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WTF Tuesday: Really, Etsy? REALLY? May 3, 2011

Posted by J. in FYI, Other People's Genius.

Oh, my sweet, aching God. This just couldn’t wait until Friday.

Remember just this past weekend when I shared my favorite Regretsy reseller callout?  Good old “DorisHandmade” selling her…well, handmade by someone“one of a kind” journals?

Click the photo to get the story from the beginning. I'll wait...

Did you read it?  Pretty ballsy, right?  And a good catch by RuneLeather, too.

Well, there’s an update, and it’s appalling.

You see, there’s some pretty cupcake-y rules in the Etsy forums.  One of them is that you can’t “call out” another seller.  (Mind you, you can bitch for days about buyers–yes, you can badmouth your customers in the forums until the cows come home.)  You aren’t allowed to say, “Hey, DorisHandmade is selling mass-produced imports and claiming they’re one of a kind handmade!”

Now, it’s one thing when you find a reseller while you’re browsing around, and trust me, you don’t have to be Sherlock Bleeding Holmes to find one, and intentionally go over to the forums and “call them out” as resellers.  Calling resellers to the attention of potential buyers who would probably prefer not to pay a 3000% markup is bad for Etsy business.  After all, those buyers might not buy a fuckton of them and Etsy wouldn’t get their 3.5%.  And you can’t call it to the attention of the handmade sellers who are getting more and more pissed at finding their own work buried under imported, mass-produced crap because they might take their listings to Artfire or Zibbit and Etsy would lose their fees.

But Rune, who makes journals herself, took a quick helpful peek at Doris’ shop to offer some advice (even though Doris violated the Etsy Terms of Use by using the main forums to promote her shop by asking people to look at it and “help” her) and realized that she’d seen those journals before.  Somewhere.  They seemed…familiar.

One Google search later and we find that those journals Doris has listed for all kinds of crazy money will run you about two bucks from a wholesaler.

So Rune said as much.

Did she call out DorisHandmade?  Some of us feel that perhaps Doris called herself out by attracting attention to her shop in the first place.  She went on a public forum and asked “What do you think of the stuff I MAKE?” and all we’re supposed to do is to quietly flag the shop and say nothing.  Meanwhile other sellers who don’t know any better continue to look at her shop (boosting her page views and increasing her traffic), offer helpful suggestions on improving her sales, and possibly even buy some of her journals.

So, here’s the rest of the story, and I’ll let you read it right from the Regretsy mouth, because really April’s outrage is expressed as eloquently as I could possibly muster at the moment.  Just click on the photo of Etsy CEO Rob Kalin below to read the unbelievable update…

Your Etsy Content Team at Work: The Are You Fucking Kidding Me Edition

RuneLeather has been banned from posting in the forums because she called out another seller.

She broke the rules so she got punished.  DorisHandmade?  Her shop is in vacation mode, but she’s not been banned from Etsy for breaking the rules.  Nor have any of the other resellers called out recently.  Some are on vacation, and some are continuing to do business despite being flagged by myself and others.

April says in her post, “Usually, I take a lot of pleasure in laughing at Etsy’s bullshit. But this just makes me sad. Here’s a genuine artisan playing by the rules, doing everything right, working to uphold the dream that Etsy sold her, and she’s the one getting punished.”

Sometimes there’s just no justice.  This is a clear case, to me, of shooting the goddamn messenger.  Good job, Etsy.  She does your job for you and you respond with telling her to shut up and sit down in that corner over there.

Nobody puts Rune in a corner.

I happen to know that RuneLeather is smart as shit and a talented little minx and deserves way better than this.  She is an artist and a craftperson and people like her, and me, are the heartbeat of Etsy.

Etsy is built on and runs on our backs and our reputations as artists and craftsmen.  As StitchesbyKriss put it, “We are their veneer of respectability. We are the ones we trot out for magazine articles and other interviews. But we don’t make the real money for them, and so they marginalise our voices by constraining the forums and muting those who ‘call out’.”

An example of RuneLeather's work. I heart this journal pretty hard, and you know how I feel about journaling. Click the photo to visit her journal shop, show her some love, and let her know that you hate cheats and liars.

People who sell mass-produced stuff on Etsy are ruining the integrity of the site, and that makes me angry, and a little bit sad.  I’ve been a seller on Etsy for five years, almost since Etsy began, and the ethical backsliding is taking the bloom off the rose for me.

This is something I wrote in a forum thread about why the whole resellers/no calling out of resellers issue bothers me.  It’s about respect, plain and simple.

It’s disrespectful to allow the resellers to continue to violate not only the written policies of the site but of its core values as well. And it adds insult to injury to be told to pipe down or we’ll take away your voice, or your shop if we have to.

I’ll say it again: Etsy is US. WE are Etsy. We are the faces and the heart and the hands that built this site, and to be told “We’ve got it all under control, now please stop talking about it…or else,” makes me feel like none of us really matters to them anymore. If we’re now just numbers on a spreadsheet, that’s sad, because that’s not the Etsy I joined.

Maybe Etsy will go on forever being bigger and stronger and make more money than ever. But if it loses its integrity, if it loses its self-respect, it loses everything. I would hate to see it become just another corporate blight on the landscape. It can be so much more, if those at the helm stay true to the vision.

All I can do as a single person, a single seller with a small inventory, and a blogger with a small following is speak my piece and do what I can to spread the word.  I want everyone within earshot of my voice to know that there are good people with lots of talent making truly amazing stuff on Etsy.  They create art with passion and craft with love and I’m going to do my best to steer you towards the best of the best from time to time.  Buying handmade, boosting local economy and supporting people who work with their hands is a good thing, I think.  It’s an important thing.

Talk shit.  Do good.  Stand up for what is right.



1. Haley - May 3, 2011

I’ve toyed with the idea, off and on, of opening an Etsy shop. I’ve actually created it, just haven’t put anything in it. The more I learn, the more inclined I am to declare “Eff Etsy!” and move on to Artfire.

2. Yorkie - May 3, 2011

What’s Artfire??

3. Badass Saints « askpoopsplease - April 30, 2012

[…] is in a downward spiral. I’ve seen the handwriting on the wall for a long time, and I’ve already blogged about how I’ve seen resellers cropping up all over the place and crowding out the individual artisan making things with her own two hands. Etsy has been slow to […]

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