Etsy Strike Sellers Speak Out
Etsy Strike organizer Kristi Cassidy informed me today the movement has sent a letter addressed to CEO Josh Silverman and several other executives and board members.
The letter reads, in part:
Over the past few years, our perception as members of Etsy’s seller community is that Etsy is shifting away from its handmade, vintage and small business roots. From the flood of illicit drop-shippers and resellers onto the market, to recent policy changes and fee increases, Etsy has become a downright hostile place for authentic small businesses to operate. For both full-time and part-time sellers alike, the changes on Etsy have brought many of us to the brink of financial ruin.
We realize that Etsy has to generate a profit, and that Etsy provides a service to sellers for which it is entitled to seek a payment. But, without sellers, Etsy couldn’t even exist! After giving Etsy two years of record profits under the most difficult circumstances imaginable, we’re tired, frustrated and ready to fight for our seat at the table.
Our demands are not unreasonable. In fact, we believe they’re the best way forward to get Etsy back on track towards fulfilling the promise of “Keeping commerce human.” We are confident that Etsy sellers and management can work together to make the platform live up to its potential...
...We invite you to speak with us – really speak with us personally, not through an anonymous spokesperson in the media – in good faith about helping Etsy fulfill its promise to sellers and buyers. We don’t want a long, drawn out struggle, but our movement will only continue to grow unless these issues are addressed.
Thank you for reading our letter,
The Etsy Strike Team & the growing thousands and thousands of sellers who stand with us
The first day of the strike has gained a lot of attention, making it into Twitter Trending and receiving widespread media coverage as well.
With less than a week to go, I asked Etsy Strike organizer Kristi Cassidy for an update on where the movement stands and what the response has been so far.
"The reaction we are getting from buyers is 100% positive," Kristi said. "They shop on Etsy to support us, and they do not want the platform to make any changes to hurt us, or cause more of the money they spend to be diverted to Etsy."
The comments on the petition show buyers are particularly concerned with drop shippers and resellers on the platform, stating they shop on Etsy specifically to support independent artists and small businesses.
As a buyer I am frustrated with having to sort through obviously mass-producing sellers. I want to support small businesses in a sustainable model for them.
I buy a lot from Etsy for the sole reason that the people selling on the platform are independent artists. If this goes the way of every other "profits over people" business as we've seen lately, then I will find alternative avenues to get artists paid. It is time for a shift in how society is run.
According to Cassidy, with close to 30,000 signatures currently on the petition, about 12,000 have checked the "I'm a seller on Etsy" box.
Etsy has tried to downplay the numbers, telling Gizmodo in a statement the petition "represents less than .03% of its total seller base and that the organizers’ perspectives did not match the point of view of all sellers on the site."
However that statement was made long before the current almost 30K signatures and those who are familiar with the Customer Complaint Iceberg will know it's not wise to only focus on the tip. 😉
Kristi also provided this info from their FAQ with alternative options to participate and support the strike, even if not for the full week that is planned.
How do I go on strike?
Go on strike by putting your shop on vacation mode, and changing your vacation mode announcement to tell your customers about the strike. April 11-18, 2021. Copy-pastable messages are posted here.
I can't afford to put my shop on vacation mode, can I still join?
We want to send a strong public message that we are 100% committed to this cause. If you can, please strike with us! But we also understand that for many of us, Etsy holds all of the cards. People who can only strike for one day (April 11) are welcome in our movement, as are people who can't strike at all but support the strike.
I'm concerned about the fallout from putting my shop on vacation mode, is there another way I can join the strike?
One of our members had the idea to add a thousand dollars to every price in their shop, and change listing titles to info about the strike. We welcome any creative ideas you might have to refuse sales for that week, and let your shoppers know what's going on with the Etsy platform.
How can I get more involved with the strike?
Get more involved by joining our communities on Reddit and/or on Discord. Follow the links at etsystrike.org/join-us.
Etsy Strike has started a petition as well and it has almost 25,000 signatures so far!
Earlier this month we highlighted a group of Etsy sellers who were proposing a strike to protest the recent fee increase and bring attention to issues sellers face on the platform.
As their efforts pick up steam, Kristi Cassidy from Etsy Strike was kind enough to facilitate a "group interview" for Value Added Resource to allow the members of the movement to collaborate on the answers provided below.
Why is your group organizing this strike, what are the most important concerns/grievances, and what do you hope to accomplish?
We are striking to protest Etsy’s treatment of sellers. The 30% fee increase is only the most recent of our grievances. Etsy is marketed as a place for handmade and unique vintage items, but they refuse to properly enforce their own terms.
When unscrupulous users are allowed to sell mass-produced junk at sweatshop-labor prices, it's unfair both to makers who do follow the rules and to buyers who've come to the site expecting to do business with authentic handmade and vintage sellers.
Any seller making gross sales more than $10,000 (less than ¾ of the federal poverty line) is forced to pay an additional 12% fee to fund Etsy's Offsite Ads. Sellers have no control over how Offsite Ads are administered, or on which listings the money is spent.
There is a Star Seller Program which forces unrealistic customer service expectations on us, yet the customer service Etsy offers us is abysmal. They enforce their terms by an AI which will shut shops down randomly and institute 45 or 90 day holds on 75% of funds - during which the seller is still expected to make and ship items on time.
These sellers are then unable to get a response from Etsy support for days or weeks, or sometimes never. This is an issue that's affected thousands of sellers across the world. But, as individual small businesses and craftspeople, Etsy can just brush us away and ignore us.
At least, we hope to raise awareness of these issues. At best, we hope to become strong enough and large enough so that Etsy will listen to us, and make these changes, all of which will make the platform better for the sellers they purport to represent.
People unfamiliar with the situation might say costs naturally go up over time, other marketplaces (like eBay) have had recent fee increases too, and it's just the cost of doing business.
Why do you believe this fee increase is different? What makes it unethical?
Etsy reported record profits in 2021. Enough to acquire two of their competitors, in fact. This is pandemic profiteering, plain and simple. And should this fee increase go through, most sellers' fees will have more than doubled in four years’ time.
Do you see sellers leaving if Etsy moves forward with the fee increase? Are there other viable options for selling their handmade goods if they leave?
Etsy’s biggest competitor was Artfire. They closed in December 2021. It’s hard to even name a close second. Anyone who does not have the ability to go it alone and market a standalone website feels trapped and forced to continue with Etsy.
What does Etsy say they plan to do with the additional revenue? Do you believe those plans will benefit sellers and/or that Etsy will keep their promises?
The first thing they promise is to bring more buyers to the platform. Except, this is a promise already made that was never delivered on. In 2018, they increased our fees by 42% under the guise of bringing us more buyers. Instead, the numbers show that they brought more sellers.
We're still waiting to get what we've been paying for since 2018. Now they're selling us something we've already bought, only at an even higher price. Just because our businesses are small doesn't mean we were all born yesterday!
Their next promise is a 20% increase in seller support, about which I saw a Redditor comment with a sarcastic “hmm, 20% of zero is…” We need better support that’s targeted to specific situations - like shop shutdowns and payment holds. If Etsy removed resellers from their platform, they would require less customer support to manage cases opened by buyers who are dissatisfied with paying a “handmade” surcharge for a factory-made item.
Finally, they promise to “Keep Etsy unique” - well, their very wording is a lie. Etsy isn’t unique anymore - because too many categories are saturated with resellers. For us to trust that they plan to fix the problem, they might like to start by acknowledging that the problem exists.
What are the most important seller concerns besides the fee increase? What would you like to see Etsy do to address them?
For me personally, it’s the resellers. Buyers who get tricked into paying more for fake handmade don’t come back. That will kill the platform eventually.
For others in our community, it’s the poor support. When your livelihood can be taken down by a computer, and you can’t access a human to fix the computer’s mistake, that’s a serious issue.
For the support issues, we want a system that issues “golden” support tickets that guarantee a conversation with a real human being for anyone who has a shop that’s been shut down or otherwise hobbled by AI.
The reseller problem is more complicated, but we will only trust a system that is transparent. We need to see real progress made on this issue. There is already a system where you can report an item for not meeting Etsy’s policies. If the total number of “not handmade” reports were made public, along with data on how many were followed up on and resolved, that would be a potential solution.
How can interested sellers and supporters get involved and what is the best way they can help at this time?
We are looking for volunteers to help us spread the word. We can use people who can make images, who can write, and who can make videos. We want to form a grassroots movement to support authentic handmade and vintage sellers, and expose what Etsy is doing to them.
Thanks to Kristi and everyone in the Etsy Strike group who contributed to this interview!
If you want to learn more about their plans and get involved - check out their website and various social media pages. 👇