Etsy: Seller beware!

Hey all,

I know many of you fellow potters are either shop owners on etsy or are curious, so I thought I’d just relate a recent experience. It seems like such a small issue. I would have been satisfied with an apology. But now I worry that this incident is indicative of a larger attitude by the etsy admin of disregarding the seller’s concerns. Fundamentally, it shows a lack of interest in addressing mistakes that are etsy’s responsibility. It calls into question the amount of trust sellers can have that etsy is faithfully doing its part. And unfortunately, something that could have been resolved with an apology is now blown out of all proportion for a number of us, and getting satisfaction is now a matter of principle.

Okay, so this is what happened: For everyone who posted a new item during a few hour window a few days ago, some glitch in their system prevented the keywords or categories we listed from showing up in searches. And since this is how customers find our shops this is not a minor issue. Okay, so its only 20 cents per item down the drain, but the point is that you had to check on your own to discover the failure. And to date they have not responded to inquiries that several of us have sent them seeking clarification. Isn’t that worrisome?

This seems like a straightforward issue of trust. If a restaurant sells a bacon cheeseburger but left out the bacon, what would the buyer expect? Sellers on etsy expect that their listings will be given the appropriate place in the search as part of doing business with etsy. This is the whole reason for relisting an item. 20 cents gets you back to the top of search lists and you are guaranteed to be seen in the order that an item was listed. But that’s not what our money bought us that day. We were sold something we never received, etsy pocketed the money, and they are pretending nothing out of the ordinary happened. So a number of us discovered the problem on our own, contacted etsy, and as of 4 days of waiting for a response from them, nothing as yet has been done about it.

So the question is whether any of us at any time in our dealings with etsy can take for granted that they are holding up their part of the relationship or are willing to make amends when sellers pay their money for services that are not rendered. 20 cents seems so small, but as a matter of principle this is huge. Do we always have to double check to make sure that etsy is listing our items and not just pocketing our money?

I can’t tell you how much time I had to spend going through the searches to see if my items were now being posted. And 4 email communications that have not been responded to leaves me feeling that these efforts have been wasted as well. I hate to say it, but my confidence in etsy is being rattled. Can any of us sellers afford to trust that they are doing right by us? Aren’t we entitled to believe that they will stand by their product/service? Should it be necessary for us to check up on them to make sure the bacon was in the bacon cheese burger?

What do you all think? Is this just me (and a handful of other sellers) going off the deep end again? Is this a serious problem for etsy? Has anyone else had similar issues? Do we have other alternatives besides etsy? Should the better business bureau get contacted? Because they have so far behaved as if they can ignore our concerns does it call into question all our dealings with etsy? Is this something we should make other sellers aware of? Spread the word? Take it to the streets? Artists and craftspersons have such a hard time making a living as it is, do we need to have venues like this take us so utterly for granted except as the poor benighted cash cows they can push around with impunity? Help me people. What do you all think?

About Carter Gillies

I am an active potter and sometime pottery instructor who is fascinated by the philosophical side of making pots, teaching these skills, and issues of the artistic life in general. I seem to have a lot to say on this blog, but I don't insist that I'm right. I'm always trying to figure stuff out, and part of that involves admitting that I am almost always wrong in important ways. If you are up for it, please help me out by steering my thoughts in new and interesting directions. I always appreciate the challenge of learning what other people think.
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15 Responses to Etsy: Seller beware!

  1. gz says:

    I did see something mentioning this, saying to check your postings if you’d posted within a certain time period as they’d had server problems, I think. I hadn’t, so I didn’t register exactly where it was, and I can’t find it to check the exact wording now.

    • Well that’s some relief! But it would only make a difference to the people who saw the alert, I suppose…. I wonder if they made any mention of the 20 cents effectively down the drain, or offered to make it up in some way?

      Like I said, I would have been entirely happy with an apology, and maybe if I had read that message I would have been satisfied. But since I left 4 emails with the ‘support’ folks and have NOT heard back from them I am just getting crazier and crazier by the minute.

      Thanks for updating us, though! Maybe now I can calm down a bit. Its just frustrating that already stretched artists have to deal with this. I’m sure we can all afford the odd 20 cents here and there, but should we have to give it up so meekly? Curse me for a Libra, but I think stuff like this matters.

      Thanks again for sharing your insight!

  2. tracey says:

    I made a mistake on the first sale I had with Etsy and I emailed them for months trying to resolve it with no response from them at all. I just got an automated reply. Thankfully the customer (in New Zealand!) noticed after a few months that she didn’t get charged and re issued the purchase. If she had not been so honest, I would have lost a $50 sale. I don’t find Etsy all that much fun, and you may have noticed I haven’t posted anything in a while. I do sell things when I post them, I just find it all to be a big pain in the ass! Maybe we could start a pottery shopping mall somewhere and send all the shoppers there, we could serve cider and brownies :)

    • Ooh! I like it! I’ll bring the hummus and pita.

      Thanks for sharing your experience too. Its so funny that they say they will get back to you “soon”, but then interpret this as months from now. I suppose etsy just is what it is, and I was just in line for my first gripe. Life would be so much nicer if I didn’t get all worked up and feel the need to vent as the only way to keep my head from exploding. A shame that etsy is so good at provoking that in people….

      Glad that the transaction ended up working out! I suppose I have worse stories about galleries taking the money and/or pots and running, so my complaints about etsy are more like being worried about burning the meal on the stove while the house is on fire. But it still hurts….

      Thanks as always for chiming in! See you around the ether!

  3. tracey says:

    ps: I know about that Libra thing, I are one !!

  4. There isn’t any excuse why Etsy hasn’t responded to these inquires…. But I would suggest using social media to reach them in the future. Twitter or their Facebook page. It’s often an effective technique with larger companies- but Etsy should still be one of those than an email will do.

    • Thanks Emily! That’s great advice. But yeah, you’d think that as grassroots oriented as etsy is they would place a premium on communication. It has me reassessing my initial impression. I sure want to believe in them. And I’ve tried to promote etsy as a legitimate venue to other quality potters. I guess I just expected better from them….

      Thanks for chiming in!

  5. Yeah. Welcome to Etsy :) Etsy is largely unresponsive to seller concerns on many counts and as you said above, “Etsy is what it is”. Still, the amount of traffic that it hauls in makes it the best game in town for what it is at this time. Artfire doesn’t come close (yet). I’d also suggest checking the Etsy forums when you encounter problems to see if there is an admin anouncement or if other sellers are encountering the same problem. Admins are often quicker to pop in and respond in the forums. (etsy forums are found under “community”, top left of the page). Also, sometimes Etsy is unresponsive for days or longer and then will all of a sudden make an admin announcement in the forums about what they plan to do to fix a situation. Best of luck!

    • Drat! That’s bad news….

      Scott Cooper (Once again proving his worth as my fairy godpotter) found a forum thread as we talked about this issue on the phone. It turns out a number of seller had this same issue, but as yet no admin has responded to it. That’s about 4 days on the forum too without a response, but you are right that on SOME forums they respond in a matter of minutes.

      So, when I read your emphasis on admins, I went ahead and picked one out to fire off my outrage to. I tried to be nice about it, but left it clear that I was not happy with the lack of response. Who knows, maybe she will do something. I even told her to check out this blog post and leave a response if she is interested.

      I guess I’m a bit calmer now. Just looking at all the forum threads made my head spin. There is evidently so much wrong with etsy that it is a wonder they can function at all. And really I feel they do a great job in so many areas. But I hold this incident as a test for them. I just hope that they respond with justice and nobility, or at least decency and common courtesy. Not too much to ask for, I think….

      Thanks for the heads up!

  6. Zygote says:

    Ok.
    I’ve just got to through this on the dogpile.
    Barbra nailed it… Etsy is what it is.
    It’s a shopping cart with perks.
    Sometimes there are bound to be hiccups, but at 20 cents a shot, it’s a banging deal! I just spent $35 dollars to be judged into a show that maybe 200 people will see. That’s a whole bunch of listings on Etsy and I know if I work it, a heck of a lot more people than a mere 200 will see my work. It’s up to us as sellers to make it work despite the snags. Let em know your problems and keep moving. It’ll work itself out.
    Etsy is a fantastic tool if you choose to use it as a tool. We all know that even our favorite rib will sometimes let us down. Same concept, different media.
    Keep smiling!

    • That’s a great response! And as far as the mechanics of things breaking down, I am in total agreement. I’ve had to slog through ridiculous load times on images, the odd site crash just as I was set to do something, and other mysterious unexplained phenomena. That I can accept. What I find challenging is that the trust between etsy and its sellers is being brought into question.

      If you were transacting business for someone to receive services from you, and they paid you for x, y, and z, but you only gave them z and y, would this bother you? If they didn’t notice, what would you do? Would you tell them they didn’t get everything they paid for? And if they found out on their own and inquired about what went wrong, would you blow them off? Would you let things start to get ugly by not responding to their concerns? Or would you offer a swift apology and promise to do better in the future? Would you offer to make things right? Or, would you just ignore the situation as if it didn’t happen? Somehow I don’t think that would be you. In fact, I am positive it wouldn’t.

      Its not just a glitch in the shop that concerns me but an attitude about the relationship between etsy and its sellers. So sure, its only 20 cent (40 cents for me), but shouldn’t that make it so much easier for etsy to make things right? I really could care less about the money. What I’m worried about is that etsy won’t even give the appearance of making things right, acknowledge the problem, or offer an apology. Not like you or I would do faced with a similar situation. Right?

      So sure etsy is a big old shopping cart with perks, but one of the things about functioning as a shopping cart means that you can be trusted to not siphon off a seller’s money for services not rendered. Doesn’t it? And if we catch them doing it, even unintentionally, shouldn’t we expect them to make it right? Aren’t we entitled to that as a matter of trust, a condition of doing business? What would it be like if a business had a motto that said “Pay us for services. You just might not get everything you pay for”? Would we give them our unconditional trust, or would we feel the need to constantly look over their shoulder to make sure they were fulfilling their contract? Would we even want to do business with a company like that? That’s all I’m sayin’…..

  7. UPDATE:
    The email I sent to the admin last night received a quick response. Here it is:

    “Hello Carter

    Thank you for writing such a thorough and thoughtful convo! I am very sorry to hear that you are upset, but I appreciate you taking the time to share your concerns with me.

    I see you wrote to our Support team four times, on August 23, 24, and 25. Most emails to our Support team receive a reply in 48 hours, but sometimes it can take a little bit longer. Please accept my apologies for this delay! I will let the team know that I have replied to you personally, via convo.

    We value the members of our community deeply, and we are working to improve the channels of communication and our response time. Our Support team has grown quite a bit in the past year, and we continue to look for more great people to become a part of it! (www.etsy.com/careers)

    On the matter of indexing new listings, please know that a listing can take up to 24 hours to appear in search results and categories across all of Etsy’s servers. It’s rare to take that much time, though — usually it takes between 10 to 30 minutes. There are a variety of reasons for that, and while we do our best to keep the categories and search results up to date, unexpected delays do happen. As do problems on the site, servers, etc., which our Tech team is quick to get on top of, and fix!

    With that said, I understand that this entire situation has been a frustrating experience for you, and I apologize for that. I refunded your account of the listing fee for those two items, and made sure they are coming up in search results: http://www.etsy.com/search/handmade?search_submit=&q=wheel+thrown+functional+po...

    I hope you will continue to be a member of our community, and to offer your beautiful work to the folks who come to Etsy to find amazing, unique items!

    Have a great weekend,
    Anee ”
    ————————————————————————–

    So, the squeeky wheel finally got a response….

    I certainly appreciate that. But is my returned 40 cents ‘hush money‘, or should I wonder if there are folks out there whose items from that period are STILL not showing up in the searches? If they make it right by me, should I care if they do the right thing for everyone else? Is this just about my inconvenience, or about what they think they can get away with?

    So this is what I’m sending her in return:

    “Hey thanks Anee!

    The few pennies back are not nearly as important as the gesture. So thanks!

    I know what a difficult job you folks have, and I appreciate your desire to do the right thing. So I am grateful that you explained things so clearly, and I am grateful that you have gone out of your way to settle things with little ‘ol me.

    I guess I was not clear that 24 hours can be the amount of time for a listing to show up. It seems like whenever it DOES show up it should be at the top of the search, and not buried somewhere deep already, doesn’t it? Maybe that is something you folks can consider, rather than using the time stamp to place an item in searches. Just a suggestion (though maybe it isn’t an option across so many servers….). And sellers would by happy to know that their 20 cents was always going toward an item being at least potentially seen at the top.

    Since I was not the only person effected by this I am still curious whether all the people who posted during this period eventually got their listings in the searches. Not just the ones who heard about the ‘edit’ trick. I desperately want to believe that etsy is doing the right thing by those folks as well. This might not be possible for a variety of reasons I know nothing about. But if some of those people’s items never surfaced in the searches at all, I would hope that etsy is interested in doing something about it. I want to believe that etsy stands for doing the right thing by ALL its community members, and not just the squeaky wheels.

    I appreciate your looking into this for me, and I am grateful that someone who genuinely cares is on the job at etsy.

    Sincerely,

    Carter Gillies

  8. Great Carter. I would have bet real money you wouldn’t have gotten a response. As for where your item shows up in search is another chapter in the story. It’s a combination of recency and relevancy and has been quite the topic of conversation last couple months. You can start here straight from the horses mouth if you haven’t seen this already:

    http://www.etsy.com/teams/7716/announcements/discuss/8808260/

    happy reading:)

    • Great link Barbara!

      I was already aware of most of this information, and the real disappointment was that I did everything optimally, and even searched by ‘recency’, and the glitch still prevented my items from being seen.

      For those who may not be aware of some of these issues please check out Barbara’s link. Here is a quick highlight of the new ‘relevancy’ search conditions:

      “• Item titles are given more weight. Tags are important but your item title is even more critical. As titles are the most direct way for sellers to explain what they have, we have given them more weight in our search results. This means as a first order of business, you should make sure you have complete and descriptive titles for all the items you list.

      • Words that appear at the beginning of your title are given more weight. Translation: make sure to list the most important things about your item at the beginning of the title. For example, your item will be displayed higher in the search results when someone searches for “dress” if you list your item as “Silk Children’s Dress” rather than “Homemade hand painted children’s silk pink, blue and yellow dress.” That doesn’t mean it won’t show up at all, but you will see better results if you put the most important characteristics of your item at the beginning of your title.

      • Exact word pairs are given more weight. When your search includes 2 or more words, we prioritize results that have those exact words next to each other. For example, if I search for “pink unicorn” results that contain “pink unicorn” in the title will appear higher than “pink ponies playing with a unicorn.”

      • Recency factors into search sorted by relevancy. When a broad search (like “dress”) returns a huge number of results, we give some priority to most recently listed items.”

      Here’s the link where you can read the whole article:

      http://www.etsy.com/teams/7716/announcements/discuss/8755743/page/1/

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