Searching for just the right gift?  How can you go wrong with a personalized photo gift? CVS/pharmacy Photo Center has so many choices and surprisingly reasonable prices, as we were to experience firsthand.

Some gifts can be created online, with photos uploaded and all creative work done in the comfort of one’s home.  Within as little as an hour, depending upon the nature of what is ordered, the gift might be ready for pickup at the designated, pre-selected local CVS.

All CVS/Pharmacy Photo Center gifts can be ordered online at CVSphoto.com and then shipped free-of-charge to a local CVS/pharmacy for convenient pick-up. If preferred, customers can also create their gifts in-store at KODAK Picture Kiosks found in CVS/pharmacy Photo Centers. To get started, shoppers can bring in digital media (flash drives, optical discs or memory cards), or they can access their Facebook photo albums right from the in-store kiosks. Now that Facebook allows uploading of higher quality photos, these may be downloaded and used in the creation of CVS photo gifts.  This is a great leap forward!

Customers are reminded to place all orders by December 14 to receive their gifts in time for Christmas (by December 23). Express shipping options are available.

CVS customers may select from a broad array of options, including classics such as photo books, calendars, mugs, ornaments and mouse pads, to more unique items that fit specific loved ones’ personalities like blankets, easel art, puzzles, playing cards, coasters and more.  I really like this idea!

Greeting cards start at just 65¢ and there are plenty of gifts under $10 and $20, and more all the way up to $60-$80 for premium products like photo collage blankets.

I was recently given the opportunity, courtesy of CVS, to try their service myself. This meant that my better half, the artful, creative half, the long-suffering Mrs. Gadget, was called to task to try out some of the offerings.

We (she) created a set of 20 4-inch x 8-inch Express Photo Greeting Cards, a 4-inch x 6-inch Express Photo Book and an 8.5-inch x 11-inch Express Double-Sided Photo Calendar.  Each project was created for in-store pickup.

Boy, these can take a long time to create online through the Website!  Part of the time is consumed in the customer’s creative effort.  I suppose one could take the simple route, without much thought and just bang out a gift, but Mrs. Gadget loves this kind of thing, dedicating time and talents into making the created photo gift as perfect as possible.  I appreciate her efforts, as does everyone who has received the gift of her creative handiwork over the decades we have been a family.  This was the perfect project for her.

 

The results are excellent and the prices right, but creating a unique and complex group of personalized gifts can be amazingly labor intensive. This is not a fault of CVS. It is a consequence of the creative process, with so much that can be done. Users may choose and upload the photos, which can involve upwards of 70 images for the calendar.  Fortunately, we have outstanding, super-fast Internet service (including the upload speed at 25mbps) from Verizon FiOS, or the photo upload would have taken quite some time.  Note this possible upload time issue when considering your own projects.

The greeting card project was straightforward.  Layout selected, photos inserted from among those already uploaded to CVS to be used for all three projects, text added and click, it was done. I picked up the cards within an hour, though the counter personnel looked at me as if I was someone from another planet when I asked to pick up only this, the first of our orders.  She had no record of something to pick up in my name.  After about 15 minutes and with intervention of a second clerk, miraculously, my order was found and given to me.  I have no idea what was the issue.  Mailing envelopes were included.

The single-sided 4×6 photo book with 10 photos, and starting at $5.99, was next.  Layout chosen, captions, fonts, colors chosen, and click, it was done and ordered.  It took quite a bit of creative time, however.

There was a glitch on the calendar project.  Once the photos are set for each month, there is an opportunity to caption each month’s upper calendar page. The online software allows font choices as well as colors and font sizes. The text boxes are fixed in size, though this is not stated anywhere. The result is that users who are making their captions are falsely allowed to change font size, believing the text will fit.

In the text creation and editing box, the user has no clue that choices will be disallowed if the character flow exceeds the unstated and unspecified size restrictions. The software should either auto resize the text box or allow manual resizing and placement, within limits, of course.  Neither capability exists, so users create text thinking it will be sized as designed for easy readability, just as was attempted, but this is not the case. The small and narrow fixed-size text box means font sizing will not work.  After all the effort, font sizing may be so small as to be unreadable.  This was needlessly confusing and horribly time consuming, going down this dead-end street.

It is up to the user to figure out what CVS software intends, and this is wrong.  It becomes an exercise in craziness.  Usability should be paramount and the user interface has to be fixed.  I am amazed that a company as large as CVS allows this. Do their executives not use the services?  If they did, surely this would have been corrected.

Another glitch bubbled to the surface.  There are two ways that photos may be uploaded. One is called Fast Uploader-Java Edition, which requires software called Java to be installed. This is common software for all computers, though it is cantankerous in some instances.  The other uploader is called Simple Uploader.  Both are shown on the uploading page.  The glitch is that neither works flawlessly.  Mrs. Gadget frequently experienced freezes in both uploaders in the CVS software on their Website, necessitating restarting the browser.  Things should go smoothly and they did not.  CVS needs to fix this, too.

There is a final annoyance to report, which may be endemic only to this local CVS Store, the one selected to print the greeting cards, the photo book and the calendar.  As reported above, there was some difficulty in locating our greeting card order.  I have no idea how they were unable to initially locate my order, but that is what occurred.  Two days later, we went back to get the photo book and calendar.

The photo book was not found easily.  After about 10 minutes, the employee looked on his computer for the photo book order and could not find it.  There was no record of our name or order number that he could find. Then he made another many-minute physical search for a photo book, and eventually decided to look in the bin where the completed photo orders are stored.  Apparently, since the photo book is 4×6, the same size as standard 4×6 prints, it was there all along, unnoticed by the employee.

Now the difficulties kicked into high gear!  Where was the calendar?  They reported no record of the calendar order, however, even though we received email notification that it, too, was ready for pickup earlier in the day.  An employee looked and looked, and looked some more, eating up more time. Nope, not there.  How could the system report to ME that the order was ready and the store is unable to locate it. Looking by name was not successful.  Tick, tick, tick, more time while we waited.

About 20 minutes later, all of a sudden, and mysteriously, the photo department color printer started kicking out 8.5-inch x 11-inch paper.  The employee looked at the printer output and held them up, asking, “Are these yours?”  Yes, they were, indeed.  Puzzled, but moving forward, he said he did not know how to assemble the pages into a calendar.  With no one in the store to assist, he called another CVS photo department and discovered he did not know the whereabouts in his store of the punch needed to put holes in the top of the calendar.  He also could not locate the spiral comb binding necessary to make the calendar pages into a flip-style calendar. Now what?

The “helper” CVS that was called could help no further, as their photo person was not going to be in their store until later in the afternoon.  Now what?  Our intrepid employee called the next closest CVS and learned that they could complete the job! Off went Mrs. Gadget to the other store where, finally, our photo calendar was completed. Somewhat relieved, Mrs. Gadget did some personal shopping in the store.  About 10 minutes into this latest detail, the friendly photo department person approached to tell her they had forgotten to punch the hole for hanging the calendar. Back to the photo counter for the hold to be punched.  At least we did not discover this after leaving!  Now, we have a beautiful personalized calendar Mrs. Gadget so lovingly, carefully created online.  Whew!

All’s well that ends well!

On the plus side, and there are many, the results are smile inducing and quite pleasant.  There are NO complaints at all.  Mrs. Gadget used a different layout for each month of the calendar, with lots of pictures, sized in the software.  Captioning issues aside, the calendar is beautiful and personalized, with family photos celebrating important events and other family remembrances.  She also added important personal dates to the calendar days in each month.  It could not be more personalized.  Even without the user interface issues, this creative activity takes time on the part of the creator, so be patient or choose a less labor-intensive, yet still personalized photo gift.  With all the effort lovingly put into such a project, a personalized calendar is sure to be appreciated.  Creating one is a crafting lover’s delight!

Mrs. Gadget spent the better part of an unexpected two days on the project, the results of which yielded beautiful personalized photo greeting cards and gifts, but oh, the frustration!

Still, I am recommending CVS photo gifts to you.  Just be sure to allow the time needed to complete the selected project.  Some will naturally take quite a while to create and to complete the order, even under ideal circumstances.  CVS offers a wonderful set of personalized photo gift possibilities ideal for any consumer wanting something different, apart from the ordinary.  And the prices are quite reasonable!  Who wouldn’t love to receive something so special and so lovingly created?

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