How the newest Etsy Platform exposes you to insane risk and Simple (or not so simple) steps to protect yourself.
June 11, 2017
Yesterday my Etsy shop, Mama Knows Luxury, lost $386, today I'm writing to explain how. In this blog post I tell my story, share what I discovered and I also offer guidance on what you Need to do right away to protect yourself from the same fate!
I am a huge fan of Etsy and, for now, still have my shop open for business. Recent changes to Etsy have made things difficult for sellers, no question, but now there is a little known change that can expose sellers to Significant Financial Risk if they don't act to protect themselves. My loss is already incurred, I can't change it, but I can get the word out!
IF YOU ARE IN A RUSH TO FIND THE FIX WITHOUT THE CONTEXT START SCROLLING AND WATCH FOR "STOP SCROLLING HERE".
The point is Check Your Return Policy, ensure it says what you intended it to. I encourage you to read the parts of this post that help you identify which version of the platform you are on.
Note: I am paying the refund, I accept that I am at fault by default for missing whatever obscure notification Etsy sent to inform me of the changes discussed here.
My intention is to keep as much emotion as possible out of what I write so that readers can quickly understand the problem and act to protect themselves. However, this is my blog and my opinion is included throughout this post.
I feel that I have gathered all of the important info and that I am about to present a very accurate picture of what happened.
I have sent two emails to Etsy requesting help and guidance but have yet to receive anything other than the "we are working on it" canned response. At the time of writing this it has been just over 30 hours since I discovered the issue and wrote in asking for urgent assistance, I still have not heard back from Etsy.
Update: Tuesday June 13, it has been three days since I sent my initial contact request to Etsy. I sent a second request 2 days ago on June 12 to clarify my issue and I sent a convo directly to Kruti Patel Goyal who is listed as General Manager, Seller Services on the Etsy Executive Team. I have received Zero response to any of these inquiries.
Update: Late Thursday Evening (June 15) and Still Zero response from Etsy to any of my three inquiries. Absolute radio silence. I'm a little worried.
I admit, there are pieces of the puzzle that I do not yet understand, if you have info that you think I should add, please send me an email through my Contact Form with the subject 'Etsy Shop Manager Post'.
Update: Tuesday June 13, I think some shops were switched to the new platform and given the opportunity to opt out, possibly in March 2016. I have gathered this from following posts on the forums that came about because of this post. I am trying to find an email in my history that explains this so that I can verify if we were notified of the significant, material change to our Return Policy (the loss of verbiage). I will update if I find anything.
Summary of the Issue:
Etsy has changed the way our return policies look and on the absolute newest version of their Shop Manager they have deleted the policies we had set for ourselves and subbed in their own default settings. I know for certain that I am on a version of the Shop Manager Platform that is different from the majority, I will demonstrate the difference further into this post. I'm not certain if I am on a prototype or if the platform I am on is being rolled out in waves and Mama Knows Luxury was part of the earliest wave. What I do know is that Etsy intends to roll this version out to all sellers in the very near future. Therefore, there is urgency in getting the word out because the majority of Etsy Sellers are not yet exposed to the risks that I was exposed to under the version of Shop Manager that I am on. These sellers can take proactive measures to protect themselves if they are aware of the issue.
Those sellers who are on the same platform as me Need to take action Immediately because they could be exposed to the risk of being obligated to issue refunds in situations where they believe they are protected against doing so. Please do feel free to share this post so that other Etsy Sellers have the opportunity to protect themselves, this is an opportunity that I was not afforded and I would love to see good come from the loss of my hard earned money by helping my fellow Etsy Sellers.
So here we go... Some Background:
It was less than a year ago that I helped many people understand how amazing Etsy was, I even wrote two blog posts about working with Etsy on the Our Maker Life Blog (you can see those posts Here). I earned hundreds of free listings because my enthusiasm for Etsy helped inspire many others to join and start their own shops. I thought long and hard before writing this post, I take the risk of being portrayed as an Etsy Nay Sayer very seriously and feel that at this moment that I must work to inform my fellow sellers of the risk exposure and hopefully help them protect themselves!
Since early this year, Etsy has been working hard to improve and modernize their platform as a whole. Unfortunately, many sellers have found themselves completely baffled at the fact that many of the apparent "upgrades" actually created significantly more work for them. I was one of these Sellers and about two months ago I found myself completely immersed in a battle with Etsy over the fact that they took away the Bulk Edit option for Variations. Let me put this into context; Mama Knows Luxury has around 85 Listings, many of them include two sets of variations. The first variation set is size/cost with the appropriate pricing for each size and the second variation set is colour. Under the old system I could bulk edit variations and, for example, change each price on all 10 options in the size/pricing variation in one place and it would update across all listings that I indicated. Under the new system I must go through, listing by listing and one by one and change each price for each variation over and over again. Sounds crazy right??? It's actually significantly worse than this with many other problems and issues but this high level explanation gives you a good idea of the struggle that many shop owners have had since the Etsy changes began earlier this year.
Over the past several months, those of us who sell supplies have been barraged by emails from Etsy about the new Etsy Studio. The emails mainly asked us to fill in our Attributes for each and every one of our listings (again, no bulk edit option) in preparation for the new Etsy Studio platform launch. We have received emails about looking at how our shipping looks under the new platform, advice on taking good pictures, requests to use certain hashtags on Instagram.... the list goes on and on. In addition to all of these all Etsy Sellers received various versions of emails about the Shop Manager upgrades and all Etsy sellers recently received an email about Important Changes to Seller Policies, which many of us read and likely did not see anything of significant concern.
In addition to all of these changes, Etsy significantly changed their "contact us" platform. Under the new "call center" style platform a seller emails in with their issue, waits 24-48 hours and then receives an often irrelevant and unhelpful response from someone which nearly always includes a copy and pasted link to some section of the handbook. If the response does not address or help the issue the seller can respond but then they wait another 24-48 hours to hear from a completely different person at Etsy who will very likely give the same response the first person gave or some other unhelpful link to some part of the handbook.
Given all of this, I think it's safe to say that many Etsy Sellers, especially established shops with many listings, have been forced to find time in their already very busy schedules to try to integrate the new realities of selling on Etsy into their operations. Unless a specific email is sent addressing an issue it is very difficult to stay abreast of all of the implications of the swift, frequent and significant changes Etsy has barraged us with over the past few months.
IF YOU ARE SCROLLING, STOP SCROLLING HERE
So, let's get into the Risk to Sellers caused by the newest version of Shop Manager.
First let me help you establish what version you are on so that you can determine the appropriate course of action. Most of this is assuming you are on your desktop (I use Mac), you can find a lot of it on mobile but it's a lot more complicated to do so (for me anyway, I am Not tech savvy).
In your Shop Manager, Click Settings in the Left Menu, then click Info and Appearance. From here you will see headings across the top in the Right window. Click Policies.
If you see your written policies, you are on the "older version". My handmade shop Mama Knows Clips and Crochet is still on this version:
If you see a redirect, you are on the newest version, the same version that I am on:
Here's what you should do Now:
If you are on the older version, copy your written verbiage and save a hard copy of it somewhere.
One by one, paste any important info about your return/cancellation or exchange policies into each and every listing in your shop. (For those of you with many listings, I feel your pain.... I said I would try to keep the emotion out of it...).
Pay attention, when your shop updates to the Newest version, follow the steps I provide for those who are on that version below.
If you are on the newer version, follow the link to the new Shop Home. Scroll all the way down to the bottom section (past your listings, past your feedback, past your Shop Updates, etc).
Check what the Etsy system has defaulted your return policy to, change it to the policy that you want it to be (this is where I was exposed, I will explain below). Choose the option that matches your most restrictive policy. (In my case since I do not do returns on certain items I have to choose No Returns) In the comments below Pennee points out that Etsy will not honour FAQ comments and she is correct, be sure to take the most restrictive option here according to your rules.
In the FAQ section, write out any return policy info that you want your clients to know over and above the set policy, this would likely be the verbiage that you had in the old version of Shop Policies. For example, in my FAQs I state that I will in fact consider returns on certain items and that other items are non returnable because they are custom ordered specifically for the client. If you are already on the new platform your verbiage is gone and you will have to write all new info, if you followed the steps above in the old system you can copy and paste your old verbiage.
As above, one by one, paste any important info about your return/cancellation or exchange policies into each and every listing in your shop.
To summarize what happens on the newest version. Etsy deletes your words, the things you had to say to your clients so that they would understand how you treat custom orders, etc. are taken away. They literally take your voice away and replace it with a default setting. In the newest version you are unable to add words to your return policy, only to choose from the options Etsy gives you. (In the screenshot below, note the option to Edit FAQs but not the Return Policy). If your Shop is already on the new platform your words are already gone. I have asked Etsy if they can revert my shop back to the previous version so that I can retrieve my words and support my position that the default return policy was exactly the opposite of my real intention, I have yet to hear back from them regarding this request.
My promise to keep emotions out of it ends here.
Now, I will tell you what happened to me and I will admit from the get go that I am upset. I fully understand that Etsy can and likely will argue that they informed me of the change in some obscure email during the barrage of emails discussed above and it was ultimately my responsibility to review the changes and protect myself. I am a savvy business person, I realize that ignorance is rarely an acceptable argument when trying to hold another person or entity accountable. Further, I understand that my personal opinion of the buyer who has demanded the refund is irrelevant and that she is entitled to a refund under the terms presented in my shop, regardless of the fact that these are not the terms I wanted for my shop. I have agreed to issue the refund to this poor example of a human, despite the fact that I believed I had already protected myself from this situation.
I've searched my email and I cannot find one that informs me that the verbiage I wrote for my Return Policy in my shop would be deleted and replaced with a system default return policy. As a savvy business person I can confidently say that if I been clearly informed of this I would have immediately checked and made the changes to my Policies that I have made since yesterday.
Here's the sequence of events for my situation:
I received a $386 Wool Order, likely as a result of an awesome video created by a dear friend and collaborator, Teresa from DeBrosseNYC which had gone viral on Facebook. You can see the video HERE.
13 Days later (yesterday at time of writing this post) this exchange occurred:
I thought that was the end of it, my Policies clearly state that our high end wool is custom ordered on each order and since we can't return it once it is ordered, we do not offer refunds. But then this happened:
I responded immediately but when I opened the screen shot she sent me I knew I needed to start digging.
Here's the screenshot she sent me:
I mean, she must be off her rocker right? I set my policies ages ago when I opened my shop, who knows where she was gleaning this info from but she wasn't going to be getting a refund from me right? My return policy is clear, it's not my fault if she didn't read what I wrote, it's her problem not mine.
And so it began.
After making an initial post on my personal profile and in two local handmade vendor groups, I went down the rabbit hole of discovering that the platform I am on is different than what the majority is on and eventually, with the help of a few fellow vendors managed to glean all of the info that I present to you today. I hardly slept last night thinking about how I needed to share this to protect the few who may read it.
Curious about what I did for the customer? Well, it was not one of my best moments as a professional unfortunately and I am not super proud of my response. I usually preach just give the refund, it's not worth your time, blah bah blah. This one just upset me so much, if you want to see me lose my cool, take my control of my own fate away from me. Further salt the wound by forcing me to accept the consequences of the selfish behaviour of an irresponsible and uncaring stranger and it's a cocktail for a teeny bit of drama.
If I may offer one more piece of advice in this post it is this: remind yourselves my friends, when you can, take a breather before responding so as to prevent yourself from stooping to this sort of response.
After an emotional response I did agree to issue the refund and have every intention of sending it once I receive the product back.
Now, not only am I out $386 but I am likely getting my first ever poor feedback.
Thank you for reading this far. Be sure to copy and paste the link to this post to any of your friends who are Etsy Sellers, hopefully I will be the only person who has to pay the price for this ridiculously awful situation.