Seller dissatisfaction with Etsy management erupted once again on August 25 as thousands of users took to social media to demand transparency and fairness on Etsy. Influencer and Etsy seller Starla Moore organized the campaign through a series of YouTube videos tagged #KeepEtsyHuman.
According to Starla, “This is a call to action, for those who are ready for change on Etsy. For better customer support, transparency about the payment reserve system, and rampant wrongful suspensions and listing deactivation.”
The Indie Sellers Guild stands in complete solidarity with #KeepEtsyHuman. The grievances raised by this grassroots movement very closely echo some of the demands we put forth in 2022 as part of the Etsy Strike:
“Golden” Support Tickets
People are waiting months to appeal computer-made decisions that stop them from accessing their own earnings, or running their business entirely. These people should have an automatic fast track through Etsy’s infamously slow support system. Etsy can’t bill itself as a folksy, handmade utopia while AI bots terrorize sellers whose livelihood depends on reaching buyers on the platform.
Some 30,000 Etsy sellers participated in the 2022 strike by temporarily walking away from their Etsy shops, and more than 85,000 supporters signed our petition to Etsy. The strike was successful in some ways: with so many participants and so much international press coverage, we were able to win some limited concessions from Etsy. Shortly after the strike ended Etsy announced some small but much-needed changes to its Star Seller Program. And not long after that Etsy backed off a policy that would force sellers to give up their private banking data to a third-party company with a history of alleged privacy violations.
But now, a year and a half after the Etsy Strike, many of our demands remain unanswered by Etsy, and many new problems have bubbled up to the surface. Etsy’s absolute trainwreck of a payment reserve policy is still holding back as much as 75% of some sellers’ hard-earned money. Click here to sign our petition against the reserve policy. And while Etsy’s seller support department may have seemed inadequate back in 2022, now in 2023 it’s practically nonexistent. Meanwhile, thousands of sellers are seeing their payments put on reserve and their listings wrongfully deactivated with no recourse.
Etsy Sellers need a movement
The writing is on the wall: policy changes and selective enforcement are making it harder for working artists and curators to make a living on Etsy, and easier for scammers and dropshippers. But in order to bring Etsy back to its “Keep Commerce Human” roots, we’re going to need more than a social media push. We need a movement of creative indie sellers to build worker power in an industry completely dominated by Big Tech.
That’s why thousands of people have come together to create the Indie Sellers Guild. In addition to social media campaigns, here are some of the things we’re working on:
In partnership with Samantha Close PhD, from DePaul University, the ISG has embarked on a research study to learn what sellers and buyers really need from an online marketplace platform. At the conclusion of the study, we’ll publish the results in the form of a white paper on best practices to develop a community-focused online marketplace.
We’ll also look at how existing marketplaces stack up against the articulated needs and wants of online users, and issue accreditations to those that do. If an accredited marketplace ever loses sight of its community-driven values like Etsy seems to have, we’ll be able to revoke accreditation and help sellers and buyers find a more friendly place to do business.
Recently the office of US Senator Tammy Baldwin contacted the ISG to ask if we would support a new bill called the Country Of Origin Labeling Online Act (COOL Online Act). The bill is specifically designed to combat resellers who purchase mass-produced items from outside the US in order to dishonestly pass them off to consumers as US handmade goods – an issue that consistently ranks at the very top of the list of sellers’ and buyers’ grievances with Etsy.
We determined not only that this legislation would help ISG members, but that we could even help to get it passed! According to the data we’ve collected through our ongoing Marketplace Accreditation research, it’s clear that buyers and sellers want to know where an item comes from when shopping online. We were able to share our data with members of the US Senate Commerce Committee in order to help pass this pro-seller, pro-buyer legislation!
A coalition to crack down on excessive payment reserves
We’re so excited to reveal some of the behind-the-scenes work we’ve been doing in order to build an international coalition of sellers, buyers, advocacy groups and regulatory bodies to secure the basic right of working online sellers to be paid the money that platforms owe us. But, for now, we’ll just say that something big is in the works…
We look forward to continuing and expanding this important work on behalf of creative online indie sellers everywhere. We invite the organizers and participants of the #KeepEtsyHuman initiative to join us in solidarity towards a fairer, more just internet!