Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Etsy Police

Many people go to Etsy for the beautiful handcrafted items. They are unique and many times, one of a kind. I personally love browsing this website to see what people have come up with and some of their crafts are very clever and beautiful. Sometimes there are vintage items that you can’t get anywhere else. Etsy has a reputation of having shops and vendors who make their products themselves, the old fashioned way. This is part of the appeal of It features shops that sell handcrafted, made at home or small batch products. It’s kind of like going to a local festival that has artisan booths set up, they usually sell everything from jewelry to clothing and household decorations, all made by local crafters.

Apparently Etsy also has a department called the “Marketplace Integrity and Trust & Safety Team” that polices the website for products that are not vintage or handcrafted. They scan the shops on the website and investigate any seller who seem to be violating their rules of no factory made good or items that violate copyrights or offensive material. I found all of this out when I read an article in The Wall Street Journal, Busted by the Crafts Cops, Sarah Nassauer, The Wall St. Jr., April 18th 2012, at D1. The rules and regulations of Etsy are put in place to preserve the integrity of the handcrafted unique products made by local artisans. If they opened the doors to anyone who sells anything they would lose this quirky feature, hence the need for employees to check out sellers on the site.

The main reason people come to the site is to find something that nobody else sells. People want a one of a kind item and most of the items on are sold at a really good price. Many of the artisans are making their products by hand from their own homes or in small workshops or cooperatives. This helps to reduce the price and keep the items unique. According to the article Etsy sends out a questionnaire to sellers asking them to cooperate, answer some questions and maybe send some photos of their process. While many of the sellers, over 80%, have no problems and are cleared to continue selling, some are not so lucky. Etsy has shut down shops that don’t meet their criteria if they use a third party vendor. This can be devastating to the shop owners.

As Etsy grows it will probably continue to add employees who investigate the authenticity of their sellers. It’s a fabulous site for home crafters who are looking for an outlet to sell their wares. While the internet is a great place to set up a shop, it isn’t always easy to go it alone, I should know. Having a community of crafters and one large space for buyers to visit ups your possibilities for success. I like to think of Etsy as an on-line cooperative and since I live near Berkeley California I can visit some of these artist havens whenever I want, not so for people who live far away. Etsy gives it sellers a chance to be part of an artist cooperative yet has a worldwide reach and a supportive environment.

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