Etsy is a marketplace website that allows small businesses to sell handmade goods, vintage merchandise, and craft supplies. The benefit of shopping on Etsy is that you can find things that aren’t mass-manufactured, and that you can buy from small businesses around the world.
There are always things that you need to be aware of, though, so keep reading for tips on buying safely from Etsy.
As a general rule, Etsy is safe to buy from. The platform offers both buyer and seller protections, which means that it will guarantee purchases, and if a problem with an order isn’t able to be resolved with the seller, Etsy can assist with their case system.
However, because Etsy is a marketplace, when you purchase an item you’re buying from an individual business, not from Etsy. Therefore, you need to check the individual business’s policies and reviews before purchasing to verify the quality of their items.
Table of Contents
- What can be sold on Etsy?
- How to Contact Sellers
- Can I purchase on Etsy without an account?
- How do I know if an Etsy seller is legit?
What can be sold on Etsy?
Etsy’s marketplace allows handmade items, vintage items, and craft supplies to be sold on the platform. This allows handmade artisans to sell their art to a larger audience than they would be able to reach locally. It also gives vintage sellers a way to reach collectors and people who are looking for unique home decor pieces. I sell cake decorating supplies in one Etsy shop, as well as digital downloads and vintage items in two other Etsy shops.
Etsy’s policies define “handmade” as anything that is designed by an individual and made by them or a production partner.
This allows people to design things like mugs and t-shirts that are then printed by a printing company that will ship the order to the customer.
This is referred to as “Print On Demand,” or POD. POD sellers are required to list their production and printing partners in their About sections so that customers will know that the items are being manufactured by someone else.
Etsy’s policies do not allow reselling handmade items, so while sellers can resell vintage items and craft supplies, it’s against Etsy’s marketplace policies to sell things that someone else designed or manufactured.
Unfortunately, there will always be people who try to slide in under the radar and sell things that they bought for cheap prices on wholesale websites.
There is a lot of merchandise on Etsy that doesn’t fit the site policies, and customers have sometimes been tricked into buying what they were told was a handmade item.
If the price is too good to be true for the amount of work that would go into an item, it’s probably mass-manufactured.
I recently made an Amish Knotted Rag Rug that took 15 hours to make, and I decided to check to see how much they cost on Etsy.
Some of the ones that came up were around $40, and I knew that they had to be mass manufactured, or made under conditions where people weren’t being paid a fair wage.
It’s up to the consumer to think about whether something seems too good to be true, and to check to see if the “handmade” item you’re looking at can also be found on multiple other websites or at your local flea market. If it can, it’s not really handmade, and you’re probably going to feel cheated if you buy it.
If you do find that you’ve been sent merchandise that doesn’t fit the description, you can open a case with Etsy if the seller isn’t helpful.
Keep in mind that POD sellers and people who make their own merchandise like mugs get the mugs from suppliers, some of whom are located in different countries.
For example, if something says that it’s manufactured in the US, it might have components that were made in other countries. If you’re really concerned about this, contact the seller before purchasing to clarify with them.
Being able to contact the seller before purchasing is another way to make sure you’re safe purchasing on Etsy.
How to Contact Sellers
To send a message to an Etsy seller, use the convo system that’s available to all buyers. Go to the shop’s homepage or the specific listing you’re interested in, and find the message button. Use this to send a direct message to the seller to ask your question. Give the seller time to respond, because the messages show up in the shop dashboard and may not be delivered to the seller right away. If you’re not registered on Etsy and are checking out as a guest, it’s possible that you may not receive messages that Etsy sends, so it’s better to register.
To find the message button on the shop’s homepage, go to the righthand side of the page on desktop and find the seller’s profile photo. The Contact button under that will take you to the convo system where you can type your message.
To send a message from a specific listing, go to the listing and scroll down to the message box. Clicking it will open a window to type your message.
From the Etsy shopping cart, messages can be sent by clicking the “contact shop” button at the top of the page on desktop.
To send a message to an Etsy seller using the Etsy app, go to their shop and click on the little speech bubble symbol at the top of the page. It’s located to the right of the word “shop,” and clicking on it will open up a message window.
In general, Etsy sellers do all of their business online, and don’t work with phone calls. In rare situations that might be something that can be arranged, but it’s usually better to keep all communication in one place so that messages and order details don’t get lost.
Occasionally an Etsy seller will need to contact customers to get details about an order, and if we don’t get a response through convos we may need to email. But keeping all communication on Etsy is a safeguard for the seller and the buyer, and the convo system is set up to make Etsy a safe place to buy and to communicate.
One reason that sellers might need to email is if we don’t get responses through the convo system, and that might happen if customers aren’t registered and checked out as a guest.
Guest accounts don’t see the convo system but will receive emails instead. Read on to see why registering can make Etsy safer for purchasing, plus why it makes your purchases easier to track and download.
Can I purchase on Etsy without an account?
Etsy has a guest checkout system that doesn’t require a registration. This allows customers to purchase without creating a profile, which can save some time at checkout. However, there are benefits to being a registered Etsy user that will make the buying experience feel a little safer and easier. Some of these include being able to track packages easily, receive convos directly on Etsy to make them easier to track, and to have an easily-accessible record of downloadable purchases.
Registered Etsy users can easily track their purchases. To see where your order is in the postal system, registered users can go to their accounts and find the tracking information in their profiles under their purchases and reviews section.
The tracking numbers will be included with the order information, and you’ll be able to see the latest information about where it is.
You might want to copy and paste the tracking number into the shipping company’s website, because they sometimes have more updated information there.
The guest checkout on Etsy doesn’t let you track your purchases on Etsy.
When you receive a confirmation email about the shipping, keep that email because the tracking information will be in the email.
It’s a lot safer to check out as a registered guest if you want to have all of the information in one place on Etsy!
Registered Etsy users can leave reviews. If you want to support businesses that you buy from, or if you have a less-than-excellent review about something, you need to have a registered account.
By registering, Etsy can link your account to the purchase and verify that you’re leaving a review for something that you actually bought. This can help to limit fake reviews even if it doesn’t totally eliminate the possibility of people misusing the review system. It also allows Etsy to track reviews in case someone is abusing the system, so it makes the review system safer for everyone.
Registered Etsy users can download their digital purchases directly from Etsy. This is something that people tend to overlook, but if you purchase a digital download on Etsy, that file will remain in your purchases and reviews section so that you can get it later.
Guest checkout provides an email with the file link in it, but if you lose that email you’ll lose the ability to download the file later.
If you’re a registered Etsy user you can just go to your purchases and reviews in your profile and find the file to download when you need it.
Registered Etsy users receive notifications about sales and new listings in their favorite shops. If you’re a registered Etsy user you’ll have a little notifications section where Etsy lets you know about sales and new listings from your favorite shops.
You can also save favorites in your account for later so that you can be notified if those listings are included in sales.
Registered users can also sign up to receive Etsy marketing emails that let you know about new promotions and events.
Registering can help protect you and make your purchases easier to track and download. But what if you’re not sure about a seller?
Being registered or not doesn’t help with that, but there are some things that can give you clues about whether a seller is trustworthy or not.
How do I know if an Etsy seller is legit?
To decide whether an Etsy seller is trustworthy and is running a legitimate business, check their reviews, About section, and shop policies before placing your order. Consistent good reviews are normal, even if there are a few lower ones. If there are consistent low reviews that mention the same complaints regarding the product or customer service, you may want to take note of that.
I’ve seen some sellers who have terrible reviews, but people keep buying from them and having a bad experience.
If you see that half of a seller’s reviews say the same things that are not complimentary, don’t assume that you’ll be in the half that won’t have trouble.
There are plenty of people selling on Etsy, and most of them have good reviews. Go find one of them instead of someone who has a string of complaints following them.
A few low reviews in the life of a business is totally normal, but a lot of them that all say the same thing should be a red flag.
Shop policies that clearly describe the shop’s return, exchange, and cancellation policies will give you the parameters of how the seller works, and you can decide whether that lines up with your expectations. If you want to be able to return things and that seller doesn’t accept returns, you may want to go to a different shop.
Most sellers will accept returns on things that can be resold safely, but some products fall under non-returnable status regardless of who sells them.
Personalized or edible items are some examples, so you need to decide whether you want to buy if the shop’s policies aren’t clear or don’t fall within your comfort zone.
Also be aware that most sellers do not refund shipping costs if an item is returned, because that would be a financial loss for us.
Take the initiative to read all of the shop policies before purchasing to make sure you know what they are since we go by our written policies if questions arise.
Check the prices to see if they seem too good to be true. As I mentioned above, there are a lot of people selling manufactured items on Etsy and claiming that they’re handmade.
These are usually sold at very low prices, and might not be the quality they’re portrayed as being. For example, if someone is selling a handmade gold necklace for $12.99, you might want to think about whether it’s really handmade OR gold.
If a price seems to be very low, or a product is marked handmade but it looks like something you saw at the local swap meet, you might want to do a reverse image search on Google to see if the photo comes up on other sites.
A lot of people will set up shops on Etsy and sell cheap merchandise until they get caught and closed down.
They move on to the next platform to keep selling, but their customers might be out of luck. Even if you do receive the merchandise, you might find out that you got something that was clearly made in a factory somewhere.
If you have questions or concerns, contact the seller before buying, or just go find a shop that’s clearly not passing factory goods as handmade.
The real handmade shops are pretty easy to spot, and the convo system is there for you to clarify things before you buy.
Buying on Etsy is safe, but you still have to be careful since you’re purchasing online from someone you may never have heard of.
Because Etsy has buyer and seller protections set up you’ll be covered if something drastic happens, but the majority of transactions on Etsy will go well if you do your due diligence as a customer before checking out.
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