24 April 2012

Etsy Scandal: Ecologica Malibu


I just pitched this story:


Dear This American Life --

I'm a big fan of your program -- absolutely love it! I have a story
idea that I would LOVE for your team to investigate: I'm sure you are
familiar with Etsy, the handmade marketplace, but perhaps you aren't
familiar with the bane of artists on etsy: the resellers. Basically,
resellers are people who are pretending to be selling hand-crafted
items, and I suppose they are, if you count items that were
hand-crafted in China. These resellers are in direct violation of
Etsy's TOS that all sellers must agree to before opening an shop on
the site. The problem is that the resellers are rampant -- it's likely
that a large portion of the money that Etsy brings in from seller fees
(a listing fee of 20 cents plus 3.5% of the final selling value) comes
from said resellers. Etsy claims to be against the resellers, but a
scandal happened this weekend when a featured Etsian was uncovered by
April Winchelle (aka Helen Killer) of Regretsy fame (or infamy?).
Regretsy.com is dedicated to exposing the ridiculous antics, bad
crafting, and general bad business practices that take place on
Etsy.com. (I'm not affliated with Regretsy; just a fan!). The featured
seller, Ecologica Malibu, sells items that are patently against Etsy's
TOS; with just a few minutes of research, April of Regretsy was able
to find proof of this fact:

http://www.regretsy.com/2012/04/21/the-etsy-featured-reseller-ecologica-malibu/

(Here is the featured seller page on etsy:
http://www.etsy.com/blog/en/2012/featured-seller-ecologica-malibu/)

People began leaving comments on the featured seller post at Etsy,
hundreds of them, questioning Etsy's choice of Ecologica Malibu as a
featured seller. Usually, such conversations are shut down within
hours on Etsy; they have a "No Call Outs" policy which ensures that
everything gets hushed up quickly. This time, however, the comments
ran all through the night. First thing Monday morning, this comment
was posted by an Etsy admin:

"Juliet Gorman says:
Hi everyone, thank you all for your comments. While it is our policy
not to publicly discuss individual Etsy members, it’s clear that we
missed critical information in our process here. This is our fault,
not the person behind this shop. I ask that you continue to treat one
another with respect and understanding. Our next featured seller is
now live on the site. I am closing comments on this article while we
take the opportunity to investigate this matter more fully. I
apologize for any turmoil this has caused, and thank you for vigilance
in this matter."

A few hours later, the statement was amended to read:

Juliet Gorman says:
Hi everyone, thank you all for your comments. It is our policy not to
publicly discuss individual Etsy members. But I want to note that *if*
we missed critical information in our review process, that will be our
fault, not the person behind this shop. I ask that you continue to
treat one another with respect and understanding. Our next featured
seller is now live on the site. I am closing comments on this article
while we take the opportunity to investigate this matter more fully. I
apologize for any turmoil this has caused, and thank you for vigilance
in this matter.

All of the comments were deleted. Which means that if you happened to
miss that 24 hours or so that the scandal was ongoing, you'd have no
idea what had just happened. I knew Etsy admins would delete the
comments, sooner or later, so I did screen shots of them all and
posted them on flickr:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/77635269@N08/?saved=1

Although a new featured seller was immediately up on the home page,
Ecologica Malibu's interview was still up, albeit with the amended
comment at the bottom and comments closed on the post, and the shop is
still open and making sales.

What I, and many, many other people want to know: is how can Etsy
purport to be a handmade marketplace when they are obviously allowing
non-artisan goods to flood the marketplace? As an artist myself, I
find this horrifying and have closed my Etsy shop, at least until Etsy
responds in some way. I'm sure other will follow suit. So far, Etsy
has done nothing and even featured Ecologica Malibu on the front page
the next day.

I'd love to hear Mariana of Ecologica Malibu respond to the
accusations of her being a reseller in violation of Etsy's TOS,
especially after reading this blog post by her responding to the
comments (also now deleted, but available at the regretsy link about
the shop above)  I'd love to hear from Etsy's Admin about why they
continue to allow resellers and still claim to be a place for handmade
goods. I'd love to hear from former Etsy sellers who have left, either
voluntarily or forcefully, and I'd especially like to her from April
about the reaction to her post. Hell, I'd love to hear about the
people who REALLY make the furniture being sold in her shop.

I know your readers would love it. And I know This American Life won't
let me down!

17 comments:

  1. Omg. Fingers crossed! I came upon your post while googling for this whole Ecologica mess and now I really want to see whether TAL will air this. Great idea!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Well, I can't claim the idea, as someone on regretsy suggested that someone pitch the idea to TAL. I thought it was a fantastic idea and knew that I was the person to do it. ;c)

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have that circled mirror they pictured hanging on my wall. Its painted with different colors but is exactly the same otherwise. I bought it at HomeGoods.
    Interesting...

    ReplyDelete
  4. Fun stuff! Go girl! I hope Ira picks up the story. Obviously he is still smarting from his own scandal (the Mike Daisey retraction) but I hope he sees that this story has merit and a certain tastiness.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thank you for doing this!! I suggested it on Regretsy and am a terrible writer but you did a great job. It would be amazing if This American Life picked it up - it seems just like something they'd be interested in.

    ReplyDelete
  6. On May 1st I will be closing my 4 Etsy shops for the day.

    "We each, individually, create, design, assemble, actually touch each part and particle, pay all related fees, lovingly prepare and package each shipment directly ourselves as the artist. Vintage maintains, supports, stocks and lovingly prepares for shipment true vintage-aged items in their shops. We are asking that Etsy follow suit by upholding these standards of excellence."

    If you have an Etsy shop, please consider deactivating your shop on May 1st and re-opening May 2nd.

    ReplyDelete
  7. think this is a great idea & I will join you in it. I've already put my main shop on vacation and will follow suit with my supply shop. best wishes!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Crafty Moira, I love the fact you thought ahead to take screenshots of the posts that were later censored. This whole situation is such a shame for those sellers on Etsy who work really hard to showcase their handmade work. Some of us have banded together to create team HandmadeEtsy to bring the focus back to the importance of buying/selling true handmade (which is why we fell in love with Etsy in the first plce). We have just started a Facebook page as a place to discuss these issues completely openly without threat of having our shops shut down. Everyone is welcome. Our tagline is "Keeping the Hand in Handmade." We hope to see you over there. https://www.facebook.com/teametsyhandmade

    ReplyDelete
  9. I think the worst part about this to me is the censorship! I didn't know etsy did that? It feels SO WRONG on so many levels to delete comments these days. What are we, middle ages on the internet? You don't have freedom of speech in the US? Thanks for a great report Moira!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hanna, that's so true! That's why I took the screen shots because I knew the deletion was coming!

    ReplyDelete
  11. This is such an interesting, and important, conversation to have. But, Moira, I would caution you and others to be fair to all involved. Whether it's hand-crafted "in China," Arkansas, or Iceland, it's still hand-crafted. If it's factory-made, mass-produced junk masquerading as hand-crafted, that's another story, and that deserves to be examined. I think we can be most successful in the effort to ensure hand-crafting by making sure we don't paint everyone with the same brush.

    ReplyDelete
  12. sweet! i pitched the same story to 60 minutes! i'll message the american life as well. the more the merrier!

    ReplyDelete
  13. *this" american life. typo.

    ReplyDelete
  14. My account got suspended because I had ONE ITEM I did wrongfully label as handmade. And for that I did take it down and apologized. Of course after which all my items were understandably in question.

    I complied and apologized and took down my one bracelet. And made videos of how I made EVERY SINGLE ONE OF MY other 210 PIECES.

    But in the mist of my emotional outrage I flagged a bunch of items that were illegal since they were against Trademark policy. (Chanel, Hermes, etc). These are stores that ONLY sell HANDMADE things that have the logos on them. And they've made 1000+ sales on only these items.

    In response Etsy said the following:
    "Also, please note that to report “copying," "infringement" or a “knock-off” on Etsy, you need to be to be authorized to act on behalf of the owner of the copyright or intellectual property. This is because only an authorized person can decide whether a use is harmful and then decide what to do about it. "

    In my first email I also accused that etsy did not take down store that ONLY resells because it makes them a profit, look up "BUBBLE NECKLACE" a Jcrew knock off, on etsy and you'll know what I mean. These stores have sold over thousands of these necklaces that I know you can get from chinese online wholesellers.

    My store is reinstated. And though I fully understand the value and policy of Etsy's integrity team, I feel that their enforcement of their rules is unfair and uneven.




    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...