As Earth Day approaches and my plans to participate somehow unfold, I learn that the theme is “Invest In Our Planet”, and I have some thoughts about this statement. It sounds like it’s about money, but I believe there are other valid ways to invest. For one, no one should need to have money for their opinions to matter, nor have more votes because they have more dollars. I also think the culture of giving and expecting free labor is an abused system that favors privilege and undermines a fair living wage for everyone.
It’s been too long that my business – and my personal autonomy – has been controlled by Etsy’s ever-changing fees and policies and I am joining the strike by signing the petition, shutting my Etsy shop down from 4/11-4/18/2022 and sharing my story in this post.
Shortly after I opened my shop in 2013, Etsy made a shift to allowing resale of third party manufactured (not handmade by the seller) goods. It was all still new to me but I could tell that the tone had changed and both viewers and sellers were skeptical.
Then, there was the first fee hike I would see. In the spirit of ensuring folks at Etsy needed to be paid a fair wage, I conceded. Soon after, they launched an on-site payment processor for in-person events in competition with Square. Since I was already using Square at in person events, they only advantage was inventory syncing. I was initially optimistic but the swiper/scanner was slow and unreliable, hurting in-person transactions, so I went back to Square. Suddenly, they discontinued that program but partnered with Square to allow use of their swipers instead. Still, Etsy fees continued for this service, now applying to Square transactions. For those of us who were already using Square before Etsy’s app, this was a new fee, so I discontinued syncing the inventory.
Then, they closed the wholesale portion of the platform for handmade sellers without any notice and severed a direct connection to customer service (now it’s a FAQ matrix that rarely results in getting answers). Fortunately, we were able to download our contacts so we could continue to serve them through our own platforms, which I had to scramble to put together on a website that we previously used only as a blog for event announcements and product launches – it was pretty clunky at first but I shifted to simply using it for my own retail operations. Eventually, I would join Faire to continue generating new leads for wholesale and streamline my processing. It was going along smoothly, independent of Etsy.
Then, Etsy sent out a petition* to lobby for a universal sales tax and I was asked to join them at Washington DC along with a handful of other sellers. I was mostly in favor of standardizing it because Use Tax was largely misunderstood and underreported, leaving an unfair liability on sellers to know economic nexus thresholds throughout thousands of municipalities around the country. Eventually, Etsy conceded to collect and report sales tax for all municipalities that the platform has default economic nexus in, simply because it is a marketplace. It is still unknown what liability sellers have for reporting back to each state in this process and Etsy declines providing copies of this report. We can only cross our fingers that Etsy is submitting the sales tax they collected on our behalf and it does not automatically qualify us for economic nexus status for our own websites. *It should be noted that the petition was not equitably distributed or inclusive of all gender identifications, like many political petitions continue to be.
Then, Etsy would pressure sellers to “build shipping costs into” product prices so that it looks like free shipping, in order to be competitive. This is unethical for a number of reasons, namely that it’s provided by a third party service (example: USPS) who charges different fees for different weights, distances, etc. It would be false advertising, not to mention an accounting conflict. They also added fees to shipping costs, even when we would use our own shipping label service. They said “everyone else was doing it” so they were trying to match best practices. To this day, I still have yet to hear of any other platform doing it – and it has led to many sellers ditching environmentally friendly means of packaging or shipping.
This was launched around the same time as a mandatory Google ads campaign for sellers over a certain volume of sales. I did not receive it as a reward, but more of a penalty since there are additional fees associated with the ads, and return on investment isn’t quantifiable. It should be noted that these are fees to advertise Etsy’s platform and they do not help lead traffic to our individual shops on etsy. The analytics are muddy and we can not control who is targeted, when, or even opt out of it. I have always felt that marketing can be a form of advocacy if a product is truly solving a problem. How can an marketing algorithm decide what is best for our business, unless we define its parameters? We need to consider what is sustainable for the businesses and the people in them, before the needs of the platform.
In addition to the new Star Seller program that focuses on metrics which are not equitable to all types of businesses (response time, product launches, reviews, etc.), I’ve even become aware of social media influencers being paid by Etsy to link back to their website, using and or misrepresenting our content without permission for Etsy’s gain. I do not allow retailers to list my products in competition with my own website or make medical claims so it’s pretty easy to find someone else using unauthorized content. It is more important than ever to ensure integrity at the source for the safety of the people!
The pandemic created a movement of compassion for independently owned businesses (especially sole proprietors and micro businesses), and a lot of people who weren’t able to continue working shifted to the gig economy and launched new Etsy shops. I applaud those able to pivot and invest in their own dreams, at great risk. I continue to support them as they fill the search pages on etsy’s platform to Etsy’s best year ever (2021), and USPS does double duty to serve the existing in addition to new customers with deliveries. This impacts the environment in unfathomable ways!
Now, Etsy wants to increase the fees even more and many sellers are saying ENOUGH is enough! We are boycotting (shutting down our shops from April 11-18, 2022) to say we deserve to have control of our own businesses. Because we see potential to do more for the handmade community and the importance of small businesses in local economies. We acknowledge how the creative process is where problems are solved in new ways.
Creativity is innovation.
If we stifle creative thought, we are are bound to repeat the mistakes of the past. I’m NOT asking you to boycott Etsy sellers, but find alternative ways to support them in order to help show their value. Find their self-hosted website, or buy their goods from a local store who carries their product. Find new handcrafted goods at your local grocer or independent retailer. Give them a shout out on social media and tag them in it so other folks can find them. Create a guerilla marketing campaign.
Shutting down my Etsy shop, even temporarily, is not a light decision. My business has suffered some challenges during the pandemic and I’m going in for surgery next week. I need all the help I can get, but I would be most happy to see the results of the BOYCOTT as a moratorium to rising fees. The boycott is ON!
There’s a lot of us out there that can envision a more sustainable world, for the People, Planet and Profit.
#etsyboycott #shopsmall #shophandmade #endpandemicprofiteering #etsyshop #peopleplanetprofit #triplebottomline