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For the Ability to Make Ethical Choices as a T-Shirt Shopkeeper, It’s (NO LONGER) Skreened Over Zazzle (UPDATED NOV 2015)

November 2015 Update: The Columbus, Ohio based Skreened company now has the same ethical problems with choices that Zazzle did in 2008. I can no longer in good conscience recommend Skreened for you, either as a consumer or as a graphic designer.

There are some things I can’t tell you.

In order to obtain information about Zazzle‘s plans for its evolving relationship to shopkeepers, I was required this past winter to sign a legally binding non-disclosure agreement in which I had to promise not to share anything I was told. Thanks to that agreement I signed, I can’t tell you what was said to me by Zazzle.

No, I can’t tell you what the Zazzle corporate leadership told me. But fortunately, I can tell you what I told them. This past winter, I told them in no uncertain terms how crucial it was for Irregular Times to be able to choose which products it sold on Zazzle. At the time, a shopkeeper had no ability to choose which brands of shirts on which to sell his or her designs. This is important for someone who cares where their shirts are made and under what conditions.

Now, don’t get me wrong: Zazzle offers a lot of great ethically produced t-shirts, including many made-in-the-USA American Apparel shirts and even a shirt union-made in the USA. But they also print on a number of t-shirts that are shipped from overseas on oily, energy-wasting barges so they can be made more cheaply by workers who earn pennies. Sorry, Zazzle, but I’m not comfortable with that kind of shirt production, and I am unwilling to perpetuate that kind of production by selling shirts produced in the overseas low-wage system.

That’s what I told Zazzle this past winter (and it wasn’t the first time; I’d made the same point to Zazzle two years ago). Putting it constructively, I told Zazzle we at Irregular Times would be happy to offer our many shirt designs through them… if and when they started giving shopkeepers the ability to choose which shirt brands to offer for sale on their Zazzle shops.

No, I can’t tell you what the Zazzle corporate people said to me then in response. But I can tell you how I feel now. I am disappointed that Zazzle still, two seasons later, does not permit its shopkeepers to choose on which shirt brands their designs will be made available for sale (and on which shirt brands their designs will not be made available for sale). Zazzle has unveiled a new, updated version of its website today with new features. Choosing shirt brands is not among those new features.

It’s not because it can’t be done. Look at this screen capture of me uploading an Exxon-McCain 2008 T-Shirt design for sale on Zazzle. This is what the design control panel looks like:

Designing an Exxon-McCain 2008 T-Shirt on Zazzle

As you can see, Zazzle offers designers the ability to exclude particular shirts by color type. That’s one variable for shopkeeper choice. All Zazzle needs to do is add another variable for shopkeeper choice in its coding for the design control panel. It could be done. I can’t tell you it won’t be done. But it has not been done. That’s why Irregular Times does not sell this Exxon-McCain 2008 T-Shirt through Zazzle.

We sell that t-shirt through Skreened…

Exxon-McCain 2008 T-Shirt, Made Ethically in the USA by American Apparel

… not only because Skreened has always only printed on t-shirts made ethically in the USA, but also because Skreened allows shopkeepers to choose from dozens and dozens of styles and colors of t-shirts, sweatshirts, jerseys, baby onesies and even tote bags on which to offer designs for sale. Shopkeepers decide what to sell and how to sell it. Skreened trusts me enough as a shopkeeper to cede me control. I like that.

Who knows what changes the future may bring? Today, I choose Skreened.

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