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CafePress Loses Longtime Lead After Stiffing Customers and Designers

When print-on-demand sticker and shirt shipper CafePress raised prices for customers and cut pay to designers starting June 1, 2009, the manner in which they spoke to designers set the tone for all that would follow. Over the phone, CafePress representatives insisted that their decision to cut pay to designers and raise prices for customers was a clear-cut corporate business move, that it was nothing personal, that designers should stop complaining, accept the change and move on.

CafePress designers, having personally invested a great deal of time and effort into building and maintaining their design collections on, personally helped CafePress to maintain a lead in the print-on-demand market for years, as you can see from this internet traffic trendline against CafePress’ closest competitor, Zazzle:

CafePress and Zazzle internet traffic trend, 2007-2009

Let’s zoom in on the most recent portion of that trendline:

CafePress and Zazzle Six Month Trendline in Internet Traffic

June and July of this year mark the point at which CafePress, for the first time in its ten years of existence, lost its first-place spot in traffic volume among print on demand shops. Is that simply a matter of coincidence, or have designers taken CafePress’ advice to stop thinking of their work personally and to move on?

Without the people and their designs, is only a piece of software design. When CafePress is “nothing personal” and the “personal” is taken away, what’s left?

27 thoughts on “CafePress Loses Longtime Lead After Stiffing Customers and Designers”

  1. BC says:

    Its a clear cut business decision that I have moved my stuff to Zazzle and CP should not take it personally and should move on. Jeez those CP people are sooo stupid.

  2. SW says:

    I also made a business decision to move my designs to Zazzle. It wasn’t personal…it was business.

  3. purpleswirl says:

    Hummm… I’ve been so busy with clients and then with marketing efforts that I hadn’t noticed. Guess I’ll check out Zazzle. I already have a store on Printfection because they have a lot more variety of colors available with their T-shirts. Cafepress has a lot more variety in things. I’m not doing this as a hobby for extra money, I *need* the funds I earn.

  4. Amanda says:

    Personally I don’t like what they have done to us designers ,my last sale there should of earnt me $5.00 in commission .instead I got 50c,From a business point of view it is not worth my time and effort ,I have six zazzle store which I love so my time is spent there also I have more sales

  5. Bob31 says:

    They cut into my paycheck by over $1000 each month, and I need that money to live on – pay the mortgage, electric bill, etc.

    So it’s nothing personal, Cafepress, but this month I’m making more at Zazzle (with far less sales) than at your place. As far as I’m concerned, CP can rot. I know I certainly won’t be uploading any more designs for a piddly profit.

  6. Softproduct says:

    This is proof that even in cyberspace, people can not be treated as machines without an eventual uprising.

  7. SC says:

    It is obvious by Cafepress’s actions that they are under the impress the POD makes the artist – not that the artist makes the POD. And it is clearly evident they are wrong.

    I support CP through all the changes they made over the last 2 years that took small bits of money from shopkeepers…this was the final straw.

    Personally i hope CP goes belly up and has to declare bankruptcy….an action they forced on many of their shopkeepers after stealing their paychecks to line their own wallets.

  8. CP User No More says:

    My income has been cut at least 66% since CP made this “business decision”. My stores will be closed by the end of the year as I’m moving everything to Zazzle and looking into such places as Printfection as well. CP used to be run by shopkeepers… whatever happen to that? See ya later CP… good luck with your business decisions. Nothing personal.

  9. KrispysKingdom says:

    I have had a Zazzle store for a long time, but most of my marketing/advertising efforts went toward my CP store. Not only did I create designs specifically to sell through CP, but I was paying for a storefront, so I could customize it and make it “me”.

    Toward the end of last year I really started turning my efforts toward Zazzle. I was excited at the idea that I could have two locations where I was earning a supplemental income. Within just a few months I became a Pro Seller (the program had just started) and was making a decent check every month while watching my CP earnings drop, drop, drop.

    Then CP announced their all-for-corporate plan and it felt like I was stabbed in the back. I wouldn’t sell a design that took me hours to make to anyone for $1 or less. Especially when I knew that CP would be getting a considerable profit. I removed all of my designs from CP, closed my shops, and set up permanent residence at Zazzle.

    Zazzle has grown by leaps and bounds in the short time between CP’s blunder and now. You can customize your store which is free to use and without limitations, royalties are marked up by percentage to take advantage of the awesome customer options, and products can be customized by the customers if you want to allow it. Not to mention their new Volume Bonus and the great Referral Bonus you can receive.

    CafePress has made a huge mistake that they may never recover from. Trust has been lost and I personally will not trust anyone who tries to steal my very personal graphics. It would be nice to see the customers and “brands” boycott CP for such bad taste, but I’m happy enough with all the new CP’ers who have converted to Zazzle!

  10. Zazzle's A Better Place says:

    I’ve left a few designs at CP but every time I get a sale I see red because I know how much my royalty SHOULD be. Zazzle is a better place overall for me. CP deserves what they are getting ( lost traffic) and so does Zazzle ( gain in traffic).

  11. TeeZazzle says:

    Cafepress: You made a sale .25 cents
    Zazzle: You made a sale $6.25

    Big difference!

  12. Beachwalker says:

    Thanks for the reminder to close my CP store today! I was already paying more attention to my Zazzle stores anyway when CP made their infamous announcement. I decided to run out my ALREADY PAID FOR months on CP (no refunds) and see what happened. Well, guess what? Sold more, made 67% less!

    Zazzle treats designers a lot more professionally and nicely as I’ve been telling other designers and online workers! Goodbye, CP!!!!!

  13. bosko says:

    I never went to CP because they didnt give a fair price to customers. I dont know how some people can even live off CP due to their low pay backs to the designers. I think it was pretty crummy how they worded their last statement. that’s crap.

    as for zazzle I love how they have more of a selction to design on.

  14. CafePissed says:

    I’ve been with Cafepress for over six years and I’ve witnessed one bone-headed decision after another, but I hung in there because the other POD’s simply weren’t up to snuff and I’d invested probably 1000’s of hours of effort into my stores and was finally making a very livable income doing what I’d always wanted to do and what I knew I’d be good at. I thought it was a great partnership but apparently they didn’t see it that way. The worst change, up until June 1, was when they screwed up the website with that pigeon-poop logo and site restructure that looked like it wasn’t even tested in any browser. The 30 second delays and humongous fonts were yet another example of a company that’s never had respect or consideration for the people who made them successful or understood the phrase “pride in craftmanship”.

    Almost all of my stores are either opted out now or have had their tags removed, so for those stores it’s a permanent decision even if they removed their heads from their behinds and changed the marketplace back to how it was. Too late. Problem now is that shop sales are so few and far between despite months of effort and the Zazzle stores I’m working on aren’t really doing much. I’m just hoping it’s the time of the season. This is/was a full-time income for me and if things don’t change soon I’ll be facing eviction. Nothing personal my ass. When someone steals my money and screws with my life, I consider that pretty personal.

    Saddest part is that my designs used to sell extremely well in their marketplace and I really preferred their shop structure over the way Zazzle has it set up, especially using Cpshop to build my stores offsite. Very powerful software, but everything’s dead now – sales, dreams, everything I had planned for this year.

    I try hard not to feel any hatred towareds Fred Durham and the other stooges who made this horrendous decision, but when I finish the day with a total of $5 in sales, where even on a bad day I used to average $50, it’s hard to find forgiveness. I hope karma bites them vary hard, but the “businessmen” who did this are already millionaires so what do they care. The only justice will be on their deathbeds when they realize they can’t take any of it with them.


    Since the changes at CP took place, I’ve been putting all of my energy into my Zazzle store. I LOVE ZAZZLE! Zazzle is both customer friendly and designer friendly. Everyone wins at Zazzle! CP on the other hand….not so much.

  16. Love Zazzlers says:

    I’m so happy that people are finally noticing that Zazzle is not only better in quality, but also better in costumer service than cp. Even in the cyberspace it is vital that everyone is treated well. Good job Zazzle! Keep going, all of those long hours at work to provide us with the best is not going unnoticed, and designers are willing to upgrade from the CP sweatshop to new fashion site! Designers, let’s keep supporting local Bay Area businesses that are willing to care about their customers! Go Zazzle!

  17. Caza Creations says:

    Even before CP’s questionable decision, Zazzle was making giant strides and gaining ground on them. It was only a matter of time before Zazzle grabbed a larger piece of the pie.

    Long before CP’s changes, I was already spending more time at Zazzle, not because I was selling more there but because of the product designer which was way easier to use compared to CP. I figured, with time, Zazzle would make more improvements and sales would increase. The moral of the story is the tortoise ended up winning the race and I have closed my CP stores.

  18. Lydia says:

    Cafe Press has become a cautionary tale for businesses everywhere, online and off. Don’t forget where you business comes from, and don’t ever EVER disrespect the people responsible for your success. CP thought they could silence the dissent by censoring the forums, but this isn’t Nazi Germany, and they can’t force people to stay on their site. When people are unhappy, they will leave, and despite CP’s efforts to keep Zazzle a secret, the word has gotten out. More and more CP designers are crossing over into Zazzle every day, and when they do, I’ll be there with open arms to welcome them.

  19. Jason Michaels says:

    This is an interesting thread. As an artist (photography, printmaking) and employee of, it’s rare that I get this glimpse into the issues facing other POD sites, albeit sites that produce a different category line up of products.

    I’d like to echo that shopkeepers want choices and to be heard. This groundswell has been edging upward for some time, and Zazzle is the natural beneficiary of CafePress shopkeepers’ and affiliates’ discontent.

    Thanks again for sharing the thoughts above. If you have any questions about RedBubble or its affiliate program, feel free to email me directly. jason (at) redbubble (dot) com.

  20. Disco_Obama says:

    Maybe Obama can bail them out.

  21. Motorcycle Tees says:

    Like many others, CafePress’ move to lower shopkeepers income to benefit themselves caused me to look elsewhere for a place for my designs. And like those others I’ve wound up at Zazzle. While the customization of the Zazzle shop websites is a bit more cumbersome to achieve branding, it still works. And I’m making a lot more money with fewer sales than at CafePress. So I’ll be letting my CafePress shop slowly die while building my Zazzle shops. When the CafePress shop no longer earns its keep by at least paying a profit over the monthly shop costs, then I will also be saying a permanent sayonara to CafePress.

  22. Calroofer says:

    I Belong To Both,
    And I Do Best At Zazzle….

    CP Displays It’s Greed In The Fact It Wants To Charge
    For Premium Shops…

    I Find It Hard To Believe That Anybody Could Be Making
    $50.00 Dollars A Day Or More From Either Site…

    I’ve Often Wondered About The Truth Of The Sales In General…
    Whats Stopping Any Of Them From Withholding Actual Sales Revenues
    From Designers???
    The Internet Is World Wide.. Thats Alot Of Sales…
    $50.00 A Day, Why Not $200.00 If It’s A Hot Design??
    Point Is, You’ll Never Know..
    Only What They Want You To Know..

  23. A2ZGW says:

    As an old disabled veteran who needed the income to keep a roof over my head. I searched quite some time before I chose CafePress (based on some of those who had stores there). I was getting a small check within a couple months, and up to $1000 a month before all that long. Now 90% down since the decisions to bolster their own income on the backs of those who make them ALL their money. As the first change came – the change on the volume bonus, we lost money (based on the weakest reasoning possible). Then the changes to the MarketPlace and Shops were announced. Who made those changes, no one will fess up to that level of stupidity, did so with no apparent reasoning, logic, or forethought (since that business model had been tried and abandoned already).

    There is one single truism. It is not the paper that brings the value to a product – it is the art. The way they’ve treated their artists is abominable – something I’ve not seen done in my 40 years in graphics.

  24. Mike says:

    Cafepress really screwed up with this decision. I’ve already opened a shop on Zazzle and am actively promoting it. I’ll leave my CP store open until the current agreement expires but if they don’t change their minds I’m not paying for the privilege of working for 10%. Cafepress thinks they have the best game in town but I think we’ve seen they’re mistaken.

  25. Marcie says:
  26. Roofing says:

    Yeap!. .I heard gossips about price-hike made by CafePress as the print-on-demand sticker and shirt shipper, with the idea of cutting pay to designers started on the month of June.

    It’s great to hear also of other peoples opinions on the investments made by CafePress designers in bilding and maintaining a lead in design collections.

  27. SylviArt says:

    After many attempts at comunication with the copyright lady and others, I had to get a lawyer to get me off CafePress. There are some scary things in the new “Terms or Service ” and CUPS. CP states if you close your store they will bring your art back up to put on new products. Also they own your work now and everything you create in the future. Absurd!

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