Monday, May 17, 2010

Etsy, Outsourcing, and Slow Sales

Etsy is misrepresenting the slow sales.


How do we know? The person who compiled the information says so:

crossmr says:
etsy put out a contract on mutrk.com to have someone index that thread to generate statistics on how many people were having problems.

The pay was structured as 30 cents, but then a bonus paid of 30 cents per page. That's 30x100

$30.
Took 5 hours. I submitted their stats a month ago. Apparently they've used them and made statements about them since then (frankly misleading ones, looking at the thread)

They haven't returned to the site and approved the work though and paid for it. After 1 month (which is tomorrow) its auto approved, but the only thing auto approved is the base pay of 30 cents.

I've sent e-mails through the site which have been ignored.

crossmr says:
I submitted their stats a month ago. Apparently they've used them and made statements about them since then (frankly misleading ones, looking at the thread)”


What's this Mturk thing you ask?

crossmr says:
Yes Mturk.com is an amazon thing. It is a contract site where people can put out freelance contracts to get menial tasks done. Etsy used this site to get work done to solve the users problems, but refuses to return to pay for the contract they put out.

If it's an Amazon thing, why not go to Amazon?

crossmr says:
Amazon has a hands off policy for dealing with problems between users and contractors. They encourage people to work it out themselves, but etsy has remained silent through the site. The only thing they do is give the contractor 1 month to approve or reject the request then if neither is done, it's auto-paid.
but the way this one was set up, auto-pay means I lose 99%


We especially like this summation of the story by forum regular Eclipse in the same thread:

It's all shenanigans, from soup to nuts

-starting a poll in the forums when only 2% of sellers use the forums
-framing the question in such a slanted way
-closing it down in such a rude way
-then closing down the thread asking why it was closed!!
-then saying everyone who posted in the thread was lying anyway
-then hiring some poor pieceworker to collect the data and not pay him

The only shenanigans left is to lock or even delete this thread, and to brickwall the contractors account


By the way, Etsy, you really should pay the freelancers you hire to compile stats since you’re obviously too inept to do so even ::cough:: with 90 people on staff:

“They haven't returned to the site and approved the work though and paid for it. After 1 month (which is tomorrow) its auto approved, but the only thing auto approved is the base pay of 30 cents. I've sent e-mails through the site which have been ignored”

(If you are having trouble with the math, it means instead of being paid $30.00, thanks to etsy dragging their feet all this poor guy will be paid is 30 cents, the initial bid since the agreement was +30 cents a page for the 100 page thread.)

Here is the screen shot of the inital job order, requested by a Carrington Williams III, aka Cwilly3, a Etsy Financial dude. (how ironic, do they make a T-shirt with that on it?)


Welcome to our world, Freelancer Dude, where Etsy doesn’t respond to emails, making it harder to make a living.

Bad form Etsy, bad form. Freelancers often work their asses off for very little pay, especially via low-bid sites like MTurk. That person was willing to do 5 hours of work for $30…how much do your employees get for doing nothing?

Nevermind the fact that you’re completely dismissing seller concerns over sales when you are actually admitting in private that something is up. Stop jerking your sellers around!

(If you’re interested in the list of sales drop info compiled by the OP of the thread and sent to Etsy see the csv file uploaded by the user or see pages 4-13 of the thread.)

Oh and, Etsy, maybe you should tap into that database of yours to get figures instead of compiling highly selective data from the forums, where a very slight portion of site users actually appear, and you’re likely getting a biased view from those who had issues or are highly defending the site (especially with how YOU worded the thread that was indexed). You aren’t getting all of those inbetween shop figures, which are extremely important to really see what is going on. A slight decrease on the inbetweens can add up to show a significant drop overall. Or maybe you don’t want to know that.

The saddest part of this is if they had ASKED in the forums for someone (or someones) to do this, they would have gotten hundreds of sap volunteers offering to do more of Etsy's work for it free. Heck, didnt they just hire volunteer moderators? Why not assign one of them to do it?

30 Comments:

piccoladonna2006 said...

Poor guy, it's all I have to say to this.

D'OH said...

Does anyone know how to contact the guy to see if he got paid?

LastStraw said...

http://www.etsy.com/forums_thread.php?thread_id=6523782

Looks like this has been resolved.

Victoria Webb said...

Sorry that the person hasn't been paid yet, but does that data really represent even a minority of sellers?

I'd like to know how many vendors he/she looked at and what percentage that is of the total sellers on Etsy.

Data can be manipulated any which way.

sark said...

Wow, cripe.
That guy is never going to get paid. He should get a lawyer and write a letter to the NY Times.


I decided to take a break from etsy.
I don't sell anything there, so I finally decided that there was no point in listing anything there. Maybe in 3 or 4 months I'll revisit the idea of listing regularly. For the present time I'm done.

Their front pages have recently sucked shit. It looks like crap from a thrift store. Lots of shitty boots that someone else has worn... Holy fuck, it's May and they pulled out plaid today... in MAY. Am I in the negaverse? Does someone go back to school in May? Did Scotland have a holiday?

Their front pages totally blow, especially when they find their own shit. And that crap just sits there for the entire hour - unsold.

Anyone who does business would tell you that is a LOSING strategy. If people don't pop onto your homepage and snap that shit up - then that shit sucks because it isn't an impulse purchase. Change course and stay the fuck away from awful shit that no one wants to buy.

Yes, I have used the word "shit" excessively. All I see on the front page is shit. It doesn't make me want to buy anything.

I like looking at that thread in the forums where etsy says "no sales? well, it's your fault." Paraphrasing, yes. But that's really what it says.

So, congratulations, I'm done. I'm off the horse. I'll list on fridays, saturdays, and either thursday or sunday... no more inventory of 100 in my shop. I don't seem to be selling anything, so, there's no point in listing anything.

Amusingly, my word verification is "holarin" which seems like some idiot fuck thing that some wannabe hipster fucktard would say. How apt.

L P said...

Just to add: He got paid in the end. First by some generous etsians in the forums, later by etsy.

There's another closed thread floating around somewhere.

Peikkonen said...

"...Oh and, Etsy, maybe you should tap into that database of yours to get figures..."

Maybe they don't know how to do that...

I hope the contractor will report them to the police/FBI.

Virginia said...

My first serious gripe with this is that I NEVER saw this thread until now. (Don't worry, as I read more of the links, I'm sure I will have more gripes about this issue.)

One day to take names from a sinle forum thread??? I only stop in the forums once every few weeks or so. The forums have a few dissenters trying to call attention to serious problems and issues - the rest are either kool aid addicts or clueless newbies who still believe the myth of "better photographs."

If they really wanted a true picture from their sample set for their survey, they would have sent an e-mail to ALL SELLERS asking us to participate in the survey.

(btw - do you guys choose the word verification letters? Mine are "my spit". feels sort of appropriate.

FantasyClay said...

Sounds suspiously like Carrington Williams contracted out work he supposed to be doing but that is no excuse for not paying. What amazed me is how many etsians were proclaiming Etsy would never cheat someone.

The contractor even send the data was unverified and unscientific but he was just asked to index it, no more. Use of data was up to Etsy

The Funny One said...

Outsourcing research and paying for it is one issue, but the bigger issue is about the monthly stats on traffic and millions in sales published by Etsy that haven't made sense from day one. Etsy manipulates the few #'s they do publish because they need to look good to their board & investors. They've always been 99% bullshit and 1% revealing.

What Etsy's done over the years has done them more harm than good, because the increasing millions in sales they report each month (which isn't accurate because it doesn't break the real sources of revenue) has actually alienated more sellers who don't sell or stopped selling when Etsy went over the 3-million items threshhold.

One one hand, Etsy crows about their millions while more sellers don't sell. More stores don't equal more sales on Etsy because it's still the same formula for faves get free ads, faves sell.

Etsy is it's own worst enemy. Weird numbers, odd profits-reports, outsourcing research and then forgetting to pay for it ----- isn't that just like Etsy? Unbusiness-like, unethical, snide and arrogant?

The world of handmade would be a much better place if Etsy was history and its negative impact on quality and pricing were a distant memory.

WindysDesigns said...

Aside from the issue that it appears that Etsy outsourced the collection of data and apparently didn't pay the guy, I don't know what all the fuss is about.

Sellers came to the forums complaining about a drop in views and sales. As more and more people chimed in claiming the same thing, Etsy opened a thread inviting these sellers to post to it, which they did.

Etsy claimed they didn't do anything to cause this and this phenomena was not something that was reflected in their data. (true or not, I have no idea, not defending what they claim). So now a list of names was compiled by a contracted outside person, so that Etsy could then look at a controlled group claiming the same specific issue to see if they had something in common that might give them a clue as to what was happening.

After a group of 100 of those shops were apparently looked at, it was announced that of those, very few showed a true drop, and a few that claimed a drop actually saw an increase. I'm guessing because some shops simply didn't have a long enough history or a regular sales history. He didn't deny what you were saying, simply that he couldn't determine a specific cause for it

I didn't get that he accused sellers of lying or making it up, simply that he didn't find any correlation between the shops making these claims.

That list of shop names that was compiled was simply that, a list of names of shops that claimed they had a loss of views and sales, nothing more. There was absolutely nothing done with that list by the guy that compiled it that verified anything. How anyone could come to any conclusions about that list is beyond me.

While there is no excuse for Etsy shafting the guy who went through that thread post by post, compiling names, I'm not seeing any lies or misinformation, this contractor doesn't have access to any Etsy data, so he isn't in a position to even say that.

Nothing was skewed, shop owners claimed they hit a brick wall on a certain date, it makes sense to look at those specific shops to try and determine if they reflected a difference compared to site data.

Etsians are so desperate to find a scapegoat instead of just accepting that maybe it's a combination of factors, not the least of which is google and probably sellers trying to constantly chase google down by tweaking everything they can as often as they can.

And I'm sorry, The Funy One, but to say that Etsy skews the numbers to look good to their board and investors doesn't wash. I'm pretty certain they have access to all the numbers and realize that the published stats don't tell the whole story.

Not to mention board members and investors aren't looking at it from a shop owners viewpoint either. They don't really care who is selling more or less only that the site as a whole is profitable and the profit continues to increase. And I'm pretty sure they don't really look at month to month either, but look at the longer term picture.

I am by no means an Etsy cheerleader, but honestly,some of the complaints and arguments raised just defy logic and others show just how ignorant people really are. The more stupidly people act and react to Etsy, the more people (like me) will appear to be defending them when in reality we're defending logic and principle, not Etsy.

Stifler's Mom said...

Throughout that whole thread, seller "artaltered" (who has 0 items in his/her shop BTW) harrassed that guy, basically claiming he was a liar, even after he posted pages and pages of the data he collected.

Companies outsource and hire temps all the time: why Etsy didn't use their own employees is a non-issue.

It looked to me as if Etsy wasn't researching sales stats as much as they were researching who the complainers are LOL

The Cranky One said...

That occurred to me as well, they wanted the names so they could do in depth looksies at the sellers who said they suffered decreases and judge themselves if they were lying.

I bet those who said they did, and etsy thinks they didn't, are on the fabled Etsy Black List now for being "troublemakers"

tired etsian said...

I agree, that list was in no way shape or form, research, unless you count making a 'sellers to watch list' research.


I'm on that list. Must admit, feel a bit nervous about it as I'm not completely off Etsy. Was going to keep one of my shops there as it doesn't fit with my web site, but maybe I'll move it to zibbet instead.

The Righteous One said...

Windys, if a shop was selling, and then they weren't selling, that's a drop. How can Etsy say "oh that wasn't a drop". The seller was selling and then wasn't. Period.

I think you've been getting into the glitter and it's mucked up your eyes.

If they want to do to statistical calculations, they should be going into their database of stats, not using seller proclamations in the forum (because they won't get numbers, they'll get "I had sales and then I didn't have sales"). I agree with Cranky, they simply wanted a list of the complainers.

Victoria Webb said...

I agree with Windys - while some sellers are losing views and seeing drops in their sales, the market is down as a whole. But Etsy continues to grow, all you have to do is look at Alexa or Quantcast to see the curve.

I think online retail is in its formative years. With the exception of Amazon and QVC, not too many sites are profitable; it does take some time.

I also haven't seen top sellers with the exception of very few, complaining about lack of sales on Etsy.

And as a fine artist, I'm glad to have found an outlet for my work that's relatively low cost - otherwise galleries take 50% - and they're closing up shop too.

WindyRiver said...

I have to agree with WindysDesign - I don't think there is a deep, dark plot to find all the trouble makers. And I don't think that they are skewing their numbers. I think they do present the data in a way that doesn't show the whole picture to the public, but they're not obliged to. Bottom line, as long as they are making a profit wether it be from sales or renewals, I don't think they really care. I have heard the average price of sold items on esty is 17 dollars - so if etsy takes 3.5 percent of that it's only 60 cents. They actively encourage people to renew constantly - which is a bankrupt strategy for sellers but great for etsy. They don't budget for outside advertising but rely on the sellers to do that for themselves. So if you sell a 17 dollar item versus listing it once and renewing it twice (which is not an unreasonable assumption based on the way things work on etsy), it's a wash for etsy. It's just not a wash for the seller. I do agree with WindysDesign - they are looking at the bottom line. I would venture to guess that on average sales are down per seller based on the constantly increasing amount of items listed, but due to renewal fees, showcases, etc., etsy's bottom line is improving with each month. I don't think there is a plot to black list the complainers - what purpose would it serve?

WindysDesigns said...

Hmm...compiling a list of complainers........that thought never crossed my mind because I can bet that if such a list exists, It was compiled a long time ago with already existing forum threads.

I honestly think that they were trying to help. They did look at their own stats and it didn't reflect what certain individual shop owners were saying, so they looked at a controlled group of people specifically, and while they admitted some did show a loss, not everyone did.

I honestly think some sellers wanted Etsy to go in and analyze their shop personally, and I don't think that's Etsy's responsibility.

I don't doubt for a minute that a group of sellers saw a significant drop in sales and views, but it hasn't escaped my notice that others have seen no change or have seen increased traffic and sales, or less traffic but sales remain steady. Overall, Etsy has not seen this 'brick wall' effect so unless or until they do, it's going to remain an anomaly that may or may not adjust itself in time.

Christ on a biscuit! I have no loyalty to Etsy. It's been a mess for the 4 years I've been there. And 2 of those years I've been muted from the forums. I recently asked for my forum privileges back and was told no, not until the new forums are released. (head's up people, it's coming).

I just don't think people have a good sense of what Etsy is. They demand all these seller tools and then freak out when something is tweaked.

Etsy is like building a multi million dollar mansion on a one room schoolhouse foundation. The original structure was never built with the capabilities people keep demanding. They have to call in experts to assess the situation and try to reinforce the original foundation while trying to add on to it.

People keep throwing Artfire into Etsy's face, because they have all these neato tools and not nearly as many problems. Hello......Artfire's foundation was built with those capabilities in mind. You can't compare the two. Everything Etsy does is going to have some impact on functionality, so you might as well get used to it.

Karin said...

For me, the loss of sales or exposure through views is just another piece that added to my growing dissatisfaction with Etsy.

It didn't take long for me to notice that 1) they have a very narrow aesthetic 2) they constantly repeat the same sellers in the Editor's picks, Storque features, and front page, and 3) routinely encourage people to spend money relisting and renewing all the while doing points 1 and 2. For me, I started to feel like I was putting coins in a slot machine--.20 cents here and there--it so cheap, why not? It all began to feel very exploitative.

Then in early March, my views tanked and they continue to stink. I've been working hard to drive people to my shop, but they do nothing for the majority of their sellers. There is no partnership there.

At this point, I've finally gotten a shopping cart set up on my website, and I'm starting to rebuild there. I may keep a limited presence on Etsy and list new items occasionally, but that's about it.

WindysDesigns said...

And I just read the thread LastStraw posted the link for here.

Ummm...so Etsy paid him an he's keeping the generous donations made by people who felt sorry for him getting shafted by Etsy? Unless they ask him for their donation back?

I'm sorry, but EtsyBitch defending this guy and championing his cause has left a really bad taste in my mouth.

He may not have asked for donations, but he sure as hell had to give out his paypal address in order to receive them. He took them under false pretenses since he wound up getting paid after all.

It's wonderful that people were so generous, and maybe no one wants their money back, but to put those who do on the spot by making them ask for it back is just reprehensible. Why does this guy think he deserves a bonus? If he wanted more money, he should have bid what it was worth, not come panhandling in the forums.

By the way, can someone refresh my memory? I seem to recall someone with a similar name that used to post in ETC and claimed to do sub work for Etsy in his profile.

The Cranky One said...

it's like this:
They hired a guy, they didn't pay him until they were shamed into it. The dude emailed them a number of times. They ignored him. That sound familiar?

The fact that sellers were WILLING to donate (I do not know if anyone actually did) tells you NO ONE expected Etsy to honor it's agreement with this contractor. They were eager to make etsy look good, when they failed yet again. That says A LOT.

How many times do the sellers fill in the gaps? Why do they so often feel they need to?

The Funny One said...

It isn't about who to blame when sales are in the shitter and Etsy tweaks SEO until listings appear, disappear, and then re-appear with the pre-label Etsy (as if Etsy made the product, not the seller) and it's not about complainers or blacklists.

It't about an ecommerce site that uses a self-strangling, preferential structure that allows 5 million items to be listed with (1) no quality control 2) no addition of promotions space including removing a big promo section (GG's) 3) no real substantial improvements in Search 4) chronic problems with NPB's and PP processing glitches that all mean the site does not PROMOTE sales, it makes selling impossible for most sellers.

It's "selling" a gimmick for a low fee that doesn't deliver what it says it does.

Etsy is a selective boutique that makes a lot of money from listings, but only promotes a few sellers it likes. Period. Nothing more, nothing less.

The scam is how it presents itself to the "hopeful & willing" potential sellers. "You too can sell on Etsy" = today "If Etsy picks you as a fave store, you can sell on Etsy."

It's a very limited and limiting marketplace with a message to sellers that says something very very different.

This message has pissed off a lot of people because what was once a place for handmade has been changed to a place to sell the products Etsy likes.

The longer Etsy clings to that twisted message, the more people they piss off. Etsy created their own problems because the message they send to sellers is NOT what they are.

WindysDesigns said...

Cranky, crossmr admitted that there might have been some confusion with the communication. Now he might have been giving Etsy a graceful 'out', but we don't know anything but his side of the story.

While what happened certainly fit the communication style for Etsy, playing the sympathy card in the forums is also fairly common for the not-so-honest.

What really got me though was the air of entitlement this guy had toward the generosity of sellers. Maybe it's just me, but I would have never accepted those donations from people who were in no way responsible for my predicament in the first place. And if somehow those donations were made without my providing an address for them to be sent, I would have sent them right back, ESPECIALLY if I wound up getting paid by the entity who had hired me.

What I object to is the cavalier attitude that he displayed when asked if he was going to return the donated money since he got paid. I don't care if Etsy was shamed into paying him, as far as I'm concerned he looks no better than Etsy as far as ethics are concerned.

WindysDesigns said...

The Funny One, yep, yep and yep. Everything you've mentioned is true, and has been true for the 4 years I've been on Etsy.

So....if it's been this way for that long, what makes anyone think that it's suddenly going to change?

They try to work on search and get people complaining they can't find their stuff.

They try to tweak SEO and then people complain they can't find their stuff in Google.

Etsy tries to crack down on resellers and stuff that doesn't belong on Etsy and then sellers complain that stuff they used to sell is no longer allowed and Etsy is being unfair.

People complained about not being able to get a treasury or they can't view them because of slow connections, so now we have a treasury that anyone can make as many as they want and they never expire and now people are complaining about that.

People complain about favoritism in front page features and gift guides and Etsy emails. But no one wants to see randomly generated pictures because, God forbid, they might have sub-par photos.

I could go on and on, but you get the picture.

Etsy is what it is. The biggest favor you can do for yourself is accept it for what it is, roll with the changes, diversify and resist developing an unhealthy attachment to any venue.

And as for selling the dream and not delivering........it sucks when you find out your dream home is built on top of a swamp, but who's at fault, the realtor who hoped you'd buy the pretty package or the buyer who didn't look past the window dressing?

This tactic isn't exclusive to Etsy. Artfire employed a similar one. The gave free unlimited listings with an Etsy import tool to drive up their traffic. Then they proceeded to remove basic shop items from front page exposure and give Pro shops precedence in search and Google shopping uploads. They lured people in and then left them to either upgrade or be invisible not only on the site but on Google.

Now, this isn't just to rag on Artfire, I understand from a business perspective why they did this, but is it any less deceptive than Etsy selling the handmade dream and delivering quite another product?

At some point we have to take responsibility for ourselves and stop trying to lay blame. Yeah, Etsy's screwed up a lot of stuff, no doubt about it. But are you going to complain incessantly and demand changes from an entity with selective hearing or are you going to work with what you have (or move on)?

I know people don't like the term 'like it or leave it' but that is what it boils down to. If, after 4 years, things aren't improving, then I think it's time to re-evaluate and either work within the parameters or move on.

Beating your head against the wall doesn't move the wall, it only gives you a headache.

NotSurprised said...

I am on that list.

I also remember when the thread was rudely closed by Rob White. I was shocked as Rob White NEVER speaks to folks that way. I later took another look at the thread and discovered that Rob's original closing words had been changed.

The only reason that thread was closed is because people were twitting and facebooking to have Etsians that do not come to the forums come in to give their sales on that thread. The thread was growing and so many Etsians were coming in that never come to the forums. That is the only reason that thread was closed. It was too much info that Etsy does not want known.

For Etsy to not pay this poor person a measily $30 for this work is absolutely rock bottom scumbag tactics. Proves what I've felt since this whole fiasco started that Etsy has no morals whatsoever. If Etsy would screw someone out of a measily $30, they are capable of continuing to screw us all.

I praise this person for starting that thread to spill the beans.

Now, Etsy, the shit is all over your face. You earned it. How low can you go?

Karin said...

Funny One said:

"Etsy is a selective boutique that makes a lot of money from listings, but only promotes a few sellers it likes."

------------
Very well said, and I am sick to death of propping up their friends.

niftyknits said...

the message etsy are sending out now is that smut sells ("see more" link on front page) so I guess everyone's sales are going to carry on being minimal unless we each either make smutty treasuries or start making smut to be featured in them.

Amenhotep IV said...

Looks like the poor guy finally got paid:
http://www.etsy.com/forums_thread.php?thread_id=6523782

I think it's funny (and telling) that Etsy sellers rallied together and paid him long before Etsy even noticed he was airing laundry.

Notice how quickly it was swept under the rug.

The Funny One said...

Slow sales? You can read about the latest Etsy numbers in today's issue of Auctionbytes by Ina Steiner.

The emphasis on the buzzwords "maturing marketplace" is what really gets me since Etsy has not matured, they just added many more sellers than its limited buying audience will ever buy from which leads to fewer sales. It also leads to a regression of sorts, since, instead of attracting new shoppers, it's now more sellers buying from other sellers. We all know how limited and short-lived that kind of buying activity is - it peaks and dies because those shoppers quickly lose interest and stop buying anything but the below-$14 items.

By ignoring the fact that Etsy failed to enlarge their shopping audience (and is 100% responsible for that problem), Etsy did create a phenomenon they didn't expect --- the disgruntled seller who can't sell on Etsy as a new or old seller.

And because Etsy is not paying attention to the negative buzz from their own sellers, they won't know what hits them when the site collapses & no longer makes any money for EtsyCorp.

Tula said...

Regarding this contractor, he's a lot like some Etsy sellers. He's doing a disservice by working so cheap, kind of like sellers who price things too cheaply and ruin the market value for handmade items. I work as a contractor and guys like this make it harder for us to get paid what we're worth. It's bad enough we have to compete against outsourcing and imported cheap talent. Hmm, it's sounding more and more like the Etsy marketplace.