Poaching isn’t over easy…

PoachingOver the past 6 months or so, some of us on the CafePress staff have been contacted by individual Shopkeepers with the odd news that a local licensed-brands shop (we’ll call them “Glitz Factory”) is actively combing our Marketplace, trying to identify “high-value” Shopkeepers, and then contacting them with unsolicited emails or phone calls with a hard sales pitch to switch to the Glitz Factory Print-on-Demand system.

These sales pitches generally involve big sexy promises, and can include cross-country trips to California and signing bonuses.  The best terms, of course, carry the catch that the Shopkeeper ends an already-successful business with CafePress. The deals also require NDA’s and contracts, the latter of which apparently carry aggressive exclusivity term limits (i.e years).

Our Shopkeepers are as baffled as we are about the poaching strategy, particularly given that Glitz Factory has traditionally focused on showcasing licensing deals that have nothing to do with the rewarded self-expression that’s at the heart of the CafePress Community.

At this point I’ve heard a multitude of stories from a variety of people, most of whom are calling full of indignation and asking, basically, the same four questions:

  1. Did you know about this?
  2. Does this bother you?
  3. So what do you think about it?
  4. What are you guys going to do about it?

The first question is easy to answer: Yep, we’ve known about this for quite some time.

One might expect that we’d have already come out beating our chests and climbing tall buildings to bellow about our size, scale, lead, and the simple fact that people make a boatload (think freighter) more money over here – heck, CafePress Shopkeepers are quitting their day jobs (and Glitz Factory knows that). Thing is, we prefer action over words. And so we’ve continued to focus on our Community and our business in order to improve the CafePress experience for our Shopkeepers and buyers. After all, our lead is our Community’s lead – and that’s what’s important.

But when our Community is targeted in a detrimental way, and when Shopkeepers are genuinely looking for answers to the same few questions, it’s time to speak up. So:

Q) Does this bother you?
A) Yes – but perhaps not for the most obvious of reasons.

A local blogger posed the question as to the ethics behind the poaching efforts a few months back. What he failed to mention is the collateral damage – and that’s the income of the person running the already-successful CafePress shop.

I got a phone call from an anonymous someone that I’ll call… Pat (androgynous anonymity is the most anonymous, after all). Pat is filled with deep regret after signing an exclusive Glitz Factory contract and being forced to remove most of his/her CafePress content. Pat has admitted to making very few sales in the Glitz Factory shop – including periods with no sales at all – and has come to the realization that the big promises were “all words and no substance.” Pat also mentioned that Glitz Factory seemed “annoyed” that Pat didn’t have the magical secret to be successful on their platform.

In Pat’s words: “Once the conceit of being treated like a big shot wore off, I realized that I’d been had. And I don’t want anyone else to make the same mistake.”

Pat went on to say that s/he’s embarrassed and kicking him/herself for ever getting involved in such an “underhanded” deal in the first place. So basically, Pat’s entire online business income (thousands of dollars a month and consistently growing) has screeched to near standstill. And sure, that bothers us.

For any company to deliberately take advantage of an individual’s desire to make a better life for him or herself at the expense of that person’s livelihood – for the primary purpose of trying to hurt the competition – leads to some very serious questions about business ethics, and about the respect that company has for its potential customers as customers, as business owners, and as individuals.

BYOBHere’s the reality: there’s no need for anyone to close their CafePress shops if Glitz Factory is going to provide incremental sales.

But that’s not the case here. The Glitz Factory deals are a BYOB deal. (Bring Your Own Buyers.)

And the thing is, most of our Community members have figured this out. Because CafePress Shopkeepers that are running successful businesses are generally successful because, you know, they’re smart about their businesses.

Another Shopkeeper put it this way:

“I think they assumed that we’re all just little stay-at-home people who don’t understand our businesses. So they figured that flying us out and sitting a bunch of senior executives across the table is going to impress us or intimidate us and make us believe all the big promises, and that little old me wouldn’t figure out that the promises were vague and that the contract terms weren’t much different than their actual Terms of Service. The Big Kahuna exec looked me straight in the eye and told me that signing the contract was a ‘No Brainer’ – I think they just figured I didn’t realize that I’d be losing most my business if I switched over.”

Q) So what do you think about it?
A) You guys rock!

I mean, seriously. Our Community is the heart of what makes the CafePress Marketplace so vibrant and interesting, and to see people being flown in and recruited NBA-style makes us proud both of the Shopkeepers who have built such amazing cottage industries, as well as proud of having provided a way for them to do so.

Our energies are, as ever, focused on making sure that your good ideas are celebrated and rewarded. Sure, we have a nice long list of big guys like Snoopy and Discovery using us too, but our primary focus has always been to empower the creativity of the human spirit and make a difference in people lives.

Q) What are you guys going to do about it?
A) Keep on keepin’ on.

Honestly, there’s no point in getting distracted by a small company’s attempt to disrupt our groove. Our focus is looking forward in order to ensure that we continue investing our time and energies into efforts that improve the overall CafePress experience. We don’t like the idea that someone is out there trying to sow dissent in our Community, but the thing about community is that people have come together for good reasons. In any case, actions (and paychecks) speak louder than words.

We have a lot of groovy things planned for this year, and they’ve all been designed with our Community in mind. So you too can look forward… to some awesome surprises.

Rock Start t-shirtThere’s a very good reason we continue to grow like mad in revenue, membership, traffic and catalogue size every year. And that reason is you. Yes, you. You guys taking advantage of your own imagination, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit to create such a lively (and huge!) Marketplace of self-expression.

You guys are rock stars – and you don’t need a black car waiting for you at the airport to prove it. Congrats, big thanks and a huge green thumbs-up for making CafePress the awesome, vibrant and successful community it’s become. Rock. On.

So keep it up, folks. Just remember: the grass may look greener on the other side, but in this case it’s orange.

—-

If you’ve been approached by Glitz Factory:

1) Stop, drop and roll.
2) Feel free to give us a holler. (You can probably skip #1. Up to you; it might make compelling video…)
3) Feel free to share your story by commenting on the blog.
4) If you take the trip out here, let us know! We’re just up the road from Glitz Factory, and in this case there really is such a thing as a free lunch. Just give us a shout to tell us you’re in town and we’ll hit a local haunt to chat about whatever suits your fancy.

Whether or not you’re in town, we’re always happy to talk with you about your shops, your life or your favorite dog breed. If you’re not sure who to call, email blog@cafepress.com and we can steer you to the right person. We truly do value our relationship with our Shopkeepers, and a real live person really is just a phone call or email away.

17 Comments
  1. Nice to hear what you guys think about a company I like to call “Jazz Hands”. They lost me for good at “Corporate Ninja”. Thanks so much for giving us your perspective, I think a lot of us have been wondering what your take was.

  2. I’m one of the CP shopkeepers contacted by “Glitz Factory”..

    I don’t like what they are doing and I think it says a lot for the type of company they are. No company of any sort is perfect, but Cafepress is the best in it’s line of work, PERIOD.

    CP’s strengths are its communication with the shopkeepers and the CP community is the far and above the most helpful and experienced forum of its kind.

    I spent a week (more like wasted) emailing back and forth with the “Glitz Factory”. They promise a lot. From what I’ve gathered from other CP shopkeepers that have been contacted what they tell you and what you sign are two different things. I’ll admit, the Glitz talk from them got me excited.. to the point I thought it might be worth it to jump ship.

    What ended it was the “Glitz Factory” person, Scott..being down right rude. I’m simply not going to work with a company like that. I work hard at my job, CP being a part of it. I’m not going to be treated like a teenybopper doing this for kicks.

    It’s simple. If Ford wants to build a better car than Toyota it researches, talks to customers and does what it takes to build the better car. Word of mouth and the quality of their service and products will be known and people will buy Fords.

    I told Scott the same thing. If “Glitz Factory” wants to be the number one POD service then it needs to rethink it’s business plan. Waving money in front of CP shopkeepers isn’t doing the right thing.

    They need to stop trying to lure the shopkeepers away with big promises. In my opinion they need to invest that money BACK into their own business, things like site stability and speed, communications, products..the list goes on.

    The business path they are on now isn’t going to push them to number one…or anywhere close to it. From everything I read and the talking between CP shopkeepers the opposite is happening, it’s giving them a bad name in the POD world.

    Honestly I think what they are doing is opening the eyes of potential POD service users(even existing ones) into the business plans of both companies. People will read about the two companies and see that while no company is not perfect, Cafepress is the best in the POD world. Not being perfect is good, it makes one strive to do better, improve and learn.

    I think this idea of “Glitz Factory” has backfired..in the end it’s driving people to Cafepress. Word has spread and most people aren’t going to fall for the dirty tactics that the “Glitz Factory” are pulling.

    Time for a leadership change on that side of the POD fence.

    On top of all that the shop/site of mine they singled out to jump ship isn’t even my top shop. Not only can’t they get the business plan down right, they can’t even research who they’re targeting….

    Have a great day all!

  3. This is a fabulous post! From experience, I say, it couldn’t be more right on. I’m not easily wooed, but I did find myself questioning my direction, my goals, my plans and more importantly, my current situation — because of the glam the glitz factory presented. but once i was alone and left to think, i realized there were a lot of questions unanswered… and all the promises by multiple people of “contact me if you need ANYTHING” or “email me any time if you have a question”.. ended up empty and unanswered.

    In my opinion, it’s one thing to encourage a change and offer an apparent way to achieve the new goals… its entirely different to follow through, I’m mean really follow through. I’ve talked with many others and heard very similar stories… the follow through is missing.

    Success isn’t just about money. People aren’t happy just because they’re handed a big fatty check. People want to succeed and then duplicate that success over and over.. they don’t want one big bonus and then they skip through life.. they want one big bonus after another.. and they want recognition all along the way. As soon as I started asking the hard questions, I stopped getting the sales emails…

    All in all

    I’m glad for the ninja tactics.. It made my previously complacent mindset flip over, re-evaluate where i was and realize I’m really damn happy with CP… quirks and bugs and all. I now have a new set of goals, new ideas and look forward to watching CP grow even more.

  4. I’ve twice received Emails from… “Glitz Factory”…
    Now I wish I hadn’t been so busy and had answered them. :)

    I coulda used a free trip to California… LOL

    I really don’t think I’d have been… um.. confident enough in their promises? to close my CP shop… After all, I’ve had a Tiny test Shop on the other company as long as I’ve had my shop on Cafepress…
    I got my first check from them in March of this year. Small check.
    Yeah, it’s a tiny shop.. not much there… I know I’d do better if I had MORE there… But with no more products than I have up, I would have gotten many more sales at CP.

    Hey, CP…
    Will you fly me up for a visit though? :D
    I need a vacation.

  5. I was also contacted via email by this company, but after one email exchange decided not to continue the communication. It was really just a gut reaction, as they were perfectly friendly in the emails. But then I found out they were contacting a lot of fellow CP shopkeepers and decided to let it play out without my involvement. I’m glad I didn’t put any more energy into it. Anyway, thanks for your post on this subject!

  6. This is a very interesting and informative post. As a relative newbie, I wish the people who have been so successful with their stores would post their stories on how they did it. Or is that posted somewhere already?

    Much thanks,

    Adele

  7. Thanks for this post and everything you mentioned on the post was accurate except fellow shop keepers who were flown in like me failed to mention the pompous arrogant chief of something at GlitZZZZy I shall call Jimmy Boy (if you’ve been there, you know him… arrogant, fake as they come and full of himself) For whatever GlitZZZZy had in potential, people like Jimmy Boy will bring them down.

    Maybe I am just a small shopkeeper but I am not stupid and I can see through people’s intentions. I did not fall for Jimmy Bob’s false promises and quite honestly, I cannot find myself associating with a company that would have such arrogant and fake people in their leadership. There were a lot great people at GlitZZZZy but unfortunately they were obviously cowed by Jimmy Boy.

    Beware of false prophets!

  8. I’m happy CP has posted something publicly about this. A well said and professional post, in my opinion. It’s not that fact that another POD is trying to woo Cafepress SKs, but their methods in doing so.

  9. I am actually the spouse of a shop keeper and quite honestly I was happy they flew us to California. But I agree with most of the folks who posted on this list.

    a) We did not sign the exclusive but are ok with the incremental money. It is very very incremental.
    b) We were impressed by Glitz’s people but not their big sales guy who was over-the-top, arrogant and kept using war analogies. Franky, he must have been a used car salesman… on the crass side… As Adele says, unethical. But he did pay for the plane fare, hotel, limo and dinner so I’ll deal with arrogant.
    c) CP’s tools rock for us as my wife makes me do the work and the CP tools are better.
    d) CP… keep up the good work!!!

    We’ll stay.

  10. I’ve gotten a few of those back-alley emails. They’re very flattering, but not very fattening.

    What I love most about CafePress is my freedom. My work belongs to me. I can take it anywhere I like – and I have. Why do I keep it at CP?

    CP’s marketplace, tools, and helpful community outperforms everyone else.

    Hands down. :)

  11. I’m part of a website that does fairly large business with CafePress. We appreciate that CafePress permits us to choose which shirts to offer for sale, an option that Glitz promised to have available by now but does not. This means that we can sell American Apparel shirts.

    We did not sign any exclusive agreement with Glitz and would not. The terms are simply not favorable to us — the benefit was all to Glitz…

    … But we did do hard negotiation with Glitz and were able to get them to do a number of things for us without signing ANY agreement. This included (sadly for our shop only) having the ability to sell union-made shirts on Glitz. CafePress does not offer union-made shirts…

    … and that brings me to this phrase in the blog here:

    “Pat has admitted to making very few sales in the Glitz Factory shop – including periods with no sales at all – and has come to the realization that the big promises were “all words and no substance.””

    Well, that’s not all Glitz. CafePress has promised us in conversation for YEARS that they’d be offering black American Apparel shirts in just a few months, you just wait and see. For YEARS now those few months have come and gone. Then a few months pass and CafePress makes the promise to us again.

    Yes, Glitz has problems. But CafePress has problems too.

    I’m interested to see whether this comment appears on the blog or is taken out by the moderator.

  12. Hey, nice to see you got rid of the moderation. That was cool. See, CafePress does a lot of things right. ;)

  13. Hey Jim –

    We do still moderate due to the large amount of SPAM, etc that comes through blog comments.

    You and I have discussed that shirt personally, so feel free to give me a ring.

  14. Hi,
    There is so very much in life to be a part of and enjoy, and to voice our opinions about with regards to helping someone or something!

    Robert

  15. I was contacted by them and they promised me thousands of dollars to close my cafepress shop. I was talking back and forth for a few days to them. And yes he was very arrogant. When he said I had to close my cp shop. I put on the breaks and said no! I will never close my shop. Because like someone said I love the freedom of making my shop my own, and I love the tools and products and especially the community. I have learned more here on the message boards and chats than anywhere else. No other company is as honest and easy to work with than Cafepress. I love my store and the people behind it.

  16. I am a FRAZZLE gallery owner and I have just recently found out about this. IT MAKES ME FURIOUS to say the least. I have busted my butt for 10 months to build my products. And I have made a decent return. Why should people they have poached over be given special rights and privileges that the artists who built frazzle don’t get? It WRONG, IT’s nasty and it’s shows how much they care about their contributors. I opened a free shop on cafepress because I couldn’t afford the yearly price and have sold nothing. And I do wish I could add text to products as I post them here on site. Instead of having to upload them with text in place. They should be supporting their gallery owners not spending money on bringing in folks who are happy where they are. I am really upset over this to the point of chest pains. I really wish I could pay for a year long shop here and give it a shot. I’ve done very well there but disagree with the tactics, wrong is wrong and right is right.

  17. Just to let everyone know that I have a Glitz Gallery now since almost the beginnings .. it was my first and it was free … I haven’t yet come to CP but am now seriously considering it.

    I want to let you all know that many of us at Glitz are disgusted in the unethical tactics they are using … don’t fall for the Glitz spiel … many of us have known for some time that we are treated as just a cog in their money making machine … the only sense of community we have is between ourselves as artists and friends .. now there are many there who do think Glitz is the best .. more power to them … but many of us who are oldtimers know better …

    again don’t give up what you have here at CP for promises make of air … or as the old saying goes .. a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush …

    good luck to all here at CP … and as Spock would say .. live long and prosper and I’ll add … have fun too (smile)

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