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.

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

  1. Marlo M May 14, 2015 at 8:05 pm #

    Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! I’ve been burned so.many.times. by websites that went down without much warning. One of them gave their whole community of educators just TWO WEEKS to get our content off of the site before they completely shut it down. I had spent a couple of years building my consulting business and scheduling private jewelry making classes on their platform. When they up and left for greener pastures, I realized just how complacent I had been in actually taking responsibility for building my business independent of their website. HUGE mistake. Huge. Diversification. Not just for investment portfolios anymore. :)

    • Betsy May 15, 2015 at 8:26 am #

      “Diversification. Not just for investment portfolios anymore.” Ha! That should totally be the tagline of this whole kerfuffle! And good points, Marlo!

      • kellyrand May 15, 2015 at 11:16 am #

        Gonna needlepoint that on a pillow.

        • Cindy May 15, 2015 at 12:28 pm #

          I’d buy it.

          • Betsy May 15, 2015 at 2:48 pm #

            Me too!

        • Betsy May 15, 2015 at 2:48 pm #

          Yes, please. :)

    • Michele C May 16, 2015 at 3:35 pm #

      “Diversification. Not just for investment portfolios anymore”

      so true!!

    • The Mixter. June 26, 2015 at 5:32 am #

      Etsy won’t give you the luxury of two weeks notice. They will decide, without

      consultation, that they will simply close you down. I only fully realised once this had

      happened, how dreadful on many a level that is.

      My business- that i work so hard at

      – can just be closed down online willy-nilly, with no say in that at all and no good

      reason given, is deeply unpleasant. The correspondence between myself and Etsy

      was, maybe after 30 emails, the equivalent of banging your head against a wall.

      . The stationary was all printed, lots and lots of it with my Etsy shop address on it

      . You build up a wonderful set of sales and reviews & in my case, a very good

      relationship with my customers, I had Etsy links plastered all over social

      media (The damage done)- & suddenly, someone else takes it all away. Yep, idiot

      me, i hadn’t even considered that happening to me because, i fit the criteria of

      handmade & with using outside help to make the items. The most frustrating part is

      seeing another store doing the same thing & that means, buying the materials from

      the same place and using the same outside traders to help in the making of the work.

      Etsy wouldn’t comment and were clearly aware that this was hypocrisy in the true

      meaning of the word, they reverted to going from corporate nonsense, ‘wishing- me well -speak’, in the future, to saying, we don’t have to give a reason to you.

      The insincerity by that company is sickening. I pointed out various products on sale with

      them, which have nothing at all to do with the criteria of handmade or vintage. I told

      them, i know that for sure, because i sell them too, wholesaling them in Europe- not

      on your website because that, would be a lie,wouldn’t it? Because I know they are

      mass made in factories and sold all over third world countries, like Thailand, China & India.

      Guess what?

      Etsy doesn’t give a damn.

      I am left utterly confused as to why they chose to close

      me down, i’m afraid there was no good reason. I did and do fit with what they had

      *originally* started out as, before corporate greed won them over..

      However, if given a chance to go back to selling with them was available, there is no

      way I’d accept after being treated so badly. They have zero customer care that

      amounts to anything at all when it comes to a dispute. They have extremely bad

      manners. The fall out from having your shop closed so easily by them and simply

      being locked out is highly embarrassing for you in front of your customers & clients

      etc. All the stationery has to be binned of course & i honestly cant tell others why I

      am no longer there, i don’t have an answer to that question, but I know it’s wrong, on

      Etsy’s part.

      What goes around does seem to have a habit of coming around, so perhaps, Etsy

      shmetzy, will eventually get there’s. I do hope so. But, for those who take their

      business and online presence seriously, i advise caution selling with Etsy.com,

      because they are the ones with all the control, believe it, this is sound advice. You

      waste a lot of precious time & money- should you end up in that situation.

      It was a bad experience- moving on.

  2. Lady_disdain May 15, 2015 at 8:13 am #

    So, you complain about people misusing rape but then use “drink the kool aid”?

    • Betsy May 15, 2015 at 8:30 am #

      Good point. And yes, I did. And I just looked it up, and infants and those not willing to comply were forced to drink it.

      Drinking the Kool-Aid still was something hundreds of people did because of psychological conditioning, hundreds did it without use of force.

      Thanks for educating me. I’ve learned something new today! However, that tidbit was something I didn’t know until right now. Misusing rape when you know what it really is? Still wrong.

  3. Dana May 15, 2015 at 10:22 am #

    I’ve been saying the same thing for years.

    Etsy made it easy to sell, people forget there is life outside of Etsy and that people have been selling since the beginning of time without them. I’ve never understood how the same people who demand things from Etsy, complain about that very thing once it’s been handed to them, and then demand retribution for getting what they asked for in the first place.

    I also agree, there are some words that just shouldn’t be tossed around.

    • Betsy May 15, 2015 at 10:48 am #

      Yes, exactly, Dana!!

      The whole “being owed” thing is just ridiculous to me in this case. Or maybe it’s just the first time people are learning a really important business lesson.

  4. Deb Roby May 15, 2015 at 12:37 pm #

    Just read almost the complete blog you posted about. All of this about one single seller? Yes, it’s a seller impacting the blogger’s income, but it’s just one? Isn’t that just a tad bit obsessive?

    You’re correct, platform owners (like Etsy’s creators) are free to change, free to disappear, free to do what they wish with their own business. All this sturm und drumm has illustrated that people got lazy, or never really worked at their business. Time to put in that work, now. But this person seems to have the entitled belief that isn’t part of her job.

    And raping American? Just NO.

    • Betsy May 15, 2015 at 2:52 pm #

      Sadly, Deb, she’s not the only one. There are scores of people who feel the same way, that they are owed something. Part of me wonders is the ire is down to age, i.e., people who have only done business on Etsy and thus don’t (yet) see that there are other ways of doing things?

  5. Liv May 15, 2015 at 1:17 pm #

    Great article. never sold on Etsy but have to admit the change in selling non handmade items pissed me off, but yes, they can do what they want.
    What I see is biggest downside to Etsy (for me) is dealing with the artist who has ONLY sold on Etsy now selling want to sell in stores. They don’t know how to, don’t know the protocol so it takes some explaining about how things work. Take me back to the 90’s when an artist knew how to approach galleries and interact face to face. Bottom line- an artist needs to sell on many platforms to make a living as you said. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket!

    • Betsy May 15, 2015 at 2:55 pm #

      Liv, is there any way you could write up the steps and have them as a resource? (Apologies if you’ve already done so! And if you have, I’d love to see them!) And all this online business has made it easy to do things without face-to-face contact, so changing that mindset is such a major overhaul… good on you for helping people succeed!

  6. Laura Dodson May 15, 2015 at 1:46 pm #

    I’ve just discovered the Etsy forums about a week ago. I’ve been fascinated by the ‘etsy is to blame for me not having sales/views’ sentiment. I’m not sure if this is new or not. I don’t have a particularly successful etsy shop. I actually get more sales via kickstarter and my own website. I was hoping to find more ideas to increase the etsy sales and found the entitlement threads instead.

    I’ve been wondering if they cross the line into trolling/bullying with those threads. I’ve seen similar threads on QBO forums and the like; so it’s not like other people aren’t like that.

    • Betsy May 15, 2015 at 2:57 pm #

      It is fascinating, isn’t it?! And that’s great that you get sales through your own website! I know there are lots of helpful posts out there to help with Etsy sales, but you may have to go back in history a bit to free yourself of the entitlement threads. :) As for crossing the line? I guess it depends on how Etsy plans to play this all out… Ignore it? Or face it?

  7. suz May 15, 2015 at 2:44 pm #

    here is the rub, etsy is still going on the assumption that they are a ‘handmade’ site. actual handmade atrist/sellers have been thrown under the bus for shops like threebirdnest who imports their crap from alibaba and implies that ALL of her work falls under that handmade umbrella, etsy happily promotes that reseller. do check out her reviews, do some research, you will get an education.

    yea, etsy can do whatever they want, but they have not been forthcoming in what or how they are changing the site. and guess what, the shops that ‘manufacture’ their work, buy from cheap import sites and sell at a 300% mark up. those are now the etsy darlings. thankfully,now that they have gone public, more and more of their business practices are coming to light. how refreshing!

    i’ve been a seller there for over 8 years, i didn’t drink the koolaide, don’t be so condescending to the sellers who are still there.

    • Betsy May 15, 2015 at 3:09 pm #

      Actually, I’ve read a lot about TBN and about wholesalers coming in. And the only assumption that Etsy is a “handmade” site, to me, is made by the consumers, not the company itself. Therefore, Etsy can still do whatever they want by utilizing squirrelly language that changes shape when they want it to.

      And as far as drinking the Kool-Aid, I think people should honestly think about what is making them angry. That wholesalers are coming in? Well, look at the Industrial Revolution. That also screwed up people’s businesses by making things cheaper and quicker. And look at our fast fashion culture, which is built on cheaper and quicker. This rhetoric is squeezing us from the past and the present. And by not diversifying (apologies if you are) beyond Etsy, you did, indeed, drink up.

      I have many friends who sell things on Etsy, things which I’ve bought. If you want to stay, by all means stay. Just invest your energy on how your business is going to move forward instead of complaining about issues that culturally, our landscape is made on.

  8. Dorothy Domingo May 15, 2015 at 3:46 pm #

    I do agree with most of your observations. I fight against the “Etsy owes me” feelings and mostly I push them aside and get on with my shop. What is hard is not just the constant changes that have impacted the site ( my personal pet hate: hiding categories and replacing them with the stagnant and biased Browse). It’s also that there seems to be a different set of rules for some sellers, and that entire categories are competing with IP infringing work that Etsy could head off at the pass by actually following their own rules on approval for outside manufacturers.

    I long ago accepted that it was Etsy’s sandbox and if I wanted to play in it, I had to accept their way of doing things. I’ve learned to roll with the changes and I stay for the built-in traffic.

    But I also am well aware that I will never fit the Etsy aesthetic and that it is increasingly getting to the point where a buyer will not be able to “discover” my work, because all of the former methods for this have been co-opted by a “curated” experience. The Browse algorithm is all kinds of messed up, and Search is problematic and now is “fixed” for “quotas”. Categories have been hidden, and if a buyer can even find them now, they make very little sense. I’ve been on Etsy since 2008 and I’ve never felt less optimistic about my chances there.

    So, yes, I choose to stay even with these problems, and it is my choice. But there are very real problems and they are not just things that we can attribute to changing handmade martketplaces and cultural shifts.

    • Betsy May 15, 2015 at 4:22 pm #

      Yeah, the IP infringement is out of control! And while dealing with it can be a headache, it’s a shame that they don’t take it more seriously. I’m sorry to hear that you’re feeling “less optimistic!” Have you ever thought about going to another platform or diversifying in some way in tandem with keeping things going at Etsy?

      And yes, there are some huge problems with the ways things are, but some things, like being wary of putting all your proverbial eggs in one proverbial basket and changes to the ways business do business have been around since business began.

      • Dorothy Domingo May 16, 2015 at 12:53 pm #

        I do understand Etsy’s constraints under the Safe Harbor rules, and that they can’t pre-emptively remove IP infringing listings. But when they allowed outside manufacturing without following up on shops using it (abusing it with IP violations) they opened the door to more abuses. They essentially closed their eyes to the problem and relied on other shops to do the reporting for them.

        I have enough of my own work to do that I will not spend any more time reporting these abuses anywhere. This is on Etsy to clean up. It’s their reputation that is being sullied by the rule breakers.

        That being said, I haven’t seen another site that can provide me with the traffic that I enjoy on Etsy, and I don’t have the expertise or customer base to switch to my own website. While I still have my work at a local gallery, it does not sell enough of my work to be a viable year-round alternative to Etsy. Couple that with the 40% commission they get to sell my work, they are not a real economic replacement for Etsy . So I stay on Etsy. I’m certain that I’m not unique in this respect, so if there is ever a real alternative to Etsy they will lose a huge portion of their sellers. It’s just a matter of time.

        • Betsy May 18, 2015 at 2:36 pm #

          True, the traffic thing is where Etsy has a lot of sellers, as does its ease. I.e., it’s easy to use Etsy, not so easy (or economically viable) to use something else. From the outside, seeing how Etsy has progressed since the beginning, it’s easy to see how a combination of bloating (people realizing they could knit extra hats for money) and turning that blind eye to the wholesalers has gotten us to where we are today. If I were a seller, I would be looking at other platforms, too, and putting my items on them as well, but that’s just my opinion.

  9. Richard May 15, 2015 at 4:52 pm #

    What is the name of your Etsy shop?

    • Betsy May 15, 2015 at 5:08 pm #

      Touché, Richard, touché! Not really a zing, though, as I have been open and honest about that from, oh, the beginning of time. I also see that you have neglected to share your own Etsy store with us in your comment. Hmm… And I look forward to checking it out once you share it with us in your next helpful comment.

  10. Sarah Fisher May 15, 2015 at 5:00 pm #

    I was/am mad at Etsy and what it’s become. But suing them? Nope, they can do what they want and I can disagree. I started my business on Etsy in it’s earlier days. And it grew. But it really grew when I got into the local craft scene. I was keeping my Etsy store open because of the easy sales. I don’t work on it a lot. Unfortunately, sales dropped drastically a year ago. And this year, right after they went public, a complete nose dive. I haven’t made a sale all week!

    But at the same time, I started preparing for this 2 years ago. At first, I was going to get a real job and this was a way to support myself through grad school. But I realized, this is what I wanted to do. And I was going to figure out a way to do it. And that means breaking any serious attachment with a 3rd party site. It wasn’t hard. They’ve been censoring me and removing items for false copyright infringement with no recourse available on my part. I have an independent website and started a brick and mortar store. It’s really really risky but it’s all mine. Things change and it’s up to me to adapt. Etsy owes me nothing and I certainly don’t owe them anything for my own successes.

    I honestly know a lot of people with Etsy shops but very few who seriously shop on there anymore. It’s too much of a task sometimes to dig through the Chinese crap. Chances are, your customers still want your stuff. They just aren’t on Etsy.

    • Betsy May 15, 2015 at 5:13 pm #

      Sarah, you sound like a total badass! To quote Kelly Clarkson, you have become Miss Independent, yeah! In looking at your site, I’m curious to hear more about the sale of cross-stitch patterns, which I may actually email you about… I love that you looked at your future and saw that Etsy wasn’t the best (or sole) road forward… and then did something (badass) about it.

    • Michele C May 16, 2015 at 3:32 pm #

      I LOVE what you said Sarah!

      I too started shifting my efforts off Etsy about 2 years ago when I realized they were no longer representing what I had envisioned or believed them to be as related to a viable marketplace.

      And yes, admittedly I get mad sometimes that they seemed to have done a deep pivot in another direction.

      But it is like the article said, Etsy is in the business of Etsy and I am in the business of Midwest Crochet & Crochet by Michele. Those will not always have the same goals – so I just needed to suck it up buttercup and make adjustments.

      Sure I get frustrated and mad at Etsy sometimes. Because I am emotionally tied to my business (for good or bad). But suing them? Driving campaigns of hate? That seems to me like it is counter intuitive and that effort is better spent building my business up.

      Etsy was initially how I started. I will always be grateful for that. And in the beginning with the changes, I totally freaked out. Then I sat down, removed myself emotionally and restructured my own game plan. Now, they hardly account for 10% of my overall business.

      My favorite thing you said and TOTALLY agree with:

      ” honestly know a lot of people with Etsy shops but very few who seriously shop on there anymore. It’s too much of a task sometimes to dig through the Chinese crap. Chances are, your customers still want your stuff. They just aren’t on Etsy.”

  11. DCM May 15, 2015 at 5:38 pm #

    Please forgive me for not leaving a full name. The reason is that I was a rape victim and I so agree with what you said. I would rather keep my name in this matter to myself even though it was many years ago. I am also an Etsy seller and do quite well although I do see a huge difference now in two years ago. Be that as it may the one thing you can count on in this world is change. It’s really the only constant we live with. Thank you for the article. If you choose not to publish this it’s fine but at least I could thank you.

    • Betsy May 15, 2015 at 5:59 pm #

      Thank you for your comment. And there is nothing wrong with not leaving your name, it’s the internet! :)

      Congrats on your Etsy success *and* for getting ahead of change!

  12. Lily May 15, 2015 at 10:50 pm #

    Yes, Etsy can do what it wants to. For instance, it can promote TBN as an Etsy success story while knowing full well the merchandise, for the most part, is imported. In other words TBN is a reseller. Supposedly an Etsy no no. But as the shop generates so much revenue for Etsy it turns a blind eye to TBN’s infractions and its own supposed rules.

    And still Etsy, now a public corporation, does not have a published telephone number. A customer can wait days for a requested call back OR can wait the same amount of time for an email response OR one may never ever get a response. Terrible customer service. It is inexcusable, but as you say, Etsy “can do what it wants” and obviously, what it doesn’t want.

    Now that Etsy is a public corporation its shortcomings (trademark and reseller issues) will be thankfully exposed. So yes, Etsy can do what it wants, but hopefully not for too much longer.

    • Betsy May 18, 2015 at 2:39 pm #

      I guess my question lies in the shadow of the “not for too much longer” theme I keep seeing everything. Are people honestly hoping that things are just going to magically change and that things will be heaps better? Because, to me, that argument holds little water, unless, of course, you’re okay (and some people are perfectly okay with this and that’s okay) with waiting and seeing if that day ever comes.

  13. Myra May 16, 2015 at 10:25 am #

    i enjoyed this article, thanks for sharing. We as business owners have to adapt, just as etsy is doing. I am working on my own website but I will always maintain a presence on etsy. It has been good to me and my family over the years and it will take a lot more for me to jump ship.

    • Betsy May 18, 2015 at 2:41 pm #

      Thanks, Myra, I’m glad you enjoyed it! And I’m glad that you’ve come to a decision on what the best option is for you to move forward with your business! That’s a great feeling, really, realizing that a certain path is how you’re going to proceed, once you’ve looked at both the pros and the cons.

  14. Alex May 16, 2015 at 3:46 pm #

    The forum mods will remove your post for saying a shop owner who is acting in an entitled manner about everything they are entitled to on etsy, is in fact, entitled,

    I am not sure you are aware of this but, anytime a shop hits a slump, or is in a perpetual state of slumpiness, it is etsy’s fault. If only TBN and frozen dresses werent there, they would be killin it with their crocheted napkin rings. Or if they got the constant promoting by etsy that they deserve,

    I deserve a McRib nownownow!!!

    • Betsy May 17, 2015 at 7:28 pm #

      I think the entitlement is smacking me more in the face as I work to get my own clients, seeing my blind spots, looking into my own reasoning for different decisions. Because Etsy has made it so easy for people to start their businesses, get traffic, etc. And because Etsy is so huge compared to an individual seller it is easy to blame. :)

      And I am so glad to foment all this McRib interest! ;)

  15. suz May 16, 2015 at 5:13 pm #

    Actually, I’ve read a lot about TBN and about wholesalers coming in. And the only assumption that Etsy is a “handmade” site, to me, is made by the consumers, not the company itself. Therefore, Etsy can still do whatever they want by utilizing squirrelly language that changes shape when they want it to.

    And as far as drinking the Kool-Aid, I think people should honestly think about what is making them angry. That wholesalers are coming in? Well, look at the Industrial Revolution. That also screwed up people’s businesses by making things cheaper and quicker. And look at our fast fashion culture, which is built on cheaper and quicker. This rhetoric is squeezing us from the past and the present. And by not diversifying (apologies if you are) beyond Etsy, you did, indeed, drink up.

    I have many friends who sell things on Etsy, things which I’ve bought. If you want to stay, by all means stay. Just invest your energy on how your business is going to move forward instead of complaining about issues that culturally, our landscape is made on.

    yes, the consumer thinks that etsy is still handmade and the reason they think that is because etsy hasn’t stated otherwise. etsy is a joke. mass produced resellers happily selling and being promoted by etsy while handmade sellers are being muted in the forums, having their shop closed for rules that can’t even be found on the site and treated by mods in condescending and arrogant manner. you can only reach etsy by email to request a phone call from them for any type of customer service. you will wait days for any type of response from them.

    etsy used to be a site for artists, that ship has sailed, that’s why people are angry. etsy is standing on the backs of artists and sellers who made that site what it is today. you’re obviously not an artist or haven’t sold anything online, by throwing in the Industrial Revolution is ludicrous. there are many sites to sell massed produced crap on but the massed produced crap on etsy is being paraded as ‘handmade’ and that’s why people are angry.

    if etsy would come clean and just state what they are and where they want to take the site, that would be honest. etsy isn’t honest. I pay for a service, for listing my work for sale there. my handmade work sells on etsy because etsy has in house traffic and I promote my shop, not etsy. etsy is the biggest site for handmade artists and sellers. I have repeat buyers who continue to purchase my work, i’ve been selling on that site for 8 years, my buyers know that my work is handmade.

    I still haven’t drunk the koolaide. I know full well what etsy is doing and why they are doing it. I know that my shop can be shut down for any reason etsy can dream up. I also have my stand alone website that does well.

    yes, etsy can do what it wants. it would be easier to swallow if they would be upfront and honest about what it is they’re doing and what the plans are for the site. the sellers are etsy’s customers and they haven’t had respect for us in a very long time and you wonder why people are angry.

    • Betsy May 18, 2015 at 2:53 pm #

      I still stand by bringing in the Industrial Revolution because it changed the game and caused individual business owners to suffer. It’s the game changing I’m talking about, as bringing on wholesalers (whether it’s legal or illegal) is changing the game for many Etsy sellers. I still buy things from Etsy, but I tend to go to Etsy from people’s sites, not start out on Etsy and search, although I have done that before. Therefore, it doesn’t matter how many wholesalers crop up, because I’m coming directly from a site, not the search engine.

      And I’m still going to stand by the Kool-Aid argument, because around 2007-2008, people believed it was the only way forward. Therefore, they didn’t bother to diversify. I make things (and have sold things), but haven’t on Etsy, so don’t know where I would be. But, I would like to think that as someone with business on their mind, I would have strengthened my site and put out feelers to other sites that sell handmade things so as not to become too reliant on any one thing.

      And if your standalone site does well, and people are going to Etsy through your standalone site, you’re leaps and bounds ahead of the game than many other people, and should be congratulated for it. (So, congratulations!) :)

      As for Etsy’s plans, I wouldn’t count on any plan, really, as their past plans have never truly been forward-moving plans.

  16. Melissa May 19, 2015 at 2:25 pm #

    Thank you! This is an excellent article! You nailed it! I’ll even take it one step further and say most of us owe Etsy — after-all how many of our businesses would exist if Etsy never was!

    I’m tired of the moaning and groaning! In reality Etsy does not make your business successful you do — by making a quality product, at a price that is sustainable in the marketplace, providing excellent customer service, maintaining appropriate and ever changing SEO tags, and investing time/money in marketing incentives. The only thing Etsy does for us is provide a location to do it affordably and with no programming skills.

    Crafting is suppose to make us all smile, so go craft and smile!

    • Betsy May 19, 2015 at 10:24 pm #

      Thanks, Melissa, and thanks for your comment! And yes, I would agree with you that many people wouldn’t even have businesses if it weren’t for Etsy’s platform!

  17. Grace Britt June 3, 2015 at 5:19 pm #

    Hi everyone on Betsy’s forum :) I’m Grace, the author of “HowEtsyRapedAmerica.com”. Let’s just get this out of the way first, because I’m a wordsmith, and growing up my dad called a cig a ‘fag’, ‘gay’ meant happy, and ‘rape’ had two meanings. I didn’t write the English language, neither did any of you, so it is what it is. That’s my official position. The title was meant to convey pillage and plunder, which is exactly what Etsy did to a LOT of people. Let me explain.

    To start, we Etsy sellers do more than show our pretty things off on a website. We pay sellers fees, we pay listing fees and we give Etsy a cut of every sale. AND we adhere to Etsy’s rules, which state:

    “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.”

    Believe me when I say that SMALL shops had been arbitrarily shut down on Etsy’s whim, and so all of the handmade community paid close attention to, and religiously adhered to the rules.

    Except no, they really didn’t. And that’s the problem.

    A big enough problem that my blog, in less than a month, hit 71,000 views. From zero (not existing) to 71,000 is a pretty fast rate of acceleration, which means that this subject struck a huge nerve with a huge number of people out there in the world. People were extremely angry and frustrated with the duplicitous nature of Etsy’s guidelines. Some shops could flaunt them, some shops were immediately closed down if they couldn’t video-prove their entire process start to finish.

    People sent me pictures of items purchased from, in this case, ThreeBirdNest, items which came in cheap plastic wrappers with “made in China” tags attached. A 2″ wide strip of lace, sewn on one end, packed in a cellophane wrapping and shipped straight to your front door. After a month of waiting for it. With absolutely zero evidence of any hand in America ever touching it, even though the site promised a sweet little bunch of busy bees sitting around communal sewing machines in Livermore, California creating these lovely items. To make it worse, customers had mounting anger towards EVERY Etsy seller, in a random act of frustration, because as you know, it only takes one e-coli laden Burger King to create a problem for every single Burger King. And it only takes a few shady sellers on Etsy to create mass distrust for every other Etsy seller.

    And worse, Etsy knew about this problem, they’d been warned about this particular (and other) sellers for over a year, and yet they chose to turn a blind eye, in the name of profit, to their OWN shady sellers.

    Of course Etsy can do whatever it wants to do, but it’s sellers deserve transparency. Which they were not getting. No one expected Etsy policy makers to sell a store’s items for them, or bestow any other favors as far as e-commerce, but when they made their own rules up all by themselves, the least they could have done was to FOLLOW THEM. And not pretend they knew nothing about the issue a year later when sellers and buyers were so angry that they were leaving, and bad-mouthing the site in droves.

    We live in a society where we look the other way when something isn’t right. Whether it’s an altercation in a grocery store, or a dirty politician or in this case, a dirty website, we just don’t want to be involved. We’d rather sit in our own private houses and mind our own private business and hope that in the end, everything works out. And most people would have to agree that, at this point, the “It DOESN’T take a village” mentality isn’t working very well for this country. Because when abuse and fraud is allowed to run rampant, it affects all of us. You, me and the rest of the world.

    How is that, you ask…well let me tell you. Etsy, by allowing this kind of shady selling on their site, actually ENCOURAGED sweat shop labor in India and China. And if that’s ok with you, then you’ve never seen pictures of factories where 10 hour days hunched over a machine is the norm. For 25 cents an hour. You know, so that some diva in America could “get rich quick” with her sweet little BirdNest shop and her exotic model peddling her shady wares. That’s not ok. And if it’s something you’d rather look away from, that’s on you. But a lot of people didn’t want to look away. I was one of them.

    We sellers asked Etsy to create a fourth category, in order to be transparent about allowing huge volume resellers, who NEVER touched their items, but yet pretended they did, in which to park their cheap merchandise. Etsy refused to comment. Our requests and our forums were shut down within minutes of voicing our opinions. And so, honest people were duped into thinking that a cute little blonde mom in California was earnestly working her heart out to make a better life for her kids. And they kept thinking that until they bought something from her. Cotton shirts that said “dry clean only.” Are you kidding? Dry clean only, why?? Well because they’d fall apart if you threw them into a washing machine. Hair bands super tight, the wrong color and sporting “made in China” tags. Return policies so ridiculous that even if THEY didn’t send something out for 3 weeks, you couldn’t return it because “14 days from purchase point” had expired.

    Come on now.

    That’s not ok. The people purchasing these items, who trusted that Etsy was adhering and policing their own policies, purchased shoddy Chinese goods created in sweat shops thinking they were supporting a “made-in-America” product. They could have gone to Alibaba.com and purchased the same item for $1 and some change. The EXACT same item. The item that was supposedly being earnestly sewn by California moms in a cute little factory in Livermore.

    NO transparency! Which, if you re-read Etsy’s rules stated above, they’d requested from all of their sellers. No, demanded. Out of…well…out of SOME of them. So what! you ask, industrial revolution and all that good stuff, progress…mumble mumble mumble, you must be jealous…. No people!!! Lies and all that Bad Stuff. Which hurt the honest sellers, who couldn’t compete and jaded the honest buyers, who bought shit.

    Hey, we’re not saying you can’t sell shit. We’re saying take your shit from China and sell it on eBay and stop pretending you’ve designed it or made it all by yourself. It’s a lie. An obvious lie! Because anyone can find 10x of that EXACT same item that a store supposedly made all by itself in California, on 10 different Etsy store sites, plus Alibaba.com and eBay. People, THAT’S….NOT…HAND…MADE!!! So Etsy, stop lying about it, fess up, show some transparency on your site and move forward with “new” rules in place. Rules that everyone already knows exist below the surface. Or just enforce the ones you already have in place.

    That’s what the blog is about. It isn’t a cute little problem made transparent by a few jealous people. It’s a huge integrity issue, and if we can just look away and say “oh well, it doesn’t affect me” then we ARE drinking the koolaide.

    Orange colored koolaide.

    • Betsy June 4, 2015 at 11:19 am #

      Fight this all you want, but to me, it is nothing but wasted energy that you could be using to build your business elsewhere. Etsy will survive without you and many other small businesses due to its practices. That they are doing things wrong and going against their own rules means nothing because it’s their business. I just want people to take care of their own businesses instead of spending way too much time screaming into a void where no one’s listening. As for getting so many blog views, I suspect that’s largely due to the title’s sensationalism, which may get you hits, but your anger and title is making them not want to engage or helping you to be taken seriously.

  18. redefined handmade June 4, 2015 at 8:07 am #

    Dear Grace, perfectly explained. Those who don’t want to hear the truth & do not mind hyprocrisy, double standards, doublespeak & redefining words…then Etsymart is the place for you.
    If you have no problem with buying some “handmade” leg warmers that arrive in a prepackaged bag with a made in China label, well, then enjoy the Etsymart sideshow.
    Of course Etsy owes us no sales. But Etsy does owe us all the truth.
    Etsy DOES, in fact, still use “Handmade” as a crutch to draw in buyers. It is a facade. A bait & switch.

    • Betsy June 4, 2015 at 11:24 am #

      Here’s the thing. You’re wasting your energy fighting a battle in which no one (at Etsy) is listening to. You’re wasting time calling them out instead of making your own business work on another platform. At the end of the day, speak the truth, and then move on. Or just continue to shout in the wind. We all know what happened and what is happening, now it’s up to you to either stay with them and have them possibly hurt you again, or come up with a Plan B.

  19. redefined handmade June 4, 2015 at 11:47 am #

    You assume we are not already implementing Plan B, C or D.
    Oh, Etsy IS listening in…Big Brother is quite resourceful.
    Some of us can multi-task & work on our businesses AND call out Etsy for their deceptions.
    Are you the official “waste of time” decider?
    How many days are we “allowed”to speak the truth before you charge us with “loitering?”
    We have our opinions/battles & it is not your “duty” to try to shut us down.
    Some of us disagree with you.
    I have no intention of “just moving on.”
    We’re just getting started.
    Ugly, deceptive practices will only continue if the majority choose to give up, give in & turn a blind eye.

    • Betsy June 4, 2015 at 12:04 pm #

      I’m not a decider of anything. Just someone who has been around long enough to watch plenty of businesses fail because they spent too much time making others look bad and not nearly enough time making their own businesses work. As for Etsy, if you’re unhappy and they’re treating you badly, and you keep going back, it’s nothing short of an abusive relationship. They’ve got you hooked, and apparently, they know it, which is why they continue to act badly. Etsy wins if you stay, because you continue to give them money. If you think they’re abusing the system, then you’re literally paying your abuser to further abuse both you and other sellers. Best of luck to you in your journey.

  20. Belinda June 4, 2015 at 3:03 pm #

    Maybe it’s time for an Etsy exodus, to juried craft fairs like Renegade Craft Fair or other websites like Ziibra.com (which I think has some review process for new shops? Don’t quote me on that. They’re also focusing on the US West Coast before expanding). Or maybe a model where one person (or a few people) handle the business side of things and makers can focus on making (I think this is the model employed by places like Madesmith, Scoutmob, Ecohabitude (though that one’s more focused on sustainable/ethical goods than specifically handmade), etc.). Of course there’s the problem of web traffic though…

    But on the web, nothing lasts forever. Digg gave way to Reddit, Myspace was superseded by Facebook, etc. Although Etsy is the top dog now, it can’t last, the way it’s going. Maybe it’ll be acquired by eBay, maybe it’ll fade into obscurity and linger in the margins like so many other former internet titans. In any case, alternatives are popping up to welcome refugees.

  21. Grace Britt June 4, 2015 at 4:41 pm #

    Someone is listening, Betsy. ThreeBirdNest, the subject of my original post, is nowhere to be found on Etsy for the past 24 hours. Now…you may consider what we were doing by protesting “screaming into a void”, but I don’t. Because the void was listening.

    As far as the now 72,000 views, I can make up any sensational title out there – WAY more sensational than I did, and it’s not going to garner that kind of attention. In fact, as an experiment, post a title even more sensational to your blog, and see if it gets 72,000 hits in 30 days. I have a few suggestions:

    “Rats found skinned and curing like bacon in Will Smith’s garage.”
    “Olsen twins members of secret society for the betterment of aliens”
    “New baby Charlotte has 8 toes on each foot.”

    Come on now – that’s more sensational than Etsy and it’s pillage and plunder of its sellers!! So post a title, a REALLY sensational title, and see where it goes :)

    • Betsy June 10, 2015 at 1:54 pm #

      Grace, I decided a long, long time ago that I wasn’t going to waste my time tearing people down, especially if it took energy from me bringing good things into the world. Will I speak out when things are effed up? Yes, which is why I posted on your site to begin with. But to spend time trying to tear down Etsy instead of making your business work without relying on it, *to me*, is detrimental to your own income, and therefore, your life.

      And, great, you got hits! Awesome. But what you didn’t get was signers to the petition like you wanted, showing a cognitive dissonance between what you’re trying to sell and what people actually want and need. People are angry, but they want to do actually do something about it vs. just shaking their fists. As I told you in an email, you have the opportunity to lead, but instead, you just want something to be angry at… which is your license, just don’t expect people to agree with you and/or like your methods. Sensationalism may burn bright, but it burns fast, and rarely sticks around to see positive change.

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