Dangers of Buying Promotional Merchandise with 24-Hour “Rush Service”

In the on-demand economy, or as some call the “amazon” economy, it’s commonplace to buy goods online and expect delivery within 1-2 days. In larger urban markets, same day delivery is now an option. Technology developments obviously make this possible by utilizing bots and automated processes where orders are placed, processed and shipped without ever touching human hands. For goods that are pre-packaged, bar-coded and ready to ship, instant on-demand delivery is a convenience that most all of us enjoy today.

Likewise, individuals that buy company branded merchandise have also come to expect near the same level of delivery for goods that are not instantly ship-ready. Instead, many goods made for branding must go through a process that involves unpackaging, print customization in various forms that each involve its’ own process (and often branded in multiple locations or colors), in some cases assembled and then repackaged individually. Lastly, the final step includes bulk packing and labeling for shipment. In many ways, the branded goods industry has met the challenge of near-instant delivery for customized goods. Advanced print technology and automated processes are a big reason for this. However, there are several dangers in buying promotional goods on a 24-48 hour rush service, although many promotional companies eagerly promote they can do it for you without any problems. Below, we note several issues that may arise when ordering custom branded merchandise on a “rush” and provide a few tips to prevent them.

  1. Poor Imprint Quality - It only makes sense that when something is printed with a tight deadline, quality of the imprint on each item may be sacrificed due to the rush to get the goods shipped on time. Sometimes goods may be packaged and shipped before the ink is dry on an item resulting in smears or poor branding quality. There’s nothing worse than having your anticipated branded gifts arrive on-time only to be disappointed when you open the package to find the debossed logo not so “debossed” on part of the product or wet imprints from one product smudging another. To eliminate the risk of poorly imprinted products simply plan ahead by allowing 2-3 weeks for production on most products or ask your representative to find a product that can be done in your delivery timeframe where rush service isn’t required.

  2. Waived Proof Approval - While many promo distributors are glad to offer 24-48 hour service, that often comes with the caveat that you must waive your right to view a printed proof approval, which is a virtual mockup showing exactly what the product will look like branded and to what size and location on the product. This is usually required so as not to delay the production schedule. The risk is you’re 100% reliant on your promotional distributor to relay this information perfectly to the factory without confirmation. As factories print and ship hundreds and sometimes thousands of orders each day this is a highly risky bet that you want to avoid as you take the risk if the products are branded incorrectly. To avoid this error, only accept rush service if you reserve the right to view and approve a printed proof beforehand. This is not always possible but many times the factories will relent if you push hard enough.

  3. Perfect Shipping and Delivery - We’ve all had that one time where we really needed a shipment to arrive on time and of course, it didn’t. While UPS, FedEx, and other carriers deliver an incredible amount of packages on-time and accurately each day issues can arise where packages are lost, delivered to the wrong location or simply delayed. If you’ve ordered your promotional products via rush service chances are you’ve left no margin for error. Certainly, if your goods are for a special event and you selected “rush service” so you didn’t have to expedite your shipping, you’re trying to save money. However, with ground service delivery isn’t guaranteed so you may be out of luck anyway. To avoid this scenario, go ahead and pay the extra amount to have your goods expedited for guaranteed delivery and to arrive one day earlier than needed. In most cases, even if a package is lost or delayed it can be recovered and delivered the next day in almost all scenarios. That extra expense will go a long way to ensuring your goods are printed correctly and are guaranteed for delivery.

  4. Limited Product Options - If you’re going to spend money to promote your brand or company it should be on a product that fits perfectly into the culture of your brand and the audience receiving the branded goods. Unfortunately, decorating promotional items on a rush service limits your options to those products that are actually in stock in the color or material you need and usually with limited customization options (ie: 1-color, 1-location print only). In many cases, if given the time there are more affordable and on-target products that will have a much greater impact than a quick, impulsive decision to buy what’s available at the moment. Plan ahead and do your brand justice! These scenarios are four common pitfalls of 24-48 hour rush service and can be avoided most times with well thought out planning. At Swagwell, our goal is to work with you on a pre-planned calendar where we can be proactive in planning for your events or campaigns and avoiding unnecessary rush situations.


For more information on how to effectively plan ahead view our article on Branded Merchandise Planning.