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Why Etsy Owes You Nothing. (And Also Some Stuff About the McRib.)

business is business

A few years ago, the sandwich shop Maoz on M St. in Washington DC closed unexpectedly. As much as I was gutted to no longer be able to get cheap falafel a block from my office, I was super gutted because my Maoz loyalty card was full and I was due for a free falafel sandwich. I had been sitting on it waiting for the perfect day for falafel (but then again, what day isn’t perfect for falafel?!) and kind of daydreaming about their amazing free toppings bar instead.

But, Maoz is a business. They are allowed to close at any point in time. They are also allowed to become a quinoa burger chain at any moment or to remove the free toppings bar with that balls-to-the-wall cilantro sauce. I mean, really, just look at this photo!

However, they are a business. They can do whatever they want, whenever they want. That’s why they started a business, because it literally gives them the power to do whatever they want (well, within the law). That also includes talking to lawyers and writing language that is, shall we say, “debatable” or “workable” or “flexible.”

And, whether they admit it or not, most Etsy sellers have their own business. Whether you have sold 1 item in 5 years or 5,000 items in 1 year, you are a business. I know it may sound weird to some of you, but it’s true, you have the potential to become “the man,” because you are a business owner.

So… why do so many Etsy sellers think they are owed stuff? Some of them even believe they should sue Etsy. Um, for what, exactly? Because Etsy is a tool, a service, for your business, nothing more.

I’ve stayed out of it until I came across this site the other day. GAUNTLET DROPPED. Because for those confused, rape means that someone forced you into something of a very private nature and that you can’t leave without facing injury or death. And erm, there is no way in hell Etsy raped America, because that would mean all Americans, and that just doesn’t even make sense. TO ANYONE. Etsy is a business that people sign up for. Rape is not something that people sign up for.

I put those last two sentences in a comment on their blog. I was told to “get educated” and that rape also means “to pillage and plunder.” First of all, never tell someone to “get educated” without background checking first. I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I come pretty well-armed to a craft fight. Secondly, using the word “rape” in a context other than the physical act diminishes the horror and trauma of the act. And, as such, it is never okay. (And if you think it is okay, ask someone else about it, given that every 107 seconds someone is sexually assaulted chances are high you’ll find someone that doesn’t agree with you very soon.)

After this occurred, I began to think more about this sheer outrage at Etsy. How people think they were owed something like they were actually employees of Enron.

And I think the problem boils down to a couple of things:

1. We drank the Kool-Aid: When Etsy came around saying it was a place to sell handmade things, we conflated this as meaning it supported handmade and only handmade. Seeing how much soul and creativity and love is wrapped up into handmade things we thought, “Hey, they have our back!” Well, they are a business. They can do what they want. And they never had your back, if they did, they would be a non-profit.

2. And now we feel cheated: Because we gave Etsy support and our business and those fees sellers have to pay for each transaction (which should have been clue #1 that Etsy was not just in it to help you, the handmade seller, out), they owe us something, right? Nope. They owe you nothing.

3. But, they can’t change the rules! Wrong. They own a business. They can do whatever they want. It’s like McDonald’s and the McRib. They keep selling it. And then stopping. And then selling it. And then stopping. Why do they do this? NO ONE ACTUALLY KNOWS. However, they can and so they do. They owe the McRib to no one and to nothing, except pure and inexplicable whim.

4. We had no Plan B: Because of #1, people got cozy with Etsy and made it a kind of craft demigod. While other online sites that sell handmade things popped up, too, everyone kept praying to Etsy. Because Etsy has their back, right? Nope. It takes your money. If it was a charity, this would be a completely different post. People didn’t diversify or build up other platforms or their own sites because they had Etsy. And Etsy was good. Until it wasn’t.

5. We don’t know how to sell without Etsy: Because many of us have never had to. As an OG crafter (I just learned this term and it’s cracking me up, it means I was a pre-Etsy crafter… Getcrafty.com in 2001, represent!), I can tell you that handmade things existed before Etsy. And they will exist afterwards. Etsy made it easy for people to sell their handmade goods online because they put a lot of work into the platform. This is good because it’s Etsy and this is also bad because it made people complacent.

The point is, Etsy sellers have a right to be angry. But they are not owed anything. Just like they have the right to be angry, they also have the right to leave.

The choice now is do you want to put all your faith in them not to change again? Or in another platform? Or stand more on your own two feet? Or band together with other crafters and come up with some sort of mission-driven super platform of fabulous so this doesn’t happen again?

If choose the latter, go check out this list of 12 alternatives. Also, if you choose another platform, do yourself a solid and get some/all/most of your friends to join you on said-alternative platform. Then, once you’re all nice and comfy over there, together put out press releases and social media campaigns like you’re Whitesnake doing a 2015 reunion. This will work even better if you either have lots of people with you (meaning you could even make a public statement) or have people working in different mediums, so you can get different types of buyers.

I write all of this because in the past 14 years I’ve seen a lot of flux in the craft world. I could also write a history paper on all the changes that happen with handmade things, handmade culture, and the crafternet in general. But that would be skipping over the obvious, which is your business is just that, YOUR BUSINESS. You can choose to rely on one source of income and never look to others. And that may work forever, but then again, the rules may change and you may be screwed.

You can also pull up those awesome handknitted socks and stop with all the vitriol, which is doing no one any good. Whipping people into a frenzy is like a bad rave, people get hit by accident and no one remembers who started it. Put all that crafty energy towards improving your business instead. If you hate Etsy, leave. Just don’t let it break you, you crafty minx.

Handmade will hold you. It will hold you in its heart and never let you go. Platforms, tools, services, not so much. If it’s the craft you love, they gosh darn it, lean in already. Use what you love to go forward. Don’t be held back. And don’t go waiting for things to change back to how it was earlier, either, unless you’re waiting for the McRib, that game never changes.

P.S. I also suggest reading this lovely post by my friend Marlo on this same issue.

Lucky.

After just getting home from a basketball game watching people cheer and smile and wave pom-poms, I’m mega-annoyed that my cat, Bobbin, is seemingly doing everything in her power to cause mass destruction of the house. I’m wishing that she could tell me what was wrong and that the hyper effects of the largest and most expensive Diet Coke would go away so I could sleep. I’m not comforted by the facts that I have “Jump Around” by House of Pain in my head after a particularly slow half-time show involving musical chairs and came home with my own souvenir cup.

I am, however, comforted by the fact that the craft community has come together again to help the victims of the current brushfires in Australia, with the fatality count right now at 173 and climbing. Thanks to a tip from Rayna, I learned that there are an increasing number of items on sale over at Etsy with proceeds going to benefit bushfire victims.

It’s hard to go to sleep some nights, even without the added kick of caffeine, thinking that we are all caught somewhere in that balance between beautiful and horrible…and that the only thing I have to worry about tonight is if my cat will wake me up. I’m not faced with war or genocide or hunger or drought or domestic violence or homelessness or any of the long laundry list of things that could be wrong. There are those that I love and those that my loved ones love who are affected by some of those things, but hopefully, tonight will be quiet in our little world.

If I’m lucky, I’ll wake up to coffee brewing and a sleepy cat by my side, warmed by my duvet and the sun coming in the window. Then I’ll get up and turn on the news and see that the bushfire destruction has worsened while I was asleep and that troops somewhere far and most likely sandy have been killed and more children than I can count have died due to hunger or thirst. And then I’ll roll up my shirtsleeves and work and do a few tiny things that will hopefully benefit someone’s day. And I’ll hope that each thing I do, no matter how tiny, will cause good. Then I’ll go back to sleep and wake up to coffee and the cat and the news and more work and more tiny good things, if I’m lucky.

And I’ll be humbled and honored and energized by the fact that all over the world, there are people making things and doing things to make the days and nights better for the unlucky. It will make me continue to move forward with hope and love despite the news and the bad days. With the crafters, the artists, the volunteers, the teachers, the dreamers, the soldiers I keep doing the tiny things and fighting in the hope that I can make someone else’s day lucky, too.

Repost From Etsy.com. (Valentine’s Day Edition)

In case you have nothing to do today but make Valentine’s Day cards, then have I got a job for you! 

This a last-minute call to action to help Etsy.com reach 18,000 Valentine’s Day cards. The deadline is February 2nd, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have today and tomorrow. And what better to start your weekend than by making some lovely cards for lovely people in need? 

They are accepting cards to be delivered along with Valentine’s Day meals delivered to homebound elderly New Yorkers. How great is that, to spread a little extra love around?! 

There are more details here, as I’ve cut out some of them that don’t pertain to last minute making.

The instructions, from Etsy.com’s blog:

There is too much love on Etsy for us to keep it to ourselves. So this year, we decided to share the love with a project we’re calling Special Delivery. This Valentine’s Day, we’re teaming up with Citymeals-on-Wheels to bring nutritious meals, handmade greeting cards and companionship to thousands of homebound elderly New Yorkers.

“Gee, that’s nice, but how do I get involved?”

Easy! We need your help to supply the cards. Citymeals-on-Wheels serves over 18,000 people, so we need as many as we can get. There are two ways to do this. The first is (you guessed it) to make your own card or send in a vintage card from your shop and fill it out with a nice message. Please craft as many valentines as you would like and send them to us. Before you send them, you can also post photos of your cards in our brand new Special Delivery flickr group.

“Ok, then what happens?”

Special Delivery! We will collect all the cards and bring them to Citymeals-on-Wheels, where each will be delivered along with a meal on Valentine’s Day. Several of the Etsy admin will be volunteering that day. We’ll be tromping around the city with hot meals and friendly conversation to brighten the day of local seniors.

“Is that all?”

No! Each Etsy member who sends a card (or cards) will be featured on a Special Delivery page that will be linked from a banner on the Etsy home page. When you send your cards, please include a separate note with your username and user ID number. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.

“Is there anything else?”

Yes! Here is a badge that you can download and put in your item listings or on blogs. This is a great way to help spread the word and help us reach our goal of 18,000 valentines. Here’s the embed code:

<a href=”http://www.etsy.com/storque/article/3268/”><img src=”http://www.etsy.com/storque/media/bunker/2009/01/SDBanner125x125.jpg”></a>

You can also help by donating to Citymeals-on-Wheels, or by volunteering or donating to your local organization.

Now stop asking questions, read the FAQ’s and get crafting! February 2 is closer than you think. Oh, and thank you very much for helping to spread the love. 

FAQ

1. How do I participate in Special Delivery?

Two ways. Either make or purchase a handmade Valentine’s Day greeting card (or several). Please mail them to:

Etsy
Attn: Adam Brown
325 Gold St.  Floor 6
Brooklyn, NY 11201

If you make the card(s), please be sure to include a note with your Etsy user name and ID number. If youbuy the cards, please ask the seller to include a note with your Etsy user name and ID number when they mail the package to the above address.

*To find your user ID number, go to your shop home page. The number is at the end of the web address. It will look like this: etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=123456. So, in this example it’s 123456.

2. When do the cards have to arrive at Etsy?

The deadline is Monday, February 2, 2009. This is important!

3. Are there any rules about what the cards should look like?

Yes. Please follow these guidelines, otherwise we can’t use your card(s):

  • No glitter! This creates food safety issues.
  • Please make your cards cheerful by using bright colors. You can decorate cards using paint, crayons, markers, pastels, collage or anything else you can think of.
  • Please avoid dark backgrounds and religious symbols.
  • Please write clearly and in large print, and avoid using the abbreviation “V-day”. Please say, “Valentine’s Day”.
  • You should not give out your address or suggest that the recipients write back to you. Initiating an ongoing correspondence is not appropriate.
  • Please make sure that the cards are appropriate for the intended audience. That is to say, pretend it’s for your elderly grandma, not your snarky, angst-ridden teenage brother.

4. How many cards should I send?

As many as you want!

5. Is this open only to Etsy sellers?

Nope. This is open to anyone who wants to help brighten someone’s day. You do have to be an Etsy member to be included on the Special Delivery page, though.

6. Can I send vintage cards?

Sure! The more, the merrier.

Vintage Valentine from Flickr.

Weekend, We Hardly Knew Ye.

I grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina and spent a good half hour every Christmas holiday with the bears above, watching them sing their songs at the mall. As this was in the early 80s, these bears were super cool because they were better than the band at Chuck E. Cheese.

I had the pleasure of finding them while with a friend’s 5 year old not too long ago and it was indeed a very happy reunion as they still sang all the same songs. In the same order.

The run-up to the holidays this year will be spent wrapping packages and trying to sell people pretty handmade things in a little local shop as opposed to mass-produced things. I’m trying to remind myself of the excitement like the bears above bring, not the freakout, what-the-heck-do-I-get-for-this-person excitement which is not as fun.

Am off to work again perfecting my package wrapping and bow placement, but wanted to quickly say thank you to Etsy for the wonderful Q & A they did with me!

Also, if you’re still trying to find a pretty calendar for 2009, check out this one that you can receive from Mibo when you sign up for the newsletter over here.

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