Most likely this pen is from a great company, with quality people, product or service, but what's the first impression when their pen imprint is flaking off?

Quality DOES matter.

Don't waste time or money on those who place customer service, quality and integrity at the bottom of their list. Here are some things to watch for:

Can you contact someone personally, and right away? Some online resources are little more than a west coast computer connected to a factory in China. Make sure there's a real person taking your order -- able to answer any and all questions -- before committing to any purchase.

Can you talk to someone that is familiar with the product & processes? Imprinted products involve a wide variety of materials and imprinting processes. Your contact should be well-versed in the production process -- or be able to obtain production information quickly for you should you require it. Your local distributor is -- or should be -- able to contact any manufacturer directly -- not just rely on a catalog information page.

Are shipping costs (and where your order ships from) included? You should obtain at least an estimate of the shipping costs. What may seem like a reasonable or desirable product price might actually cost more if shipped from a distant location. There might be a nearby manufacturer that can supply your product with less shipping costs.

What about surprise costs? Is everything included? Sometimes there are setup charges, plate charges, artwork fees, special packaging requirements --- stuff that should be disclosed up front, to help you make an educated decision.

Will you see and approve a proof? Make sure you'll have final OK on any layouts or designs for your products before they are imprinted. Don't let a "RUSH" scenario replace common sense. If there's no time to approve artwork, then you may be looking at additional costs and missing your deadline anyway.

Are they a member of a local Chamber of Commerce? A Better Business Bureau logo isn't enough. A "no complaints" listing doesn't mean there haven't been some that have been satisfied, and won't reflect those that have not been officially called in. A Chamber of Commerce membership is usually a better indicator of a business that is established, community based, and not just working out of a PO box someplace.

What about personal service? There is no substitute for personal, one-to-one communication and interaction. There can't be enough online boxes on a webstie to check to cover all the information that you may desire or need.

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OK, maybe it's not an ACTUAL site, but it IS a place where we can warn you about ordering your promotional products from some "less than savory" providers online. While there are many above-board, honest and trusted online providers out there, more and more fly-by-night or computer controlled sites are not living up to acceptable customer service and quality control standards.
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crap - noun
4. Cheap or shoddy material.