Handmade Reviews

Published on July 6th, 2009 | by Julie Finn

25

Is Etsy Ripping Off its Sellers? I, for One, Want My Money Back

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Editor’s note: The opinions in this post do not reflect those of Crafting a Green World as a whole or other writers on the CAGW team.

It can be hard to be an indie crafter these days. Perhaps Oilily will steal your designs and resell them as cheap knock-offs, perhaps somebody will smear your name all over the Internet because you disagree about the usage of the word craftivism, perhaps someone else will comment on one of your blog posts and call you retarded because you object to wool felt.

And then, just when you’re feeling better about all of that, Etsy will steal some of your hard-earned money.

What’s up with that, Etsy?

Now, I understand that technology is complicated. And I understand that Internet Explorer, although it’s the standard browser that most people, especially the internet un-savvy (Hi, mom!), use, basically blows. And I understand that when Internet Explorer updates, or Bill Gates sneezes, or the stars misalign, web sites tend to go all to hell for a while until some other programmer writes a fix.

So I wasn’t monumentally surprised to wake up on the morning of July 2 to find that the ad spot I’d paid for on Etsy, a Showcase link in the Supplies section, wasn’t clickable in Internet Explorer. Frustrated and irritated, sure, although not at Etsy (yet), but not all that surprised, either. I dutifully checked in with the Forum of other confused and frustrated sellers whose paid-for Showcase spots weren’t working, and sent in an email to Etsy customer service asking for a refund or a transfer to a Showcase spot on a different day, when the Showcase was working as intended.

And thus the day passed on. My ad spot received a click or two, from the Internet savvy shoppers who were using Firefox, or Safari, or whatever awesome browser some Internet savvy people choose, but the vast majority of shoppers, those who use Internet Explorer, were lost to me. Mid-day our Forum got an update from an Etsy admin that engineers would be working on a fix, but otherwise the day passed on.

After 6 pm, when all the shoppers who surf the Internet during breaks and lunch hour had gone home, I recieved the following email:

Hello Julie,

Thanks for your email. This bug is fixed and all of the items listed in the Showcase can
now be viewed. Etsy shoppers who visit the site use various browsers so the amount of
people not able to scroll was very limited.

Thanks for being a member of the Etsy community.

All the best,
Joe
Etsy Support

I immediately wrote Joe back to tell him why I still needed either a refund or a transfer of my ad spot, but Joe hasn’t gotten back to me yet.

My own little struggle with Etsy has brought to light, at least for me, a larger issue: to what extent do we, as sellers, trust such a large site like Etsy with our time and our money, and to what extend SHOULD we trust them?

When I bought my Showcase ad spot, I didn’t expect Etsy to provide me with a detailed contract about what, exactly, their responsibilities would be concerning my spot, because I trusted them. I trusted that they would show my ad exactly when they said they would, I trusted that the ad would be completely functional, and I trusted that Etsy’s status and reputation and success would bring enough shoppers to me to make my investment profitable for me.

Now, since that didn’t happen, I’m left with the vastly more troubling feeling that perhaps, as a seller, I can’t trust Etsy. I’ve been reading a lot about ArtFire lately, and one of the things that I’ve noticed very prominently in their own promotions are testimonials from sellers claiming that ArtFire has great customer service, geared specifically toward the sellers–emails are answered promptly, tweeted questions are answered promptly–is this a specific response to Etsy’s relationship to sellers that I haven’t noticed before because I have such a small shop and haven’t yet done a lot that would need interaction with Etsy’s customer service team?

Input, anybody?

***UPDATE: Etsy just sent me an email to tell me that I will get a refund for my Showcase spot after all, which makes me feel much better about both my tiny little situation and the overall status of indie crafters in the marketplace–green crafters are indie crafters, after all, and it’s important to know where we have a place and how we’re supported. Oh, AND my post earned itself a notification at the top that nobody else at CAGW should be assumed to stand behind the crazy that comes out of my mouth. The upholstery remnant applique onto an old vinyl record album that I’ve been working on all day, however? Crazy AND awesome.


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About the Author

I'm a writer, crafter, Zombie Preparedness Planner, and homeschooling momma of two kids who will hopefully someday transition into using their genius for good, not the evil machinations and mess-making in which they currently indulge. I'm interested in recycling and nature crafts, food security, STEM education, and the DIY lifestyle, however it's manifested--making myself some underwear out of T-shirts? Done it. Teaching myself guitar? Doing it right now. Visit my blog Craft Knife for a peek at our very weird handmade homeschool life; my etsy shop Pumpkin+Bear for a truly odd number of rainbow-themed beeswax pretties; and my for links to articles about poverty, educational politics, and this famous cat who lives in my neighborhood.



25 Responses to Is Etsy Ripping Off its Sellers? I, for One, Want My Money Back

  1. Aimee says:

    It’s so interesting you’ve brought this up. I’ve been doing research the past couple of weeks on some alternatives to Etsy as well. Unlike many, I have not had technical problems with them, but I do feel “lost” in the hugeness of the site. Renewing products daily or almost daily is the only way to keep them in the public eye and every renewal cuts into the minimal profit I make on my items. I’ve been told by several people that they don’t like searching through Etsy because it’s just too big – too much.

    I’ve been looking at Artfire (many say they get even fewer sales through Artfire, but mechanically it’s a much better system), Cafe Handmade, and 1000 Markets. I’d love to hear from people who have used these other services.

  2. Grace says:

    I am in very much the same boat. I’ve used ETSY off and on the past few years and have never been disappointed, but yet never enthusiastic either, about their services.

    When I was selling consistently I never minded the fees (though I always seemed to make less at the end than I thought I would even trying to account for the fees and s&h etc.), but since the economy isn’t helping sales, and things have slowed down more than little I am finding it harder and harder to give them the upfront fees with no guarantee an item will sell ( I still don’t mind giving them a percentage AFTER, it just adds up alot with the listing fee, the selling fees, the paypla fees etc.)

    I also find (like Aimee, that if you weren’t a big seller within the first few years ETSY launched that it is an uphill battle to get your shop noticed.)

    I tried ShopHandmade then for awhule because they let you outline your own fees (even if that’s ZERO), and you can designate a particular charity to give the fees too when you sell…..but the site overall was harder to navigate and you can’t unlist things etc. so that did not fair much better and I left that account a few months ago.

    All in all I am likely to begin running my own shop off my website (yet more html coding to teach myself) and using ETSY strictly to sell off clearance items. It won’t happen overnight, but since I really have to market my store full-time on my own anyway, I might as well reap all the profits.

  3. samsstuff says:

    I have a shop on Etsy (eco friendly jewelry, accessories & clothing), that I have now split in 2. The second shop is an experiment that I am trying out on ArtFire (handmade housewares & decor). Both are samsstuff. Etsy is huge & that ‘hugeness’ makes it difficult to deal with. Sellers that haven’t already made a mark become lost & buyers are overwhelmed by the volume of product. So far, I have had more views on ArtFire, but no sales. I’d be curious about the experiences of others in these & other markets.

  4. russ says:

    I never will understand all the whining about explorer. Works fine for me. No more screwups than with other browsers I use.

    Having said that, I am now using chrome just because it is faster.

  5. Delilah Cohen says:

    I agree, ETSY should pay you back or give you another spot, that is just how good business is done. They should treat there artists better than that.
    I have been looking into etsy latly. ArtFire sounds a little better though, and not just because it is free. It is nice that you do not need an account to buy things.
    Right now we sell things at farmers markets and do fairly well, but have done better in parst years. So we are looking to brance out on to the web. Do you all have shops on all of these sites? Or do you think it is best to have either Etsy or Artfire (or another one) and put all your energy into that?

  6. Beth says:

    Really at the very least Etsy should give you a free spot.

  7. In essence, Etsy’s Terms of Use is that detailed contract. As much as we would love it to be about trust, it’s about legalities and making sure you read the fine print. I wouldn’t count on getting a refund or replacement based on these two clauses in their Terms of Use:

    “ETSY, ETSY’S SUBSIDIARIES, OFFICERS, DIRECTORS, EMPLOYEES, AND ETSY’S SUPPLIERS PROVIDE ETSY’S WEB SITE AND SERVICES “AS IS” AND WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY OR CONDITION, EXPRESS, IMPLIED OR STATUTORY.”

    “Etsy does not guarantee continuous, uninterrupted access to the Site, and operation of the Site may be interfered with by numerous factors outside Etsy’s control. ”

    I have had the most success with DaWanda by far, but that has a lot to do with me being based in Germany. ArtFire is my favorite, but my views are almost non-existent there. Their staff welcome feedback from sellers and buyers and keep a public list of ongoing projects and their status. I am absolutely impressed with their transparency and the speed at which they fix problems.

  8. I would be interested to hear comments from crafters that sell on groovycart.co.uk

    below is a comment from the Knitz and Bitz shop, full comment here – http://knitzandbitz.blogspot.com/

    “Feeling Groovy
    I just wanted to let you all know about Groovycart, if you sell your things online.
    As you know we offer our Blog yarn (The extra) at a special price through Groovycart. This just covers our materials. This is because you can open a shop for free and pay no listing fees. So we can actually reduce it for you. There is no expire date for listings either it, a fab little hosting site.

    Groovycart lets you have 30 items (90 if you list clever) and you can have a maximum price of £50. No commision for selling, only on your paypal fees.

    Of course you can upgrade for a charge to a silver or gold account which you pay for and then you have a greater flexibilty over pricing and quanities, But as a crafter I have never made enough things.

    Sales, yes I have had a few on there. Groovycart was the first place I ever sold….”

  9. Jackie says:

    It is a true shame that one interruption in service would cause you to post such a negative view of Etsy in general. First of all you agreed to the terms of use for the site. Second, Etsy did not intentionally take your money or cause a service interruption. Besides if clickability was the only issue you still got your image and shop name in the showcase. Even a novice Internet user can figure out how to type your shop name in the search field if they are really interested in your item. Lastly, I appreciate you want a sounding board for your woes, but this is not your personal blog. It is a place to promote green crafting, not to bash Etsy, one of the pioneers in the online indie crafting world, because of one personal experience.

  10. Julie Fox says:

    I haven’t had very much luck with selling on etsy. Not sure what I am doing wrong, or if it’s just not a very popular site yet??
    Anyone else going through this? It seems like I still do better on ebay.

    Julie
    coziathome

  11. Heather says:

    Your problem is that you trusted Etsy, quite frankly. I’m sorry you had to learn such a hard lesson this way. But I’ve heard of stories like this before – Etsy not refunding showcases when their site has been down for hours, when they put the person in the wrong showcase, or on the wrong day, etc. They don’t refund for their own mistakes.

    If it makes you feel any better, ask on the forums and most sellers say showcases are a waste of money anyway…you most likely didn’t lose any sales.

  12. Bernadette says:

    My name is Bernadette, and I manage the Customer Support team at Etsy.

    I am sorry that Etsy Customer Support was not able to provide a satisfactory reply to your first inquiry. We are in the process of issuing refunds for the amount of time the Etsy Showcase was not fully accessible on July 2nd.

    Unfortunately, we had a technical glitch in our system last Thursday that prevented some shoppers from viewing some items in the Etsy Showcase. As a result, some Showcase items were not given exposure for the full 24-hour period. We are sorry for this and we agree that a refund is appropriate. We are also simultaneously posting this information to our Forums.

    Our goal, as always, is to help our sellers sell. When you succeed we succeed. Therefore we would never intentionally do anything to break the trust you have placed in Etsy as a venue to help sell your items.

    My email address is Bernadette@etsy.com. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any additional questions about this.

    Thank you for selling on Etsy.

  13. Donna says:

    I am a “seller” on etsy and I can understand your frustration with their lack of response to your issue with the showcase. Im glad they refunded your money.

    The part I dislike is this bullcrap CALLING OUT accusations in the forums where you cant post anything other than sunshit and butterflies unless you are a high volume reg who kisses admins ass. You know the people I am talking about for sure.

    I am sick of the pains in the asses who purchase items and never pay for them – or those who purchase and cant be bothered to leave feedback after you leave them positive feedback for their expediency in payment. Etsy should rescind the rights to purchase from idiots who tie up inventory and then leave you to relist.

    And to Jackie – you are a prime example of a etsy admin brownnoser. STFU already. if you dont like what this lady has to say, go back and post some more on the forum like you did – isnt that calling out you self righteous butt kisser? Go back to your fantasy world of chirping birds and happy bunnies. You are a jerk

  14. Well Julie– you got your money back!
    I think your title is a bit harsh– you point out that it’s hard to do business and then you slam Etsy pretty hard. Ironically making it harder for them to do business which makes it harder for all of us trying to sell our work over there to do business.
    *shrug*
    So to anyone thinking of trying Etsy, I’d say try it. I’ve never had any complaints with their customer service. To those thinking of trying ArtFire I’d say try it too! In fact try them both!
    I enjoy working with both venues to sell my work. While you’re at it, check out 1000Markets!

  15. kelly says:

    i tried to sell on etsy also. i guess the only way you can make money is is torrey from good morning america tells the world about you. i agree the site is to big. people put items in spots that it does not belong and that causes peolpe to stop looking do to to many pages to go thru!! i think there should be a limit as to how many and what spots you can put an item in. as a crafter for over 20 years i think etsy is just like any other site they just want money and there high dollar makers get preference over others. i have sold items on craigslist in my local area and it’s free. look for other spots to sell and don’r give up!!!!!!!!!!!

  16. Julie Finn says:

    I like the idea of craigslist–way to think outside the box!

    Crafting is just plain hard to do as a business, I think (so is writing). One of my idols is the Crafty Chica–she’s made crafting her business, but she’s explored it in so many fun and profitable ways. She’s got books, and a product line, and she does cruises or something, I think. I think a lot of people here have been saying that the best thing to do, if you really want to earn money, is to diversify what you’re able to do within your crafty skills.

  17. john says:

    Hi Julie,
    I agree with Jackie this blog should be used to promote indie green crafting instead you make it sound like indie crafters are bitter moaning people who thinks everyone is trying to rip them off. I myself am a creative person used to expressing myself, but surely you should do this through creativness and not through complaining and moaning and blowing tiny things out of the water and making them into some drama that they are not. Etsy maybe a commercial company but it is also run by humanbeings who do actually make mistakes and in any case this sounds like a technical fault which means no one is to blame, sometimes things break!!!, Before you even gave ETSY a chance to fix it or apologise or give you a refund you put your moans all over the internet for everyone to see, you used one paragraph to insult unnessesarily Oilily, Bill Gates and Etsy.
    I think that Etsy should give you your refund and tell you to find somewhere else to sell your stuff, infact they should conntact all the simlar companies and tell them not to do buisness with you as you seem to get angry too easily. That would be a shame wouldn’t it. I think you forget that although they rely on people like you you also rely on people like them, so perhaps next time you lose your temper you should watch what you say.

  18. DJ says:

    First, let me say that I am glad to hear that you got your money back. I can understand your frustration, as I have my grievances with Etsy also (see my blog for that)

    I recently posted one of my photos in the travel showcase & got over 200 hits. I am sure you were hoping for the same and it’s no wonder you were disappointed.

    I am also sorry to hear you are getting negative replies to your posting. People need to realize that sometimes when you post in the moment, your feelings show through more so than at other times. They should cut you some much needed slack for that. You are human, just like the rest of us.

    Lastly, I just want to say that I have browsed through alot of your writings & they are very good reads.

    I think your shop is excellent & I wish you luck in all of your sales.

  19. Emma says:

    The only thing truly sad here is that you had to fight so hard to get a company to do something that is right. It is standard practice in every business I have ever worked with to refund someones money if we couldn’t live up to our end of the deal. No, you shouldn’t have to write a blog and link on twitter and get your voice heard just so a big impersonal company will take you seriously.

    I’m afraid to think the time is coming when Etsy will completely forget about the individuals that made them great. I’m happy for you that you got your money back, but saddened that this is what it has become necessary just to get a little problem fixed.

  20. Pat G says:

    I am an artist and tried starting my own company a couple of years ago. I never imagined it would be this difficult! Many members of the community encouraged me to start my own business because my artwork was so popular.

    I now have 3 partners, one who handles finances and two who are working on the website. The business consumes all of our time, energy, and money. Now that the business and website are almost up and running, I have no time for art!
    Unfortunately, it’s too late to turn back. My partners have invested in the company so I must run it.

    It sounds easy to run a business but it is a lot of red tape, paper work, and legalities. I don’t know how Etsy does it for such a small percentage. Maybe I’m just not cut out for business. I miss painting and creating!

  21. Beth says:

    To me it sounds like a lot of you are simply disappointed in the fact that what you may have originally thought would be an easy overnight success, instead, requires a lot more work and marketing effort. Etsy in no way guarantees success, or that your shop will receive an adequate number of views. I have an Etsy shop, and if I need to boost views/sales, I just work harder. That’s the name of the game. You can’t blame Etsy for something you knew you were getting into. You also can’t blame it for it’s incredible popularity (so many sellers, so many buyers). Make it unique enough, and good-quality enough and your shop will prosper. Also, in the Etsy contract it does state that the cost of posting any items that do not sell after a certain period of time will be refunded to you after that said time. Meaning, you could be drawing people to your shop with items posted for free (in theory). Either that or you sell them. It’s not as bad a situation as y’all are making it. Thanks and happy selling!

    Beth

  22. KC says:

    It is still much better then ebay ( *gag*) I used to be a seller on feebay and got the boot after I protest too much about the raising of their fees and double standards. I seen sellers ripping ppl off and ebay did nothing….Alas…I no longer sell and recently made my last transaction as a buyer since they will no longer allow Money orders. ( Unless you are buying a car or porn)…..ME thinks I am going to bring my wares to etsy.

  23. Sally says:

    First of all, JACKIE and JOHN…get off your self-righteous, finger-pointing high-horse!!! You two really don’t realize how stupid you sound. And all you losers, stop sticking up for Etsy! Get a life! Etsy is in business to make money….period! Do you think Etsy would come to YOUR defense as passionately as you come to theirs? They would drop you in a flash if you did something they didn’t like.

    Julie, glad you got your money back! You go girl!

    Now JACKIE and JOHN, go wipe off that nasty brown from your lips….too much Etsy butt-kissing for me!

  24. Leaflee1 says:

    etsy has now removed their advertising showcase spots from their site, while making the showcases still available for purchase under this false advertising heading
    “The Showcase is Etsy’s advertising program, designed for Etsy sellers. By purchasing a 24 hour spot in the Showcase, Etsy sellers highlight their featured items in prominent places on the site to increase shop awareness and boost sales” I bought quite a few spots That haven’t been “showcased” as promised. I want a refund for all the dates I purchased since they removed showcases from their homepage. I was wondering who did you email to get your refund? This is just wrong!

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