Shop Etsy

A Frank Conversation About Resellers

Oct 1, 2013

by Corinne Pavlovic handmade and vintage goods

As the head of Trust and Safety at Etsy, my job is to keep Etsy a safe and secure space for sellers to do business, and a trustworthy place for buyers to shop. Etsy’s Integrity team, tasked with helping sellers comply with our policies, reports to me. The announcement of our new Guidelines is the perfect moment to connect as a community and tackle a concern that is front-and-center for our team and for many Etsy members: reselling.

Reselling is buying an item and selling it unchanged as if it were your handmade creation. On Etsy, that’s not allowed. That rule is not changing with our new Guidelines.

Some of the issues around reselling have grown from communications problems on Etsy’s part. From the beginning, Etsy actively encouraged community members to flag sellers and items that appear to be breaking our rules. As our policies grew more lengthy and complex, it was harder to understand how Etsy defined handmade and exactly how marketplace rules were being enforced.

This situation frustrated many Etsy members. When they took the trouble to flag shops that appeared to flout Etsy’s rules and saw no action taken, their trust in us was damaged. Going forward, we want to be clear: identifying problems in the marketplace is our responsibility. We’re not expecting members to do that work for us.

We want the Etsy community to know that we review every single flag  — to date, literally hundreds of thousands — and we remove items and close shops that violate our policy. If you’ve flagged a shop that has stayed open for business or an item that is still for sale in the marketplace, that means it is Etsy-legal or under review. Our reviews are usually complete within three weeks.

That may be confounding to members who feel certain that shops or items that they have flagged are breaking the rules. We’ve evaluated thousands of shops very closely and we’ve found that many suspected of reselling are actually individuals or small groups of people making items by hand, following Etsy’s policies. We need to give sellers the editorial tools to better showcase their making process, so that it’s clear to everyone, not just Etsy, that these shops belong on Etsy.

Creating greater transparency addresses one facet of the problem. But there are more issues at play. Let’s look at some issues that members often bring up when they suspect a shop of reselling.

1. The same item photos also show up in other online marketplaces with different policies and aesthetics.
When the same photo shows up in different marketplaces, it’s important to remember that many Etsy sellers list items on other platforms — Etsy doesn’t demand exclusivity or dictate what other venues sellers should use. In some cases, listing photos have been taken from an Etsy seller and used without permission. If this has happened to you, we have resources to help you learn how to protect your work.

2. The same listing photo shows up in multiple Etsy shops.
When the Trust and Safety team takes a closer look at cases like these, we often find that the same person is running all the shops and listing similar items in each. We know this impacts search or browse results in unfair ways, and we’re currently working on how to correct for that to level the playing field. We will update you.

3. The same type of item shows up in multiple Etsy shops.
This is the hardest issue. Trendy items that are simple to make, like bubble necklaces or iPhone cases, can challenge our personal definitions of handmade, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t allowed on Etsy. Etsy is a unjuried marketplace, and sellers choose what types of items to make for their shops and how they present those items. Many sellers choose to sell popular items for an understandable reason — because they sell. We don’t remove items unless they violate our policies, and our policies don’t ask sellers to meet any set of aesthetic criteria. Our role is to keep the marketplace safe and trustworthy; we aren’t here to be the creativity police.

Etsy sellers use a dazzling array of methods and processes to create their items. They have a wide spectrum of skill levels and a diverse set of aesthetics. That’s one of the most valuable things about the Etsy marketplace, and we feel lucky to support such a breadth of talent and ideas. That’s why we choose to define handmade as a set of values, and not a particular method or process. Being inclusive means that we give sellers space to make choices and be creative, but it also means community members need to keep an open mind about other sellers’ methods and choices.

We understand that our approach isn’t going to please everyone, but we believe trust and transparency are the strongest foundation for the Etsy marketplace. By requiring sellers to be more open and honest about how their items are made and who is involved, we move to a fairer, more transparent marketplace. We know this is just a first step, and these are sensitive, complex issues.