T-shirt hell, that is.
Even if you've never been on the website, which is infamous for its controversial t-shirts, you've still probably seen the shirts floating around- whether it was the "Talk Nerdy To Me" wifebeater on your weird roommate's ex-boyfriend, the "I'm the Guy Who Married Britney" hoodie in the fashion section of US Weekly, or the best selling "I'm What Willis Was Talkin' 'Bout" t-shirt that was featured on Scrubs in 2004.
Since June of 2001, owner Sunshine Megatron (don't ask) has sold thousands of t-shirts ranging from slightly offensive, to mildly humorous, to highly controversial. In his eight years of selling shirts, Mr. Megatron has received thousands of hate emails, cease and desists from several celebrity targets (Rick James, the Olsen Twins, and Christopher Reeves being just a sample), and even survived a possible poison attempt in 2005. And through all that, he kept doing what he did best: pissing people off through the magic of controversial satire.
But on January 29, Megatron announced that he would shut down his website and company on February 10. His reason? "I just don't feel like dealing with idiots anymore." It was a reference to the thousands of hate letters that are sent to the company each week, many containing death threats. In the announcement, Megatron cited the safety of his employees as his chief concern, and the main reason behind "not pushing the envelope so much anymore... I can't say I feel good about having caved in." While the current economic recession wasn't the main factor behind his decision, he admitted that "the recent dip in sales certainly makes the idea easier to accept, even though we still sell almost 3,000 shirts a week."
And so began the last two weeks. Then, due to overwhelming response, Megatron extended the final day to February 16th (and even I was considering buying a long time favorite).
And so the last day of the sale, I logged on to buy my t-shirt- and read a new announcement from one of the shrewdest businessmen of the recession. Long story short, Megatron pulled a Beanie Baby/Celine Dion- faking going out of business to increase sales in the short run. And it worked. Oh, did it work:
"And just so I make this clear, I haven't decided to keep T-Shirt Hell going because of the tens of thousands of supportive emails we received or because of the press and sales we generated over the last 3 weeks (nearly 100,000 shirts sold). We were never...ever...leaving in the first place. Let's just call it tough love. Sometimes you need to kick your loved ones in the assholes to get them to satisfy their need for awesome t-shirts (and to fill my bank account.)
Let's call it my own personal stimulus package. In 3 weeks, I've done EXACTLY what is needed to stimulate any economy... and that is to get people to open their wallets. Not only did the last 3 weeks save jobs at T-Shirt Hell, they've opened up a whole new world to people who had never bought our shirts until now."
Yea, he duped us. He also singlehandedly saved his company through the application of one of the simplest rules of business: supply and demand. Cut the supply, and the demand grows.
Touche, Sunshine Megatron. Touche. Maybe we need you on Wall Street.