Enamel Pin Factory review, salty cat edition

Hooo boy, this is gonna be a doozy. If you want the tl;dr, I’ll just say it: EPF gave me a flawless first order, and a disastrous second one. For those who don’t need the details, feel free to scroll to the bottom to get the overall summary without any of the gobbledygook.

 

Product Review

Note: Enamel Pin Factory is a UK-based middleman that works with a factory from China.

The pins that arrived are beautiful, with very few defects in the bunch. Options are a little limited in plating, but EPF does offer effects like glitter and clutch options, and everything is at an affordable price.

The left pin was ordered in 25mm black nickel plating, and the right pin was ordered in 30mm gold plating. As you can see, there’s a significant size discrepancy that’s more than 5mm. I’ll go into this in more detail later; when measured, the sword comes in at 40mm and the cat pin comes in at 25mm.

 

Timeline

Timeline calculates off of all days for convention calculation purposes; it does not calculate based off of business days.

  1. Project setup - 1 day.

  2. Artwork proof - 1 day.

  3. Pins in production - 18 days.

  4. Pins produced - 9 days.

  5. Shipment - 4 days.

Total: 33 days.

 

A big boom

Ok, buckle up folks, because here’s where the tea gets spicy. It’s a pretty long story, so if you’re just here for the overall review, feel free to scroll to the bottom section “Overall Experience” where I sum everything up.

Full disclosure: my first pin with the sword was flawless and had no problems. It measured beautifully on its backing card, and the process was smooth. I loved it, and I was excited to work with Enamel Pin Factory again.

 
Pin-Legend4.jpg
 

I started an order of a second pin—a black nickel cat mask pin. The sword pin had been ordered at 30mm and I wanted it a little smaller than that, so I decided to order at 25mm.

Sadly, this is all where it went south.

 

File Upload Fiasco

On EPF’s order page, they have a file upload section. This is where I added my art, a 3” CMYK image file at 300 dpi. I always upload my art at least twice the size of what I want, just in case.

File upload section.

File upload section.

Well… somehow, after my order, the designer who creates the digital proofs for the pins was given a 100px RGB image instead. She created a proof off of this tiny image before I was able to see this and upload the larger image for her (darn time zones).

Needless to say, the proof turned out very inaccurate; all the details and shapes were blobby, and the colors were horribly off.

It took an email to customer service and a comment chain of 5 revisions of uploading images, nitpicking, and circling things in red to get things right, which I’m sure sucked just as much for her as it did for me.

I was already walking into this order frustrated.

 

Undersized? normal-sized!

Well, I figured, at least the worst part is over. The pins can arrive and everything will be sunshine and rainbows.

Or so I was thinking—until the pins arrived.

They were beautiful and the colors were accurate, but I realized something was wrong when they looked a lot smaller than I imagined. My fears were confirmed when I lined up this pin next to the sword pin and measured them.

 
IMG_2669.jpg
 

My pins were 15mm apart in size at the largest dimension, instead 5mm. They were both set up in a similar diagonal format, which was what confused me.

(Oh, psh, so what! It’s just a few millimeters, say you. Unfortunately, since enamel pins are such a miniature form of art, lost millimeters are extremely noticeable. If you think about it, a 15mm loss compared to a 5mm expected loss is literally a 3x difference.)

I sent an email to EPF’s customer support, asking for clarification on what might have happened, with my order numbers and details for comparison.

Screen Shot 2019-08-23 at 3.23.00 PM.jpg

A customer service representative got in touch shortly and explained that the size of the pin was determined by the longest measurement. They attached pictures of the two pins against a ruler, showing that the cat pin was accurate at 25mm. It was the sword pin that was oversized at 40mm.

IMG_0395.jpg

Um… okay, I guess?

As an inexperienced enamel pin maker, I trusted that my first order from them would be a reliable standard for how they judge pin sizes, which I think can be considered a fair assumption. So I was using my initial order of the sword pins as a reference for size for my later pins. How come my 30mm pin measured out to 40mm, but my 25mm pin measured out to 25mm? That’s an extra 10mm difference, which makes a world of difference when you have to measure and order for small backing cards and packing envelopes.

I responded to the representative, stating that to get a 30mm pin that measures at 40mm and then a 25mm pin that measures at 25mm drastically threw off my measurements. As a result, I wanted to request a refund since I made my size decision based off of my first order, and the pins are now much smaller than customers would expect.

The representative responded that they understood I was disappointed, but the cat pins were made in the size that was ordered and the quality was satisfactory. Therefore:

The only option that we can offer is to remake the sword pins in the correct size of 30mm and ask you to send back the larger pins that you received. I look forward to hearing from you :)

So basically, they were ignoring the fact that I was dissatisfied with my current pins, and only offered a bogus solution that targeted the pins I was happy with.

Ok.

Thanks.

It probably wasn’t intended that way, but the message felt very passive aggressive, and was the final straw in turning me off from Enamel Pin Factory forever.

 

Overall Experience

This is kind of difficult. If my experience had been based purely off of my first order, I would have said, “Hey, sure! Go with them! They’re good!” But now dealing with my second order and the:

  • Size inconsistency

  • Back-and-forth revision requests after the horribly uploaded first image

  • Customer service that offered a “solution” of downsizing the pins I was happy with

  • Now a sunk cost of $250 (which is a big investment for independent artists like me)

…I just can’t recommend them. In fact, I’d like to actively not recommend them, because this whole experience has been nothing but a headache that’s left me salty.

I acknowledge that my experience could be statistically irrelevant. Hey, maybe they only have size variations 0.05% of the time, and my order was one of those. Or this issue may come from my inexperience with enamel pins; after all, I just went along thinking that it’s normal for pins to end up larger than their specified size. I’d just like to point out that when it came to size, I didn’t have an issue with Krell, the manufacturer of my typewriter pins.

Debrief

What did they do right?

The quality of their pins is great with accurate colors and tight quality control, and the pins are shipped in a padded packet that is fully recyclable and biodegradable.

What did they do wrong?

I was completely blindsided by the pin size difference, trusting that my first order from them could be a reliable standard for how they judge pin sizes.

When raising the issue, I was offered a “solution” that would change with the pins I was happy with instead of changing anything about the pins I was dissatisfied with. It would have been better to not be offered anything at all.

Even if you come in with the knowledge that they’ll manufacture pins at-size or larger, you still do not know what to expect consistently. If they send you pins that are too large, they’re willing to have you return them and send you ones at the right size, but what if you’re on crunch for a convention and the oversized pins won’t fit in your packaging? What if you reorder previous pins and get a different size? I can’t reasonably trust a company with that amount of discrepancy. Again, what seems like a few millimeters is a 40% difference.

Would I recommend this manufacturer?

No. For current recommendations on enamel pin producers, feel free to check out my artist resources masterpost.

 

A Fair Look

I usually don’t like to blast companies, but I did run a casual search on Twitter to see if my experience was the minority; maybe they’ve had a great track record and I missed that bus. So here’s a feed of the most recent buzz I’ve gotten from EPF. I try to be as fair as possible, ya’ll.

All in all, it looks like a mixed bag of 50% positive, 50% negative. Objectively, that’s… really not good. Not terrible, but not good.