The Best & The Worst CompaniesSUMMARY:
BEST Fine Art Lab: COLORFOLIO in Sebastapol, California
BEST Website Hosting Company: LFC HOSTING
BEST Sharpening Software: FOCALBLADE
BEST Sunrise/Sunset Software: HEAVENLY-OPPORTUNITY
BEST Color Management Book: REAL WORLD COLOR MANAGEMENT by Bruce Fraser
BEST Native Landscaping: ART & LINDA'S WILDFLOWERS
BEST Office Furniture: BUSINESS OFFICE SYSTEMS (BOS)
WORST Advertising Services: LIVINGSOCIAL for arrogance, incompetence, and a complete lack of honor
WORST Photo Lab: PRECISION IMAGING for poor quality and irresponsible customer service
WORST Hard Drives: MAXTOR / SEAGATE for unsurpassed unreliability
WORST Canvas Media: BULLDOG PRODUCTS for poor canvas materials, profiles, and condescending customer service
WORST Organization: IMS BARTER for bad customer service and for creating a limited marketplace that is full of problems
BEST FINE ART LAB
COLORFOLIO used to do our fine art digital printing before we bought our Epson 9800 printer. Now, I use them occasionally for drum scanning jobs. What I like most are their very high standards and one-on-one, personal approach to printmaking. Call them toll-free at 888-212-7060. Ask to speak with Bob Cornelis. He's the mastermind.
BEST WEBSITE HOSTING
LFC HOSTING hosts our website. Loosefoot Hosting (aka LFC Hosting) is a top-notch outfit that offers great personal service and a trememdous number of hosting options that you actually control yourself using an easy-to-use control panel. Their philosophy is "If I succeed, then they succeed." Need I say more.
FOCALBLADE is easily the most advanced sharpening software availableyes, including Photokit Sharpener. FocalBlade's most important feature is the ability to independently control the amount of edge and surface sharpening. And because FocalBlade is a Photoshop plug-in, you'll no longer need to do "smart sharpening" or use complicated Photoshop actions to perform edge sharpening.
Available in both PC and MAC versions, Focalblade provides a tremendous amount of control including halo reduction to reduce the amount of white and black halos that naturally form as a result of the sharpening process. Automated controls are also available to speed up the process. Simply answer three questions about the image the program will automatically calculate the sharpening numbers for you. Then, you can go with those numbers or tweak them. It's up to you.
And, best of all, FocalBlade costs just $49.95 (as of 1/25/06).
HEAVENLY-OPPORTUNITY is software that calculates the rising and settng times of the sun and the moon, their positions on the horizon, moon phases. Because sun and moon information is a function of where you are, the software offers a comprehensive list of over 30,000 U.S. locations! The program also offers many convenient features.
BEST COLOR MANAGEMENT
REAL WORLD COLOR MANAGEMENT by Bruce Fraser is one book that is worth reading to help you understand how color management works. You'll learn so much and, with a little experience, you'll be playing in a different league altogether.
BEST OFFICE FURNITURE
BUSINESS OFFICE SYSTEMS, a.k.a, BOS: From the moment I walked in the door to buy a single office chair, the folks at BOS treated me like I was going to purchase a thousand. It wasn't until ten years later that the very well made Haworth chair started acting up. So, I called BOS and, guess what? The chair was still under warranty. With a friendly demeanor and no questions asked, they sent out a serviceman who replaced the entire mechanism for FREE!! How many companies, nowadays, respond like this? Most try to wriggle out of their warranties and look for loopholes. Well, not BOS and not Haworth! I have sat in my Haworth chair for many years and I'm sitting in it now as I type these words. And still, after all this time, I have not experienced any discomfort or physical issues thanks to its comfortable and ergonomic design.
BEST NATIVE LANDSCAPING & GARDENING
ART & LINDA'S WILDFLOWERS creates beautiful gardens using native plants and grasses from the Chicago area. Art personally helped us grow a native prairie garden in our backyard.
WORST ADVERTISING SERVICES
LIVINGSOCIAL is a poorly run and disorganized company without a speck of honor. While our coupon deal was running, an unethical competitor called them to complain about something that we got in our contract that he did not get in his. Of course, our deal has nothing to do with him, but he convinced LivingSocial to pull our ad, even though they were the ones who contacted us and offered us the deal in the first place. A contract was signed, yet LivingSocial breached it. But, that isn't all.
During the process of putting the ad together with their production department, apparently run by Nazis, LivingSocial exhibited tremendous incompentence and arrogance. Their copyrighting was amateurish, like some 13-year-old was doing their writing. They erred constantly while condescendingly ignoring our input. We had to fight tooth-and-nail to have our company and services properly represented in the ad. They treated us like feces and, hence, LivingSocial is the worst business we have ever experienced. And that's saying a lot. Read on.
WORST PHOTO LABS
PRECISION IMAGING in Chicago represents the WORST LAB experience that I have ever had. They not only do a poor job with E6 processing, but they are terrible at following instructions, preventing errors, and correcting their mistakes. This included forgetting to sleeve medium format transparencies and mounting 35mm ones. Robert, the owner, did everything in his power to avoid fixing the problems, including avoiding my telephone calls. Ultimately, Robert declined to fix their mistakes and told me on 2/5/08 to fix the problem myself. No kidding!
WORST HARD DRIVES & DATA STORAGE
MAXTOR / SEAGATE has a proven track record of unreliability:
(2) In 2006, I lost of 60 gigabytes of data using Maxtor's 1 Terabyte One Touch Turbo (dual 500MB) external hard drive unit. Both drives contained the same data (Raid 1 mirroring), but BOTH DRIVES CRASHED at the same time!! This is not rare as people say. If the fan goes bad, you're done for.
To further add insult to injury, Maxtor technical support had me jumping through hoops. They had ME disassemble the unit. Then they made me wait over a month to receive a controller card, which I then had to install into the unit while giving giving me instructions over the telephone. I honestly felt like I was in an episode of "24" and I was the some guy on the street who was unwittingly drawn into disarming a nuclear warhead as he was being given instructions over the phone.
Ultimately, Maxtor did nothing except provide me with another unit with no data. They refused to help me restore any data and they did not even express concern or act like they were sorry.
(3)In January of 2008, I plugged in a Maxtor 250 GB external drive that I hardly use and it didn't even work.
Additionally, Maxtor makes drives for other manufacturers (possibly for LaCie). So, you need to look under the hood before buying such an important piece of equipment.
Conclusion: Buy WESTERN DIGITAL hard drive units, many of which don't even use a cooling fan. Get their drives that have at least a 3-year warranty. They are the most reliable drives available. See BEST HARD DRIVES & STORAGE above.
WORST CANVAS MEDIA
BULLDOG PRODUCTS represents the WORST CANVAS MEDIA and customer service that I have experienced in the world of fine art media. I purchased a 44" x 40' roll of Bulldog Purple Dot canvas for more than $200. The product experienced weird color shifts and banding while using Bulldog's profile and media settings. Furthermore, the canvas had several imperfections embedded in the canvas. For instance, it had "seeds" (from cotton seeds that were not properly removed) and little black specks and anomolies throughout. These anomolies showed through the ink and ruin my prints. Last, but not least, one of my stretched canvas print exhibited severe wrinkling and puckering, only 6 months after it was stretched.
When I originally approached Bulldog they asked me to send them some samples of the defective canvas, which I took the time to do. Over a year went by and they never got back to me. So finally, in Febrary of 2008, I called them up to follow up. After a long conversation with "Ernie," he blamed me for being inexperienced with his product. Yes, this makes sense, if I were an expert with the product then the seeds and defects would have magically disappeared. The Bulldog Fairy would have miraculously removed the wrinkles and puckering from the stretched canvas print. Since that time, I used "PremierArt Water Resistant Canvas for Epson" and I NEVER had a problem with that from the moment I received it. The profiles were perfect and the canvas provided a wide color gamut and a clean, blemish-free, surface. I suppose if you have an inferior product, it's much easier to blame your customers than taking responsibility for your products. I'm not the only one who vouches for Bulldog's lack of quailty. A major media supplier told me that they stopped carrying Bulldog products for this reason.
Ernie generously offered me a "free" sample roll of their other canvas products (which I'm not interested in using anyway), if I would "pick up the $10 in shipping." Paying another $10 to get another bad product was Ernie's idea of reconcilation for the $200 that I lost. Of course, I declined his magnanimous offer and placed them on this list.
IMS BARTER is a nationwide barter or trade organization and a marketplace where you can buy products and services on trade. I've been a member for 20 years and rarely found anybody worth working with. I always provide the same quality and services to trade buyers as I do with cash customers. However, this is not true for many of the members. I've been gouged on prices, asked to pay a large chunk of "real" money over and above the trade dollars, provided very limited choices on products, abd given poor service because I was a trade member.
The IMS organization in Illinois is also not customer friendly either. They have low standards when it comes to helping their members and it allows its members to break the rules. I've been trying to spend down the money I've earned for many years, but I don't want to buy junk and get ripped off. So, the money just sat there.
I've had movers who have provided poor service. I had a printer who told me, "Too bad, you're trade. You have to wait behind our non-trade customers." I had another printer say, "Sorry, we'll only trade with people who will print on this specific tan paper stock." Huh?! Was I in "The Twilight Zone"?
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