The Pros And Cons Of Buying On Etsy (For Customers)


If you’re shopping on Etsy for the first time, or even if you’re an experienced Etsy customer, you may run into situations that make you wonder if Etsy is worth it.

Etsy has good and bad points when it comes to buying, and there may be advantages to NOT buying on Etsy in certain situations.

Pros and cons of buying on Etsy

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As far as the pros and cons, the main advantage to shopping on Etsy is that you’ll be able to find unusual items that are made by independent business owners, and you may be able to get customized and personalized items.

The main disadvantage to shopping on Etsy is the low barrier to setting up a shop, which means that some shop owners aren’t selling actual handmade items or items that follow Etsy’s Terms of Service.

Let’s look at some of the good points and bad points about buying on Etsy, and check to see how to prevent bad experiences!

Good things about buying on Etsy include:

  • The ability to purchase from independent artisans.
  • The ability to get custom and personalized items.
  • The ability to communicate directly to the person who’s making the items.
  • Availability of a wide variety of items from around the world.

Etsy’s main strength is that you can purchase handmade and unique items from people who make them or personalize them specifically for you.

You’ll often be buying directly from the designer, and you’ll be supporting independent artists by purchasing on Etsy.

Because you’re purchasing directly from the people who make the item, they’ll often be able to personalize things for you.

I get a lot of questions about whether I can change the colors of specific things that I sell, and other sellers create things like clothing that are made specifically for the customer.

You’re also able to communicate with the sellers directly by using the Etsy convo system, which isn’t always something that’s available on other platforms.

In addition, Etsy sellers come from all over the world, so you’ll be able to find products that are created in different styles and purchase them easily using the Etsy system.

Since Etsy has a lot of vintage sellers, buying from international shops is also a good way to find vintage items that aren’t easy to find in your own country.

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The bad things about buying on Etsy can include:

  • Etsy’s search engine bringing back items that aren’t related to your search.
  • Sellers who are selling things that aren’t allowed on Etsy but claiming that they’re handmade.
  • Unscrupulous sellers who set up shop temporarily and don’t fill orders.
  • Different return policies from each shop.

Etsy’s search engine is constantly evolving, and it’s currently in a state of flux, to put it mildly.

Searching for specific products will often bring back things that are unrelated or only slightly related to what you’re looking for, which can be really frustrating.

Another major problem on Etsy is that they do a poor job of policing the platform for items that are mass-market products, but that people claim are handmade.

There’s no verification process when someone lists a product for sale, so a lot of people sell things that are cheap junk, to be blunt, and they claim that it’s handmade.

Another byproduct of the low barrier to opening a shop (Etsy often brags that it just costs 20 cents to start your Etsy business) is that there are a lot of people who will open a storefront but who don’t fulfill orders.

Their intent is to rip people off by taking payments, then they close their shops and disappear.

Etsy does have buyer/seller protection, though, so if you do end up being scammed by an Etsy seller, you can file a case with Etsy to fix the situation.

Scammers exist on EVERY platform, so you should always try to verify that the shop has reviews, a social media presence, a history of sales, etc. before purchasing.

If you’re not sure, or if the seller is new and doesn’t have many reviews, use the Etsy convo system to contact the seller to see how they respond to your questions.

One thing that buyers should also be aware of is that because every Etsy seller is an independent business, they also have independent return and order cancellation polices.

In general, anything that’s made custom or personalized isn’t returnable, but you should check in the shop policies of each shop to see how they handle returns and problems in general.

Just because one seller takes returns doesn’t mean that everyone does! Items that usually aren’t refundable according to Etsy include custom or personalized orders, perishable products like food or flowers, digital downloads, and intimate items including face masks for health and hygiene reasons.


Some Etsy shopping tips and tricks:

  • If you find an Etsy shop that you like, check the shop’s About section to see if there’s a website that the seller has. Many sellers also have separate websites with different products and/or lower prices.
  • If you want to purchase from the website, don’t use the Etsy contact form because when you do that, the seller is required to keep the transaction on Etsy based on the Terms Of Service. Use the website’s form for questions.
  • If you like items, favorite them to be notified in your shop notifications if they go on sale.
  • Favorite shops to be notified when they have sales.
  • Sign up for a shop’s mailing list to receive special offers for subscribers only, and to find out about new products and upcoming sales.
  • If Etsy is showing you really weird results in your searches, it might help to clear your search history so that it resets everything. Click here for an article about how to do that: Privacy settings on EtsyOpens in a new tab.
  • If you do a search for a product and you see a bunch of items that look exactly the same, they’re probably NOT handmade. Check to see if you see the same items on other platforms, then decide whether you want to buy that item or whether you want to get something that you can’t find everywhere that’s REALLY unique, not just pretending to be.
  • Check out this list of frequently-used acronyms and terms that are used on Etsy and that can be confusing!

For another article about whether it’s safe to buy jewelry on Etsy, click here.


Kara Buntin

Kara Buntin has run a profitable home-based business since 1999, and has a background in art, theater design, and cake decorating. She's a top Etsy seller with over 53,000 sales on Etsy and her own website, and helps other home-based business owners with their business goals and SEO. She founded the Artisan Shopping Directory website to promote the artisans who are members of her EShop Success marketing program.

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