Monday, October 28, 2013

Why Etsy are the Nazis of the Handmade World

What do you associate the word "Etsy" with?
Surely not "Egotistical," "Erroneous," "Evil"...?

I have been a shopper on Etsy since 2005, and a seller since the begging of 2012. When I joined, Etsy WAS a haven for all things handmade; a welcome place for small business owners, crafters, and artisans. NOW, it is a resellers paradise run by evil dictators (I bet). Don't get me wrong, I still sell a few things on Etsy, and I still buy from there... but I honestly hate myself a little (a lot) for it. My distaste for Etsy didn't develop overnight. They have been wronging myself and countless other sellers for years, while taking no accountability for their actions. 

These are the main reasons why I have lost all faith in Etsy as a selling platform for handmade goods: 

Reason #1:

Too many fees for the lack of features and support they offer; especially seller protection.

You still have to pay 20 cents to list an item, Etsy takes 3.5% of your sale, and don't forget credit card processing fees and Paypal fees. Also, if you buy shipping labels through Etsy, they don't charge you at point of purchase, they add it to your bill. So at the end of the beginning of the month, a hefty chunk is seized from your bank account due to all of these fees piling up until then. In a normal month, I'd make upwards of $100, and was getting billed for nearly $50 worth of fees. This is mainly due to the shipping labels, but this is a huge annoyance to me. I'd much rather have the money taken out when I buy the label, not in one huge, inconvenient bill.

So, I wonder what Etsy really does with all this fee money they collect from us? Because they sure as hell don't put it into developing better support and features for sellers. People have been clamoring for useful new features for the longest time, yet whenever Etsy implements something new, it's unnecessary AND unwanted (i.e. the new star rating-based feedback system).

Etsy also severely lacks seller protection. In a dispute, they'll pretty much always side with the customer, even if the customer is, in fact, wrong. Customers can leave any kind of feedback they feel like. If they give you 1 star feedback, the seller only has one chance to respond to it (a.k.a. grovel for the buyers' forgiveness even if the customer is being unreasonable). And if the buyer still doesn't feel like revising their feedback rating; you're stuck with that one star and a permanently tarnished reputation. Etsy will basically just tell you to suck it up and move on (as if!).

Reason #2:

They pick and choose who they police. They are NEVER consistent with enforcing their rules.

I'm under the impression that if you're a reseller that makes a large amount of sales each month (more money for Etsy), Etsy will tend to ignore most wrongdoings on your part. However, if you are a very small business that's just trying to make a living scraping by on Etsy; they will slap you with a threatening email any time their admins feel like crushing the hopes and dreams of the little people.

I used to sell blank phone cases on Etsy. According to Etsy:
Everything on Etsy must be Handmade, Vintage, or a Craft Supply.
Craft Supplies are materials and tools intended for use in the creation of a new handmade item.
By this definition, a blank phone case IS a craft supply. I made it clear that my intended use for these supplies was for people to create a new handmade item; as their policy states. Etsy threatened to shut my store down 3 TIMES for selling blank phone cases. When I brought up the fact that there were still countless sellers who were selling the exact same blank cases, all they could say was "just because others do that, does not excuse you from following the rules." -- Ummm, WHAT? So that excuses everyone else from following the rules just because you don't feel like policing them at the moment?? A quick Etsy search for "blank phone case" under the Craft Supplies section reveals there are still 5 pages worth of people selling blank phone cases. Yeah Etsy, you went out of your way to threaten me 3 times, yet you choose to blatantly ignore all this other "rule-breaking" going on???

Also according to Etsy:
Handmade items are designed and created by the shops that sell them. Because transparency matters on Etsy, we ask sellers to list shop members and share information about manufacturers involved in creating their items. Reselling an item you were not involved in creating is not allowed in our handmade category.
Etsy does not care about reports from concerned Etsy users. There was one seller in particular I was especially riled up by because of their ridiculously obvious reselling. They were selling asian fashion jewelry resold from Ebay. They were even using the Ebay picture on their listing. I made it a point to report this listing/seller to Etsy 5 TIMES. I even sent them the link to the Ebay listing, showing that they were obviously reselling the jewelry. Etsy did NOTHING about it. The seller's store is still open; the resold jewelry listings are still up.

This is upsetting to me because this is BLATANTLY against Etsy's rules. The jewelry is NOT handmade, it is NOT vintage, it is NOT a supply. It is CLEARLY resold. And Etsy did not take even the tiniest bit of action against it. Remember; these are the people who were going to shut me down for selling a supply, for chrissake. Yet they don't feel the need to shut down someone who is without a doubt breaking their rules...??

There are ENDLESS amounts of resellers absolutely thriving on Etsy. I would guesstimate that at this point in time, Etsy is currently made up of 90% resellers and 10% actual handmade artisans. And Etsy, who touts its "Your place to buy and sell all things handmade" slogan; LETS THIS HAPPEN. Resellers make way more sales, so Etsy makes way more money by allowing them to do their thing.

They are also ridiculous when it comes to dealing with copyright issues. I know people who they've threatened to shut down (or did shut down) for selling things with Hello Kitty and the like. Yet a quick Etsy search of "Hello Kitty" reveals TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY PAGES WORTH of Hello Kitty items.  If they were truly enforcing their rules that they so readily defend, then there should be ZERO pages of results for "Hello Kitty," right??

Reason #3: The last straw

They offer only mediocre support (at best) for copyright infringement and intellectual property theft issues for independent artists.

If you're an independent designer, I would not put much faith in Etsy to have your back if you ever run into any copyright issues while on their site. I have had this constant problem with one of my original designs, a typography logo graphic which I created and am selling in my own shop here. Making a few sales a month off of my designs is what pays some of my bills. So when I see people completely ripping off my work for their own profit, naturally, it makes me RAGE. But I try to be polite and contained, and respectfully message the hosting site of the offender, and civily ask them to remove the stolen content.

I have encountered this problem on Redbubble.com, Skreened.com, and Etsy.com. Both Redbubble and Skreened's legal team responded to my email within 3 HOURS. Etsy didn't respond to me for 3 DAYS. Both Skreened and Redbubble kindly removed the stolen content within 48 HOURS of filing my email copyright infringement claim. All Etsy has done to "help" me so far is to tell me that I need to try and work it out with the offending seller myself, and if I want them to even consider taking down the stolen content, I need to write and mail them a letter. What. The. Hell. Why should I have to jump through hoops just to get MY stolen work taken down from there site? Why did Redbubble and Skreened accomodate my totally reasonable, justified request... with no fuss at all? WHY ARE YOU MAKING THIS HARDER THAN IT NEEDS TO BE, ETSY?! Oh right, because your admins need something to do during the day...

Up until this incident, I was still kinda-sorta OK with Etsy. I could let my prior misgivings slide since those things didn't totally affect me. But this? This is total BULLSHIT. If TWO other online stores had the decency to remove my STOLEN content from their site with no muss no fuss, Etsy has no excuse not to do the same. I shouldn't have to "work it out with the seller on my own" because THEY are the ones essentially hosting a THIEF on their site. I am reporting a THEFT and they choose to stand idly by while said thief is selling who-knows-how-much of MY work. They choose to do nothing because the livelihood of a small artist means nothing to them, as long as they make their cut of the counterfeiter's sale.

I'm still waiting to work this issue out, while my stolen work remains listed and available to purchase. It's been over a week since I made my original complaint. We'll see what spiel Etsy gives me next...

In conclusion of this rant


I spent a good 3 years gushing to friends and family about how awesome Etsy was for buyers, as well as trying to persuade every crafter I knew to join Etsy to sell. Now that I have seen and experienced the full spectrum of Etsy's discriminatory treatment towards sellers, I can absolutely say that I would NOT recommend Etsy to anyone looking to sell handmade things online (shameless plug for Storenvy, which for the most part, I love).

If you REALLY still want to sell on Etsy, you should expect:
  • Crushingly unfair competition from resellers
  • Threatening emails from Etsy admin who feel like shutting you down for whatever reason
  • Little to no assistance for personal copyright infringement claims
  • General feelings of disappointment, anger, and annoyance