Thursday, November 4, 2010

Joan Speaks Out

Hello!

We have another recently banned seller from CoralGate to tell her tale.

My name is JoanHunterHandmade, and I have been permanently banned from Etsy.

I opened my shop on Etsy in late March of this year at the age of twenty-six. Like many, I had stars in my eyes, and was hoping to sell my handmade crafts. I made 134 sales in the six months my shop was active there, and I had 100% positive feedback from 197 people. My success on the site was not due to anything Etsy Corp did to help my individual business, it was due to my own considerable efforts, my excellent customer service, my well-made products, and the other members of the community who helped me learn the ropes. In fact, it was rather DESPITE several obstacles Etsy presented to my business that I achieved what I had, (perhaps not much compared to some, but not too shabby compared to many). I really enjoyed chatting with other craft and micro-business enthusiasts on Etsy, shopping for unique items in handmade and vintage, and promoting the cause of buying handmade.

It was just after the six month marker that I started to become even vaguely aware of the truly disturbing side of Etsy Corp. I always found their renewal system to be highly questionable. It often felt like playing a slot machine. Sometimes renewing (just to be seen for heaven’s sake) would bring in sales, sometimes it would not, but it always added up to hefty fees. Most of my items fell into the jewelry category, which had millions of items listed, and sellers were renewing constantly to stay in the searches. (Now with Etsy’s recent changes to pagination, this will be even harder). But before I knew much about Etsy alternatives, I had already printed my business cards with my Etsy web address, and I was afraid to start investing my time, energy, and money in another location after dumping so much into my Etsy shop. I did create free accounts on two other venues, but only listed a few things and didn't pay much attention to them, so naturally didn't get a lot of attention back. I used this "evidence" to further reenforce my rationalizations for staying on Etsy. All of that changed one day in October when I learned about a piece published in Etsy's own blog, the Storque.

When I saw this article, I had spent every waking hour for the better part of my year doing everything within my power to sell my handmade jewelry and accessories on Etsy. For the sellers reading this, you know what that entails. We do all of our own promotion, many, like me, do their own product photography, shop design, descriptions, pricing, policies, packaging, shipping, advertising, treasuries, networking, blogging, tweeting, facebook-ing, and so much more, not to mention actually MAKING our products. We wear so many hats in our line of work! It’s not as easy as crocheting a pot holder and then slapping some photos up on a website for 20 cents and a small commission fee. A LOT of work goes into it, and a lot of money, too, and without the benefit of the many useful tools other sites offer their sellers. The least Etsy can do, as our selling venue, to whom we collectively pay BIG money, is stay out of our way in our quest to make our businesses succeed. And in one, glorious move, they did an astonishing job of sabotaging the very businesses that have been behind their success all along. All on the behalf of a woman whose jewelry is made in factories and sold at Target! A big brand-name whose cynical attempt at “green-washing” her company’s image to people she, or her PR agent, probably perceived as “all those unwashed hippies” who actually hand-make their items and sell them on Etsy, cast a pall of “irresponsibility” on sellers of all kinds of coral varieties. Etsy took our money to sell those coral items, and then torpedoed the chances of us getting a return on that investment. The lack of consideration on that point alone should have been grounds enough to leave. But it is hard to hoist anchor when your business, your baby, is just starting to pick up steam, as mine was. However, at that point, I realized that the boat was sinking. I wrote the following to “support” after efforts in the forums proved as productive as banging my head against a brick wall.

“Dear Etsy Support Team,
I am writing in protest of the decision to keep Temple St. Clair Carr's advertisement on the Storque. TSC is NOT a handmade, vintage or supply seller. She is a big, brand-name jewelry manufacturer who has maligned 99% of the Etsy jewelry community through her post on coral, which, by the way, contains no distinctions between types of coral when calling on shoppers to sign a pledge NOT TO BUY items using coral. Not only was this "article" not vetted, it apparently was not fact-checked either, as she casts erroneous disparagement upon the ethics of using coral as a material in jewelry making.

Coral used in jewelry CAN and IS farmed. That is a fact. The article clearly makes a false statement in that regard, as well as several other misrepresentative facts. Small-time jewelry making is not a major cause of coral depletion on this planet. If this were a newspaper, or any respectable journalistic publication, the responsible thing to do would be to write a retraction or correction of the misstated information presented. I realize Ms. St. Clair is a guest writer, but it is Etsy's blog, and Etsy is responsible for the content within it. In this case, content that sabotages Etsy businesses, while simultaneously linking to a competing off-etsy business venture.

I find this article to be not only inaccurate, but financially destructive to my business with the Etsy Corp, and I formally request that it be immediately removed from the website. I also find Etsy Corp's willingness to throw its loyal sellers and clients to the proverbial dogs, and its refusal to appropriately address our concernsto be nothing short of reprehensible conduct on behalf of the company and its representatives.
Thank you.”

After several DAYS I got this response:
“Hey there,
Thanks so much for emailing, we appreciate your opinion and consideration. I'm going to refer to Juliet's (our editorial director)
thoughts and response to this issue: {insert a copy-paste of Juliet’s announcement here}”

In other words “LA LA LA WE STILL DON’T HEAR YOU!” This was also the response of forum admin who again and again closed all threads in the
forums discussing the issue. At this point I was outraged, but wrote a fairly restrained reply. “Eva, thanks very much for your response.

Yes, I have read Juliet's input on the situation several times now. I realize that a decision has been made to change the Storque's editorial policies and standards, and while I appreciate that as a very basic step to "correct" the problem, I do not feel it goes far enough. Not only is the article, and the link to the pledge still active on Etsy's blog, but no retraction nor correction has been placed within that article, an article which misrepresents the facts to an extreme degree. If you don't want to take my word for it, I suggest reading and passing on this article by Newsweek, a highly espected professional publication. The article can be found here: http://www.newsweek.com...

Furthermore, I have picked up on the fact that Etsy's decision to address its clients who are still concerned with this matter stops at reiterating the inadequate announcement made by Julietgo. And while I sympathize with her situation, and hope that the buck is not being passed to rest on her shoulders alone, I respectfully request more of a dialogue from the company with its sellers in regard to this issue. For me, the damage has been done, as I have closed down my shop, as several other slighted sellers are doing, and whether I do business with Etsy ever again hinges on whether my fellow sellers and I receive an appropriately proportionate response from the company about our questions and concerns. thanks again”

I never received a response to that email. Now, how would it go over with one of my customers, if I sent them a C.O.D. after I had agreed to pay for shipping, and when they contacted me about it, I said “I wont do it next time!” but did not refund her the money? And then what if I just copied and pasted my initial reply over and over again when she followed up with me? What would my feedback look like then?

By this time sellers who wanted to talk about the coral issue on the forums had been shunted into a single thread in the “ideas” section-quarantined, sequestered, shunned, and mostly forgotten. When anyone tried to start a new thread, admin just closed it down and copy-pasted the same response or some variation thereof, referring us to Juliet’s announcement, an announcement none of the sellers could reply to, or ask questions about, or criticize, or have a dialogue with Admin about. This was simply unacceptable to me. I felt like Etsy’s actions and words bespoke an attitude that sellers were just beneath contempt. Just a bunch of whiners or crazy people ranting on a street corner, rather than the root of their company’s success, customers with legitimate questions and concerns, people whose livelihoods were at stake, and up until a recent surge of venture capital, the sole source of Etsy’s revenue. By now, realizing how little Etsy thought of me, my business, and my fellow sellers, I moved my shop. I posted the following announcement: “In solidarity with my fellow jewelry makers I will be moving my business off Etsy in response to the Storque article promoting mass-produced, brand-name jewelry to be sold at Target stores, and slanderous misinformation being spread by An off-Etsy company which maligns the business practices of Ethical Etsy artisans. Fight for handmade!!”

Of course, Etsy wasted no time in removing that announcement and sending me an email about it, though they STILL have not responded to my questions, nor provided me with even a basic level of decent customer service. It seems they only respond to sellers when it is time to point the finger, spank, reprimand, or put them in a time-out I perceived immediately the need for a safe place for sellers to gather outside of Etsy, a place for the traumatized, disenchanted, stomped on, and used. I called it The Etsy Refugee Society (http://etsyrefugeesociety.blogspot.com/).

I had discovered suddenly, and much to my horror, that underneath their touchy-feely “hey there” exterior, Etsy is run like a third-world dictatorship, where pronouncements are handed down from on high without the input or responses from sellers, where people are silenced, or just disappear, where courtiers receive favor from the powers-that-be often at the expense of the “peasants”, where there is a pervasive cultural demand for cult-like adherence to Etsy and all of its decisions- right or wrong. Once you close your shop there, and voice disgust, and stop spouting the party line, you become an outsider who is told to shut up and go away by adherents to the holy shrine of mustaches, foxes, cowls and owls. Many recklessly label pissed-off ex-sellers as simply bitter failures who have no one but themselves to blame. That certainly wasn’t the case for me, and my shop. It is a mind-blowing experience to go from being an Etsy cheer-leader to being treated like a malignant tumor after you have a problem with the company.

Weeks ago, I made the decision to seek refuge elsewhere, so my affairs were more or less in order when they finally swung the axe. My favorite part of their email, informing me that my account had been deactivated and I had been permanently banned, was this: “...our business relationship must now come to a close.” Well, since our “business relationship” consisted of me paying THEM money to stomp on my business, my dignity, my friends, and provide me with the shittiest customer service I’ve ever experienced in my lifetime. So yes, it must now come to a close, by all means.

Later that day they closed down the only thread on the forums in which people were “allowed” to voice their displeasure about all aspects of the coral article. Just like with so many of Etsy’s mismanaged and disgraceful business escapades, this one has been officially swept under the rug. Meanwhile, I am happy and enjoying my first sales in my new home on Artfire along with many of my favorite current and former Etsy sellers. Their camaraderie, dedication, sense of humor, kindness, empathy, brains, and strength of character are the most precious and valuable aspect of my time on Etsy, and I long for a day when we can ALL be free from Etsy’s iron-fisted douche-baggery and corporate fuckery.

So that’s my tale. I thank Etsy Bitch for giving me the opportunity to share it, and for demanding justice for all in Etsyland- the not-so-happy kingdom.

Signed,
JoanHunterHandmade

22 Comments:

Wolf said...

What she doesn't mention, is that she had used one of the banners posted here, right before she was perma banned. And it did NOT contain off site links, merely stated that she was closed and to google her name to find her from now on.

Yeah. Not cool, Etsy.

Anonymous said...

I see the firing squad is out in full force, right before the holidays.

Etsy doesn't give a shit about anyone, just the almighty $$, and the cupcakes will soon be choking on that icing. Oh, pardon me, wonder how renewal is working for them with the 50K cap?

Stiflers Mom said...

Welcome to Artfire, JoanHunter and everybody else fed up with the hipster douchebags at Etsy.

Anonymous said...

Sandahl here...

Yes, Etsy screwed up big time with the coral article, and how it was all handled poorly. I'll always be one of the first to call BS BS.

BUT Joan knows full well why she was banned. She practically begged for it.

Woolybumblebee got shafted, not so with Joan, imo.

Just A Grandma said...

I feel for you, I truly do...this statement however is not going to win you friends and help you influence people...

"It’s not as easy as crocheting a pot holder and then slapping some photos up on a website for 20 cents and a small commission fee. A LOT of work goes into it, and a lot of money, too."

Those handmade Sellers that crochet their pot holders may not be making a mint, but they make their product. They might not be great at photography but they DO take their own pictures. And as you did mention they pay their 20 cents just like the rest of us. And I imagine (and to a certain extent I know this as fact) that they too work very hard at promoting themselves...Many of them even promote OTHERS. And do you KNOW how easy it is to crochet potholders and do all they do?

There are some of us that could say "anyone can put beads on a string it's not that hard".

What Etsy did to you is wrong, many things Etsy does to all of us is wrong. But we need to stick together if we're going to make our point...that means not just the jewelry makers that use coral...that means all of us...the sewers, the crocheters, the knitters, the upcyclers, the carvers ALL OF US. There isn't any one person selling on Etsy that is any more important than another.

Much of this comes with "age"...but sometimes you need to be quiet while you plot and plan in a group...no one ever won a war by standing up and yelling loud enough for the enemy to hear them...they hunkered down, kept quiet and planned...and won...

And I do very much feel for you in your current position...and I wish you the very very best. But please remember others....everyone counts.

The Funny One said...

Thanks Joan, and I most appreciate how you decribe so well how much work it takes to set up and maintain an online store on Etsy, and on all of the marketplace sites. Until you've done it for several months yourself (and you actually make what you list) it is an unending cycle of unending heavy labor.

The issues with Etsy are multi-layered, but the motivation behind everything Etsy does to promote the few while PREVENTING most sellers from selling is that Etsy fell over the pieces of their "formula for success" and then ran with them, without a thought about the implications for the whole site. Coupled with their proven infatuation with their own personalities, they constantly make mistakes like Coralgate because they're drunk on their own, perceived popularity (and unbelievable knack to scam a lot of people out of a lot of money).

Cowls sell, Etsy promotes the cowl maker to $140k a year and uses that to wrangle in new sellers (and nothing else, that's they're one and only "hook" because 99% sellers don't sell a damn thing on Etsy in 2009 and 2010).

The entire Dorque is proof of Etsy's reliance on easy money, easy tricks, and easy trends, plus a whole lot of quesionable ethics which starts with employees who have Etsy stores and extends to their long history of using personal beefs to "punish" sellers for not kissing ass.

Etsy is based on a few tricks that benefit Etsy, and they jumped on every single scam that nets them more money --- this is a site based entirely on listing fees, not on selling fees. They fluff it up by promoting their top 100, some who do sell well because they get so much FREE advertising space on Etsy pumped up with heavy FREE editorial promos in the Dorque. Formula done! Rake in high listing fees volume, rally around a few, and go home with a huge paycheck. Doesn't take a lot of brain cells to figure that simple stuff out.

Etsy has no clue what it's doing, but so much of it makes money, that's what they go with. Take the HGTV promotion. Does that makes sense to you if you sell finished handmade products? Hell no, this promo is about the DIY's, NOT BUYING HANDMADE but making it themselves!

Had any experience seller (on ANY marketplace site) thought that through, they would have seen that it might sell supplies, but it sure has nothing to do with buying handmade for the gift-giving season! It is one of the stupidest promos I have ever seen attached to that site.

Etsy doesn't think, period. They jump on a trend-wagon, and often make money, and that's what they do, make money by making a bunch of really stupid mistakes.

When you read Kalin's press ink about the "future of Etsy" time will prove that Etsy is a big bag of tricks, and tricks have short lives. The tricks and scams will soon get old enough and transparent enough, and the game will be OVER. Ta-ta Etsy!

DancingWindDesigns said...

As somebody who was posting with Joan in the coral corral, I expect to be muted and banned any day now, not that I care. One day, that flimsy little "renew, renew, renew" bag of tricks is going to come tumbling down around the collective heads of Etsy and a lot of us will be laughing until we cry.

I was horrified to see etsy doing something in league with HGTV and I sent HGTV an email suggesting that they double check any seller or item they decide to feature to be sure it is handmade by the seller since etsy is becoming known for being a place for mass produced stuff.

G33K GODDESS said...

Just A Grandma said...
I feel for you, I truly do...this statement however is not going to win you friends and help you influence people...

"It’s not as easy as crocheting a pot holder and then slapping some photos up on a website for 20 cents and a small commission fee. A LOT of work goes into it, and a lot of money, too."

Those handmade Sellers that crochet their pot holders may not be making a mint, but they make their product. They might not be great at photography but they DO take their own pictures. And as you did mention they pay their 20 cents just like the rest of us. And I imagine (and to a certain extent I know this as fact) that they too work very hard at promoting themselves...Many of them even promote OTHERS. And do you KNOW how easy it is to crochet potholders and do all they do?

There are some of us that could say "anyone can put beads on a string it's not that hard".

__________

Hey, Grandma, Joan here. I'm afraid you mistook my meaning! I just want to clear it up... What I'm saying is, to an outsider, it may LOOK like we just crochet a pot holder and slap it up on Etsy, but there is so much more that goes into crafting and selling and managing an online business than that. That was my (perhaps poorly worded) point. Did not mean to belittle pot-holder crocheters at all... I swearzorz to it!!!!

G33K GODDESS said...

Sandahl here...

Yes, Etsy screwed up big time with the coral article, and how it was all handled poorly. I'll always be one of the first to call BS BS.

BUT Joan knows full well why she was banned. She practically begged for it.

Woolybumblebee got shafted, not so with Joan, imo.

_______

I'm not complaining about being banned... IMO.

Anne Onymous said...

JustAGrandma, I don't think Joan meant to belittle potholder makers. I actually made every potholder in my kitchen--on a looper loom--cos I like that kind of potholder. I knit my own dishrags, too. :-) I think the point, maybe not so well expressed, is that everybody's work has its own dignity, and that's not really recognized in the Etsy venue. You're much more likely to get noticed if you're crocheting fake fruits and vegetables, or owls, or large fake stuffed deer heads, than if you're making something traditionally useful. Keep making those potholders and find someplace to sell them where they'll be appreciated.

I've just about finished my clandestine transition to Artfire. The monthly fee meant that I could put up all the little Christmas stocking stuffers I do each year--without bankrupting myself. And while I was setting up my "Stock Up for Santa" studio section, I ended up being able to do free shipping for all my items PLUS A COUPON for shoppers who spend more than a certain amount. It took me about four hours of work and study to get the thing set up. Now I just move a few more things in each day.

I'm going to leave ten items a month on Etsy for reasons dealing with local contacts. And I bet the Etsy powers that be buy all their potholders and dishrags at Hell Mart. (Makes raspberry noise...)

The Dangerous Mezzo said...

Ah, Etsy. Still the same old crap. Thanks, Joan, for writing such a clear, cogent description of your treatment at the hands of an organization that now has years and years of form for treating sellers like shit. Thanks, EB, for providing a place for Joan's voice to be heard.

Etsy, you're hopeless.

G33K GODDESS said...

Dude! Pot holders ROCK. Especially handmade ones with love woven in! Arts and crafts are healing to the soul, Etsy not so much hehaheh.

Anne- thanks so much for untangling my awkward phrase. Doesn't it feel weird/amazing to list an item without having to flinch? I am still not used to it! In fact, the more I list, the more I get for what I paid on AF! I no longer feel like a gambler when I add a product to my studio... it is AMAZING!

Dangerous - Their behavior is truly shocking in so many ways. I had already made my mind up about Etsy by the time they got around to giving me the boot (obviously). I just feel that if they are not going to abide by, or apply their "TOU" consistently, I shouldn't have to either. But I am lucky... I was ready to leave. There are others who have taken a serious hit due to their douche-baggery. And those are the ones I want The Etsy Refugee Society to serve. If you have any ideas how we can make leaving their "abuser" easier, please let me know. Thanks!

sam cain said...

sorry to hear about your problems.
why not check out http://shoply.com - they are fanatical about customer service

TeawithFrodo said...

Sandahl here...

Yes, Etsy screwed up big time with the coral article, and how it was all handled poorly. I'll always be one of the first to call BS BS.

BUT Joan knows full well why she was banned. She practically begged for it.

Woolybumblebee got shafted, not so with Joan, imo.

---------------------

I hate that speaking your mind and being unhappy about the way things are being run means you deserve to be banned.

Etsy bans people who say what they don't want to hear. That doesn't mean people who speak up are asking for it.

I closed my shop last year after the Nazi flag issue and was very vocal about that. They threatened to mute me until a couple organizations got up their butt about the flag.

I'm disgusted with Etsy. There are some great items there and some amazing sellers who don't sell elsewhere. I want to support handmade, but not through Etsy.

Aunt Onery said...

I don't mind that Joan spoke her mind in the last phase at all. Not my busness to "grade" anyone's leaving style.

I've seen quite a few victims at various activism events get in a couple of good punches before they're removed from the event.

Each of has the right to be who ever we are with each choice we make in our spiral around life's medicine wheel.

Wooly Bumblebee said...

Regardless of why someone is booted off Etsy, it's the way in which they do it that is the disgraceful thing. They will give you NO NOTICE and no time to gather any info from your shop. No sales or purchase records, no convos, nothing! So if you don't have copies of your stuff you are screwed! Always always always have copies people!! You just never know if it will happen to you. And if it ever does, you need to be prepared. I have all my info from day one in 2007 stored in a file in my computer and on a CD. It's vital! Because once E shuts you out, everything is GONE without a trace.

Ellie said...

Etsy has been carrying on in exact same way since the beginning.

The way the business is run clearly reflects the personality of the slime ball who founded it. Arrogant, retaliatory, greedy, and dishonest.

It was actually a bit better with Maria in charge, and when that little prick said he was coming back, it was sickening to see some people act like 'Oh yes! This is good news!'...

MySide said...

I feel for you JoanHunter, from one wrongfully banned seller to another.

At least you had time to move your descriptions and shop polices/feedback..etc before they swung the axe. I did not.

At least they sent you a letter informing you of your deactivation. I did not get that letter. Apparently Etsy doesn't work on the weekends or check emails then.

They knew they were wrong, and I wrote them just as you. It is me who is the reason why you all have to sign in again with your passwords when you enter certain parts of your accounts. All because my account was accessed by someone without my authorization.

I expressed great concern they didn't do enough to protect people from stalkers and mean spirited people with no life.

I told them forwarding people to the FBI's website for identity theft wasn't enough. That they could easily build a code to have people sign in again, just as they do on Yahoo and Facebook when accessing account information.

I was astonished to learn they also deactivated my wife's account. We linked to each other on the site via our profiles and announcements. We had our own paypal accounts, and banking.

To make this abundantly clear My account was attacked, not hers.

Interesting enough, Etsy took it upon themselves to create such a code shortly after they deactivated our accounts.


So they must have heard me? But boy oh boy they would have REALLY heard me if they had a PHONE NUMBER and not some handmade fuckery phone booths for "private phone calls,"... NOTHING there is private. They all sit together and giggle at their desks with fake mustaches held to their faces.

If they did some actual work over instead of muting everyone... smh.

The way they handled my "case," was clearly wrong. I was further punished for their mistakes, and blamed for not safe keeping my password, which by making such a site update for people to re-sign in with such information, only proves they were wrong and they knew they had a WEAK system.

It's still a mystery why they wouldn't reactivate me and give me access to MY descriptions, but the unbelievable mystery is why the deactivated my wife. She was a separate seller. Are husbands and wives not allowed to sell from individual accounts with totally different content???


It only proves I was just another victim, but more importantly my wife's account was easily written off as collateral damage. That's inexcusable.

I went through google's archives and found what I needed to obtain my descriptions and hers. Up yours Etsy.

In all my wife made her own success, not Etsy. They're selfish, and hungry for money, her hard earned money, including yours!

I heard they're going public, and this is just all about investors now.
Soon Etsy will be owned by share holders, and only doing things to make THEM happy, and far more less to make you happy.


Good luck on Artfire, they seem to be a promising website...along with Zibbet who is slowly rising to the top.

I fear to even post my name to be further injured, thus the anonymous response. I may have caused ruckus on my OTHER name but was given permission via Etsy to create a new one.
The reason why they deactivated me then was different and understandable.
I was in the wrong then and admit it.

For others to even suggest that my NEW account was merely a sock puppet account is stupid. I wasn't hiding my identity and Etsy knew that.., and my wife shouldn't be victim to my doings on the site REGARDLESS.

That's just ridiculous. Either way, my password was stolen on my NEW account because they have a weak system and I was punished for it.. but why my wife's account too? Nobody was on it other than her, nobody stole her account info. Etsy screwed up BIG time.

So... excuse me for saying this, but.. Fuck you Etsy,..Fuck you for fuckering with her account, not answering emails with a real response, for being thieves, and liars to your own TOU.

<^>(-_- )<^>

/end rant

Anonymous said...

Joan, welcome to ArtFire. Crafters, suppliers, and vintage folks made Etsy.

ArtFire is paying attention and learning from Etsy's mistakes. We can all make ArtFire work for us and Etsy can shove their bullying and poorly structured platform up their egocentric plushie asses.

Ashley (azie designs) said...

Thanks for sharing your story Joan!

Etsy seems to be "going out of style" lately. I am also a frustrated seller, planning to jump ship after the holidays.

However, I have to agree with Just A Grandma; your statement makes it sound like your jewelry is far harder than crocheting, and you're unlikely to make any friends that way. We all pay the fees, and do the jobs of 20 people in order to sell our stuff.

- Ashley

wtf said...

Once again WTF,so sad and tired of all the Crap that goes on at Etsy .I watch companies that are
clearly violating standards set by Etsy, making money hand over fist on items that are made in ,choose country of choice,and easily attainable on other venues as what they actually are-factory made in china, etc. I stopped renewing about a month ago.Just letting time run out and moving on.

Anonymous said...

I just had to stop in and say that I'm disgusted with how many sellers I know are being banned for infringing on copyrighted stuff... For using twilight as a time of day.