Etsy: My Unrequited Love

For six years as a seller, I have been faithful, encouraging, nurturing your growth. In the beginning, I would proudly tell my friends and family that my handmade jewelry, a little hobby of mine as I made my way through grad school and life as a civil servant, could be found on e-t-s-y.com (I had to spell it out because no one had ever heard of you, it seems). Your fees were so low, your interface so straightforward and you made it so accessible for me to navigate running a pretty little shop at my own pace. I made a few sales here and there, to buyers all over the world. I was so excited.

By a couple of years in, my love for you had only deepened. You seemed to want to be better. You made changes that really seemed to respond to what I and other sellers needed from you to keep our shops running smoothly. The lines of communication were open. The community grew. My shop developed. We were at the forefront of an extraordinary social and economic movement: the re-legitimization of ethical, handmade products.

Three years in, and I really let myself fall for you. I read every single “Quit Your Day Job” article and I started to make plans to do so too. I was ready to commit, Etsy. I believed in you and the movement you were leading. My sales were small but steady and I just knew if I did all the things you said I should, we would be ready to take things to the next level.

What we could have been.

For me, the first sign that things weren't all they seemed was when, in 2012, I applied and was interviewed for a job as a Seller Development Specialist at your Canadian “office” (I use quotation marks because at that time you had just one employee here.) I nearly cried as I wrote my cover letter, which opened with: “Etsy is by far one of the happiest things that has ever come into my life.” No, I didn't have a marketing degree. But I had real, deep, and rare experience as a Canadian Etsy seller (and a Master's in Economics, which wasn't exactly irrelevant). And I truly cared about Etsy and wanted to see it succeed. I knocked that interview out of the park, and my take-home assignment - to describe ways to recruit thousands of new Canadian sellers to Etsy - was extraordinary. So extraordinary, in fact, that even though I didn't hear back from you and later found out that the position went to someone else, all of my assignment’s proposals were announced and rolled out within six months of that interview. I won't lie, Etsy, that hurt. I felt used.

Still, we persevered. I forgave you, mostly because I realized that my true love for you lay in the community and support you built for your sellers.

Except then you started to deconstruct that, too.

You inexplicably changed and worsened important seller tools, like when you switched from Search Ads - which was very inexpensive, easy to use, and clearly increased sales - to the confusing, VERY expensive, and utterly useless Promoted Listings. I actually ran A/B tests to try to understand how to even use the system because there were no clear directions for sellers. I don't think it should have required a background in statistics to use one of your most basic seller tools.

You introduced policies that opened up your once-exclusive market to the cheap, mass-produced goods that used to be the antithesis to everything that you stood for. Now, some sellers - only with your approval - can employ third party manufacturers to ramp up their production, while the rest of us have to adhere to extremely strict rules about what constitutes “handmade”.

Don't get me wrong, I was happy to follow these rules when I knew that customers expected a certain quality of merchandise when they came to Etsy to shop - but now they don't have that assurance. Now they approach my shop and others with skepticism - how do they know what is really handmade, and what is just masquerading as such? Etsy, you used to do the work for them. You were known for having strong principles and that attracted real customers who wanted exactly that. Now it's getting harder to recognize you in a sea of other online marketplaces.

Which brings me to today. Amazon Handmade wants me, and frankly, the interest is mutual. I wish it wasn't so, Etsy. You're so beautiful and approachable and you used to represent so much good in the world, so much opportunity for independent artists… but more and more, I feel like I'm holding on to an idea of you that isn't real anymore. You don't love me the way I need to be loved. And maybe Amazon won't either - but I think I have to take that chance. I don't like what they stand for, their interface is ugly, and their seller policies are very hard to understand, but… alas, you're not much better.

Etsy, my beloved, I still want you to win. I want you to really commit to doing better. I want you to remember the principles that made you - that made US - truly great. I'm still holding out hope that you will. But until then, I have to explore my options. I will always think fondly of the good times we had.

Adieu.


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