my advice for buying + selling on etsy

over the last five weeks, i’ve had my very first bad experience with an etsy seller. part of me feels a smidge guilty for even saying that since i’m a seller myself (and i feel a camaraderie with other makers), but flat out, this has been a b-a-d experience. it all started six weeks ago…..

i’ve mentioned we’re working on making our great room a little more modern + a little more upscale. a big part of this is tearing out the fireplace mantle that is there now, and replacing with a single, simple dark wood square mantle. it’s about as simple as you can get: 8′ long, 8″ x 8″ square. mr. re-nest helped with the online search for exactly what we wanted….and we thought we found it on etsy. we started a convo with the seller, who was receptive + helpful. an order was placed and we saw that it would ship in three weeks.

here’s where it all started going downhill. at week three + one day, there had been radio silence from the seller since before the order was placed. we reached out. no answer for five days, and then we were told it was going out that coming week. that week went by, and no word. (you can see where this is going, right?) at this point, we’ve had to file a complaint with etsy and this seller has five more days to reply with tracking info, a receipt to prove shipment has occurred, or refund our money. the icky, annoying, frustrating part is that we have the carpet installer scheduled to come this friday and we’re going to have to cancel because the mantle needs to go in before we can do the stone wall, which needs to be done before we lay the new tile on the floor, which needs to happen before carpet. (are you feeling my pain yet?) we’re frustrated.

so, as i’ve been living through this (which i realize is a total first-world problem….”oh dear, my custom made mantle isn’t going to arrive on time!”), i do think i have some words of wisdom for both buyers + sellers in the handmade space. note: i’m not any sort of super fancy consultant in this handmade world or anything, but i do happen to have almost twenty years of experience working in a strictly client-service environment, where deadlines, budgets, and most of all, communication matters. allow me to put on my tiara and offer up some of my opinions….

for buyers of handmade items:

• always, always, always look for seller feedback. this was our #1 mistake with the seller we are working with. honestly, i had about three seconds to make a decision on the mantle when mr. re-nest sent me the link, and i just said yes. i didn’t even look. make sure that the seller you are considering buying from has some feedback.

• it’s never a bad thing to start a convo with the seller before you place your order. i always do this….even if the timeline that the seller states on their listing works with your timing, i always send a note to make sure that they can make what i’m wanting and get it to me in the timeline i need it in. (and, i can tell you from the sellers’ point of view, this sets this potential sale top-of-mind for me so i keep an eye out for it to come through.) and, you never know if the seller has had some sort of family emergency going on + their etsy store is (rightfully) not on their mind. (perfect example: i had an order come through for my shop while i was in labor. he came a few days early and i hadn’t had a chance to set my shop on vacation mode.)

• make sure you get a tracking number. when you get the shipping notification from etsy (which your seller should check once your item has shipped), make sure you get a tracking number. if it’s not included in the shipping notification, ask your seller for it.

• know that etsy does have your back. we know that if we never hear from this guy again, etsy will give us our money back. but then we have to start all over again with our search.

• and, after you receive your item, pay it forward and leave feedback. your seller will appreciate it, and future buyers will appreciate it!

for sellers of handmade items:

(preface: i realize that many people who read what i suggest below will dismiss me as some sort of control freak, type-a, crazy lady. fine, go ahead. whatever. all i’ll say is this: people are entrusting you to make something for them that for some reason you can deliver in a better way versus them walking into a big box retailer and purchasing. respect that choice the buyer has made. respect that they have chosen you over a national chain. give them something they won’t receive at a big store: personalized service.)

• communicate. it’s as simple as that. i know we’re all busy, but you know what? as soon as you hear that “ka-ching!” on your phone, all you simply need to do is send the buyer a quick note verifying that you received their order, thanking them for the order, and tell them you’ll send them a shipping notice and tracking info as soon as it ships. if the thought of re-typing this every time a new order comes in makes you want to weep, type it once, save it in your notes section of your phone (or in a permanently open word doc on your computer), copy and paste it. this little thing goes a long way. trust me.

• communicate more. if you know you’re getting close to your deadline to ship, send another quick note. here’s where i like to let my customers know what’s happening with their piece, and confirm that it will ship out by ____ date. i can tell you from my years of experience in account management and client service that it’s always better to keep your clients updated than to have them come to you worried and wondering what’s happening with their order. again, if the thought of this worries you, use your sell on etsy app (which updates you every day as to how many days you have left until an order has to ship), write out your touch-base message in your notes app, copy and paste it.

• manage your orders. when you ship, let your customer know. and include the tracking number. take it a step further and include a personalized note, thanking your customer, and letting them know how to contact you with any questions.

• include a handwritten, personalized note with your item. whether it’s a simple “thanks” on your invoice, or a note card, this is something your customer wouldn’t get anywhere else.

forgive me, but there’s so many of us that work so hard, stay up late, get up early, hustle, scream, swear + feel amazing, glowing pride at what we make, that when someone treats a purchase like it’s not worth anything, it’s not cool. as simple as that. as a buyer, protect yourself the best you can; and as a seller, let’s all support one another, huh?

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