Denny’s Daily Zinger: Vistaprint’s Bait-‘n’-Switch Scheme

I design my own business cards—and print them on glossy stock.
For months, I watched the Vistaprint TV spot offering 250 Business Cards for $10, with free shipping.

Okay, I thought, I’ll try these guys. Two reasons:

  • My time, glossy card stock and toner equals more than $10 for 250 cards.
  • I can do a column on how Vistaprint makes an offer with textbook follow-up that lands repeat customers and lifetime value.

I copied down the Vistaprint Web address and here’s what happened:

  1. I came to the Vistaprint landing page offering 15 percent off on custom T-shirts, plus “WEEKLY SPECIALS.”
  2. I saw no reference to the TV offer of 250 premium business cards for $10.
  3. I clicked on “Business Cards/Premium Business Cards.”
  4. The offer: 250 business cards for $20, with no mention of free shipping.

Where I come from, this is called “bait-‘n’-switch.”

Takeaways to Consider

  • Maybe this bait-‘n’-switch scheme works for Vistaprint.
  • It pissed me off. I will never again trust Vistaprint.
  • If you run an ad anywhere, online, on TV, off-the-page or via direct mail, do not send the prospect to your generic landing page.
  • Set up a satellite landing page that reprises the offer with a warm welcome from the CEO, a photograph and a real signature.
  • Always make it easy-peasy to order.
  • If I were CEO of Vistaprint, I’d send 250 spiffy business cards for $10 and test a surprise welcome gift of a personalized T-shirt. With a personalized thank-you and welcome letter.

Denny Hatch’s new book is “Write Everything Right!” Basia Christ writes, “I read the book in two days … I couldn’t put it down! It is fun reading filled with resources, anecdotes, and although I have an MBA in marketing, I learned much more from your book than many of my classes.” Click here to download (opens as a PDF) and read the first three chapters FREE. The title is also available on Kindle. Reach Denny at

Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at

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  • The Dude

    I’m a loyal reader of your column. It’s always filled with great stuff. I feel compelled to reach out to you regarding today’s panning of Vistaprint.

    The television spot states to enter promo code TV250 at checkout. This promo code does indeed allow a customer to get 250 business cards for $10.00 with free shipping. But only after he or she has successfully designed and is ready to order the most basic card possible.

    All your Takeaways to Consider, other than perhaps the first one, are valid. Would directing the customer to—where he or she sees the offer pre-loaded and is upsold from there—deliver a better experience and fewer prospective customers thinking Vistaprint is nothing but a bunch of scammers? No doubt. But it’s not bait-and-switch. The customer can get the offer. He or she just has to do some work to get it (duh, that’s a problem, too.)

    Keep the great stuff coming.

  • Rainer Fischer

    Right on, Denny. And besides that, I can get 250 cards printed 14-pt ,4/4 + UV with free shipping for $8.50 (CAD no less) right around the corner from me. I don’t even have to go through any bait and switch offers.

  • Judy Colbert

    I’ve used the VistaPrint offer (and some variations) several times and I don’t remember having trouble finding the offer. Maybe it pops up as you check out. The big problem — as such — is the VistaPrint logo is on the back of your business card announcing to one and all that either you’re too cheap to order “professional” cards or you’re one sly person who’s resourceful and economic. As I wear many hats with several interests, I usually print labels with some reference to the specialty of that occasion I’m attending – travel books if I’m going to be with travel editors, other books (Chesapeake Bay crabs cookbook, Super Bowl Trivia, etc.) for other occasions. Or, a note that I’m available for long or short format assignments. The specific label is attached to the back of my generic (Judy Colbert, writer, photographer) cards. I’ve always been satisfied with VistaPrint. No free sample t-shirts, though. Thank goodness.

  • Judy Colbert

    I should have mentioned – I use the label to cover the VistaPrint logo on the back of the card.

  • Christopher Lake

    Have to agree, a lot of Vistaprint promos feel like bait-and-switch … then again, they’ve used these questionable tactics for years, so they must be profitable in the long run.

    I have a love-hate relationship with Vistaprint and can’t say I would ever recommend them to a friend. The quality of the product has always been fine, but it seems to take too long to receive an order. They upsell and nickle-and-dime at every turn (although it appears they no longer charge for uploaded designs). Shipping charges and (separate) handling charges always made an order much too expensive by the time it came to the final Submit Order click.

    However, I do watch the promo emails and occasionally will order several free or low-cost items at once, especially items I wouldn’t normally buy (e.g., t-shirts, mugs). Then I feel like I outsmarted them and got a great deal … even if neither statement is true.

    Definitely agree with Rainer’s comment, there are plenty of places online and bricks-and-mortar where a better deal can be had.