Tuesday, April 27, 2010


From Meatloaf's song lyrics Life is a Lemon and I Want My Money Back
 (certain liberties have been taken by this author)

I want my money back
Say it like you mean it
I want my money back
I'm gonna rock your world

(chorus - hey - hu - hey)

It's all or nothing
And nothing's all I ever get
Everytime I turn it on
I burn it up and burn it out

It's always something
There's always something going wrong
That's the only guarantee
That's what this is all about

It's a never ending attack (ha)
Everything's a lie and that's a fact
Etsy is a lemon and I want my money back!

And all the Admins
And all the techies with their  stats
They're the ones who make the rules
It's not a game it's just a rout

There's desperation (there's desperation)
There's desperation in the air
It leaves a stain on all your clothes
And no detergent gets it out

And we're always slipping thru the cracks (slipping)
Then the movie's over fade to black
Etsy's a lemon and I want my money...

I want my money back
(Etsy's a lemon) what
(Etsy's a lemon) what about it
I want my money back
(Etsy's a lemon)

What about the site?
It's Defective!
It's always breaking in half

What about categories?
It's Defective!
It's never built to really last

What about search?
It's Defective!
All the batteries are shot

What about tags?
They're Defective!
All the parts are out of stock

What about SEO?
It's Defective!
It's corroded and decayed

What about faith?
It's Defective!
It's tattered and it's frayed

What about your Admins?
They're Defective!
They forgot the warranty

What about your shop?
It's Defective!
It's a dead end street to me

What about your answers?
It's Defective!
It's a pack of useless lies

What about your work?
It's Defective!
It's a crock and then you die

What about your sales history?
It's Defective!
It's dead and buried in the past

What about your future?
It's Defective!
You can shove it up your ass!!!

It's all or nothing
And nothing's all I ever get
Every time I turn it on
I burn it up and burn it out

It's a never ending attack
Everything's a lie and that's a fact
Etsy's a lemon and I want my money...

Etsy's a lemon and I want my money back
Etsy's a lemon and I want my money back
Etsy's a lemon and I want my money back
Etsy's a lemon (and I want) and I want (and I want) and I want my money back

Etsy's a lemon and I want my money back
Etsy's a lemon and I want my money back
Etsy's a lemon and I want my money back
Etsy's a lemon
And I want
And I want
And I want
And I want my money back!

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Recently I've been in contact with a number of old classmates (Yeah Sweethome Class of 74'!!) who, upon noticing my Etsy Shop, have asked me about selling there.

After nearly 4 years on the site, what do I tell them?  Without going into the gory details, the struggles, and all the hard work, I've decided to come up with a list of things to keep in mind if you want to sell on Etsy.

1.  Look around the site, particularly the categories you want to list in.  Read the rules regarding what is allowed on the site.  I would recommend staying away from the forums.  It is a huge time suck, and 99% of the questions you may have can be answered by reading the FAQ's.  If you can't find an answer to your question and you know someone else on the site with a shop, send them a message.  You can also send an email to support#etsy.com, though the wait time on answers can be long. 

2.  Etsy is a place to buy handmade, vintage and supplies.  Understand that handmade encompasses everything from obtaining your own raw materials and processing them yourself into a finished product to commercially, mass produced items 'put together' to form a finished product.  Vintage is anything (and I mean anything) that is 20 years old, or older.  Supplies can either be commercially made, or handmade.  This is the only place that mass produced items belong, as long as they are a craft supply that is used in the making of a finished product.

3.  Etsy has a hard time enforcing their own rules.  The handmade ethos has kind of flown out the window.  You can still find wonderful handmade products by talented artisans, but the site is also overrun with resellers selling mass produced clothing, jewelry and handbags (among other things) so this has tainted many a seller and buyer's experience.

4.  Etsy has it's own idea of what is popular.  Etsy has a reputation for being 'hipster'.  That's ok folks, I never heard of that term before either.  Consequently, the shops that have that cool, edgy, urban vibe tend to be the ones that get face time on Etsy.

5.  Etsy plays favorites.  Because of this tendency toward favoring a certain look and feel, there is a lot of repetition with front page features and blog articles of the same people and the same items.  Some people have made the front page hundreds of times, often multiple times daily and weekly.

6.  Etsy is clunky,  From the listing process, to search, to checkout.  It takes 5 pages to list an item.  If you don't hit 'finish' you lose your listing to the inactive section.  Choosing categories and tags is difficult because the category system setup is illogical.  Tags are subjective so tag abuse is rampant which messes up the search.  Paypal is your only option for credit card payments and is not integrated with Etsy, so people can 'buy' an item and take it out of your shop (goes into sold section) without actually paying for it.  Sure, you can relist the item and cancel the transaction to get a refund on your listing and final value fees and try and hunt your customer down to try and find out if they just changed their mind or they can't figure out how to pay.

7.  Etsy does no outside advertising.  Etsy has always espoused the 'viral marketing' concept.  You tell two friends and they tell two friends and so on and so on.  Etsy sellers are expected to advertise for themselves which in turn brings more customers to Etsy.  Most of the articles written about Etsy and features done by people such as Martha Stewart, Rachel Ray and The View have emphasized the selling aspect more than the buying aspect and as a result, there are over 200,000 shops on Etsy and more than 5 million listings.  While Etsy may have a measure of built in foot traffic, don't count on it as a way to make consistent sales.  Especially if you're not one of the 'chosen few' that Etsy likes to feature.

8.  Etsy is not really cheap.  Sure, each listing is .20 for 4 months.  Sounds like a bargain, doesn't it?  Until you realize that sellers have learned to game the system by renewing listings daily, at a cost of .20 per renewal.  Why would people do that if a listing lasts 4 months?  Because Etsy search is based on recency and not on relevancy.  So prepare to absorb or tack on an extra dollar or two to each item you list so that you can renew items often.  Just remember, thousands of other sellers are also renewing all the time so it's constant pile on that you're never on top of for more than a few seconds.  The final value fee is 3.5% of the selling price.  Pretty reasonable until you read #9.

9.  Etsy has no tools for you to offer sales, discounts, gift certificates or coupon codes.  Sure, you can work around most of these things by having the customer send you a convo before purchasing so you can adjust a listing to reflect a discount, but that is tedious and time consuming and really deters those impulse purchases.  You can refund them the amount of the discount price via Paypal, but you will still pay the final value fee on the sold price, not the discounted price.

10.  Etsy does not 'care' about you.  There is a common misconception that Etsy is a community of sellers who support each other and that Etsy is our friend.  While up to a point it may be true, Etsy is first and foremost a business and their first priority is to make money and be profitable.  They have investors and venture capital.  This means that at some point, these investors want to see a return on their investment.  It also means that at some point Etsy will go public.  They will do what they have to to continue to make money, even if those of us who use Etsy disagree with their choices.  We can suggest and request for the things we want, but ultimately Etsy will decide if and when they will implement any given suggestion.  This is logical for most, but for others it has been a bitter pill to swallow to realize that Etsy is not their 'friend'.

Does that mean that I don't recommend Etsy?  no, not at all.  If you can accept it for what it is, keep your expectations reasonable, diversify so that you have other outlets in which to sell and realize that selling anywhere, regardless of how much foot traffic they have, requires work on your part then you should have minimal frustrations with Etsy.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


I was waiting for the March weather report to confirm my suspicions regarding the 'low view, low sales' threads that have been overtaking the Etsy forums for the last month or so.  I don 't doubt that some are experiencing a drop in sales and/or views, and that Etsy and/or Google may have changed something that had an effect on this.  The fact is, sales have remained steady with a slight increase, so this tells me that while some shops are definitely noticing a loss, others are noting an increase.

The thing is, I'm betting the ones who have seen an increase in sales and views have no need to come to the forums to find out why.  I think that it's natural for someone to open a shop and expect sales to increase over time.  People come to the forums to either connect with others or to report a problem of some sort, so I feel like this issue is being blown way out of proportion.  Again, not saying that those complaining about a change for the worse are making it up or exaggerating, or that something hasn't changed, simply that the issue isn't as dire overall as the forums would indicate.

An overall observation of the forums shows multiple threads with shops reporting drastic drops in views and sales starting on specific dates in March.  Most, if not all, of the threads contain the same people reporting the same information, but as they drag on, newer sellers are jumping on the bandwagon to report similar findings, some long standing sellers coming to the forums looking for a correlation to their observations of a sudden drop in views and sales, and a fair number of sellers with no real history or data chiming in just in case the reason their listings aren't seeing the kind of views they'd expect or they aren't selling like they thought they would might be the same.

Then you have Rokali announcing that they made no changes on the specific dates in March, and that Google is introducing a change to their algorithm called 'Caffeine' that may or may not be affecting all of this.

Then you have pandemonium again because now all these people who are 'complaining' are just 'whiners' and 'need to take better pictures, write better titles and descriptions and/or go elsewhere'.

Then, LisaJune opens a thread asking for sellers to post if they've experienced this phenomenal drop in sales and views originating on those specific dates in March so that the engineers can look into it.  She get's to 1000 posts and the thread is closed.  Of course, you have that same mix as in the other threads, some with data, some without, and plenty of twitching, head-desking and shiny distraction innuendo.

Then you have a thread started several days after LisaJune's thread was closed.  Wanting to know what the results were from that thread.  Nothing impatient about THIS crowd.  One poor engineer reported that after looking at 20 shops in that list, only 2 showed any drop  one showed a significant enough drop to mention.  Of course, then you have people demanding to know what criteria was used to evaluate this, because we all know that Etsy will just skew the numbers in their favor or even outright lie about it.

Just another day in the forums, there's a problem, people demand answers, they speculate and form conspiracy theories because they don't get answered fast enough, and when they do get an answer they still aren't satisfied because it isn't what they wanted to hear.  And laced throughout it all, like weaving random golden threads in a tapestry, you have your sighing, twitching, drinking, popcorn, pennies, pebbles and snide remarks about Etsy admin's maturity, hipness, intelligence, age and experience.

A few brave souls try to hang on to any kind of positivity they can and share it with the rest and they are shot down like AKA-47s firing on a colorful hot air balloon.  They aren't having any of THAT!  No sireee, there is "A PROBLEM" and there will be no one allowed to look for silver linings and God Forbid that someone else may not be sharing this problem.  Stomp those out immediately, because they are dismissing the concerns of massive hordes of sellers who KNOW SOMETHING IS WRONG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The Etsy Dream

When I joined Etsy in June 06' it was touted as THE place to buy and sell handmade.  It advertised itself as a hand-built site and stressed the fact that it was different than anything else out there.  Indeed. 

Although I wasn't there from the very beginning, I think I came on board early enough to watch and grow along with the site.  And boy has it grown.  I was there when they moved from a beta site and grit my teeth along with everyone else with the bugs, setbacks, outages, slowdowns, revisions and rollouts.  I knew (and still know) very little about how a site integrates with search engines, but I have come to realize that different isn't always better.

As I learn more about SEO (search engine optimization) I've come to understand that Etsy wasn't really built with that in mind.  In short, if a search engine such as Google can't find you, no one using that search engine looking for products like you have will find you.

Etsy has supported odd tactics that are not used on other selling sites.  And as they start to realize that this has the potential to do more harm than good, they are scrambling to become more mainstream.  The problem is, people who got used to the 'old ways' and especially the ones who were successful are now starting to feel the sting.

They created a listing for .20 that lasts 4 months, yet they have a search based on most recently listed.  This is fundamentally illogical.  If search had always been based on relevancy, what someone was actually looking for, instead of what is most recent (and often not relevant) then the constant renewing of the same products over and over again wouldn't be necessary.  Unfortunately, it was a practice that caught on and likely produces significant income for Etsy and I'm sure they're loathe to change it.  I don't doubt for a minute that sellers found this advantageous and now don't want to see it changed, but it never should have started in the first place.

The main focus had always been on handmade.  It has veered from that dramatically as the number of vintage and commercial supply sellers has increased.  I understand their inclusion as true vintage items are usually rare and unique, and certainly a site where people craft is a built in customer base for the supply sellers.  However, the increase in these two categories has forced Etsy to re-evaluate their tagline from 'your place to buy and sell all things handmade' to.......who knows?  This is another factor in the disillusionment many of us are facing.

Being unique is probably not a viable choice for Etsy and somewhere along the line they had to decide if they wanted to make money and grow or stay small and remain a haven for truly handmade, knowing that every seller and every buyer is there because they truly support and appreciate the handmade concept.

The recent problems we've seen, I believe, are just the tip of the iceberg.  Etsy has to change it's very foundation and work it's way from the bottom up.  The Etsy I joined nearly 4 years ago is very different from the Etsy today, and I have a feeling it will be unrecognizable as a 'handmade' site in another 4 years.

This realization saddens me, as I bought into the Etsy dream and vision.  I had a loyalty to Etsy in the beginning, and though I was often critical and didn't always agree with the way things were done, I was always hopeful that the changes would benefit the handmade community.