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No Sign of a CafePress Slowdown in Face of Protest Threats

Just Another Muslim writes to the merchandise outlet CafePress regarding shopper price hikes and designer commission cuts:

I sure hope that you have considered all possibilities to go along with these changes. Because it will be your loss and too late when your best and loyal shopkeepers turn their backs on you…even though some already have rightfully and understandably. Do you know the saying “don’t burn your bridges?” Well you’ve set the bridge on fire a while ago and just let it continue to burn with us shopkeepers still running across it. And if you are a shopper at Cafepress, my advice to you is to get what you like now because it may not be there in the near future.

Just Another Muslim is one of many writing online today in blogs and forums and on twitter and facebook and e-mail (and possibly via carrier pigeon) to the effect that, DAMMIT, they’ve had enough of CafePress pushing them around, and they’re gonna take their designs somewhere else! Boycott! Walkout! Stoppage!

The thing is, I don’t see any indication that such a move is actually happening. I’ve been collecting stats on CafePress usage as a cultural barometer, and as part I’ve been measuring how many designs have been uploaded to CafePress on any particular day. On March 29, for instance, 11132 new designs had been uploaded by 8:35 PM. On April 15, 9234 new designs had been uploaded by 7:52 PM. Today, 11288 new designs had been uploaded by 8:45 PM. That’s not a stoppage. It’s not even a slowdown.

25 thoughts on “No Sign of a CafePress Slowdown in Face of Protest Threats”

  1. fifilaroach says:

    people must be nuts to be adding designs there today. jeez. what does it take for people to realize they’re being jerked around?

  2. Paul Hood says:

    Good question about the apparent lack of real response. I have a couple of ideas that might help to explain– a lot of people use and will probably continue to use cafepress just to make their own t-shirts and such to buy for themselves or give to friends: no profits or trying to make a living at it, just cafepress as a print-shop. I’ve seen tons of designs in the marketplace priced at zero markup.

    Even though there probably have been some shop closures already, it’s not an easy thing to let go of a thing which took so much time and effort to build, and I still think that shop closures wouldn’t really show up via checking the design uploads because of sort of a “dilution factor” amongst all the casual customers who don’t expect to make a dime on a design. Some of the most successful shops may be riding along on designs which were uploaded years ago. Even these seasoned shopkeepers might stay open all the way to May 31st, the eve of the policy change. However I am just blowing smoke here, in a way, because I’m a bit horrified at the prospect that cafepress will get away with this gambit, that shopkeepers might just take it on the chin (so to speak) and allow Cafepress to steal approximately 66% of their profits from here on out, until they decide to take even more.

    Massive numbers of uploads don’t necessarily mean healthy sales for cafepress, in fact it’s one of their biggest problems right now: being flooded with “crap” designs, making it hard for the saleable designs to show. That’s the other half of the announced policy changes: to revamp the marketplace search engine to put “quality” designs at the forefront and bury the “bad” designs on page 102, or dump them altogether. Of course a search engine can’t determine subjective quality– and currently it’s all based on user generated tags. The stuff which has already been selling tends to go straight to the top (currently). But if a new design does not sell right away, it will probably get buried really fast under the huge avalanche of newly uploaded designs. It’s a much, much bigger problem than CP thinking that they needed to grab a bigger percentage of profits per item. Here’s an example; if I upload a “Boycott Cafepress” t-shirt right now (and of course I would upload a dozen different versions, and tag all of them differently) then I buy a dozen of my own designs (each) I’ll end up at the top of the page in every category per my tags. I’ll stay at the top of the page in every category until the next guy buys a dozen of another design with similar tags, then he’ll appear next to my design, but it takes a lot to bury a design once it’s sold, and it doesn’t matter who bought the design, what the design actually says…there are tons of totally wrong designs in every category as it stands today, clogging up the system. But I digress…

    I think the irregular times makes the best points on this matter; it’s just a corporation doing what corporations do. The designers and customers have to respond appropriately.

  3. fifilaroach says:

    i agree with paul. just doing what corps do. i worked as a corporate consultant for years, and we specialized in front line communication. the very thing cp is so dismal at. and we found that management in large corps routinely show disrespect and contempt for their workforce. no matter that the people on the front line are the ones delivering the packages, spraying for roaches, making the cars, or packaging the food. management inevitably gets the feeling very quickly that they rose to the top because they are better than the average worker, and that sets everyone up for rampant disregard for what is best for that worker. its not universal, but pretty close to it in my experience with dozens of companies. so though cafepress probably thought long and hard about this move, it was likely thoughts and discussions were primarily about how it would affect the people in the office and the owners, not the shopkeepers. they knew this move would be unpopular, but lets face it, the whole large store phenomenon was something they never expected to happen… it was a goldmine they stumbled into, that has made them feel like they are brilliant business people with their eyes on the horizon. that hubris has led to decisions like this, and it will eventually tank the business. the healthiest businesses remember who brings home the bacon, and they figure out ways to spread problems across the company. cafepress keeps going to the same well to get the water, the shopkeepers. the well is dangerously low, though, and now here comes the drought!!!

    1. tron612 says:

      I 2 recently have been thinking of closing every one of my cp shops, simply because i was starting to get a clientel built up and then price hikes hit and well now all my clientel have disappeared simply over to high of prices I’m fed up too I have posted this on facebook,myspace,twitter,friendster,bloggster,squidoo,blogs,forums,just about anywhere i could I’m going to crush you cafepress you lost me my clientel and now its your turn you better remember who made you what you are today, its not the your consultants its the shopkeepers and designer who put you where your at and you had better wake up fast just so you know I lost over 1200 clientel and Im not happy in fact im down right pissed! Im going to crush you anyway I can you better get ready for poverty your not the first company who did this to me the last company was called cirucuit city they denied me some credit they owed me and due to that I crushed them your in my sites unless you wise up and FAST! Here I come

  4. daphne says:

    They don’t seem to realise that it is the more successful shopkeepers that will be hurt and will leave. The more successful shopkeepers have the best SEO skills which they will be taking to other companies.
    They will only attract new hobby SKs with this decision who will contribute crap designs and not be out there actively driving customers to CP. They had to have thought of that, but I can’t see how they thought it would work for them. Sure they won’t take much on a hit as far as shopkeepers are concerned, there are always plenty of newcomers who will join until they hear of better PODs but it is not a good business decision.

  5. Sheryl Karas says:

    Cafepress just suspended my right to even read the forum because I encouraged people to tell their stories! I also told people about how I googled my own work using my own titles and descriptions and discovered that almost all the Google searches where I found my items — including ones that included my name — dumped me into the Marketplace and not into my shop. AND, get this, sometimes the Marketplace page didn’t include my item at all! That means they’ve been using all our hard work with titling things, product descriptions and tagging to bring people to the Marketplace and not to us! The Marketplace where our sales don’t count for a volume discount anymore. The Marketplace where sales won’t be fairly compensated at all anymore.

    They dumped me off for the crime of encouraging people to speak up off the forum. I also joined a thread about a potential class action lawsuit saying that their terms of service we’re all supposed to agree to doesn’t have a legal leg to stand on. It states that they can change their agreement with us at ANYTIME and people have NO recourse except to shut their shops down. And that if people leave their shop up for any length of time after a change to the agreement is posted that not acting immediately will be deemed acceptance and a “legally binding agreement!” That’s not a contract that can stand up in a court of law, is it?

    Let people know if you can. Thank you!

    OH YEAH, by the way. Know anybody at the March of Dimes, Noggin, Dilbert, Peanuts and anyone else Cafepress has a special arrangement with? Let them know that you won’t support their work if they don’t stand up for us all! Sorry, March of Dimes. I love what you stand for but the single mom of a disabled child who wrote on the forum that she’s going to lose 90% of her only income deserves your support. I wrote to them and Noggin, too. Join me, won’t you?


  6. Joy says:

    I think disgruntled CPers are crashing several forums just to vent about this subject away from the official CPforum. I joined a yahoo group the day after the announcement and that group has been slammed with new members just in two days in the order of like 331 at last count. That is a lot of shopkeepers who are upset enough to seek out a free venue to discuss and trade stories. So many that the posting of messages part of the group crashed. Once it is figured out I will return and give up that groups name.

    There is no class action case which can be brought against cafepress. This is explained in an article written on

    Personally, I am not going to close shop right away. My plan is to start placing new designs with new pods that allow me to set my own commission. If the CP magical more traffic with lower prices doesn’t work out I will slowly move my entire inventory to a new POD. The one thing I am grateful for is that CP made this announcement way in advance of Christmas. It will give me time to become established with other PODs before the Christmas season. Can you image the utter destruction if they made this announcement like October 22 instead of April 22nd.

  7. Jif says:

    A number of Cafepress Shop keepers are busy combining their best designs from several shops into one or closing up altogether and moving. Most won’t close completely until May 31, since the new changes take affect June 1. As far as the 11,000 plus designs/day being uploaded, probably redundant Mother’s Day designs. The same thing over and over with a different name or color or some such $2 designs.

  8. Shannon says:

    I am opting out of the marketplace at the last possible second, too get as much money as I can (and deserve) and to give cp time to come to their senses.

    I am probably not the only one.

  9. Gail G. says:

    I am OPTING out of the marketplace also on the eve of 5/31/09. I have NEVER EVER had a sale come from my shop in over 2 years of selling on Cafepress. However, I have noticed a LOT of returns on CP that I don’t seem to have on other sites. Anyone else notice this? I feel CP has been doing a lot of dirty business in the past year…so cutting us a mere 10% doesn’t surprise me. I live by the motto, “What Goes Around, Comes Around”, they will get theirs in the end…trust me.

    Greed! It may seem they are winning for a while…but it is US hardworking shopkeepers who will ultimately win in the end.

  10. Michael says:

    I was one of the very first shops to open on CP, have made lots of $ with them, was a top shopkeeper. Got kicked out of the forums for telling the truth about another side of CP many don’t see, delayed payments. When CP owes you $10K the story is check is in the mail. I had my designs in 50 of the top 100 spots and was top shopkeeper for years. CP got swamped with crap designs for keeping free shops going as long as they did where designs that sold got crowded out. Switched over to private Zazzle store about a year ago and sell my t-shirts at summer events like state fairs. Make way more than I did selling online only, get to travel and have some fun. CP is going to bury itself with its SKs so they are already the beached whale in POD history books. Let me just share that CP sent me an offer to retain being able to markup as I wanted and remain in their marketplace. This 10% rule isn’t going to be for everyone.

    1. Jim says:

      “CP sent me an offer to retain being able to markup as I wanted and remain in their marketplace…”

      If true, this is a very big problem for CafePress. But while I see rumors of such offers, I can’t find any substantiation.

      Can you post the text of the message itself?

    2. chris says:

      Hi Michael – I am a relatively new CP SK (May 09)…just in time for the stuff hitting the fan. I spent so much time trying to get my shop going that i paid no attention to the impending changes. have jsut spent a goodly amount of coin with Peon having them design my shop etc. Now this.

      I have looked but I cna’t seem to find out how to opt out of the MP. Can you enlighten me? Also would know if I could move my newly designed store to another POD? Or will I have to pay for that all over again?!!!!!

  11. Bill says:

    We currently have 8 premium shops going over at Cafepress. I have no intention of closing any of them till the last day of the month. As long as we are making the profit, we might as well take advantage of them.

    Nothing at this point would irk me more than to sell one item there at a profit of around $2.00 and we refuse to do so. We don’t have the great artistic designs that others have, but we have generated some good selling niche designs over the years.

    Our leaving will be like a drop in the bucket to them. But to stay there would mean we would have to swallow our pride and give up our dignity. We will not do either.

    We are already starting to see sales at the various other PODs and feel it will only be a matter of time for us to reach the success we did at Cafepress.

    Thanks, Bill

  12. Brian says:

    I’ll continue uploading designs and building the remainder of my stores, but only with the intent of marketing them outside the marketplace. I’m also setting up shops at Zazzle and buying a heat press to do my own printing and selling online. The only designs I’ll putting into the marketplace will be things that are topical that need quick exposure before they die off. The people who made and approved this decision have destroyed many lives and created some very negative energy and I hope it comes around to bite them in the ass.

    1. Jim says:

      I hear Zazzle and Skreened are getting a lot of new designs headed their ways.

      What kind of heat press and printer are you thinking of working with? I’ve on occasion looked into those options, only to find that the price tag is pretty darned high.

  13. GreasyGrandma says:

    Oh Man.. Cafepress has been the dirties company I’ve ever dealt with.
    The Remove Bulk Pricing, They Remove Bonus Checks, They Hiked up prices, They Sell your (re-tooled) designs to other print houses and stores (ie Wal-Mart & Hot Topic), they go out of their way to rip you off if your a shopkeeper…

    I mean where’s the logic in charging 4 dollars for a sticker that cost you .35 cents to make? And THEN charge Shipping… Are you nuts? Oh Wait.. lets not forget the .40 cents we’ll give the designer… So.. 3.60 on .35
    Hmmm… does that seem fair?

    As for the Marketplace, it’s always been a crock. So Many tag spammers, SEO cheats, and hell, plainly mis-labeled designs that it’s impossible to get to what you want to find. I’ve made a decent living off of Cafe press, enough to invest years of my time into the site(s) and marketplace…It’s not an easy decsion to walk away to another POD… It’s hard to build a house and then just leave it.

    As for the cuts to commissions, I saw this coming a long time ago. This is just another stab in the back from CP.. When they removed the bonus checks, I knew things were going badly. I’d also seen a hike in my returns and missing orders…(I’d get the email and never see the sale show up) Not to mention, CP basically ignored every help request I’d ever sent about their Bulk Pricing Tool that screwed up all my prices storewide since last year… I still have base price items hidden away that seem to sell for some reason. They Shouldnt even be showing up.

    Finally, to add insult to injury…
    I use Google Base.. I’ve submitted like 100k of items to google base… Now.. Cafe press is going to claim that traffic and take my commission? WTF?

    I hate cafe press. Hate hate hate. I used to sing their prasies to people.. now people just ask me wtf is CP thinking?
    I seriously don’t know.

    Too bad for CP tho.. I Guess they’ll be missing that 40 thousand I made them last year, when this years sales totals come up after Christmas.

  14. Joe Doe says:

    There should be a strike. Everyone that has big and numerous shops should opt out of the marketplace for a week in protest. I this does not get their attention. Then one month opt out. They will lose millions of dollars instead of gaining millions of our bonsus dollars we should be getting. I say July 1-3 2010. Then for the month of August 2010. Any body want to talk about this and get their attention. YOU KNOW THEY FOLLOW THIS FORUM……

  15. cheriverymery says:

    I have only been with CP for about 4 months. Has CP responded to anyone on these issues?

  16. chris says:

    Ok. So CP sucks. That much is clear. What’s the alternative? Is Zazzle any better?

  17. Katie Fox says:

    Hi Jim!

    I am reaching out to you today as we respect your influence in the POD community and feel that we have something remarkable which could be of interest to you and your CafePress audience.

    The makers are proud to announce AdPAKs, the latest in our suite of solutions for online merchants. Shop owners can now instantly turn their mini-shops created with Sellit into interactive advertisements which are distributed and displayed across the web. This product was designed for shop owners seeking an easy way to increase exposure for their products and services, improve customer interaction and drive new traffic to existing online shops.

    Sellit is a social media marketing platform that enables online merchants to drive significantly more traffic to their stores than by traditional marketing/advertising methods. The platform enables users to turn their storefronts into mini-shops that can be distributed across the Web, advertise their mini-shop in an innovative and more effective way, and broadcast across all social media through one interface. The platform takes minutes to set up and is now available to CafePress Shopkeepers.

    If you are interested or would like more information, great! Please see our official press release…
    …and feel free to check Sellit out for yourself.

    Thank you for your time and feel free to reach out for any further info.

    1. Jim says:

      Well, my anal sphincter certainly feels nice and freshly cleaned. Thanks for the lick!

      I don’t recommend people read that press release. I’d recommend they read the terms of service, which indicate possible future charges for the service in addition to having people pay $14.99 a month for 15,000 ad views.

      The terms of service also say a person can’t use your company’s service to sell anything “offensive,” anything “political,” or anything encouraging civil disobedience.

      The TOS document explicitly says you will not guarantee that the service will work and will not guarantee that what the service says you will provide is what it will actually provide. If a user doesn’t like what happens, the user doesn’t get your money back. The user just walk away with money already spent at the service.

      People should know these things before walking into the service you describe.

  18. David says:

    Good call. Always read the TOS with anything. Don’t just ‘accept’ You might just be agreeing to donate a kidney.

    Katie, for you to be offering ‘solutions’ to us online merchants indicates there must currently be problems?

    ‘One out of three consumers who interact with your mini-shop convert to potential buyers’ Bold and impressive statement. What does it actually mean?

    All the customers who interact with my actual shop are ‘potential’ buyers. All this statement says to me is you’ve tried to be clever with the words but in reality offer nothing.

  19. Richard says:

    Has anyone contemplated or discussed a class action suit? I am an attorney as well as a (former) Cafepress creator. My sales income has dropped to a third but what is more disturbing is the fact that designs from teh Marketplace no longer link to my personal page (there is a link there but it doesn’t operate) and the fact that they have taken the tag data, etc. and somehow redirected it away from the stores. I agree that it might not be actionable that they utilize our hard work tagging shirts for their own benefit but it certainly would be if someone could show that they are actively directing traffic away from the personal pages.

    All told, I think the proof is in the numbers. My sales used to be about 50/50 store and marketplace. I am now approximately 3% store and 97% marketplace.

    Let’s do some suing.

    1. shoes4industry says:

      Richard, I’m in! Let’s sue. This is a breach of contract.

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