March 16, 2008

Photo KIosks Photo Book in CVS Process Needs Work

Photo book at CVS works really well except for final construction by clerk of the album. Illustrates the entire process impacts the consumer and one flawed segment can negate the overall servicing of the customer.

Sloppy ending spoils CVS photo book --,0,7334766.story
Sloppy ending spoils CVS photo book

March 17, 2008

Occasionally, there is a major flaw in how well our consumer technologies work. Sadly, it's the human element.

Consider this tale of a great idea gone bad at the hands of a human in the last step of the process.

Pharmacy chain CVS recently started to offer a very cool product in its photo department, a $12.99 photo book that can be created, compiled and out the door within an hour. I made one last week, 4-year-old in tow, and the process is a snap.

Here's how it works:

We brought our digital camera to a local CVS. We went to the photo center and plopped down in front of a touch-screen photo kiosk. We selected the option to make a photo book. Then I took the SD memory card out of the camera, popped it in the kiosk and we started to make our book.

Many people remain wary of using an online photo service to order prints or make a product like a calendar or photo book. I do encourage people to try them because of the breadth of interesting products offered by sites such as Shutterfly, KodakGallery, Moo, Qoop and Snapfish. I recently reviewed these sites with very satisfactory results.

For the hesitant or time-pressed, CVS' in-store option for calendars, birthday cards and prints is a nice option. But the photo books need work.

Also, while the Kodak kiosks are fast and intuitive, they do have flaws.

I wanted to make a 6-by-8-inch photo book, which has a cutout cover so the book's first page doubles as the cover image. But the machine only offered the 4-by-6 and 8-by-10 sizes, even though a nearby poster touted the 6-by-8 format. So I made a 4-by-6 book and, inexplicably, when I finished and went to double-check the steps, the 6-by-8 photo book option was available.

The clerk couldn't explain this discrepancy, and I checked the kiosk repeatedly as I waited for her to put my book together. Like a 4-year-old, I kept starting and stopping the touch-screen program to see if the 6-by-8 book option would appear. Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

That annoyance aside, it was easy to design a book.

After selecting the book you want and putting in a memory card—several types of memory can be used—follow the on-screen instructions. Friendly voice commands help explain the choices if you get stuck.

Start with a theme
You pick a theme, such as travel, and several page options appear. There were enough to peruse but not too many to make you indecisive.

Then, one by one, you click on photos you want to add. You can do minor editing to each photo, such as cropping and image brightening, by the touch of a finger. If an error is made, it is easy to fix.

My son selected pictures, which was fun for both of us. He tapped on the ones he wanted and skipped ones he didn't like. He made fine choices. You can add text to each page and change the color, size and type location with your finger.

We were done creating our book in less than 30 minutes. We selected 21 images that were spread over 10 pages. Then the pages were printed, and the technician started to do her job: binding the book.

And that's where the process falls apart.

The photo book I brought home is so poorly constructed that it will not be put on the shelf next to the other photo books. I won't toss it, but I might pull it apart to use the pages as frame-worthy prints. The binding is so bad that the pages are practically falling out on their own.

I showed the photo book around for a second opinion.

My wife: "Can you return that?"

My editor: "They expect you to pay for this?"

My cube neighbor: "The sample is very nice."

Indeed, the sample CVS sent is very nice; that's why I tried the service.

Money-back guarantee
To be fair, I created a book at just one CVS, and 5,500 stores offer this nationwide. So odds are pretty high that there are more skilled technicians than the one who worked on my book.

Walgreens is testing a similar photo-book service in Wisconsin, but a spokeswoman said the chain has not decided on a national rollout.

In response to my poor experience, CVS said in a statement that "there is a 100 percent money-back guarantee on our new photo books to ensure customer satisfaction."

That's good, because an in-store photo book is a great idea. Creating it was simple, and I'd still recommend people give it a try.

Just hope the human who puts it together is as impressive as the technology.

Posted by staff at March 16, 2008 09:42 AM