Seeking Reviews of E-Merchandise Sites:

So I'm going to try my hand at some Volokh Conspiracy designs -- I'll probably pick a few that sound promising and provide them as options. Have it your way, that's our slogan here at The Volokh Conspiracy, though for intellectual property reasons we probably won't use that one on the T-shirts.

But the question: What service to use? I'd heard good things about CafePress, but then ran across some negative reviews (first in a comment on the Paraphernalia post, and then in some comments I found online). Zazzle sounds like an alternative, but I've only heard a little about them. I'm not looking for a place that will do the design; I'm planning on having something pretty simple, so I can do it myself. I'm looking for something that will take orders, create the goods, and ship them.

The priorities:

  1. High-quality stuff, not cheapo iron-ons that will crack or peel after a few washings.

  2. As low a price as possible, given constraint #1.

  3. Good customer service for buyers.

  4. Ease of use for me (so for instance having all the products on one service is better than splitting among two).

  5. No or low cost for us.

  6. Variety of products -- for instance, polo shirts as well as T-shirts, coffee mugs and mousepads as well as clothes, and the like.

  7. Whatever else I'm forgetting, though that might have to be a higher priority.

Any suggestions? Please post them in the comments, since I think other readers might be looking for similar information, for their blogs, for their other projects, or just for something noncommercial for themselves and friends.

Jerry (www):
My experience with Cafe Press is that they make good, quality stuff (with a few exceptions such as the lunch boxes), but if something goes wrong, they simply do not respond. I had some t-shirts for a role-playing game I write come in in the wrong sizes and could not get a response at all. Obviously, I never put them up publicly for anyone else to use after that.

As for Zazzle, I haven't used them, but the Persistence of Vision people do, and I tend to trust their judgement. I didn't know Zazzle did other than posters, so I'll be looking at them, too!
2.28.2005 2:18pm
Lisa Stone (mail) (www):
I'm surprised to hear that about Cafe Press--In my multiple positive experiences, they've met each of your requirements, 1-7. I think the key is to keep your designs stark and simple. That way your stuff will look great and hold up over time.
2.28.2005 2:38pm
tree hugging sister (mail) (www):
We're going about it a bit differently. After the Petroleum Exchange rumble, we decided to do commemorative T shirts. I found the Cafe Press set-up restrictive, since I'm pretty hands-on about my art. (The other consideration was the hit Pensacola took from Ivan. I wanted to keep the dollars local if I could.) I started calling around and found a local print shop that does smooth transfers on high quality shirts for $1 less than Cafe Press for orders of 24 or more. (We wanted big, vivid, saturated color, too.) I took my artist proof over, got to tweek it the way I wanted: adjust the color, clean it up, size the design, etc. I worked with a real person, not email or a help message board. Now, granted there's an outlay of a couple hundred dollars, but we're completely in control of our product. And when it's got your name on it, I want to know it's the best I can put out there. There are so many affordable possibilities locally that, thanks to technology, were unthinkable even 5 years ago. Not exactly your 7 points, granted, but a different way we're approaching things.
2.28.2005 3:15pm
Ellen Dahlgren:
If you're offering polo shirts, try to find a vendor who offers genuine men's and women's sizes. In my experience, polo shirts sold in UniSex sizing are really men's shirts, and they fit us ladies rather badly. (We're shaped differently; perhaps you've noticed.)
2.28.2005 3:36pm
fish face:
Have had no problems with Cafe Press- they've been good for us.

Can't wait for the Volokh thong!
2.28.2005 4:41pm
I used Zazzle to design a T-shirt for work (all the people on the team for a big case at our firm got one). I thought they were great, if a little pricey. The site is very easy to use, saves your designs forever (someone else got added to the team 18 months later, and the design was still saved), and the shirts themselves are good quality and hold up well (I ordered the high-quality ones, for what that's worth). Turnaround was pretty quick. Overall, I was very satisfied.
2.28.2005 4:52pm
Cafe Press only seems to do white t-shirts, which I, for one, won't wear no matter what's printed on them.
If you can find a place that does black t-shirts, go with them.
3.1.2005 1:23am
Erica S:
Cafe Press is very expensive--even before you add any markup, but they are the only outfit I know of that handles all the fulfillment. You might want to pop by "Say No to Cafe Press", who lobbied them for better terms in their user agreement.
3.1.2005 5:20pm
Teresa (mail) (www):
Frank at IMAO uses Thoseshirts for his t-shirts. I don't know if they do polo shirts but I do know that white is not the only color they use. The link is to their about page. Why not check them out and see what you think. He seemed to be very happy with them (I met him recently).
3.1.2005 10:11pm