Etsy Killed my Online Business

Photo by Alexander Andrews on Unsplash

Remember that time in early 2020, when we were watching the news coming out of China with increasing feelings of “Oh, shit…”?

The day after the CDC let us know we were really in for it, Etsy let me know my business was really in for it too.

Offsite Ads, announced on February 26th, 2020, is a program I can’t opt out of. Here’s how it works:

A shopper clicks an ad, which I don’t want, but Etsy purchases unilaterally on my behalf. Afterwards, if that shopper decides to purchase something — anything — from my shop within the next 30 days, instead of the 8–10% fees I have figured into my prices, I pay 20–22% fees. With Etsy’s old fee structure, that is. Raise those numbers by another 1.5% with the fee increase we’re currently protesting.

But. Most of my business is made-to-order wedding dresses. So for me, let’s talk about how that would really work.

Someone contacts me wanting a made-to-order wedding dress. I quote them a price of, let’s say $900, because custom wedding dresses are time consuming to make. They check out. I receive their payment. But… Surprise! Etsy has attributed the order to an Offsite Ad.

I receive $800, and I still have to pay all other Etsy fees on the entire $900.

Oh, and this Offsite Ad fee is charged on shipping too. I feel like I should mention that. Express shipping, International shipping. If you choose upgraded shipping from a seller on Etsy and it seems outrageously expensive, that’s why. When possible, we try not to get completely screwed by Etsy fees.

The hardest part about running an Etsy shop, or any online business, is how much your income can vary from week to week, or month to month.

Congratulations, now it’s even more variable, with a 12% fee that could apply to none, or technically all of your listings for a time.

It’s a crock. If Offsite Ads were really a benefit to sellers, as Etsy claims, why are we unable to opt out?

They started charging us for Offsite Ads while the first death wave of the pandemic was still raging. I stopped doing custom orders. I had to anyway, with two kids in virtual school. 

But I also never started taking custom orders again after my kids went back to school.

It’s been a huge income loss for me (about 2/3, to be exact). I don’t know what to do. If someone contacts me on Etsy for a made-to-order gown, I don’t know how much to charge them, because I don’t know how much I’ll receive. If I try to complete the sale offsite, I could be banned from Etsy for “fee avoidance.”

That’s it. That’s the issue in our petition that personally means the most to me. If they refuse to let me opt out of Offsite Ads, I have to leave the platform. I have no other choice.

And it’s not fucking fair. I built Etsy, along with all the other sellers who joined when the platform was still this tiny place that had no shoppers.

Etsy had the idea — an amazing idea — but we are the ones who built the platform. We are the ones who created the products that made Etsy unique. We are the ones who kept buyers coming back, by being friendly and fun to do business with.

When Etsy introduced Offsite Ads, they posted a Seller Response Survey. Based on the buzz in the Etsy forums and in Etsy subreddits, they received countless enraged responses.

They ignored us.

But today, we are turning into a force that will be difficult for them to ignore.

This post is part of a series telling the story behind the 2022 Etsy Strike. To support us, please sign and share our petition.

The next part of the story is coming tomorrow.