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Cafe Press Community Forums

Friday, September 14, 2007
In my short time at CafePress (well, short in comparison to many shop keepers), I've learned a few things exceptionally vital to running and maintaining an online store.

One of the most important things was to really listen to the veteran shop keepers, read the community forums and keep an open mind to changing things to make them work best for your potential customers. I've done all of this, and it has helped me so much and is honestly the secret to my success thus far. But, is there a time when you need to simply walk away for a while and do your own thing?

I wonder this, because being apart of the community seems to leave you open for criticism you didn't ask for. It's one thing to go in the New Design / Shop Feedback forum and ask for it.. but to be given it on a near daily basis gets old. Being told that you aren't doing something "right" or another shop keeper telling you that a design would "look so much better if you did..." just gets old. Well maybe my customers prefer it my way...and in any case, I'm not selling it to you anyways.

Another issue I've come across is that half of the community is extremely nosey. I've never really had the desire to check up on other shops to see what they had or what they may be doing. I don't have that kind of time! My time is better spent making new designs and getting them up in my store. But yet, every day when I check my counters for traffic, a good portion of my visits come directly from the Cafe Press Community Forums. Why? I mean, I understand affiliates looking for stuff...and I can usually tell it's affiliates by what pages they looked at. But why all those other people?

Yet another issue in direct link to the forums are shop keepers desperate to find another shopkeeper with a similar design so they can get upset. I've seen it far too many times. One week, I had complaints about a pink journal with the word "LOVE" and dog tags on it. This week, it's my Dare to be Different shirt with the penguins on it. Come on! Give it a break people. Six billion people in this world.. more than one is bound to run across the same idea at some point. If the colors, pictures and everything about it physically are different and only the concept remains, then why get upset over it!? Other shop keepers have stuff recently made that looks like mine and I really don't care! I'm more worried about what I am doing...

I've also seen quite a few shop owners get upset over customer criticism. Um..they are purchasing stuff from you. If they don't like your stuff or it comes out badly, they have the right to their opinions and can say so. If someone likes Shop Owner A's shirt better than Shop Owner B's shirt, then oh well. Better luck next time!

Now don't get me wrong.. I've really enjoyed the forums for the most part. There are some very nice people there with tons of useful information! It's been a great place to chat with people who have common goals and interests. But I wonder if there is a time when you need to simply walk away for a while and do your own thing and be original - maybe offer up something that not every single shop has done 101 times over.

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