....I've read before about some of those online print stores that will actually send you a printed calibration image before you order any photos just to get your monitor "sorted" first before any subsequent complaints about the pictures you get.
(Perhaps all the stores do them but this is sadly the only example my 1:00AM level of patience can be bothered to find.)
Yes, that's the general idea. I mentioned Pantone because they are the printing industry standard for color mixing and matching, so I trust them to print out "pure" color strips. I worked in a magazine art department many moons ago and Pantone color swatches were standard kit, just to make sure what was on your screen would generally match what came back from the printer.
To Banj's comment that what's printed doesn't always match what's on the disk, theoretically that should never happen, unless your printers don't color match and calibrate. Theoretically, CMYK formulas should look the same anywhere -- in print or on screen -- provided the colors are mixed properly at the printers and the viewing monitor at home is calibrated correctly.
But naturally, a lot of other factors will change how an image compares, from a bad press run to an improperly tuned monitor. To provide even more movement into this already moving target, even the lighting around your computer will affect how an image looks, which is why industry pros often use monitor hoods along with electronic calibration tools, and never work in natural light. It's mind-boggling and never 100% accurate.
Nick AvalloneAngryFungus Art Blog