Thursday, February 20, 2014

POD REVIEWS: Arts Now (a.k.a. ArtsCafe, ArtsCow)

NOTE:  I stopped selling through ArtsNow in 2009 so a lot of this information may be outdated.

ArtsNow also has a SuperVIP program where you can sign up resellers under you with their own shops branded with your name. So, if you discover a new POD which seems to have the same products as ArtsNow...well, it probably is a site managed by an ArtsNow VIP. The prices may be different, but quality will be the same.
Product Selection
ArtsNow has the widest product offering of all the PODS I've worked with. They have a LARGE amount of gift items--from flash drives to umbrellas.


Quality
I've found quality in all areas to be inconsistent. Though some items have proven to be very good quality, others are noticeably poor in quality. Some things look great when they first arrive, but break easily or have problems that show up later, and printing quality varies vastly with each order (I've had cards come in the same large unpadded bag with bulky items, so that they arrived bent). I have some more detail on some specific items below (though of course I can only comment on the things I've ordered).

Good Quality
  • Watches (Many of their watches are made by Citizen, and ArtsNow only takes off the front to add the picture)
  • Porcelain Ornaments
  • Pin-back Buttons 
Fair Quality
Items that might be a little under what I expected, but still acceptable.
  • Puzzles - Don't come with a box, and the cardboard is not very thick
Poor Quality
Nonfunctional or Otherwise Unacceptable
  • Travel Alarm Clock - Simply didn't work (Several complaints on forum also.)
  • Greeting Cards - Cards have a waxy coating that I've never seen on other POD cards. With a light background they look alright, but cards with a dark background scratch easily so I would not suggest using this service for cards with colored backgrounds.
  • Apparel (See Note below)


Special Note Regarding ArtsNow Apparel
I have several complaints about apparel. Women's shirts are about two sizes too small (built for women with a very small bustline, it seems). Color quality has been inconsistent (two maternity shirts with the same design came with one much lighter than the other), and while the designs on dark shirts look great at first, it wears out quickly with washing. But the problem that caused me to remove them from my shop was a legal one. The shirts are not labeled properly for US Federal Trade Commission standards. They need to have information including care and fabric content and all the labels have is size. They said they would work on the problem but I'm not sure if it's been addressed yet.

Special Note Regarding ArtsNow Key Chains
Their key chains are made with zinc, which does contain lead, but when I contacted Arts Now about it they said that it meets the European export safety standard. This is different than the American standard, and am not sure how it compares. It's likely some of their other metal items are also made this way.

Price
ArtsNow has the very low base prices--sometimes costing as much as half what similar or even identical items cost at other PODS. You can mark up prices quite a bit and still keep prices low. If you sign up for VIP service you get even lower base prices (though you can't lower the price below ArtsNow own prices for custom item--you can however offer coupons which lower the price more).

Production & Shipping Time/Cost
ArtsNow is located in Hong Kong, so it's 8-12 business days for standard shipping plus 24 - 48 hours production time. This means that items can take up to three weeks to ship (longer during holidays...expect to stop selling items to ship by Christmas around December 1, and expect a extra one week delay in late January/early February when the plant shuts down for the Chinese New Year Holiday.).

Shipping costs, however, are extremely low--starting at only $3 ($1 for orders of small items like buttons or Italian charms) for worldwide standard shipping. For VIP shop owners shipping is free.

However, shipping quality is often poor. I have had a coffee mug come wrapped in a t-shirt I ordered, had items damaged because they were packed together with other differently shaped items in the same bubble wrap bag, and had cards come with the wrong sized envelope. On the plus side, I do like that their buttons, magnets, key chains, watches and other jewelry items come individually wrapped--which saves them from damage (but not from damaging other items, like cards). Also their ornaments come well swaddled in plenty of bubble wrap and I've never received one broken (and I've ordered over 20 of these).

Storefront
You can add as many items and sections you want to your storefront. There are various templates available for both VIP and basic stores. Under basic free service you have a limited amount of customization you can do, but if you pay for VIP service most aspects of the store can be customized to create the look and feel you want, and it is possible to remove the ArtsNow branding completely from VIP stores. VIP stores also come with invoices which can be customized (so that when your customers receive your orders your branding is on their Invoice) and the ability to offer your own coupons. If you want to pay the extra to become a SuperVIP you can have reseller accounts under you and earn money through them.

Set up at ArtsNow can be a bit tricky. There are numerous features for which you are given no instruction. On the other hand, there is a lot of flexibility in the way you can add and re-arrange items. You can open as many stores as you want and move or copy items easily between stores (even in the free program), and do many other changes in bulk. When designing a product you can place the design anywhere within the design space.

A few notes of concern:

  • There are typos in the product descriptions which ArtsNow still has not addressed in spite of many complaints by various shopkeepers
  • Customer service for shop problems can be slow
  • If you are signed up for VIP, when a customer contacts "Customer Service" they contact you. (Some might consider this a plus, but personally it's one of the services I expect the POD to cover, not me).
  • Under VIP you will need to have to have your own domain or most of the extra feautres (including setting your own shipping price and the lower base prices) won't work. People can still access your site through the www.artsnow.com/yourname URL, but when they do, you're coupons don't work for them, your lower VIP base price doesn't count, etc. So, make sure to set up your domain name right away and promote it, not the www.artsnow.com/yourname URL. The VIP base price also doesn't apply to marketplace sales. You cover the cost of the domain name yourself.


Mark-Up/Commission Method
You select a mark-up over the base price. If you sign up for VIP service you get a lower base price, but can not lower your prices below ArtsNow's custom prices. As a VIP you also earn a mark-up on custom items people make through your stores.

Customer Base
Though I have sold an occasional item through their marketplace, overall it is not a very user friendly marketplace and has a low customer base. There are no links to your shop from the marketplace, nor is there any links to your other designs or products.

Misc.
Your own purchases and customer's purchases from your shop are listed together, and there is no easy way to tell them apart, which is a nightmare come tax time.

Summary
ArtsNow has very low prices and a huge selection of products, but the quality of products, printing, and service is inconsistent. Their low customer base and poor marketplace structure means you can't rely on marketplace sales, but should expect most of your sales to come from your own promotional efforts.

Visit ArtsNow

Review last updated in 2009 - Moved from my Squidoo.

(DISCLOSURE: Though I no longer sell through ArtsNow I am still a member of their affiliate program and receive a commission on purchases by customers who visit through the links above.).

2 comments:

  1. I have been using Artsnow.com for 5 years. They sell decent stuff and you can make a profit as a reseller. However, be prepared for your customers to be let down. If you use a public marketplace, you are likely to have negative reviews monthly due to lost product, missing items or poor quality. When you contact their customer support, they nicely say sorry, we cannot help you, your lose. If you ask for a refund for something they clearly messed up, you will not get it. They point you to a policy that says their 5% refund on each order covers this. In all honesty, it usually does cover you. I would prefer they kept the 5% and just made things right and have better customer service. If you disagree with them and even mention a dispute on paypal, they threaten you about cancelling your account. What kind of company does this to their partners/resellers!?

    Be prepared for headaches, poor customer service and mediocre products.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for sharing this!

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