30 different samples I wanted, I called their 1-800 number as directed on the website. However, I was told that for a sample order that large I would have to send them the list via email. She gave me the email address and I hung up. However, when I went to order, it turns out she gave me an invalid email address (strike 1). No problem, I just went and got the email address from the website and emailed off my order.

The next day I received a call to confirm my order and get payment information. However, I was informed that 3 of the samples I had ordered were not in stock (strike 2), but I could order 4x6 frame shells for just a tiny bit more. I decided I'd replace 2 of the samples with 4x6s but that the 3rd sample was similar enough to another that I'd just forget about it.

Now came the matter of payment. On the website it specified that sample orders shipped for $2.95 per order. However, it turns out the shipping cost would be more than that. When I inquired I was told that the $2.95 is only for a small order, and that 30 samples would cost more (strike 3). However, I wasn't given a specific amount and was told I'd be emailed with the exact amount when the order was ready to ship and had been weighed. I said ok, and also suggested they clarified the policy about this on their website (which, 2.5 months later, they never did).

I was also told I'd receive a separate email with a confirmation of my order. Well, guess what: I never got a confirmation of my order (strike 4), nor did I get an email confirmation of shipping cost (strike 5). Later on, I eventually figured out the shipping charge was almost $10!

Now, I'm a pretty reasonable and easy going guy, and I didn't really let the previous problems get to me too much. They were a bit troubling, but I wasn't going to make a big deal about it.

About a week later, I finally received my package. I opened it up and started looking through the samples, and this is were I really started to get upset. First off, when I read over their website, the website said "Real Wood: Unless noted, all of our wood frames are made from REAL, solid wood." However, what I received was almost entirely compressed particleboard (strike 6). In reviewing their website, I will take partial blame for this mistake. They did denote on all the pages a little BonanzaWood icon, however I must have overlooked it. I definitely read all the text, though, and the text said nothing about it.

To examine this detail a little further, when a company says "all of our products are X unless otherwise specified", I believe that should mean the majority of products are X, and the few exceptions are noted. However, now knowing what to look for and re-reviewing their website, I realized that with very few exceptions, almost their entire product line is bonanza wood. That certainly doesn't fit my expectation of "all...unless other wise specified". I felt very misled.

Now, back to my order. As I started going through the items, I realized that my two 4x6 shells and one of my samples was missing(strike 7). I called them up and complained, and they said they'd look into the matter and get back with me.

Two days later, and I had received no call (strike 8). I called them up again, this time, for the first time I was irate with them. I was told that the order was already being processed and that they'd ship the two 4x6 shells out the next day. But wait a minute. He didn't even seem to know I was missing the 1 sample (strike 9...good thing this isn't baseball...that's an entire inning). When I angrily questioned him he said they could make sure that gets shipped too. I inquired as to why exactly there were unaware of it, even though I already made it clear in the earlier call that it was missing. I never got an actual answer for that.

However, with that out of the way, I tried to patiently wait for the remainder of my order to arrive. Several days later, it finally did. I opened up the box and discovered two 4x6 shells....and that's it. For the second time, one of my sample was missing (strike 10). I angrily called them up again and they promised to get it out to me. Sure enough, a few days later I received an envelope with my last sample...and a sucker (is that supposed to make up for everything that went wrong?).

By now, I felt like this had been a waste of time and money. The products weren't what I wanted, and even so I didn't feel like I could trust them to be a reliable supplier for me.

Frame Destination

At the same time I did all of the above, I simultaneously pursued the matter with another vendor. Frame Destination is a vendor I've dealt with several times previously (mostly for clear bags for my prints). They've always had great prices and been very responsive. They carried a very basic lineup of Nielsen wood frames...a couple sets in 7 colors each.

I picked out the set I liked best and inquired about obtaining samples. I was told I could have straight samples for free, but if I wanted corner it would be $10 including shipping for as many samples as I wanted. I though that was great. Corner samples are so much more useful, so I gladly opted for them. I told them I had to order some other items from them and I could just pay for it with the rest of the order, so they instructed me to put the request into the special instructions. I also asked about getting samples of their 4 different acrylics and they said that would be not problem either...just put it in the special instructions.

After placing the order, I received a call (the next day, I think) saying that my main order would ship right away, and that the samples would ship out in a couple days (since the corners required assembly). However, the $10 included shipping so there would be no additional charge to ship separately, and this way I'd get the rest of my order more quickly.

When I received my order, it was exactly what I wanted. The samples were solid wood, and beautifully stained. The acrylic samples were full 8x10 samples ( I was expecting just a small 2x2 sample or something).

Making a Decision (and an order)

Not that it really needs to be said, but I was completely underwhelmed by the service I received from FrameUSA. On the other hand, Frame Destination provided the same sort outstanding service I've come to expect from them.

When I went to place an order, I obviously chose Frame Destination. I ordered three 16x20s and three 24x36s, all of them with museum grade anti glare/anti UV acrylic. As I needed my order soon (by middle of the following week, and this was on a Wednesday) I paid for 2 day shipping and asked to be notified if they were not able to to ship it by Friday. By Monday I had heard nothing back (usually I get a tracking number), so I was a bit worried and decided to give them a call. It turns out the lady that handles those notifications was on vacation when the order shipped. She looked up the tracking number and informed me that it had actually shipped on Thursday and was in fact already on the FedEx truck for delivery. I received it a few hours later.

The product was exactly what I requested and was packaged very carefully so that it was well protected. I was thoroughly satisfied with my order. Those frames are now being hung in my booth and are already getting very positive feedback.

If you need frames, clear bags, matboard, or just about anything else framing related, I'd highly recommend giving Frame Destination consideration.

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