Etsy – The Latest Brand to Disappoint

Etsy, the online marketplace self-described as “Your place to buy and sell all things handmade, vintage and supplies,” is the latest brand to suffer a full on image meltdown. And, like BP, Tiger Woods and Toyota before them, they’re also the latest brand to resolutely stick its head in the sand as a way of dealing with PR crisis and the resultant public outcry.

A friend alerted me late last week to the fact that Etsy was allowing a vendor to sell some very offensive greeting cards and shared Change.org’s petition requesting Etsy remove the cards–to date supported by almost 16,000 signatures. This friend has a daughter with Down Syndrome and was espe­­­­cially horrified by a card like the one in the image above.

Let me back up and say that I’ve been a huge Etsy fan and supporter for a long time now.  I love dealing with craftsman and artisans and have patronized Etsy vendors for years, buying things like hair bows, laptop sleeves, jewelry, reusable snack bags and mesh produce bags and a myriad of other handmade things.  And I’ve often preferred to go to Etsy for the things I’m looking for rather than eBay because the community they’ve created has always evoked a good feeling. A feeling of trust. I’ve felt that the people I’m buying from are people I might actually want to get to know and maybe even want to hang out with – and I certainly want to support them by buying their wares. For me, that kind of feeling is like shopping at the local specialty store versus at a big chain – and Etsy did it for me.

Then I discovered Etsy seller YouStupidBitch and the line of greeting cards they create and sell on Etsy – with a clever tagline “Greeting Cards for Awkward Situations.”

Neat. This Etsy seller makes cards that congratulate the recipient on being raped, or on being diagnosed with AIDS or cancer, or having a child with Down Syndrome, to name just a few. Appalled? I was.

As I began to write this post and dug deeper into the Etsy story, I realized that my warm fuzzy feelings about Etsy might have been unfounded. CNN reported in July of 2009 that vendors were becoming disenchanted with Etsy. In fact, in spite of billing itself as an “empire of entrepreneurs,” it was reported that only a handful of sellers actually made living on Etsy, yet the ability of the company to thrive depends on the participation of those entrepreneurs. Etsy makes its money by taking a cut of each sale and also charges a fee each time an item is listed for sale. Etsy has been valued at $100 million by investors and is rumored to take in more than $12 million a year in fees. Clearly, even if its sellers aren’t making any money to speak of, Etsy’s not having any problem in that regard.

In addition to rampant seller dissatisfaction with Etsy, there seems to be no shortage of claims of poor customer service. Etsy is also rumored to routinely censor unflattering commentary in its own user forums. Talk about things that make me crazy. Censoring commentary in user forums (or anywhere) makes me wonder what other kind of review censoring Etsy might be doing – and that’s a whole different blog post.

Etsy’s forum commentary policy, as reported by CNN, is that “Etsy forbids ‘discussing a specific member, store or item in a negative way.’” So, apparently if you don’t have a good experience and/or anything good to say, Etsy doesn’t want to hear about it. Hmmm. Sounds like a formula for great vendor relations and great customer relations.

My illusions shattered about Etsy, let’s get back to stuff that offends.

This situation is reminiscent of the recent brouhaha on Amazon about the book The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure: a Child-lover’s Code of Conduct” that went on sale on October 28, 2010. After much outcry on Twitter, Facebook and by Amazon customers, the book was finally yanked by Amazon about two weeks later.

Amazon defended its actions in letting the book remain on the site because they “believe(s) it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable. Amazon does not support or promote hatred or criminal acts, however, do support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decision.”

Amazon customers vehemently disagreed and made no bones about that displeasure. In fact, I recently Tweeted about a book available on Amazon only to have someone respond that they refused to buy from Amazon based on that lapse of judgment on their part. Apparently, a lot of people object to pedophilia “how to” literature being available on a site like Amazon’s. And before you get all 1st Amendment crazy on me, those rights relate to restrictions on speech issued by the government – not by retailers like Amazon or Etsy. Those sites make their own rules, and if they choose not to carry merchandise promoting hatred, pedophilia or religious intolerance, they can.

As my friend PRCog opines in a post on this very topic, these cards are against Etsy’s TOS and they’ve been notified. Repeatedly.  Those TOS aren’t at all unclear:

“Use of mature, profane and/or racist language or images in the public areas of your Etsy shop is not permitted. This includes your username, Public Profile, item titles, tags, avatar, banner and/or shop selections.”

and

Prohibited Items: “Items that promote or glorify hatred, racial, religious intolerance.”

Call me crazy, but rape seems to me to be both mature and profane.  And picking on someone’s kid with Down Syndrome – or any other disability – well if that’s not hatred, I’m not sure what is.

Here’s a CNN report covering the latest Etsy stinkbomb that’ll get you completely up to speed:

Here’s the thing. These greeting cards and everything they stand for are reprehensible. And I can’t imagine anyone – ever – receiving one and thinking they were funny. Being raped isn’t a joke. Nor is having cancer or AIDS or a child with a disability. Don’t take my word for it – ask someone who’s dealing with any of those issues – if you dare. This is, quite simply, the personification of bad taste and poor judgment.

But as bad as all this is – and as crappy as it is for a brand to advocate that it’s okay to sell this kind of merchandise, where the brand really disappoints is its lack of regard for its sellers. The way I see it, Etsy has a fiduciary responsibility to its sellers to do the right thing. Always. Because if Etsy makes a misstep–like this one–it can spell disaster for the many entrepreneurs and craftspeople trusting Etsy as an upstanding, trustworthy and reliable venue in which to sell their products.

This situation could – and probably has – resulted in a loss of sales for thousands of Etsy vendors – people who have nothing to do with YouStupidBitch and who are, like the rest of us, horrified by the audacity – and the bad taste of this particular product line.

But consumers – they’re an entirely different story. They aren’t thinking about that part of the puzzle. Consumers are thinking that Etsy sucks and, just like Amazon, they’re boycotting the site and making their purchases elsewhere. And while Etsy can probably withstand that financial downturn, its sellers most likely cannot. And that’s also tragic. And it might also be something from which thousands of Etsy sellers simply cannot recover.

And so, because of poor judgment and decision-making, the public is offended and horrified by Etsy’s business practices and/or lack of business ethics, Etsy sellers lose credibility and income and the morons behind YouStupidBitch get tons of publicity that they don’t deserve.

Great job Etsy. Keep your head firmly in the sand. And join the ranks of other brands who aren’t smart enough to just step up, admit to a mistake and fix the problem.  Way to go. By the way, if you want some free PR advice, this blog post by Justin Goldsborough is a great start.

Shelly Kramer is the CEO of V3 Integrated Marketing, a full service digital communications agency located in Kansas City, MO. She believes in fighting the good fight, standing up for things when standing up is called for and hanging around with people smarter than she is.  And if you offer her beer, she’ll say yes.  After hours, of course.

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  • Anonymous

    I can’t believe they haven’t done anything about this yet. Brand equity be damned?

    Let’s keep the pressure on them — if for the sake of the small vendors who rely on Etsy’s platform to make a living.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Dave, for your support. I’m in!!

  • Fiona Stolze

    Shelly, I have a shop on Etsy and am considering pulling it down. I have already flagged the above shop as it’s a total disgrace. Together with a group of other silk painters I have flagged other sellers clearly flaunting the regulations. Etsy seems to just turn a blind eye again and again. They even recently sent out a message to many sellers who had submitted complaints, asking them to be more positive in their outlook!! This is just unacceptable. I’m definitely retweeting your message.

    Fiona Stolze
    http://fionastolze.wordpress.com

    • Anonymous

      Fiona, I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to be an Etsy seller right now. And telling them to be more positive … goodness. They really don’t get it, do they? Wherever you end up, I’m sure people will buy your beautiful wares!! Thanks for coming by – and for the comment.

  • Alex

    An Etsy Bitsy PR Disaster. Good reporting on this, Shelly.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Alex.

  • http://twitter.com/JGoldsborough JGoldsborough

    Outstanding summary of the Etsy story, Shelly. I just sit here and shake my head as I read the recount. I read a piece in the Harvard Business Journal the other day that talked about how customers are on more of a level playing field with brands these days and how companies need to change the way they treat/work with customers and acknowledge this transition in the relationship. Guess Etsy never got that memo.

    Btw, the CEO of Etsy is @Rokali on Twitter if anyone would like to ask him his POV :).

    • Wrytir

      Thanks for posting the Twitter handle, Justin. And yes, Shelly’s article is a wonderful primer for those that aren’t already familiar with the situation. Plus, Shelly is just a great writer.

      • Anonymous

        Thank you :)))

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Justin. And thanks for sharing your post with me as well. It will definitely be interesting to see how this situation transpires. Or, if Etsy leaves its head firmly planted in the sand.

      Shelly
      @ShellyKramer

  • http://thedudedean.com/ TheDudeDean

    Shelly, if you think about it, you’re playing into YouStupidBitch’s hand. He/She’s getting free exposure from one of the top women on twitter. And as offensive as their products are too you, I’m willing to bet that some of your followers are lining up to get an AIDS card to send to a friend as a joke.

    • http://twitter.com/CTMichaels CTMichaels

      Probably not the AIDS card, but definitely the Asshat card!!

    • Anonymous

      Dean,

      I have thought about it – and responded at length on that publicity issue earlier if you want to scroll up and read it. I don’t believe that saying nothing about things that are vile is the way to go. And I’m pretty sure the exposure he’s getting from the conversations about this aren’t resulting in him selling boatloads of cards. Thank goodness.

      One final point, I can honestly can I can’t imagine one of my friends – ever – lining up to get an AIDS card as a joke. Ever.

      Now the Asshat card, definitely (me and @CTMichaels will be fighting over that one).

      Shelly
      @ShellyKramer

      • http://thedudedean.com/ TheDudeDean

        Well if they had some Pedobear cards, I’m sure that they would be a huge hit on Digg.

  • http://rad-info.net Peter Radizeski

    Are you mad that Etsy made money and the sellers don’t? That happens on eBay and Amazon and every where in commerce.

    Are you mad that Etsy and Amazon and other sites don’t police every single item for sale on their site? And that they don’t immediately respond to people telling them to?

    I don’t approve of the YouStupidBitch cards — and they probably thank you for the added publicity – but who am I to say what can and cannot be sold? We allow political vitriol to the point of hate speech on radio, blogs, TV, etc. , why are these cards the source of hate?

    You think that consumers won’t shop at Etsy because one shop out of thousands has off-color products? Most wouldn’t even know, except for articles like this.

    For some artists Etsy is their only source of income. They should give that up to try to find another marketplace over this incident?

    Is it a PR gaff for Etsy? Maybe. But any publicity is traffic.

    • http://twitter.com/CTMichaels CTMichaels

      I kind of thought the YouStupidBitch cards were comical, just some though…some are hatred. I wouldnt have known about them until I ready the post. But I do agree with Peter, any publicity is traffic…

      • Anonymous

        I agree. Some of the cards are actually funny. For me, however, the negative ones are what make the vendor so disagreeable.

        And since I wrote a novella above, in response to Peter, I’ll leave my thoughts on publicity and traffic there …. thanks for coming by and piping in. Always appreciated!

        Shelly
        @shellykramer

    • Anonymous

      Hey Peter,

      I’m not mad at Etsy at all for being profitable – in fact, isn’t that the point?

      Etsy does, however, have a TOS and I think that in this situation that particular vendor is violating it. More importantly, the fact that Etsy refuses to even acknowledge and/or discuss the situation – and perhaps present their side of the story – seems amazingly arrogant and short sighted. But then, that’s the world that I live in. And only my opinion.

      I do think that many shoppers will not shop at Etsy, and that’s a shame. Many folks are still refusing to shop at Amazon because of the book on pedophilia, in spite of the fact that it has been removed by Amazon. Sometimes people will actually show their displeasure by NOT shopping somewhere – and in the case of Etsy, it has already happened. And I think that’s a shame – especially for the other vendors who are basically held hostage as a result of this situation.

      I agree that publicity is traffic. But what would you suggest? Is it always better to simply deal with a situation that you find untenable by saying nothing? Because saying nothing will draw attention, allow the subject to gain notoriety and perhaps introduce more people who like this kind of product to them.

      That might be route that you choose, but for me personally, ignoring bad things because it might draw attention to something I think is wrong – and something that people should perhaps know about and think about – isn’t how I’m programmed.

      Stepping up and saying something about something unpleasant like this is part of what helps me to sleep at night. And makes me feel as if I’m doing something – no matter how small – to contribute to the greater good.

      But for sure, saying nothing doing nothing would be infinitely easier. And draw less traffic and attention to YouStupidBitch and Etsy. I would, however, venture a guess that the attention and traffic that both of them are getting is not resulting in people applauding either one of them for their efforts.

      Hopefully, Etsy will do something to rectify this situation and require this vendor to abide by its terms of service.

      I love a good debate – and I can see you do, too, and your thoughts and comments are very much appreciated. Thanks for stopping by and if you’ve not yet discovered PRBC, welcome!!

      Shelly
      @shellykramer

  • http://keithprivette.com @keithprivette

    Thank you Shelly for bringing this to light again! I have been following for a couple a weeks and nothing has been done and yes the sellers are getting worked over. I hope something gets rolling on this, but hopefully not at the cost of real people trying to make a real living by selling their stuff. Maybe an ethical company or it’s competitor could step up and waive fees, make first 60 days free and acquire them and let the free market put Etsy out of business.

    Who is their competitor? Maybe we can look into their policies and people and see if they are better?

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Keith. I hope something is remedied soon as well – the other vendors are really in a difficult position.

      Shelly
      @ShellyKramer

  • http://twitter.com/CTMichaels CTMichaels

    Shelly, great post. I enjoyed it a lot.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks sweets, for the read!! Always enjoy interacting with you!

      Shelly
      @ShellyKramer

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  • Jonathand Mast

    Shelly – Thank you for this insightful post. You of course know I have been one of the people at the center of this effort. You, Justin & Shel have done a much better job of taking solid thoughtful action. I am glad I have such smart friends.

    I wanted to state a couple of points. I have from the beginning stood by my belief in free speech. I know a lot of people have argued this point. You rightly say the seller can sell their pitiful product. What I have argued against is Etsy has a policy so stand by it. It is not as if single digit people have asked them about it over the last three weeks. I know personally at least 100 people who told me they have reported the vendor.

    I am in the social media business. I have tried to be firm but not flaming in my posts to their site. My post was removed from Etsy’s Facebook page and blog as have been many others. If Etsy wants to change their policy then they should and then issue a statement. You can’t live in this world and hope for gumdrops and unicorns as a public facing company.

    My second point is many people say this is such a small matter as it relates to people with disabilities, rape or breast cancer. It may be, but I would argue that small things lead to big changes. I see how many more people now understand that people with Down syndrome are still viewed in a negative light. If 100 people could meet my daughter or come see her in her upcoming play their world view would be changed. The fact that she has been fully included in a typical classroom will her whole life is changing her classmates lives. This may seem like a small thing, but her 5th grade friend may grow up to employ more people with disabilities. You can’t sell each effort short to make social change.

    To the other cards each hurts the group it targets. Continuing to promote stereotypes and images of what is not funny. So while the vendor might have sold enough cards with this added publicity to pay their electric bill this month I think more had been done to educate others.

    Finally it is another lesson in bad PR and not being prepared to be in the social media game. You can’t just expect to put it out there and it work.

    Thanks to everyone who is supporting and making noise. Even if Etsy does not do the right thing I have been uplifted by my social media friends. What an awesome community of people, many who I have never met.

    Jonathan Mast
    All my opinions are my own and don’t reflect those of any organization I might be associated with.

    • Anonymous

      Jonathan,

      What an eloquent response. But of course, I expect nothing less. I understand your passion for small steps leading to big changes. And I agree. And I also respect free speech and rights of others.

      Stepping aside, for a moment, from the hurt, shock and resentment that you personally feel – or someone who has been raped or who has cancer, etc., might feel, think of it this way.

      Imagine you rent a store at the local mall. You pay your rent, abide by the rules, do all you can to bring customers to your store – and to the mall – and play by the rules of the contract to lease space that you signed. Which probably includes some terms and conditions and rules of accepted behavior. Imagine a pornography shop moved in next door to your shop. And you were shocked and appalled that the mall would lease space to this kind of business. But it doesn’t stop there.

      The public would also probably be appalled. People who frequent the mall. The residences located near the mall, and a host of others. So imagine they decide to take a stand – and boycott the mall. Not only would that action likely hurt the pornography shop owner, it might very well destroy your business. And the businesses of the other tenants in the mall.

      So my argument supports not what I think is right with regard to hatred or inflammatory or inappropriate behavior by this merchant — it really, in a much bigger way, supports the rights of all those other Etsy vendors. The ones whose business livelihoods are very likely hanging in the balance as people get upset about this situation and potentially boycott the website and/or quit buying from Etsy vendors.

      I think it’s terrific (sarcasm) if this card manufacturer wants to take his (or her) sick sense of humor outside of the Etsy system, set up a website and sell his merchandise. He has every right to do that and people who are interested in that time of product can – and most certainly should, buy it.

      I also have deep concern about a brand who advises its employees (or in this case, their vendors) to not say anything negative about the brand – and censoring any negativity in forum groups, on Facebook or anywhere else is, in my opinion, highly suspect behavior.

      Hopefully, Etsy will learn from this and do a better job with their PR efforts, a better job of listening to their vendors (the people who help keep the site alive) as well as the people who choose to buy from Etsyians.

      It’s ironic that the people who comment about this situation and mention censorship are apparently missing the point that Etsy itself engages in censorship – proactively taking steps to excise anything negative that’s ever said about it.

      Thanks again for bringing this situation to light. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

      And, for the record, my twins are so excited about seeing that play you mention. I’ll bet it’s terrific – and we can’t wait!

      Shelly

      • http://www.sacriliciousmarketing.com/ REBlogGirl

        I find it interesting that Etsy doesn’t let you comment on a seller/transaction/product negatively but they let their sellers sell something as negative as this. Mind you, I am not offended by the cards – the seller has the right to sell whatever they want to sell and say whatever they want to say unless it breaks a law. If offending someone were a crime, then I think many of us would be in the clink. I also don’t like the idea of networks like that over policing themselves to standards of political correctness rather than the law. The largest concern for me is the no negativity policy that does not allows buyers to comment honestly on sellers. As a regular online buyer, I would not trust a network that does not allow for honest buyer experience feedback good or bad.

  • Kasandra

    This said shop opened on October 26 2010 and already sold 83 items!
    Do you really believe that Etsy will give up on such a seller/store? ….
    They are a commercial money minded company, and unless they will loose money because of it, they will do nothing.

    http://www.liveperson.com/Kasandra

  • Kasandra100

    Etsy is a commercial and money making minded company.
    This said store which opened on October 26, 2010 has already sold (up to today Jan 11, 2011) 83 items!
    Do you really believe that they will give up on such income?….
    Unless they feel it in their pockets, I definitely do not believe that they will close this store.
    My 2 cents…

    http://www.Liveperson.com/Kasandra

    • Aja

      They had zero sales when this whole fiasco began. The media created the sensation. Bravo. And “such income”? Etsy gets .20 cents for each listed item and 3.5% of the final sale price. By golly they’re raking in the dough on this one :P

      They’ve stated several times in the forums their stance. The shop does *not* violate their terms of service.

    • Earth N ElementsPottery

      Etsy is not making any money to speak of from this seller. At .20 per listing and 3.5% commission on a $2.50 card…..well I doubt they need the $49.00 that bad.

    • Anonymous

      Actually I think @EarthNElements pottery’s response below was pretty spot on – is all this worth $49? I doubt it.

  • http://www.earthnelements.com Earth N Elementspottery

    I too am a seller on etsy, and at this time, I am embarrassed to say so. I find the sellers shop highly offensive, and frightening that as a male he finds humor in women cowering in a shower stall. Frightening actually. Apparently these very personal situations have not hit close enough to home for etsy admin to make the decision to take down the shop. I hope they eventually will see that it is the right thing to do.

    • Anonymous

      I agree!! It is offensive and I, too, hope they’ll do the right thing. And, just as importantly, I hope this doesn’t impact your sales on Etsy!!

      Shelly
      @ShellyKramer

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  • http://twitter.com/everybodyelse01 Melody

    Thanks for sharing, I’m a seller on etsy and I didn’t even know about this until I read your post.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Melody. Hopefully, this situation won’t affect you!!

      Shelly
      @ShellyKramer

  • Kwilliams84

    While I do not agree with the vendor’s poor sense of humor or lack of consciousness in regard to the items they are selling, I also am not going to pass judgment on the many great vendors who sell their items on Etsy because of one idiot’s poor taste. The real question is who is the seller’s audience and who would spend their money on this crap?

    I have had many great experiences with Etsy vendors selling unique and well crafted items. I think it is a tad far fetched to think that these vendors will loose their credibility. In the end it is really up to the buyer to deem where their line of good taste stands.

    Despite the controversy I am still a loyal Etsy customer – hey I’m going to go and make a purchase now!

    • Anonymous

      I, too, have had many great experiences with Etsy vendors. And please don’t misunderstand – that is exactly my point in the post above. I believe the biggest harm that exists is the potential reputational damage to those wonderful sellers. And that’s what I think is so horrible about this situation. It is my fervent hope that Etsy will do something – and quickly – so that those vendors don’t lose any credibility and/or business.

      Shelly
      @ShellyKramer

    • An Artfire Seller

      Actually, to answer your question, one of Etsy’s own administrative people bought the stuff. I had looked at the profile to see the cards, and if you look at the feedback, the two very first feedback are from twokb, who is (or was, unless they’ve now hidden it), an etsy engineer in charge of treasuries and activity feeds: http://www.etsy.com/people/twokb

      So that will tell you who their audience is and who would buy that type of stuff: Etsy itself.

  • Jonathand Mast

    Peter I respect your comments. Please see my post again below. Etsy has set their own policy. If they want to change their policy to allow it than they should and publicly state they do. They should not then be afraid of free speech when people make comments. Do you support the censorship of removing every person who has posted on their site.

    Finally they didn’t have to find it themselves many people including me everyday for 21 days have reported the vendor to them. Shelly and others point out they could have avoided all this by addressing this early on. Now it has grown bigger than it ever should have.

  • Anahita – Gogobags

    Thank you Shelly for this post. It cleared many things for me, thank goodness I didn’t sign up with them a month ago. I’m not sure if it is wise and profitable anymore to start a new shop on Etsy, first for their resent reputation, and then for the cost, 20Cent for each item and 3.5% of total sale of a $7 item?? How many items should you sell a month to survive, considering the number of shops in each category??

  • Imagelogos

    Us Bonanza instead of Etsy now. Same kind of feel but don’t charge you until you make a sell. No monthly fee for listing like Etsy.

  • Cecily

    I have no serious issue with the seller: yes, bad taste; yes, poor judgement. Would I buy from them? Hell no.
    But they do have a right to self publish what ever they want to do.
    Actions (or lack there of) are why my Etsy shop remains empty and I will never list anything on there again. This is just the most recent fiasco of not listening to their sellers. Just so those who are looking to buy handmade from small business owners there are other sites that cater to the handmade (and often many Etsy sellers have a second shop on another site: like http://www.zibbet.com and http://www.artfire.com and many more (those are just the 2 I look at the most)

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Cecily. I totally agree that they have the right to publish and make whatever they want – and you’ll get no argument from me there. I do, however, think that Etsy is probably not the right place for that merchandise.

  • Csmith

    Thank you for your insight on this issue, Shelly. As a breast cancer survivor, aunt of an autistic child and, up to now, an Etsy seller it made me sick to read about this seller. I’ve lodged my complaint with Etsy. Like many, I’m a huge proponent of free speech but Etsy is flaunting it’s own policies. If this doesn’t change, I’ll soon be a former Etsy seller.

  • Debbie_joplin

    I have been a seller on Etsy for about a year. Prior to reading this post, I already disappointed in Etsy for not enforcing their rules. A large number of sellers on Etsy who are selling items listed as “Handmade” are actually reselling items they wholesale that were made in China. This is so unfair to those of us selling actual handmade items. I became aware of this when I started looking at other sellers selling items similar to mine, handbags, laptop, ereader and iPad cases, etc. One seller was selling 40-50 “handmade” items a day. For the description this was not a collaborate or shared store. How does one person make 40-50 bags/cases a day????? I sew and I know this is not possible, so I started doing some research and sure enough found several webiste where you could by the EXACT same bags/cases wholesale…from China. After doing more investigating, I found numerous Etsy sellers doing the same thing, I contacted Etsy twice and they have NEVER responded to my concerns.

    Then today, someone sent me the link to your post. As the mother of a child with Autism and an advocate for children with disabilities, I am appalled, although not suprised, at Etsy’s lack of business ethics. As for me, I will be leaving Etsy and looking for more reputable place to sell my handmade goods.

  • http://www.haycreations.com.au Melanie Hay

    Thank you for raising this issue. The way I see it though is that unfortunately in the Cyber world the increased exposure for Etsy & the seller will fall under the “any publicity is good publicity” banner because simply discussing it outside of Etsy will now increase their online presence.

  • MiMi

    So the name of the seller’s store is apt, I see.

  • Storybeader

    sorry to hear about this. I’ve been an etsy seller for 3 years now, and I haven’t seen anything distasteful, until now…

  • http://twitter.com/charityestrella Estrella Rosenberg

    I think it’s refreshing to see that most of the comments to your piece are centered on etsy’s policies and their relationships with their sellers vs. the content of the cards. I can understand how these cards can be seen as offensive, but I wonder if anyone has contacted the seller to see if these are meant for people with a particularly black sense of humor.

    I hate to play devil’s advocate (okay, that’s a lie – it’s not such a bad role to play!), but to stereotype and say no one who has been raped or had cancer or had a child with special needs would find these funny is a giant stretch. If you’ve been raped or had cancer, humor might be one of your coping mechanisms…from firsthand experience I can tell you that my fellow cancer survivor friends and I make the most disgusting and irreverent jokes about our treatment, diagnosis, surgery – the whole shebang. Some people choose to laugh at each new hurdle instead of cry…whether or not a majority of people can understand that or not doesn’t make the cards hateful in and of themselves.

    What I found most disturbing about this post is etsy’s TOS and forum policies!

  • Anonymous

    Whenever I see a vendor like this do something so patently stupid in response to an obvious problem (namely, ignore it, and punish those who complain), I am inclined to assume complicity in the problem. What friend or associate of an Etsy staffer do you suppose might be selling this merchandise?

  • http://valwip.blogspot.com/ Val Woodhouse

    I’ve got a pretty broad sense of humour and I’m not easily shocked. Although I have no idea why anyone would want to buy most of those cards, I’d like to understand why their customers have. Interesting that they’ve got 126 Favourite votes and only 89 sales! That CNN “news” report only touched on reasons why people might like the brand and it shed much more heat than light on the subject. It’s easy to be morally outraged when you’re only willing to look at a selected part of the picture.

    As to Etsy’s T&Cs, censoring criticism, etc: yes these are all things we need to know but only in the wider context of assessing the competition. All vendors should be doing thorough research as to which platforms are available and who will provide them with the best service and profit margin. By all means point out that there are other sites out there who do a similar or better job but if a vendor decides to go with Etsy that’s their decision, not ours as customers. In the real world, if you want to buy a particular product from a particular shop, you make that decision based on the service you receive in that store. You don’t base it on how much rent the mall owner charges or your opinions on the shop next door.

    Let’s not get into an outrage where we’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater, boycotting legitimate, hardworking vendors because we don’t like other things going on under the Etsy banner. It’s tough enough trying to run an online shop. In these economic conditions in particular, we should be doing all we can to encourage our fellow creatives to make a living.

    Fascinating debate though, thanks for starting it Shelly!

  • http://twitter.com/fubabee PrettyStationeryShop

    I really hope that potential customers who visit Etsy for handmade cards realize that there are a host of other shops selling much more tasteful ones, and that one lone shop selling a line of offensive greetings, does not mean that the rest of the shops in that category are the same.

    As a designer that has been selling handmade cards and wedding stationery on Etsy since 2007, I would like to say that there are a lot of other vendors on the site who sell greeting cards and other paper goods, that sell items with integrity guided by their own principles of good will and customer service. I would like to think I am one of those vendors, and I invite you to visit for the hundreds of other card designers who offer beautiful and amazing work.

    However, the fact that people will boycott Etsy due to this incident, is another consideration I must take into account for my own business, especially in an industry where the rise in social media has led to a decrease in people buying and sending cards. Compound that with the increase in postage fees and the still-struggling economy, this latest black eye is just another set of challenges entrepreneurs like me who are doing what we can to make an honest living.

    Lisa Fu
    Pretty Stationery for Beautiful Souls
    http://fubabee.etsy.com

  • http://www.etsy.com Lenny Mud

    The reality of the situation is that this Etsy shop and its offerings could have easily remained obscure if it were not for sensationalistic pieces like the one you have written here.

    While I personally find the content of these cards highly offensive, I also found your commentary to be slanted and irresponsible reporting. Pointing a finger at Etsy while directing a line of traffic into this seller’s shop seems at cross purposes.

    I find it particularly outrageous that you attempt to draw comparisons between the book that was removed from Amazon and this seller’s shop offerings. The book that was removed from Amazon was essentially a “how to” guide for pedophiles–it offered tips and suggestions on how to commit sexual acts with children and avoid getting caught while doing so. In the end it was removed because it created liability issues for Amazon, not because Amazon had some moral epiphany. The subject matter of these cards does not create the same type of liability for Etsy — you make an apples to oranges comparison for the sake of supporting your point of view. Your article did far more “harm” in terms of exposure of this subject matter to people who did not actively seek it out than the existence of this shop amongst several hundred thousand vendors.

    As this piece you have written continues to be tweeted or shared or reposted, the publicity machine will reward this seller and you, the Rainmaker. Shame on you. The protocols that exist in the Etsy forums are in place to avoid the type of pitchfork and torches situation that you yourself have caused here.

    • Anonymous

      Lenny, with all due respect, we must agree to disagree. Sometimes taking a stand is just the right thing to do. Even if it means increased awareness or web traffic to something that’s objectionable. You’re right, it is infinitely easy to “ignore-cott” anything that’s unpleasant and just let things be. Me, I’m not built that way. Nor, apparently, a lot of others based on the amount of comments here.

      Standing up for what you believe in can, in fact, incite change. Change for the better. And I think that Etsy’s decision to change their policy that was just announced today proves that point.

  • jmast

    Thank you, Shelly. This is your friend’s wife – the mother of the child with Down syndrome and the advocate for treating people with respect and dignity regardless of their abilities. I want you to know the Down syndrome community truly appreciates your speaking out about Etsy. This is not a freedom of speech issue. While we think the vendor is horrific, it is Etsy’s poor handling of the situation that is at issue. The quote on my signature line in my email is: “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” — Benjamin Franklin. In some way whether you intended to or not, you are doing this for people with Down syndrome, breast cancer survivors, rape victims, etc. Thank you!

    • Anonymous

      Hello Mrs. Mast,

      (I would use your first name but I’m afraid I’ll misspell it)! It has been my pleasure not only getting to know your lovely husband and family, but to help drive awareness to this issue. Like you, my focus has always been about Etsy’s handling of this situation and I’m thrilled that they’ve ‘done the right thing.’ They are a good company filled with great people – and this is a big step forward for all of us.

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  • Hfinallyquiet

    Thanks Shelly! My favorite quote is: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”–Martin Luther King Jr. That is why I advocate for my child with Down syndrome. Turning a blind eye to ignorance and disrespect, no matter how small or masked as “humor”, will ripple to larger culture problems.

    • Anonymous

      Love this quote — thank you so much!!

  • Mikem0003

    you think it is bad what he has on etsy it is even worse at his own website http://youstupidbitch.com/

  • Hanisostudio

    Hi there, I’m an Etsy seller and I started a tread asking why this seller is allowed to sell on Etsy and got attack by other Etsy sellers. Here is the link to the thread: http://www.etsy.com/forums_thread.php?thread_id=6744630.

    I am still getting over the shock of being attacked and being made to look like someone who didn’t believe in free speech and artistic freedom or better yet not mature. I’m a liberal democrat, I’ve volunteered for “NO on prop 8″ campaign and Obama/Biden in 2008. I believe in free speech and artist freedom, but not at the expense of people with a disability or at marginalization rape and aids. If you don’t stand-up for something, than you stand for nothing.

    This is same as selling a card that says “You’re such a Fag” or “That’s so Gay” or cards that refers to all muslims being terrorist. If people read these kinds of messages enough, soon they start to relate to it and agree with it. I’m very sadden to see that most Etsy sellers that commented on the thread, didn’t see it that way. I was made to look like a pariah.

    I opened my store on Etsy in July 2010, I haven’t really done much with my store because I was mainly selling at “Jewely House Parties”, craft and farmer’s markets and trade shows. But, recently I decided to concentrate on my Etsy store, I made a lot new merchandice and took pictures of them and were about to list them on Etsy. I was also preparing to link my facebook and do some marketing to get my Etsy store going, till a friend of emailed me a link to this store.

    Etsy is the best place to sell handcrafted merchandice, but, I plan on closing my shop, once my own website is completed. This incident forced my hand on creating my own website. I don’t want to be associated with people who think exercising their first amendment rights, give them the right to make fun or marginalize disabilities, rape and aids. Isn’t there enough hate in the the world? Do we now need greeting cards that promote it and tells you it’s okay to make fun of people that maybe different or have experience tragedy. I hope the creater or these cards don’t ever receive one of these card when he or she or a love one experience one of these tragedies or maybe he or she will finally get it.

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  • http://www.earthnelements.com Earth N Elementspottery

    Newly announced and something I am thrilled to share…….Etsy has now made a policy change, that I thought you would be interested in seeing. http://www.etsy.com/forums_thread.php?thread_id=6745203

    • Anonymous

      Such great news! We’re all very excited.

  • http://twitter.com/_Morrigan Morrigan

    Etsy started disenchanting its customers (Etsy shop owners) back in late 2006. Here’s a few links if you care to read further into problems with Etsy:
    http://etsybitch.blogspot.com/
    http://etsynews.com/
    https://etsycallout.wordpress.com/

    https://etsycallout.wordpress.com/

  • Radunculus

    If I could only run my business as Shelly Kramer and her like-minded apostles saw fit; I’m sure that I would be destined to fail at some near point by them. Of course I find those cards offensive; and I know enough about people to know that most others would find these cards offensive as well. Like most, I would not buy these cards, nor would I spend much time looking in their “booth”. However, I would never presume that my preferences would require that business to be shut down or have them adjust their products or services to suit my tastes. Doesn’t that smack of censorship Shelly? Boycott their store? Sure.
    Punish Etsy?
    As a marketing person, I’m sure that you have clients that don’t market exactly the things you would if you had their business. Would I presume that you would then tell them what they need to drop and add in their lineups to suit your sensibilities? Tell me how that works for ya!

    I agree that Etsy has not re-charted their business course. I don’t know if it’s because they haven’t noticed the change or if they are in analysis paralysis. The initial “we are just a bunch of artists selling online!” concept has morphed into “we are a worldwide group of some artists, manufacturers, underpaid collectives, hard-eyed resellers, bulk suppliers, retailers and wholesalers”- all paying fees to our store host: Etsy.

    • Sadie Jones

      You remind me of the type of person who can’t be bothered to get off your backside to do anything positive, but you have plenty of time to lay around thinking up excuses for why we shouldn’t make things right. These cards are hurtful and people should be embarrassed that they are for sale on a website known for jewelry, soaps and scarves!  Now, if they were Only selling in online stores known for insensitive crap for radonculous people, then I’d say “Go for it”

  • danunepthys

    I understand the sentiment, but why punish the thousands of artists who utilize Etsy as their sales tool? While I find this particular store disgusting, why punish someone who make amigurimi rabbits and makes serving their customers a priority? It seems to me that you are taking your frustration with a tool on everyone who uses the tool.

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  • Bluespark

    The censors won. The cards were stupid, but people determined to try to cover the world in bubble wrap helped them sell. Because etsy has decided to censor its sellers (the language in their new TOS indicates that items which “promote hate” are not allowed) I’m no longer shopping there. Back to ebay or buying local, I guess . . .

  • Jade

    Hi,
    Just wondering what you mean by this:
    “Then I discovered Etsy seller YouStupidBitch and the line of greeting cards they create and sell on Etsy – with a clever tagline “Greeting Cards for Awkward Situations.””
    Not sure if you have seen my blog entry:
    http://hungryatthespeedoflife.wordpress.com/2010/12/21/etsy-says-rape-is-ar/

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  • LCR

    Also, etsy has all types of sexually explicit and voyeuristic offerings.

  • jpdsa

    Hi ! I kind of thinking the YouStupidBitch cards were comical, just some though…some are hatred. I wouldnt have identified about them awaiting I timely the post. But I prepare agree with Peter, any publicity is traffic…
    jpdsa

  • http://eyesurgerycosts.net/looking-for-a-typical-eye-surgery-cost-%E2%80%93-read-this-to-find-out/ eye surgery cost

    That guy looks like someone I know who really does have Down Syndrome

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