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Why Exactly is CafePress So Godawful?

Just what in the hell happened to CafePress, and why is it so awful? With the notable exception, of course, of our three award winning shops, and of course a handful of others, almost every single design I see presented for sale on CafePress is an absolute abomination. This really got hit home for me today after I received an email about a new site, imaginatively titled “CPDesignRank.” The idea is simple, a Hot-or-Not approach to ranking the designs in the CafePress database. All with the owner’s affiliate link all cleverly built in, of course. I must admit, my first thought was, “Damn, good idea. $79 dollar script and a little imagination, this kid might be on to something.”

And don’t get me wrong…it is still a good idea, and if CPDesignRank can convince users they are providing a service rather than just shilling for affiliate sales, it will probably catch on and make the owners a decent amount of money. After flipping through the rankings, though, a fact I had always known became even more painstakingly clear. There is no one in their right minds who would buy any of these t-shirts. Every t-shirt currently for sale (again, with a few notable exceptions) is either weirdly military themed, a photograph, a horrible drawing, or a tired slogan. Oh, you need a sample? Here we go, conveniently linked so you can see for yourself:

Want to recreate this design? Open MS Paint. Select Airbrush Tool. Select
System Red. Scribble like a toddler trying to form her first words. OMFG!
What exactly does the artist think his target audience is, here? Is he
trying to corner the market on “Otter Eating Own Foot” apparel? It’s one
thing when you see a picture of someone’s dog on their shirt. But an OTTER,
for chrissake? Got a picture of an otter? OMFG! YOU’VE GOT A SHIRT!
Sticky fingers! Tee hee! Is it a commentary on how cool petty larceny
is, or are we just talking about a frog with sticky, webbed feet? I’ll never tell!
In addition to being simply a piss-poor design, this has got to be one
of the most moronic sentiments I have ever seen expressed in t-shirt form, and
this comes AFTER having spent a few weeks visiting my parents in the deep south. Got
some gun clip art? OMFG! YOU’VE GOT A SHIRT!
Ooooh, fractals! FRACTALS! You would not BELIEVE how many people are slapping
fractals on t-shirts and then acting like they’ve got a clothing store!
Look, we all had a fractal flirtation…until we realized they were entirely
mathematically computer generated and didn’t reflect an ounce of talent.
But if you’ve got a fractal program? OMFG! YOU’VE GOT A SHIRT!
What sass! This will no doubt be purchased by the one person in your school
or office that no one, in fact, talks to. “Oh are you still an asshole?”
Wait a minute, that’s actually way better. OMFG! I’VE GOT A SHIRT!
The problem with just uploading any old piece of clip art into CafePress
is that sometimes, it just doesn’t make any sense. Are we to believe that
a mighty golfer, standing behind the wearer of this beautiful tee, hit a
golf ball with such magnificent fury that it blew right through the person?
Enough already with t-shirts designed for children who are ostensibly
proud that their parents are in the military, even though they probably
don’t even know how to count to five yet. Great, kid, your Dad’s a Marine.
Good job. He’ll probably be dead soon. Get a shirt that says that. OMFG!

There is a point to all of this, though. Through its open policy of letting anyone with an Internet connection and a pulse submit a “design,” what began as a great tool for independent designers is now pretty much a joke. Actually, it’s worse than that. Anyone serious about running a CafePress store has to go to great lengths to HIDE the fact that that’s what it is, because the CafePress logo alone scares off customers who are wary of garbage. What is the solution? At the end of the day, CP is still the easiest to get up and running with, with the greatest variety of items available for printing. However, their “base prices” continue to be terrible, and you will only make a dollar or two per item if you want to keep your prices competitive.

Luckily, there is competition on the horizon. Sites like Zazzle and Spreadshirt are just as easy to use, have an ever growing range of items available to print on, have lower base rates so you make more on each sale, and perhaps best of all…require vector-based artwork, ensuring that the marketplace won’t soon be flooded by scanned photographs of snowmen passing for t-shirt designs.

Are you running an independent t-shirt company, or a good CafePress shop? Be sure to leave a link in the comments.

There Are 8 Responses So Far. »

  1. the internet is the one place where an individual’s sweet, singular voice can be heard singing above the moldering ruins of society’s ambivalent neglect. LOL, ;)

  2. The best t-shirt I ever saw was in CA, and it was Our Lady of Guadalupe done entirely in glitter. OMFG does not begin to cover how truly wonderful this shirt was/is. Think this one through…I can visualize a new line, entirely…

  3. We currently live inside that t-shirt.

  4. oh we couldnt agree with you more. and more importantly, we are now out of our funk and hoping you will grace us with your presence for dinner…but cant find your email address. well, could find it in the morning, but wanted to give you some advance notice so as not to be totally rude. would you be interested in dinner saturday night, somewhere inside that tshirt?

  5. as a copy editor, I must point out that the anti-immigrant shirt misspelled both immigrant and legalize. I love those stupid crackers.

  6. What about the “I heart (insert word here)” stores? Does anybody actually buy that crap? BTW, printfection is also a good cafepress alternative. And I run a good CP store:

  7. Lets face the facts, Cafepress makes their money by selling Premium Shop subscriptions. It’s their job to create the illusion that all one needs to do is wipe their butt on a shirt and it will sell. Any experienced designer knows this is not reality….however, wipe your butt and create the shape of a purebred dog and you might be onto something.

  8. I have a CafePress premium shop that is still up. The base prices are high. I really like the commissions system they have set up.

    It takes a lot of time to set up and maintain. I had time before I got a job. Now I have very little time to waste tweaking a premium site for such little return.

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