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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

How CafePress' Admin Bot Shops Charge You Blindly

   Please stop creating these admin shops and listing products that are not added by me, the account owner.  You are putting products out for sale in the marketplace that are not configured for the best use of my designs.  The latest sale that came from one was black lettering on black apparel.   

   Yes, I see a royalty from that sale, however, I did not approve of that design for that type of apparel, nor does this shop fall inside my payment setting for a premium shop.   In addition to paying my yearly fee, I also would be responsible for a fee attached to this sale because the default setting for that shop is to only pay royalties on items sold (10%).   You are essentially selling my designs and charging me a fee for something I did not approve as the designer.  I have had to close several of these admin shops or make them private in order to stop this from affecting my sales. 

   I have stuck with CafePress since 2009 even though nearly every other Print on Demand site offers the same benefits with no fees.   You’ve stripped us the same royalties for marketplace sales as shop sales, halved our royalties for 3rd party and fan portal sales.    I have been loyal to this site because of the benefit of the exposure and that scale is being tipped towards the negative ever more with these frustrations. 

   Please consider changing this practice as I am sure that while I am simply a small time designer and one voice among millions of designers who use CafePress, shopkeepers like me are how CafePress got its start and has grown.    While I don’t expect anything to come from this request, I must make it as it has been far too long for me to sit idly by and not voice my frustration.

Thank you,
 Not the most eloquent of messages, but one that needed to be sent for a long time.   Yes, it's almost passive aggressive in tone.  "If you don't stop being corporate bad guys, well, then, I'll just shake my fist and yell really loud with no ramifications."  Quite frankly, if I struck any kind of nerve and CafePress just decided to say, "So long, we're closing your account because of x" I would be kind of happy.   I have sort of let my shop languish because it just generates a minimal amount of monthly income that I am willing to accept for hardly any work, while I focus my attention to more robust, up to date, and shops that don't charge me a fee like TeePublic or Redbubble.

  In fact, it's been a long slow hospice for my CafePress shop since they changed the rules to only give designers a flat 10% royalty on sales from the marketplace, whereas previously it was whatever royalty you decided.  And actually, that should read "up to 10%" because they nail you for sales that come through fan portals and 3rd party sales like Amazon.  Shop sales prices can't compete with Marketplace prices and no one in their right mind will pay more for something just because the designer gets a higher cut.  

  The latest trend is for CafePress to add these Admin shops to your account and pre-populate a handful of categories with select items and select designs under the guise of "We're trying out things that you may want to be aware of".  Nothing you actually have any hand in when it happens.  They do it and unless you constantly bird dog your account, you don't find out that something is wrong until you get a weird royalty email stating that you made a sale on a no name item.  You check the sales report and see that it came from the Marketplace, featuring a design that you already offer in your regular store and already pay a monthly/yearly fee to operate.  Then, on top of only getting 10% of the royalty, because these admin shops are default settings, you pay a 10% fee on your royalty for every item sold up to $10 a month.  So, $60 in shop fees, plus up to $120 a year for these bot shops they set up on your behalf.  

  The argument here is kind of moot because I continue to do business with them, but that's only because the fees have been about 3% of my sales.  It's an easy revenue stream that doesn't require a lot of work other than to guard every penny by shutting down these stupid bot sites.  Still, I should stand up to this kind of behavior, closing my shop and walking away.   Unfortunately, there are millions of designers using CafePress, losing me would hurt only me every month, when I don't see a paltry line item on my PayPal account from CafePress.

UPDATE 2/8/16CafePress did respond in kind.... but I already knew this would be there response, if any.

Thank you for contacting CafePress. To Opt Out of marketplace listing, go to the shop management page and click on your shop settings. at the bottom you will see a check box marked Opt Out of the Marketplace. Your designs will then be removed from the marketplace.
If there is anything else I can do for you, please let me know.

Please use this code in any further communication.
Best Regards,
Well, I did those steps and lo and behold, today, a new order for an item in that Admin shop, which has been marked as opting out of the Marketplace.  Look at the quality of their product with my design.  It doesn't fit the product.  This is what happens when their bot stores add my designs to their products...  This is horrible quality product that goes to the customer and has my name associated with it.  AND I GET CHARGED A FEE FOR THE SALE?!?!?!

I've removed all products from the Admin shop, but they'll be back.  In a few months time, there will be more crap in there that I will have to remove, again.

UPDATE 2/9/16:  Now, they're just trolling me.

Thank you for your response.  I am happy to assist you today.
I am sorry to hear of your frustrations.  At this time I would like to suggest closing your Admin shop.  In order to do so, go to "Shop", click "Admin_CP7374716".  This will bring you to your "Manage Your Shop" page.  

On the right hand side of the screen you can click "Close this Shop".  This will close this shop all together.  You then would not have to opt out of the marketplace.  

When opting out of the marketplace, it takes away the option of customers finding any of your items on our website at all, unless they have your shop HTML.

I hope this information is helpful.
 OK, so I have done these steps before.   Within days, the Admin bot shops reappear.  So, I asked a stupid question of them.
If I close this shop, will another one be added in the future?  (Included screenshot with email that shows only one shop now exists)  I have closed it and should not see any more of these Admin shops appear in my account.

Thank you
Of course, I fully expect there to be a new wonderfully awful bot shop in my account within a few days.   This is how they responded to my message...
Hello, I will be happy to assist you with this matter. I apologize that you are having issues with the admin shops. Unfortunately, another admin shop will produce its self. You can opt it out of the marketplace and mark it as private. This way the items can not be sold in the marketplace and will not be found on search engines. I also recommend removing any products from the admin shops as well. This will only need to be done once and no additional admin shops will be added in the future.  
To mark you shop as Private follow these steps:

  1. Log into your Caf├ęPress account.
  2. Click on the Shop ID of the shop you wish to edit.
  3. Click “Edit Shop Profile”.
  4. Towards the bottom of this page will be your Preferences. Check the Private box and Market place Opt out.  Click on “Save Changes”.
Are you kidding me?  We're back to opting out.  Yet, clearly, the opting out still allowed items to be bought through the Marketplace.  


UPDATE: 2/22/16
  Yep, they're trolling.  The steps above outline how I am to mark the shop private and opt out of the marketplace... which I had done.   Then, yesterday, another shirt was sold out of that shop.  The products just happened to appear. 

  Well, one other option presents itself.  There is a 500 section or folder limit on shops.  If I add 500 blank sections, I can force them to stop adding them.

  Shouldn't be this hard.

UPDATE: 2/24/16
  So, apparently, Cafepress' rule about maximum number of sections allowed on your shop is a lie.   I tried to do an end run around the bot shops by adding 500 folders or sections, maxing out the allotted number.  The hope was that it would stop them from adding their own, which clearly are still selling products, even though I've removed that shop from the marketplace and opted out of search engine indexing.

 Well, today, there were 503 sections in the bot shop, which means that they refuse to be stopped.  I removed the products from the newly created sections.  However, these new sections are automatic and not done by some lackey in their offices.

UPDATE: 3/28/16

I sent a new message to CafePress because it has been over a month since I opted out of the marketplace with this bot shop and still orders get generated in sections that they add above and beyond their supposed 500 section limit.   I can't be bothered to go in every day and remove products from new sections.  This shouldn't be what a shopkeeper has to do.

It has been over a month since I opted out of the marketplace with this store.  And yet, orders keep getting placed from the Marketplace.  See Attached.   Also, your limit of 500 sections does not seem to apply to this admin bot shop as there are 522 sections in the shop itself.
So, what gives?  I get a lot of apologies and understanding of frustrations, yet no indication of anything to actually fix this issue other than I have to manually go into newly generated sections over the 500 limit and remove all products, but as you can see from the attached, unless I go in every day, continually and remove products, orders get placed.
Fix this.  Stop adding items, sections, orders, whatever!

UPDATE: 4/4/16

Now, this is a new one.  Logging in today, expecting to delete more products from the Admin shop, I found a new wrinkle in the mess.   Someone removed the exclusions from my Admin shop, opting it back into the marketplace and making it public.  They also removed all of the sections that were there.  Lastly, there was a strange product in my shopping cart.  Seriously, something is loco here.
Here was their response:

Thanks for your reply. I am sorry for the inconvenience that this has caused you. We do not reset any shops unless the owner advises us. The sections and products in your store we also did not get rid of. No, changes are made to your store from us. Looking into what's going on with the Admin shops, you can close them at anytime. 
If there is anything else I can do for you, please let me know.
Your ticket code is [redacted]. Please use this code in any further communication.
Best Regards,
Their explanation of how they wouldn't have done such things is ridiculous as is their advice on how to handle this as even if I close that shop, in a week, another one will open.

Now, why would I undo all the work I've been doing to stop these sales from happening?   I emptied the cart, reapplied all the same exclusions, and changed my password.   Even still, there's some residual cookie thing going on because even though it shows empty, I still get a one item in my cart icon on each page.   You can see that all the sections are gone from the picture above, to here. 

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