Saturday, November 07, 2009

Etsy Faith or Etsy Fail?

Among the changes from the old rules to the updated ones, is the rule about canceling transactions.  In the past you could (as a seller) cancel any transaction for any reason and get your listing fees and final value fees back.  Initially this process was quite slow, but later on it became automated and the refunds were nearly instantaneous.  Which leads me to believe that even though the old rules said you weren't supposed to cancel a completed transaction (and I wish I could find the old wording to back this up), it was never actually clarified what a completed transaction was.  Back when I was still posting in the forums this question came up fairly often and we were always referred back to the rules.  I even contacted an admin for clarification because I always believed that a 'completed' transaction was one where money changed hands and the customer had their product, and as such, canceling a transaction for a return shouldn't be allowed.  Even contacting an admin didn't clarify it for me, as I was referred to the wording in the rules.  I believe I even read a time or two that an admin said that it was allowed.  My thinking now is that because they hadn't really clarified it they couldn't deny them.

For years sellers have begged Etsy to clarify their rules, spell things out more clearly, draw a line in the sand so we know the boundary and now that they have, people are not liking the clarifications.  Big surprise.  How many times have I said 'be careful what you wish for'?
People are claiming that Etsy changed the rules on them because 'they used to do it'.  Well folks, 'they used to do it' because they hadn't really clarified what a completed transaction was in the first place and because they never had a process to separate what is allowed from what is not allowed.  I'm suspecting the latter is still true, and by and large they are still relying on member honesty not to file a cancellation based on a return, but they have finally clarified what a completed transaction is.

I know I initially I supported those opposed to this change, and I still do to a degree.   I find, upon reflection, that it isn't so much to do with the actual practice of not allowing cancellation of transactions for refunds, but rather the whole process itself.  The payment process, the feedback process and the refunding process, each of these programs were based on honesty of the user, just like the tagging system, but as everyone knows, not everyone is honest.  While the faith in humankind is very endearing (to a point)it isn't a sound business practice to rely upon it.  Safeguards have to be in place,  and programs and features need to look beyond the functionality aspect.  Yes, we can leave feedback, but so can someone who never paid for an item.  There is definitely a flaw in the fundamental workings of this system.

Removing the emotional response for the moment, I have to ask are returns really that numerous to any one shop?  Is it really going to affect your bottom line?  Does any shop really have so many returns that this is a major issue for you?  Because if you answer yes, then in my opinion, it's time to evaluate yourself and what you sell.  Returns are a part of the business of selling.  It is part of the overhead you should be figuring out, in addition to replacements for lost or damaged items, as well as other costs of doing business.

The argument that people who sell higher priced items are taking a bigger hit is true.  But, those final value fees are acceptable if the item sells and is kept right?  Successful sellers will always pay a higher bill than the less successful ones.  They don't seem to mind the amount until it comes to a return.  Sellers are loathe to absorb that loss, but then, so is Etsy.  Sellers can build that kind of loss into their overhead, Etsy, not so much.  Unless they raise fees.  And on that note, a few people have expressed that they wouldn't mind if Etsy raised their fees from .20 to .25 to cover that loss.  What makes you think it would only be a nickel increase?  Last time they increased fees the price doubled.  Would you be willing to pay .40 a listing?  What about a flat monthly fee of $20 with free listings and no final value fees?  After all, they have the traffic that other sites don't to justify charging this much.  It's foolish to speculate that the increase will fall within the range you find acceptable.  Now, successful sellers probably wouldn't blink at the flat fee, but sellers like myself, and hobbiests and new sellers would probably find this unacceptable and risky.  I kind of like the 'pay as you go' system on Etsy.

For the record, it wasn't the changes in the rules that prompted my post, but the responses in the forums.  It's one thing to express your displeasure and call for change, I think everyone has that right whether you agree or not.  But the treatment and attitude by certain members toward other members is disgraceful and embarrassing.  You can use the excuse of frustration all you like, been there, done that.  I've been muted from the forums longer than many of the current complainers have been selling.  And I've said my share of snide and disrespectful things.  I'm certainly no angel.  But being a forced observer for so long has changed my perspective on a lot of things.  You can liken it to someone who who quit getting falling down drunk on weekends with friends.  You suddenly see that behavior in a different light, although when you were doing it yourself it didn't seem so bad.  You realize that your friends look rather foolish and become annoying and sometimes they're downright assholes.  And they don't care.

Is Etsy perfect?  Hell no.  Do they make mistakes?  Hell yes.  Are there areas that need improvement?  Absolutely.  too many to list.  Should people continue to speak out if they don't like something?  Of course!

I've come to the conclusion that Etsy is damned if they do, and damned if they don't.  No matter what, someone will always be complaining.

For the most part, I have no problem with the new dos and don'ts.  Yeah, a few things got caught in the net, so to speak, that are questionable, but overall I think they did what they could to clarify things as they have been asked to do over and over and over again.  It's just unfortunate that bits and parts have been magnified into huge issues when the overall intent is to help sellers and buyers.  It just sucks that what you want that clarification to be and how Etsy clarifies it might not match.

Well, I feel better having gotten this off my chest.


Andy Mathis said...

I am with you Grinchey.

If a shop is having that many returns then something is amiss, and it aint the venue, and it isn't their problem to take a hit for it.

I wasn't following along in the beginning, and it might could have been announced more appropriately, but I think Etsy is trying to right a wrong in this case. By closing a loophole that some would exploit.

Some probably have been.

WindysDesigns said...

Thanks Andy. Communication is a big problem on etsy. Or should I say lack of communication. Even though it's been promised over and over again, I don't see any improvement in this area.

mizdarlin said...

I agree with most of what you say, but i still think it sucks that Etsy won't return the fees on a "no sale"...say the buyer decides they don't like whatever they bought; most sellers are happy to refund, since it keeps buyers sweet and doesn't happen often...but why should Etsy keep fees when the transaction for all intents and purposes has been cancelled. Every other site does it, except Etsy.
And, as for charging a straight fee per month "like other sites do", those sites (two I can think of, zibbet and AF) no longer have my stuff listed on their sites-I paid for three months on one, and two on the other, and had zero sales...and i think that you will find that most folks who get sucked into those so-called Premium accounts doen't last long, unless they are supply sellers or soap makers, just like Etsy...
I do think Etsy's fee structure and listing and renewing costs to sellers are just fine, but still think that fees should be refunded if there is, in effect, no sale.

PussDaddy said...

What I think is that it depends upon the reason for the return. Say someone just changes their mind, or gets it and doesn't like it, but there is nothing wrong with the item pers se and it can probably be sold again, then yeah refund the transaction fee. But say someone gets something and 3 days later it falls apart, or they buy lotion and it is full of mold, who's fault is that and why should Etsy refund a transaction fee because someone wants to return it? People do exploit this a lot and I can see where Etsy loses a lot of money because of it. They do need some way however to discern whether a transaction return is refundable or not



WindysDesigns said...

Miz, I understand both sides of the issue, unfortunately. The thing is, I'm tired of the straw man arguments and the dramatic examples people are using, as if this change is going to mean life or death to it's sellers.

And I keep hearing "Etsy shouldn't keep fees on a transaction that never happened". And they don't. If someone doesn't pay for their purchase, for whatever reason, the canceled transaction is refunded.

If you sell something, it is purchased and sent and received..,.that is a transaction. If that person asks to return it, that is a separate transaction. It doesn't negate the first one.

And I love this argument....'well, what service did Etsy provide to justify keeping (insert ridiculous dollar figure here)in fees?

Umm...I hate to be the one to tell you, but you were perfectly happy to pay those fees to sell that item, suddenly because they won't refund those fees in the case of a return they are too much? Let me ask you, what service did they provide when you were happy to pay that fee?

And please, spare me the poor stay at home mom trying to make ends meet whose fees, if not recouped from a customer return, will have to starve her children and incur the wrath of a husband who feels she spends too much time on her 'hobby' and not enough time on her family.

You know, I understand people don't like this change, and I don't care if you are in favor of it or not, but when making your arguments, make sure they are based in reality and not some dramatic extreme scenario that might happen once in a billion Etsy sales, if at all.

As I read over the threads, I'm a little confused. Nearly everyone who posts in opposition has only ever had a couple of refunds in hundreds or thousands of sales. But they are arguing 'on principle'. Really? it sounds more to me like the usual Etsy changes something and people complain, drag up every conceivable transgression Etsy ever committed, extol the virtues of other venues in thinly veiled threats to take their business elsewhere, all the while steamrolling over anyone who dares to share a more reasonable view of the situation and present a different opinion.

geelizzie said...

I read your comment on etsybitch and so agree with you. I've had maybe 3 returns out of over 3000 sales on etsy. I never even thought to cancel the sales and demand my fees back because I didn't see it having anything to do with etsy, but rather me as a seller with a buyer not happy with their purchase.
Your point about if you get that many returns maybe you need to rethink yourself as a seller is an excellent one, good sellers have happy customers and returns are far and few in between.