Why can’t Etsy get it Straight?

The following are excerpts from a Wired’s article – http://www.wired.com/design/2012/09/etsy-goes-pro/2/ – we have underlined some pieces we consider important and commented on them as well, here it goes:

“First, Etsy couldn’t keep losing ambitious sellers and forgoing future revenue. Dickerson saw a solution in improving the basic UI-making it easier for sellers to sell. In his three-year tenure, he’d already more than quadrupled the size of the tech team with that in mind.”

“Other shifts may sound like semantics but could have a profound impact on the community. For example, Etsy has decided to allow sellers to self-identify as “designers” -meaning they can outsource some of their production work.
Rules that once limited working with outside vendors or employees are being systematically reconsidered. “We’ve missed out on a whole piece of creativity,” says Lauren Engelhardt, who oversees policy matters for the company, “which is people who design something but maybe don’t have the means to produce it themselves-things that need specialized equipment or a lot of people with specialized skills.””

“The changes are a work in progress-“We’re still figuring out how to express it in policy language,” Dickerson says-but the immediate upshot is an effort to resolve borderline cases in ways that keep successful sellers on the site. The front line of enforcement is the community itself, users who flag a given shop for insufficiently handmade behavior. But if the shop’s practices are deemed to be “in the spirit of Etsy,” as Dickerson puts it, the sellers can work with the “Marketplace Integrity and Trust & Safety” department (which recently doubled in size) that helps shopkeepers preserve the spirit of Etsy as they grow. For instance, a seller who shapes wooden kitchen implements can have custom patterns laser-cut by a vendor, but should divulge the process on their shop’s About page.”

“Couldn’t the laser cutter be an anonymous factory in China, though? No, Dickerson says, because that would violate “community standards.” That seems vague to the point of evasive. The bottom line is that Etsy is devoting more time to what amounts to judgment calls and resolving them in seller-friendly ways. It’s an incremental process but a sweeping one-even hard-and-fast Etsy no-no’s like drop-shipping could be revisited.”

At Etsy headquarters, Dickerson offers a different take on the company’s goals. Some purists may not like it, he explains, but the site can’t just be a parallel universe where crafters quibble over what is truly handmade. Sellers have to think bigger if they are going to “change the way retail works from the inside,” he says.

——————————————————– —————————————–


Is clear that Etsy’s main focus is in keeping: “ambitious sellers” AND  “keep successful sellers on the site”

  • Although everyone understands that the purpose of a business is to make money, in Etsy’s case promoting and safekeeping ambitious and successful sellers regardless of where and how their items are produced (say factories overseas mass-producing finished items), is wrong and not what their mission statement, core values and how they present the site is about. Even worse is their discrimination when shutting down certain shops with no legitimate reason but leaving those “successful” ones opened.

This article also features a few sellers, one of them makes “handmade” bamboo clockfaces, these are laser cut by a company in New Zealand, but when Dickerson is asked “Couldn’t the laser cutter be an anonymous factory in China, though? Dickerson says No, because that would violate “community standards.”

  • What is he saying then, that a seller can use a factory from New Zealand but not one in China? This is all very confusing and can only be interpreted as he talking out of both sides of his mouth.
  • They seem very confused themselves in this race of theirs not to loose certain sellers but at the same time throw others out (the expendable ones), to pretend they care and are protecting the integrity of the site.

 Here is one more incongruity:

 “The front line of enforcement is the community itself, users who flag a given shop for insufficiently handmade behavior. But if the shop’s practices are deemed to be “in the spirit of Etsy,” as Dickerson puts it,………

 And then in other part of the article he says: “Some purists may not like it, he explains, but the site can’t just be a parallel universe where crafters quibble over what is truly handmade”.

  • First, how is that any seller/member is given the power to judge and report what is “insufficiently handmade behavior”
  • Second, if no one can define what “handmade” really means and they don’t want people to quibble over it, why ask them to flag shops for not being “sufficiently handmade”
  • Third, why is that Dickerson doesn’t define once and for all what exactly is “the spirit of Etsy”

And about this statement: “The changes are a work in progress—”We’re still figuring out how to express it in policy language,” Dickerson say

  • The question is:  if they don’t even have their policies down pat, what the heck are they doing shutting down stores, under what set of policies? Oh that’s right, the same way they have been doing for years, X polices apply to certain sellers and Y policies apply to the rest.

And lastly: Sellers have to think bigger if they are going to “change the way retail works from the inside,” Dickerson say

  • Do they really think people are that retarded? They are not changing a thing just going back to the good old factory-made/mass-produced items. Which is totally the opposite of what Etsy started as and how they present the site, this is not a sin, but if this is what it has become, then they have to define the site accordingly and stop the abuse and double standards.

You judge for yourself!


6 responses

  1. […] Why can’t Etsy get it Straight? (itsaboutprinciple.wordpress.com) […]

  2. “Vague to the point of evasive.” IMO, this is one of the most astute comments published in regards to Etsy’s community standards. And one of the most telling, in terms of the future of the ‘marketplace,’ is Rob White’s in a recent thread in the new and sanitized version of the community’s forums.

    The OP commented on the increased presence of admin in a ‘great to see ya!’ sort of way. I’m not sure if she was being subversive or if she really meant it, because what she terms as ‘more social’, also looks an awful lot like supervision.

    By the top of page 2, a seller points out that in the light of a another wave of ‘Mutings’ — a disciplinary action that, at the least, is a threat to take away forum privileges, and at its most severe, can take the form of shop closure — admin’s presence is also kind of scary. Another seller concurs. These comments are promptly deleted.

    By the bottom of page two and 9 deleted comments later, Rob White explains that “one of the recent changes to our policies is that the actions of Forum Moderators are not up for public discussion.”

    Who knew hipsters could be so dictator-y?

  3. Etsy do not want on their forums the intelligent, articulate people who ask the difficult and pithy questions. Many of the more experienced sellers have now disappeared from the boards, muted for the most nebulous and trivial of reasons. Often because some cowardly snitch who is “in the business of being offended” found offensive a remark one could make in front of an elderly maiden aunt. Or because some mod cannot distinguish the qualitative difference between calling another member a XXX and expressing an opinion that they don’t like people who do XXX.

    Instead the forums now abound with crass self promotion, or inane threads about “what I ate for breakfast” or “what is your cat called.” More sinister are those threads where an individual can cite their negative experience with another member in a quasi libellous manner which permits said member to be easily identified.

  4. Etsy are hypercritical in the extreme. I think they are misleading about what the venue is about. They mute people who criticise them and don’t allow any discussion to take place. They manipulate the buyers to get them on site by promising them handmade but they don’t deliver that in many instances. They abuse freedom of speech on the forum and act in a high handed and sinister way, muting anyone who dares to disagree with them. They are muddled about their own policy and police it when they see fit and endorse resellers etc when they want. They should not advertise as hand made when they are not; when they allow shops to sell that are not handmade, they are endorsing them by default. I am looking for alternatives to buy from because I ultimately want nothing more to do with them. They leave a nasty taste in my mouth.


  6. Hi, I’m a few years late commenting, but hopefully you’ll see this. I just started designing totes, phone cases and makeup bags and since I have no money to purchase my own screen print equipment I use one based in Los Angeles. I basically take a photo, edit it on my phone using a photo editing app, and go to the screen printers website and apply my photo or design to a blank template of whatever product. It started out as just for fun but my friends wanted to buy them and I had lots of people suggest I open an etsy store, which sounded like a fun way to make some extra money. So I tried. But etsy is completely ridiculous… For me it was obviously a good thing that they are now allowing outside manufacturers and they do have strict guidelines about who I am allowed to use. So I picked the company in LA which is a small company which as far as my research tells me, operates very ethically and within Etsy’s rules. They even use recycled materials to make the blank bags that my designs go on. Long story short, I spent 5 hours filling out Etsy’s incredibly long and detailed application, giving them every detail of my design process and sending them tons of photos showing each step. After a month of waiting to be approved they emailed me asking for “more information” but the information they want is exactly what I already spent 5 hours sending to them last month! I don’t even think they looked at my application. To top of off they said they can’t approve some of my products because I used images I downloaded from the internet. But the images in question are not copyrighted and I made sure I was allowed to use them so I wouldn’t be infringing on anyone’s intellectual property. In addition I edit the images to the point where they could not be recognized as the original. I’m very into collage and photo manipulation and I also add text to them. And like I said before, the ones I do use are in the public domain, so that alone should entitle me to use them, unless I’m misinformed? At this point I’m so frustrated I decided to look into Etsy’s practices and that’s how I found your blog. I’m glad I did. After all I’ve read here and elsewhere it seems Etsy is something I want to stay far away from. They have made me feel like a fraud, requesting even more documentation of my process, even though I laid it out for them in minute detail and provided photos for every step. It seems like the odds are stacked against me just because I can’t afford to print my items myself and must pay a screen printer to do it for me. So I guess if you don’t already have a lot of money Etsy isn’t interested in helping you start a business. After reading all this and my own experience so far, I’ve decided to make my own website. Thank you for putting the word out, I think you have saved me from a lot of future problems!

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