Etsy can be a little 2.0, sometimes to the detriment of the people that they want shopping it. And while we plus shoppers, especially those of us who were in a position of enough privilege to hop on computers in the mid to late 90s, are versed enough in the language of modern computing and the Internet to at least find our way around even in stores where the web designer is clearly not so familiar with the principles of web design, the average person with the cash to spend just doesn’t have the comfort to figure out point A to point B — Etsy, while mostly OK for those exposed to computers from kindergarten on, is for the non-native somewhat like trying to navigate the New York Metro Transit when you’re not a native New Yorkers. Ultimately, it’s just a touch more complicated than it should be because the kids on the inside haven’t been outside enough to really recognize how it looks to an outsider. Fortunately, earlier this month our plus-sized please were heard, and plus-size received its own category within clothing, giving both sellers and plus-shoppers who want to support indie/micro businesses a much-needed boon.
Still, newcomers still need a tour guide, just to turn a few corners in what they need to know to navigate their way to one-of-a-kind/indie plus bliss:
You have to be a member of Etsy to shop on Etsy. The signup is pretty simple; you only need to share credit card information if you plan on opening a storefront yourself. If you’d like to let them know I referred you, please use my ID of magickalrealism. Right now there’s no incentives for referral, but it’s still good for any website to know where its hits come from.
The vast majority of Etsy sellers take PayPal, and they’d really prefer that you use it. Contrary to popular misconception, you do not EVER have to open up a PayPal account to send payment. At the end of the order, scroll down the screen – there are prompts that allow you to enter your credit card information without ever opening an account.
Why Checks and Money Orders Are Rarely an Option on Etsy
While shoppers may have the best of intentions, checks and money orders lead to delays, are prone to fraud, and I can tell you from personal experience that banks charge all parties involved when there’s a check bounced. So if you write a bad check, you aren’t just stealing a single item, you’re stealing that item and further hurting the person you bought it from by causing some nasty bank charges and legal fees to accrue.
Google Checkout is another option that some sellers offer, although there is no automated way to request it within the Etsy system at this time. It differs from PayPal in that it does require membership for use (which is free), but is just as secure as PayPal with the added benefit that it takes less money in fees from the seller (so if you really like the seller…) If you want to use this or any option alternate to PayPal, make sure you contact the seller. Which brings me to the next part…
Don’t go into Etsy expecting the usual anonymous transaction, most of the time. The site is intended for – and mostly has – individual sellers running individual storefronts. So dissociate the comparisons to Ebay right now; it’s an entirely different market that should consist of all handmade and some vintage, all of the time. The downside of that is there may be slight delays; most Etsy shops are a one man/woman deal, and no person can be on Etsy 24/7, despite some clear efforts. If you have a question, be sure to ask. If you hit “Control F” on your browser and type “contact” in the dialog box and hit enter, it will show you where to click the link you can push to leave a message or query for a prospective seller. Make sure the query is legitimate; Etsy does monitor “convos” for spam and will “mute” you if you send too many identical queries to too many different people.
Categories and Tags
The two best methods for navigating Etsy are category surfing and running a tags search. To get to the category you want to shop, just click on the list you see on the left of the front page, and click.
If you’re looking for something very specific, or something where you don’t know what category it would fit in, go the search engine at the top of the page that is automatically set to “items, tags, titles” and type in the keyword for what you’re looking for. This is particularly useful if you’re already in the subcategory you want to be in.
So if you go to clothing, and then to plus size, and you want to find plus size skirts, just go to the engine at the top of the page and type in “skirts.” Since you’re already in plus size, it will just pull up all the items tagged “skirt.”
As a subset issue of tags,Â sizing is just as inconcrete on Etsy as it is elsewhere. There is no industry standard, and on top of it, Etsy is a very international market.Â Some designers have a strange definition of plus size, or a strange way of indicating how many inches of garment there actually is. While credit cards, Google Checkout, and PayPal pretty well take care of currency conversion for you, it’s a good idea to have a metric converter open and to ask the seller whether that 25 inches is 25 inches around, or if it’s actually 50 inches around.
Read Your Listings Well!
What you see is not always what you get, so it’s important you take the time to read both the individual listing and the storefront notice on each store. (You can get to the storefront by clicking on the word “shop” from a listing). Sometimes the item depicted is an example for custom work, so you will need to contact the seller to provide sizing information and to discuss pricing. Sometimes – and this drives me nuts – the item depicted is actually for selling a pattern so you can do it yourself. Once in awhile you will also come across a seller who has simply put the wrong tag on an item, so you wind up looking at a hat and wondering why it’s tagged “skirt.”
The forums are a buyer-and-seller place to hang out, chat, and have virtual coffee. It’s also great if you want to get to know your sellers in the wild. There is a section specifically for shop promotions. While some call it the never ending cascade of spam, it actually has proven quite useful for buyers; you can find special offers not necessarily advertised elsewhere since most Etsy shops don’t offer mailing lists, and if you’re looking for an item that’s very specific and you post there, you will likely have a slew of shopkeepers posting with ideas, suggestions, and sometimes even offers of custom work.
In many ways Etsy is a high-tech throwback to the days when most things were done by hand, and by experts and apprentices. Once you learn your basics, you’ll be enjoying handmade and one-of-a-kinds no jet setter could imagine!