While Etsy.com policy clearly states that the website is for people to sell handmade items, vintage goods, or crafting materials, the actual enforcement of those standards — especially in the “handmade” category — has always been a bit fuzzy, with the definition of “handmade” ranging from a hat you hand-knit out of yarn you spun yourself from the organic free-range alpacas on your farm to making a charm necklace by stringing together a bunch of charms you bought from China. While Etsy has shut down stores for reselling goods that are not handmade, the site drew the ire of the Internet over the weekend for featuring a shop that some feel blatantly violates the site’s policies.
Last Friday, the Etsy blog’s “Featured Seller” was a woman claiming to sell handmade furniture constructed out of salvaged wood, which would be great if she were actually making all the pieces herself.
But some folks, including Regretsy.com, smelled a possible rat when they checked out the seller’s Etsy page, which currently features 236 items for sale, ranging from the simple (planters and mirrors) to complicated chests of drawers. How could one person be making all this furniture on their own?
It looks like she may not be doing it on her lonesome. Regretsy found some identical items from a wholesaler specializing in furniture from Bali. In fact, the California dealer for that wholesaler has the same address as the Etsy seller.
Regretsy also found that the Etsy seller has many items listed over on Overstock.com (or O.co if you’re into that kind of thing).
The seller claims that all her furniture is “made” by her and four other carpenters, though that would still be a hefty workload given the sheer volume of items both on Etsy and Overstock.
A Regretsy reader was able to dig up some Bills of Lading for shipments marked “furniture” from the company in Bali to the woman featured in the Etsy blog post.
An e-mail from someone claiming to work for the company in Bali explains away the problem, saying that the Etsy seller “is the designer of the vast majority of the products we select the wood according to her expectation as to the color texture and arrangement… She sends us the details of required dimensions and styles… She is our exclusive distributer for all the products she designs , and for all our products in North and South America.”
Assuming this is true, the Etsy store at the center of this storm may not be strictly re-selling someone else’s items, but is it in the spirit of the site’s “handmade” policy? It would be one thing to source your own salvaged wood and construct furniture for sale. It’s another to find a company that specializes in salvaged wood, and then have them do a good chunk of the work for you.
Yesterday, Etsy chose to halt comments on the Featured Seller post, stating:
[I]f 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… 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.
The Etsy Featured Reseller: Ecologica Malibu [Regretsy.com]