My Advice To Fellow CafePress Shopkeepers As A Former eBay Seller

Or, how to stop hating your POD and start to love working for yourself. 

I have been selling my artwork as a Shop Keeper on CafePress for a number of years.  I have loved being there, I've learned a lot, but now they seem to be committing corporate suicide.  The new pricing structure at CafePress (a Print On Demand, or POD company) has taken everyone, including me, by surprise.

In a crusty nutshell, CafePress has decided that if customers find my art designs in their special, magical Marketplace, pricing will be fixed and I will only be receiving something like $2.25 for my t-shirt.  Most shop owners are used to setting their own prices and receiving $3, 5 or even *gasp* $15 for their shirts, mugs or posters.  Many of my fellow CP Shop Keepers are projecting losses in the hundreds and thousands of dollars as a result of this policy change. 

I'm sure right now many of you are feeling hurt, betrayed, terrified, confused and angry. You've spent time and sweat working on your shop there and now they've gone and pulled the rug out from under you.  As a CafePress SK'er I feel the same way.  As a former eBay seller, I feel your pain, and hope to offer some comfort and friendly advice on how to get through this change.

How does this tie into eBay?  Here's how.  At one point eBay was known as a great place to go to find lots of unique items, sold by many different shop owners.  All these far-flung sellers and buyers were brought together by one website with a common set of behavior standards, we got along, helped each other, got to know each other and celebrated our shared experience together.  Sounding familiar so far?  As a collectibles seller, the eBay model fit well for me.  I had just lost my job so it also helped pay some bills and put a little food on the table too. 

Then something happened.  Ebay forgot what their job was and what my job was.  They started having problems and didn't hold up their end of the bargain.  There were problem buyers and problem sellers.  Instead of spending the time and manpower to fixing the problem they tried to fix it with software improvements like changing the search function.  They started using phrases like "improve the shopping experience" and every time I turned around there was a new chart to digest.  Sound familiar now?

What they forgot, like CafePress forgot yesterday, was that they have no products to sell, they are merely a selling venue.  They forgot I was in charge of the shopping experience, they were just the place where I sold my merchandise.  Things continued downhill until the final straw:  a major price increase that they tried to sell us as a 'reduction', a feedback change that just made the problem buyer issue worse and a loss of payment options.
Many of us flocked to the forums to share our outrage and grief.  I read many well-thought-out, brilliant posts outlining the root problems and how they could be fixed.  I discovered lots of new monikers, none as tame as "The Bay".  Many threads were deleted by The Corporation.  The big dog sellers tried to talk sense into them and threatened to quit.  It was a complete waste of time for all of us.  Because the company had already made their decision and were going to stick to it come hell or high water.  That epiphany happened for me when I read a quote by then President John Donahoe in AuctionBytes Magazine: “And so we put the words out there, we are backing up our words with action, and yes, is there going to be some noise along the way? There is.”  Let me tell you the word "noise" became the rallying cry for people who were mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.
At that point I decided it was like being in a bad relationship.  Like the George Carlin routine; you know it's bad and you have to get out of it, but you are afraid of what moving on might entail.  Where will you put all your stuff???  Any of this sounding familiar? 

Here's what I learned and what I am trying to remember during the CafePress hari kari.  You have not been working for a website all this time.  That place where you log in every day is simply the selling venue you are currently using.  You have already been working for yourself all this time. That should make you feel a little better right off the bat.  
There is nothing wrong with you or your stuff, just the place where you sell your stuff.  Actually, you're not really selling t-shirts.  You are selling the artwork that makes a t-shirt unique.  It is your art and design talent that makes their mass-produced stuff fun and original.  So now we just need to find a new place to sell your art and use the talents you honed on your first selling venue.  Use forums to learn where people are going, what they think of the new places then go to the new places and have a look-see.  You might find something better. 

You already know how to be a good shopkeeper.  Thanks to your time on CafePress you have probably already learned how to write search engine friendly titles and keyword rich descriptions.  You have an idea what art looks better on a t-shirt than a greeting card.  You know when to start working on the Christmas designs.  And I would like to personally thank SagArt and ShopaholicChick for pounding it into my brain that I should promote my website (which I control) not my shop (because that can change).  

You got the goods and the experience and the know-how.  The place you currently allow to sell that art isn't in charge of you or your art.  It is just a website, merely a selling venue.  If that selling venue isn't working for you then it's their loss.  Don't waste your time arguing with a crazy person (or MBA?).  This is your opportunity to take your skills and your product and find a much better ballgame.  You're going to The Show baby.  Look forward and don't look back. 

Incidentally, when I left FeeBay I was paying for the privilege of selling there and was used to paying a cut to them and their evil minions PloyPal whenever I sold anything.  I found a new place that is FREE. FREE to list, FREE when I make a sale and lots of friendly familiar names are in the forums.  Who knew there was something so much better out there?  Gosh, thanks for finally pushing me out of the nest GreedBay.  I love eCrater.com and now I look back at The Bay and wonder why I put up with the abuse for so long.  I suppose I look forward to having that same feeling about CafePress one day. 

If you're following the five phases of grief they are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression then acceptance.  Let me help you get to the acceptance phase.  You work for yourself.  You have the skills.  You have the content.  YOU got the goods.  And wherever you wind up, they'll be lucky to have you.  Now go find a selling venue that appreciates you, treats you well and happy selling!

1 comment:

E-Shirt.com said...

Laura is correct. CafePress has forgotten that they serve two customers, storekeepers and shoppers. We want to extend an invitation to all unhappy CafePress store keepers. We know the value of a partnership, and we will treat you as a valuable customer. Come check out what we like to call the E-Shirt.com difference.

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