REVIEW: Staples Copy & Print Centre Online

Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday! I did, and enjoyed a small break from blogging too. Time to get back into it!

staples logo One of the things I got Sharon for Christmas was a food calendar. I wanted to get her something related to photography and food, but another picture frame just didn’t seem that interesting. When I was in Staples one day, I noticed their advertising for the Copy & Print Centre, and specifically for the calendars. I took a card from the counter, and checked out the website when I got home. A couple of hours later and I had a professional looking calendar, filled with photos of food we’ve made together or of restaurants we’ve visited.

I found the website very easy-to-use, if a little basic. You can do pretty much everything online that you can do in the store. Want to print or copy something? Simply upload a file and go. You can also order custom items, such as business cards, labels, greeting cards, bookmarks, agendas, and calendars (you can download the price list in PDF here). Obviously I was interested in the calendar option.

There are four calendar styles to choose from: deluxe, classic, express, and year in view. I went with the deluxe, which lets you completely customize a full color calendar in two sizes (8.5” x 11” or 11” x 17”) and either 12 months or 18 months. Once you’ve picked those options, you can get started creating your calendar. They display some tips and tricks before you get started, which I skipped over the first time. I later went back and read them. They suggest organizing and uploading photos ahead of time rather than on the fly, and that turned out to be really good advice. By uploading your photos first, you can save your calendar before it’s finished and return to it later. It also makes it a bit faster to customize each page.

I chose a template in the 11” x 17” size and got to work. It took me quite a while to get all the images uploaded and organized and placed on the appropriate pages, but it was worth it. After you submit your order and select a store for delivery, you can download a digital proof in PDF (mine was just under 7 MB). A few days later, you’ll receive an email notifying you that your calendar is ready to pick up! Simply pay in store and you’re done. Very easy.

A few other quick comments on the website: it appears to be written in ASP.NET, which I thought was kinda cool. They also make use of some Telerik controls, such as the RadUpload component. Interestingly, I can’t find a single link back to the main Staples website – the Copy & Print Centre seems to be completely separate.

I was really impressed with the result (the photo above is from the proof). It actually does look like a professional calendar that you’d buy in a store! It helps to have high resolution photos too, I guess. On the very back of the calendar is the Copy & Print Centre logo, but otherwise it’s completely free from logos or advertising. I wonder if you could pay to have that removed? Maybe for large orders.

I’m happy to report that Sharon loved her calendar! So did her sister actually, so much so that she set about creating her own soon after seeing Sharon’s. It’s a unique, easy-to-create gift. Based on my experience, I’d definitely recommend the Staples Copy & Print Centre online.

My klean kanteen is green

klean kanteen Last week Sharon bought me a water bottle. More than just a simple gift though, there’s a story behind this particular water bottle. You see unlike me, Sharon actually pays attention to the news when they talk about health scares. To me it seems like there’s a new study released every day telling me that the things I am enjoying right now are going to kill me, so I tend to tune the news out. It was over one of these “health scares” that we had a disagreement, many months ago. Sharon had been reading about plastic bottles, and how they can leech dangerous chemicals. My gut reaction was that her concerns were probably exaggerated, and I told her so at the time.

Of course, it turns out she was right (she usually is). Most of the problem centres around a compound known as Bisphenol A, or BPA. In the last year, many governments have issued reports questioning the safety of the compound, including Canada. Perhaps more importantly, the private sector has jumped on the anti-BPA bandwagon, with manufacturers like Nalgene issuing statements about the chemical and launching new BPA-free products. I’m not sure there is any conclusive evidence one way or the other, but it doesn’t matter – consumers don’t want products that contain BPA.

As a result, we went shopping for a new metal water bottle for Sharon (though there are some safe plastic ones – see this article for an overview). She eventually settled on a 18oz bottle made by klean kanteen. From their about page:

Klean Kanteens are made from #304 stainless steel, the material of choice in the food processing, dairy, and brewery industries. Stainless steel is easy to clean, durable, inert, sanitary, toxin-free, and non-leaching. Klean Kanteens are the stainless steel alternative to plastics. Plastics in landfills and oceans are one of the most alarming of today’s environmental stories.

I don’t think she chose it for the brand at the time, but rather because it seemed durable, affordable, and was surprisingly light (the 18oz bottle weighs 6oz). Another plus was the relatively large mouth on the bottle, making it easy to fit ice cubes inside.

Her purchase ended up being a good one! She takes her water bottle everywhere, and it does its job very well. And because it’s made of metal instead of plastic, water stays cold forever! Just another reason to ditch your plastic bottle.

I’ve never carried a water bottle around before, but I’ve gotten used to Sharon having hers. Like most people, I don’t drink enough water. If I have a water bottle handy though, I drink more.

Which brings us back to last week and the gift. I guess Sharon decided she’d had enough of me continually commenting on how great her water bottle was and drinking all her water, so she got me my very own! I have been taking my shiny new green, 27oz klean kanteen with me for the last few days and it rocks. I fill it up with water and ice cubes in the morning, and the water stays pretty cold throughout the day. Sometimes I fill it up again. I’m definitely drinking more water than I used to (and presumably ingesting less chemicals than I might have with a plastic bottle). Thanks Sharon!

If you’re in the market for a new water bottle, I’d definitely recommend klean kanteen.

Facebook's virtual gifts – money well spent?

In a post at VentureBeat yesterday, Eric Eldon shared some estimates that suggest Facebook’s revenue from virtual gifts this year will be in the range of $28 million to $43 million. That’s a serious amount of coin for nothing more than an image on a web page.

Gifts are priced at $1 each, and the study found that an average of 470,000 are sold each week.

Facebook introduced the gifts feature in February of 2007. A gift is simply an image of something, like a heart, a flower, or hundreds of other options, that when given, shows up on a “gift box” in a user’s profile. If the gift is public, then the recipients’ friends can see it, too. If it’s private, only the recipient and the giver can see it.

I think the key there is “simply an image”. This is definitely one of those things where you can’t help but think “why didn’t I come up with that!”

Clearly, gifts are a good source of income for Facebook. I wonder who buys them though. Why are people so happy to pay $1 for a bunch of pixels on a web page?

Surely that $40 million could have been spent on something better?

Telus Mobility surprises me with a free gift!

I received an interesting package in the mail today from Telus Mobility. A little white box with the phrase “Happy Anniversary” on the front was waiting for me! I opened it up to find a letter thanking me for being a customer since 2003. Actually, I’ve been a customer since 2000 but my first three-year contract was under my business partner’s name. I’ve written about Telus quite a few times on my blog, sometimes because of something bad, sometimes because of something good. This is obviously one of the good things!

Happy Anniversary from Telus Mobility

Wondering what was in the box? In addition to the letter, they sent me a three-in-one phone charger! It’s a pretty neat little gadget, plugs into the wall or a car outlet, and has a couple of cables with different connectors on it. And a little bag to store the cables in.

Letter from Telus Unboxing! 3-in-1 Phone Charger Cables & Charger

Thanks Telus! My current contract is up around November, and while it’s unlikely I’d have gone through the hassle of switching anyway, this makes it even easier to decide. Combined with some customer service improvements recently, Telus Mobility is starting to do more things right than wrong. Now if only they could get the cool new phones sooner 🙂