Robots in Times Square also sold on Etsy from Regretsy.com
When Etsy first hit the scene circa 2005 or so, I remember where I was, what I was doing, and who I was talking to about it. Melodramatic, yes, but it was a big deal for me back then (as a tech professional, indie shopper, and crafter) and quite the nifty concept. An online market with a focus on handmade, quality handmades. What set it apart for me was that it not only gave everyone access to local handmades but it in turn gave handicrafts and handmades a better reputation. It wasn’t that long ago that the majority of handmades had a bad connotation for being shoddy and unskilled. You’d have to wade through so much bad to get to one decent, it just wasn’t worth it. It used to be only those in the creative or artist communities knew where to look for and how to spot the truly exquisite things.
To put it ironically, Etsy brought handmades to the mass market! It blew up into what it is today, a widely popular online shop where independent crafters can easily sell their wares. Simply register and start posting up your stuff. Fees, if any, were nominal. No need to set up shopping carts or payment systems. Or know much about webpages and websites. It was easy and accessible. It was a DIY business for DIY crafts that gave you access to a wide global audience.
For shoppers, it was a hub to find wonderful new artists and their fresh wares connecting an average shopper to an artisanal community they may not have found if not for Etsy. It brought say Brooklyn local to the web. You no longer had to live or shop in Brooklyn to get a taste of the wares it had to offer. It gave shoppers from all over the world the opportunity to shop similar experiences and at much more affordable prices too since the cost of setting up shop was low.
It grew so popular that Etsy Labs, a subsequent Etsy Craft School of sorts, and its collab with 3rd Ward emerged and echoed its dedication towards handmades. Etsy brought the handmade market to the forefront on the internet for many crafters and helped ring in a new era for handmades and DIY.
So, what happened?
These days Etsy is far from strictly handmades and independent artisans. It’s overrun with resellers who claim their item is handmade when it blatantly does not look handmade and can be bought in bulk from wholesaler websites! Or is ripped off from another website and passed off as their own work. It’s now a free for all marketplace not much different than Ebay. Except worse. It runs under the guise of being a handmade marketplace. Whereas Ebay makes no secret that it’s an open free for all marketplace period.
Even worse, Etsy censors comments and feedback that “call out” a shop owner who tries to pass off someone else’s work as their own personal work! That shop remains up and running, passing off those same goods, while the commentor is either banned or kicked off.
Someone’s pulling the old “switcheroo” as they say.
Etsy not only claims to be a handmades-only marketplace but a patron of sorts for the handmade arts. Yet we see examples like the above. To me as a consumer, it’s all misleading. Kind of like someone trying to pass off gold-plated for solid gold.
To artisan crafters and shop owners, it under cuts their sales and bottom line. Who can compete with mass-made items being sold for a fraction of the cost? I, as a consumer, may think why pay more for that handmade when this handmade is cheaper? It’s also sleazy to pose as an artisan when you are clearly not.
In the end, it’s just plain wrong for a shop/owner to make false claims whether it be about it being handcrafted or eco-friendly. And it’s doubly wrong for Etsy to allow it especially if they are well aware of it. And let’s face it, if there’s nothing genuine about the handmades themselves or the marketplace that features them, then where is the value in that? (more…)