Friday, June 20, 2008

From the Bitches Auxiliary: Hey Etsy – Your Roots are Showing

It's hard to take an objective look at Etsy and their practices when you are personally linked to whether or not this whole site – this whole dream – succeeds or fails. There are very few of us that were not turned on by the prospect of actually making a living selling our handicrafts (and yes, vintage & supplies, I didn't forget you) in an online marketplace that sounded at the beginning to be worlds away from the smoking wreckage that eBay had turned into. People flocked to Etsy by the droves to take their shot at The Dream too.

And what a dream it was! A marketplace that didn't have the stink of those "other places", a community that actually helped one another and had discussions that didn't involve identifying vaginal cheese, doling out legal advice from anyone but someone versed in law, or public displays of attention whoring. Maybe I'm seeing the past through rose-tinted glasses, but bear with me here.

It was so wonderful that people began to spread the word! Etsy refuses to have a "conventional" advertising strategy? No problem, we'll spread the gospel and mountains of business cards, samples and brochures ourselves! It's that damned magical! So hip! So Indie! Few knew what the hell "indie" was, but that was ok too! Word of Etsy's deeds flew across the country, across the globe and back, and we had ourselves…and Etsy…to thank for it. The site grew by leaps and bounds. The sellers lagged a little behind, but we were so drunk on The Dream that it didn't matter. Didn't we do a marvelous job? Grassroots, baby. It makes the indie world go round.

It's amazing what a mere couple of years can do to a site. Now a person can't ask a simple question and reasonably expect a civil answer. Contacting someone who should know how to answer those questions is like seeking an audience with the Pope, if they even get that far. Many are met with crashing silence. Policies are changed at the drop of the hat, and an administrator can drop that hat themselves with no discernable repercussions. Posting them in any kind of consistent manner is unheard of, and clarification? What clarification? If you want waffling, coin-toss verdicts, and knee-jerk reactions, you're in luck. Otherwise, you're gonna be there awhile. You'll find out what's going on when you get an email informing you that you've broken a rule somewhere. Which incidentally, you have to drag out of them, which takes hours upon hours if not days and weeks – meanwhile your store is at risk, and you're still flailing around for a clue.

Sellers and buyers can't even get the basic level of service that is part and parcel to any venue. Seamless payment? Nope. Accurate view counts? Afraid not. Customer service? Is that laughing I hear in the background? Don't say a word against it, you grumpy haters!

Is it any wonder that people are so very disillusioned with Etsy now? With the dismal outlook ahead of us, few coherent answers, and those who dare question the powers that be for fear of banishment or losing their stores altogether, who wouldn't be?

But then it occurred to me last night, while watching another series of trainwrecks crash on the forums in front of me. That whole concept of grassroots word of mouth has now come home to roost. Blogs like Etsy Bitch are becoming more and more popular and sprout up overnight like mushrooms. The Consumerist declared that the Emperor had no clothes months ago. Disgruntled, simply confused and frustrated people are venting in more and more places, and the word's spreading. Spreading like wildfire.

See, that grassroots thing works both ways. And Etsy is about to find out just how powerful it can be. I think I'm going to sit back and enjoy the show.

33 Comments:

spetsy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
2cents said...

Bravo.

God, I love this site.

lessa said...

The old saying in retail, if you do a excellent job you'll be lucky if they tell one person, do a poor job and they'll tell ten people. In the internet age though its more like thousands.

Simone said...

I couldn't agree more with every bit of this post. Thank you, whoever wrote it!

I Had a Dream said...

Etsy is becoming a very demoralizing place to be and it's coming from both the PTB's and a few sellers...the forums are a minefield, god help you if you voice an opinion...now I tend to voice my opinion but am always afraid someone's gonna jump all over me...not what I came to etsy for...I've only been an etsian since late January and I see it going downhill in that short time span, there are problems needing solving and it's all a big ego fight seems to me...thanks bitches for the site cause I sure as hell need to bitch...

The Kinky One said...

Sad but true. Admin can TURN IT AROUND if they actually listen, yes listen to what's being posted in forum threads about communication and customer service.

If they take off those collective chips they have on their hipster shoulders and actually READ Windy's thread; "Aren't You Ashamed of Etsy?".

impetuous said...

The emperor has no clothes and we can see his Flickr boner, run for the hills!

impetuous said...

came back for my steampunk helmet...

*runs back for the hills*

Godot said...

Missing Windys as well, and taking note that the silence is deafing from forum regulars.

Whoever you are, this post, above all is spot on. We have done your work for you etsy, for 3 years. Me, for 2.5

And how to you thank us? By treating us like children. New leadership has certainly changed nothing. In fact, things are even worse than they were a few months ago.

Wendy said...

Thanks, Cranky One, for putting that dynamic into words. The same grassroots word that built Etsy will be its downfall if admin don't start communicating with sellers, being accountable about muting their critics while letting their cheerleaders have free rein, and responding to seller needs openly instead of keeping Etsy's business plans secret and springing them on us as fait accompli. Etsy might survive, but it'll have turned into its evil parent, ebay.

I am SO the boss of you! said...

Wendy, I couldn't have said it better myself.

Ladies Auxilliary said...

Lovely piece. A few really bad customer service experiences was what it took for me to feel REALLY stupid for actively promoting Etsy. And here I am now of course, a regular commenter on the ol' Etsybitch...grassroots in action.

Heather said...

Etsy might survive, but it'll have turned into its evil parent, ebay.
___________________

Say it ain't so? Please? I left ebay dissalousioned and found etsy just a year ago...and until recently, was so happy with it. But now I see the same kind of things happening that happened with ebay.

At least on ebay you could post more freely on the forums. Couldn't say crap, lol, but you could say something that might be interperted as anti-ebay.

MajorFuckingEtsyBurnout said...

ladies auxilliary said...
Lovely piece. A few really bad customer service experiences was what it took for me to feel REALLY stupid for actively promoting Etsy. And here I am now of course, a regular commenter on the ol' Etsybitch...grassroots in action.
---------------
Ditto.

When I think of all my days and nights glued to this computer and all the promotional materials, and nights of 4 hours sleep b/c I was working on my shop, and around bugs, and promoting, re-listing, bla bla bla. It just makes me FURIOUS at Etsy and at myself for buying into it.

iwantmyoldetsyback said...

I've been reading Etsybitch since you started up and absolutely loving it but this is the first time i've been tempted to come up with some kind of fake name to post a comment. I've been part of Etsy since the start pretty much- I was so so excited by the possibility it offered, it really was a hand built site and at the start that really was a good thing. The creators of the site and the customers/sellers all seemed to be in on the big experiment/adventure and I was proud to sing the praises of Etsy. I encouraged friends to join up- I didn't stop talking about the place wherever I went, but now...now I'm trying to teach myself how to make websites and opening up shops in other places. I'm not very good at change, I don't want to give up on Etsy yet, I want to believe it can still be the great place I thought it was going to be- but by becoming so big I feel like they've created this monster that they were never equipped or prepared to deal with. I seriously don't believe for one minute that they ever expected Etsy to become as big as it has, and I suspect that a lot of the 'wacky' and un-professional behaviour is from people who are clinging on to something not really knowing where it's going to take them. I've been in the position before when i've been involved with something that was started as a real small scale thing that took off and did really really well and it was so hard to step back and say 'actually I can't handle this'. I did end up walking away from that but it gives me a bit of insight into how some of the early Etsy staff might be feeling- like they've created this huge success but it's out of their control. There's lots that happens at Etsy that i'm really not happy with, now the site is so big it needs to be run professionally, ok it should be run professionally whatever size it is, but if it's operating in the same marketplace as ebay then it needs to have the same kind of rules and regulations in practice.

argh- I'm rambling and it's not really making much sense. I just wanted to stick my voice in and say that this post really summed up a lot of how i've been feeling. I hope Etsy pulls it together, but if it doesn't i'm sure there's going to be somewhere else that manages to make me feel the way Etsy used to.

idyll hands said...

I suppose I'm one of the ones not disgruntled with what Etsy provides me. I don't wish to find a website to upkeep and make sure people don't buy the domain rights out from under me (it happened in a past website life of mine). However, I do agree with a lot of what is posted on here and changes need to be made, but I don't know if I see if spiraling out of control... yet.

I think changes can still happen and the optimist in me hopes they do. Things might be messy right now (which makes this site so wonderful) but I'm really... really really hoping things get cleaned up.

thisbetofurkey said...

http://etsyway.blogspot.com

Ben Can Dance Creations said...

thisbitofturkey, what is that blog all about? Angels, demons, sorcerors, what?


Too many to keep track of! I read EB daily because they update daily (sometimes even 2 or 3 times!). Etsy Angels hasn't updated at all, so I will unbookmark them.

impetuous said...

"When I think of all my days and nights glued to this computer and all the promotional materials, and nights of 4 hours sleep b/c I was working on my shop, and around bugs, and promoting, re-listing, bla bla bla. It just makes me FURIOUS at Etsy and at myself for buying into it."
____________

This broke my heart a little because I really think Etsy realized they were getting a great "deal" having everyone do these things for them.
To add insult to injury, they are still asking when Etsy is long over due at picking up some of the slack.
I hate hearing about "Etsy" accomplishments because they don't have the good sense to balance that out by giving back to the community that propelled them.
It would be nice to get an announcement about an Etsy milestone that included a free listing day or a release of a new, REQUESTED AND USEFUL tool to go along with it. They knew the one million mark was coming, how about getting a ten cent listing day ready in advance??? They have absolutely no fucking clue how to care for customers.

I'm mad said...

I can beleive what etsy has become. I am so serious about being a crafter and etsy is changing everything, from where people find up and comming designers to how shows accept applications.
I hope that their dissorganization and bad rep. runs rampant through the REAL craft scene and people start asking me if I sell on my website again instead of " Are you on etsy. I THINK I saw you there"

UGH!

idyll hands said...

impetuous - I never looked at it that way, giving us something as they reach a milestone, but now that you've put it in writing, I want my piece.

impetuous said...

Here's an update ben:

Etsy Angels still suck hairy balls.

Combustion Glassworks said...

ahhhh, the old what goes around comes around..

gotta love them internet tubes ;)

thisbetofurkey said...

I think someone outed the angels and made them cry. After they talked their shit and then tried to take it back, got caught, called out, and the hypocrisy stick was laid upon them.

Etsy Angels was rooted solely on personal scorn against PEOPLE, not the machine.

It was a failure from the beginning.







Ben: I do not know, It's still pretty new.

rivkasmom said...

It's so sad, but true. I love Etsy. I love the whole idea of it. I love what Etsy could become, and I hate that they are killing it with their giant egos.

If I didn't care about Etsy, then I wouldn't be sad about my Forum muting. If I didn't care, I wouldn't have been complaining in the first case. If Admin cared about Etsy, they would be THANKING the people who complain, because most companies spend a fortune on focus groups to tell them how to improve their product/service/etc. We are doing all of their work for free, and all they do is punish us.

So sad.

eclipse said...

I still don't know who the angels are. *sniff*
someone clue me in plz kthxbai!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The Righteous One said...

Sorry Anon. But it is our policy to delete unnamed comments to prevent confusion.

Since that link was pointed out previously and ClosedThreads exists to highlight such threads, I won't bother to repeat your statement.

The Sparkly One said...

iwantmyoldetsyback said...
"I feel like they've created this monster that they were never equipped or prepared to deal with. I seriously don't believe for one minute that they ever expected Etsy to become as big as it has, and I suspect that a lot of the 'wacky' and un-professional behaviour is from people who are clinging on to something not really knowing where it's going to take them."

And this is where they should have hired consultants and experienced managers and team members to help them through the learning curve. There are entire firms that specialize in helping small businesses become big businesses smoothly.

But that might require letting suits and ties into the labs - can't have that! Better to go down in flames than ask for help, apparently.

Andy Mathis said...

can we get a photo of Impetuous in her steampunk helmet?

The Dangerous Mezzo said...

An excellent post. Thank you for making this available to us.

I also just appreciate the sense I get from this blog that I am not alone in mourning what Etsy could have been, and what it's lost (probably never to be recovered).

Charlotte Marie said...

So I've been thinking at this point Etsy is too easy of a target for you bitches. I had initially hoped this blog might actually pressure them to make some changes. I haven't seen any significant upgrades in customer service or attempts to "professionalize" the site.

The Storque is still riddled with clumsy awkward writing - faq and or help sections are hopelessly lost - advertising has become a "bad" word. So, I guess I do have to thank all of you for pushing me to finally begin building my own site. How much more time and effort can we waste complaining to a brick wall?

The Righteous One said...

You're right charlotte, they really do need to make this hobby of ours more difficult!

But if we can't change Etsy, then hopefully we'll provide some help to those who depend on Etsy and can't break free. There's no need for artists to crash and burn because that site does.

If coming here and starting to air grievances is what it takes for them to separate their eggs, well then, they better choose a silly name and get posting ;)