Wizardry at it’s Worst
As a former Etsy seller, the almighty disembodied voice of leadership much like that of Oz, has taken me down a path of nightmarish swirling events of ecommerce realities, good versus evil, and the thunderous silence of powerful wizards, when things are not quite right, at a little old site named Etsy.
As For Me, I’m History
In 1964, the American historian Henry Littlefield argued that The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was a parable for the 1890s Populist movement — a campaign by disenfranchised farmers and factory workers to seize power from the business elite. Today, the story of Oz has the same resonance and deep meaning for thousands of Etsy sellers who have been maligned, pushed down, and eliminated from the Etsy selling platform for no valid reason, like me.
Ordinary Conman or Great Wizard?
In my story, I will call Josh Silverman the 21 Million Dollar Man and CEO Wizard of Oz, Ruler of the imaginary cultural Kingdom called Etsy, who is highly venerated by his subjects. The Wizard is very reluctant to meet the sellers of Oz. But alas, when he grants an audience, he seems to be a disembodied voice.
Eventually, it is revealed that this CEO nicknamed Oz is an ordinary conman from Ann Arbor, Michigan who has been using elaborate magic tricks and props to make himself seem “great and powerful”.
Follow the Yellow Brick Road
One day his Ebay balloon sailed into the Land of Etsy and he found himself worshipped as a great sorcerer. As Etsy had benevolent leadership at the time, the Board of Directors replaced many of them to compete with Amazon and Jeff Bezos. The Wizard Silverman became the Supreme Ruler of the Etsy kingdom and is doing his best to sustain the myth.
Wiz Silverman’s “great and powerful” trick was to simply follow the Yellow Brick Road. The Yellow Brick Road is a metaphor for the gold standard, and who better to line the pockets of shareholders (on the backs of sellers) than the CEO Wiz leading his pack down the golden yellow brick road of victory? His trick? Stick it to the sellers, the heart and soul of Etsy who are stuck in Emerald City with no other place to call home. But, It was a difficult 2022 for Etsy after all, with shares tumbling over 60% YTD. So sellers should expect to pony up, more of that burden of loss will fall on their shoulders, again.
Who Loves You Josh? Shareholders!
Silverman raised sellers fees in April, 2021, with an overall hit of about 30% to the bottom line for sellers. So, some sellers closed their shops, briefly, in protest. The Etsy mini strike made a little noise, a little fluffle for about 5 minutes that eventually amounted to nothing. Of course.
But, the Shareholders loved Silverman’s plan so much that they gave him a ludicrous compensation package of $40 million in 2022. A big bump from the $1.9 million package of 2021. Etsy sellers must be perceived as unenlightened hopeless victims of circumstance like rusted Tinmen, cowardly Lions or hapless Scarecrows who lack brains, courage and heart by the Etsy Emerald City elite. How could we have known that the platform we loved and the people we trusted, would become the disembodied voice of a “leaders” who do not care about sellers?
Emerald City, for Shareholders Only
Emerald City like Etsy represented a place where dreams and hopes could be fulfilled. Little did the innocents know that their dreams and hopes would be sidelined as the site has morphed into an unfair, unfamiliar, unsafe place for reputable sellers.
Josh Does Not Care About Sellers
The Wiz Josh in recent Etsy “improvements” initiated a “Buyer Protection Program” that is insufferable and insulting to honest, committed and proven great sellers. And, it isn’t just the indignation of being subjected to abusive buyers, but more significantly by Etsy Munchkins who can and will bury your business if you ruffle feathers or stand up for yourself. Or, the Etsy Munchkin Lollipop Guild (The Lollipop Guild is seen as representing child labor) who ignore concerns, requests and send boiler plate responses as sellers lose their rights along with their dignity. Check out this blog by Abby Glassenberg – It appears that Josh Silverman doesn’t actually engage with sellers in “real life”. The Wiz Josh does not care about sellers.
Supreme Ruler & Myth Maker
The hopes and dreams of Etsy’s Emerald City became aligned with the absolute power and money bonanza for Etsy’s CEO, top brass and shareholders, not their base camp for which they should be celebrating, supporting and sharing the wealth. Instead, daily, sellers are penalized for making scratch money, who must be prepared to be on the defensive to save their reputations and businesses. That’s just bad business. In the meantime, the elites in the shadows are solely in the game for money, and that’s a damn shame. The Wizard might reflect on this if he were to leave his Emerald City Tower and hit the streets to discuss what is real for sellers in the trenches. That, I would call a “Keeping Commence Human” moment. We will not hold our breath on this one.
Becoming Invisible in the Land of Oz
There’s no way of knowing how many of “us” have been broken and slammed by Etsy, but probably enough for Etsy to engage in heart warming story spinning. Oh, there’s a ton, and not a peep about how they might revisit the selling experience. A bunch of money goes into hiring PR people who put a spin on the reality of what actually happens behind the scenes making Etsy appear as a good neighbor and a good business citizen. Thousands of us who have no voice when bad things happen wake up to a happy PR spin to drown out our voices and one by one, we become invisible.
Toto Had It Right
Hundreds of sites are routed right back to the Etsy machine and the disembodied voice of “leadership”. What lies behind the almighty voice of Oz? In the iconic Wizard of Oz story Toto the dog notices that this powerful wizard is actually a meek old man behind a curtain operating a machine that creates the illusion of an almighty and powerful figure.
Which makes me wonder.
The Munchkins Shut Me Down
For me, after two years of selling on Etsy, 444 sales with over 100 five star reviews, the Munchkins of the Lollipop Guild closed my shop down. Not once, but twice due to Wizard Silverman’s brilliant “Buyer Protection Program”.
Today I contacted Etsy. Again, after several months of giving up hope that anyone in the Land of Oz would respond to me like a real, live Munchkin at the keyboard. Wouldn’t you know it, one of the Munchkins sent me a boiler plate response without reading one word I said. Huh! So, yes, I have a strong opinion about Silverman’s draconian rules that punish reputable sellers, like me.
So, this is what it looked like the first time Etsy closed my shop.
Here’s what: The first time Etsy closed my shop without warning it was over a package I sent to England.
- The buyer asked me to track a package showing delivery to British customs, which I was not able to access from the states.
- The customer did not respond to customs to have her package delivered.
- The package was returned to me, arriving a few months later.
- Shipping costs the first time around was an estimate before item was packaged and weighed. I lost money on shipping but I let it go.
- I prepared the package for shipping again and let the buyer (Chasti) know what had happened and what the actual shipping cost was.
- Following this, Chasti started two “Help With An Order” threads with over 200 messages, night and day for 3 weeks straight.
- I asked for help from Etsy. I was told to work it out with the buyer myself. Naively thinking a logical conclusion would be made – the buyer would pay the actual return shipping costs.
- I was told to refund the purchase including shipping.
- The funds were not on my Etsy account card at that moment, and a second was on file for any outstanding amounts due.
- Instead of charging the second card, Etsy shut down my shop with no warning. I had additional shipments to prepare, but could not use the Etsy shipping option.
- One incident, after 2 years. My Star Seller status was eliminated, the algorithm activity dropped, false stats were posted. i.e.: response time, on time shipping, etc.
- The manipulation of data by Etsy crushed my business. My year over year sales dropped by 63%, while my labor and and inventory increased by 50%.
How naïve I was.
Twice is Two Times Too Many
The second time Etsy closed my shop, was the last time. It involved an antique 19th Century Qing Dynasty Imperial Court Robe. The buyer lied. Etsy punished me, and the voice of the almighty Oz remained silent as the Munchkin in charge closed my shop. I was out of state at the time due to mandatory Hurricane Evacuation Directive in Southwest Florida. I would not say this move was a good example of the Etsy “Keeping Commerce Human” mantra, but hey, it’s a great tag line.
Look for my next blog to get the deets on the ridiculousness of Etsy’s second and final fail, for me. And by the way, if you’re still with me, and you happen to be someone who doesn’t quite like what I have to say, I say bring it.
Yours truly, Jolie
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