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Survey: Why Sellers Are Concerned over “Free” Shipping Push

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Why Sellers Are Concerned over Free Shipping Push

Online marketplaces continue to pressure sellers to offer free shipping, with Etsy the latest to launch a new initiative. We surveyed sellers about major changes coming to the Etsy marketplace, and eBay sellers should pay close attention – they could be next. eBay has already begun following in Etsy’s footsteps by rolling out its own managed payments, and once it has finished, it’s likely to impose some of the same policies Etsy has instituted.

Last week’s survey asked Etsy sellers what they thought of the changes announced on Tuesday, and if they planned to make any changes to their selling strategy. The following excerpt from a letter to sellers from Etsy CEO Josh Silverman explains in a nutshell what’s coming – you can read the full letter on the Etsy website:

“Starting on July 30, 2019, we’ll give priority placement in US search results to items that ship free and to shops that guarantee free shipping to US buyers on orders of $35 or more. This means that shoppers in the US will primarily see items that ship free and shops that guarantee free shipping on orders of $35 or more in the top and most visible rows of search. We’ll also begin to prioritize these items wherever Etsy advertises in the US—in email marketing, social media, and television ads.”

Silverman said shoppers on Etsy are 20% more likely to complete their purchase when the item is marked as shipping for free, and he recommended sellers build shipping cost into the price of their products so they don’t have to absorb the full cost of shipping:

“Offering free shipping doesn’t mean you have to pay for it yourself. No delivery service will ship a package for free, but, just like the cost of your materials and other business expenses, it’s a cost you need to consider when setting the price of your item. Our data also shows that Etsy buyers will spend more to have their order shipped free. So, offering a free shipping guarantee could mean you’ll make more per sale, helping to offset your shipping costs.”

However, numerous sellers responding to the survey said it was deceitful and unfair to buyers to build shipping into the price of the product in order to offer “free” shipping.

Etsy will suppress listings that don’t offer its suggested free shipping options, and many sellers said they felt coerced as a result. Sellers used words like extortion and blackmail, and one said it seemed like a “hostage situation.” Some said it was illegal or unethical.

And some readers pointed out that sellers located on the East and West Coasts will be hit hard by the changes due to zone-based pricing, along with international sellers.

One seller said they felt betrayed: “I am completely disgusted. I participated in “Etsy Goes to Washington” in April. There we met members of Congress and lobbied them, educated them on the needs of the microbusiness, and what Congress could do to help. I feel this move is a complete betrayal of the microbusiness model. I feel like after 6 years, I have to start all over again.”

Etsy is making the changes to search at the end of July (and in August outside the US), and in September, it will begin “spreading the word to US buyers that it’s easier than ever to find things that ship free on Etsy.”

It was interesting to see the breakdown of sellers who offered free shipping at the time of the announcement: only one quarter of respondents currently offered free shipping on their Etsy listings, while 75% did not offer free shipping. We asked sellers to tell us why they did or did not offer free shipping on their Etsy listings.

Sellers Who Offer Free Shipping (25% of respondents)
Many sellers who offer free shipping said they did so because they felt coerced by Etsy, which had already been factoring free shipping into search – “I felt I had to after their big push! I need to be seen on the marketplace,” wrote one seller.

“Almost all my items are under 4 oz. so I added $3 to the price to cover postage. Got tired of Etsy nagging about it,” wrote another seller.

Far fewer said they decided to offer free shipping because buyers wanted it. One seller who did wrote, “Buyers have been conditioned there is free shipping, so I include shipping in my pricing.” Another seller wrote, “Always seemed “free shipping” always got better search results. Buyers do not like hunting for total price in body of listing.”

The survey found that many of the sellers who do offer free shipping do so on only a subset of their listings.

Some respondents said offering free shipping helped sales, such as the seller who wrote, “I offer free shipping on all products over $25. I find it has increased my sales. However, my “Free Shipping” cost me $4500 in 2018, which is a significant amount of my profits. I’m lucky that most of my shipments fit in a small padded envelope or small flat rate priority box.”

Other sellers said offering free shipping had had no impact on their sales. “Most of our items are 3-4 oz. so I thought I’d try it out. I know I try to get free shipping if available. I have not found that it has helped sales in any way, however.”

Some representative comments follow:

I offer free shipping on my more expensive items.

I offer free domestic shipping on fine jewelry and some items that weigh under 1lb and are over a certain value because the cost of the items is high enough to absorb the cost. I do not offer it on items where the profit margin is low or the package weighs more than 1lb.

I offer free shipping on some items not all. I find that customers like to see how much the shipping cost is. With free shipping it’s hidden in the cost of the item and the buyer has no idea whether he is overpaying or not.

I offer free shipping because I feel that etsy has coerced me into it.

Free shipping on items under 16 Oz is reasonable. Free on heavy items is not since shipping varies so much depending on destination.

I offer Free Shipping on a $200 (minimum) sale in my supply shop. It’s hard financially to do so, but I do it hoping to stay in a OK place in Etsy search. I lose money doing so, and it does not help that much. I can not mark up my items and stay competitive. I have had to mark many items lower than they should be over the last few yrs – too many large and/ Chinese sellers to compete with.

Was forced to by Etsy to gain notice for shoppers. Would rather not since it cuts into small profits and is not “Free”.

I offer free shipping on small items that when packaged have a total weight of 13 ounces or less and can be mailed via USPS first class. I do not offer free shipping on larger parcels. Slightly over half of what I sell is sent out in small first class packaging with free shipping.

Sellers Who Do NOT Offer Free Shipping (75% of respondents)
Many of the sellers who said they didn’t offer free shipping cited the difference in shipping cost to send packages locally versus far away due to zone-based pricing, saying it wasn’t fair to charge the same price to all customers.

“My local customers should not have to pay higher prices when their shipping costs would be less than those that live farther away,” one seller explained. Another explained the impact on international orders: “To add it into the price shipping Canada to the US would make my price too high to be competitive.”

A lot of sellers felt it was dishonest or deceitful to hike the price of their products and advertise free shipping. “There is no such thing as “FREE” shipping and I don’t believe lying to my customers is moral,” wrote one seller.

Many sellers said their items were very large and expensive to ship – especially now with USPS DIM Weight price changes that took effect last month. “I sell vintage. Shipping can be very costly on larger items, especially with the new dimensional shipping calculations. I can’t eat or imbed that much freight in my items and still hope to sell them.”

Some sellers pointed out that customers who purchased multiple items in a single order would pay more if the shipping was built into the price. One seller wrote, “As a shopper I tend to buy multiple items from dealers who offer a combined shipping discount as opposed to free shipping. And raising my prices to cover the free shipping would cause my prices to be too high.”

Product returns are also a concern, since the seller would have to refund the full price to buyers – including the portion they had allocated to their shipping costs. “I do offer free shipping on most items that will qualify for first class shipping, but heavier items are really difficult to sell when you add shipping to the price. If they want to return an item…I end up having to pay return shipping out of my own pocket plus refunding the initial selling price which had shipping included. Smaller/lighter weight items aren’t as big a concern, so offering free shipping on them is fine.”

One seller summed up some of the concerns with the following:

“There is no thing as “free” shipping. I am not willing to jack up my prices so that they get that illusion. My local customers should not have to pay higher prices when their shipping costs would be less than those that live farther away. My customers who purchases multiple items should not have to pay more because they bought several items with the increased pricing due to trying to recoup “free” shipping costs built in my pricing. I pay shipping fees all the time when I shop online. This is MY business and I feel Etsy has no good reason to dictate how I choose to run it. I have serious doubt that my items will fall very low in the search rankings as my items are unique. Additionally, I drive a lot of my own traffic through social media.”

One seller said they had tried offering free shipping in the past, and “sales went DOWN.”

Some representative comments follow:

I’ve never seen the need to. My default shipping fee is a flat $5, which seems reasonable enough.

My items can be quite large and expensive to ship. It would be impossible to add shipping in as it would make items too expensive and I could potentially charge UK buyers the same as US buyers which would be dishonest.

I sell vintage, all sizes and weights. Since I cannot do all free ship, I do none.

I live in Florida and sell vintage. I have all different sized items which means it’s extremely difficult to estimate shipping costs. Adding the new higher costs the USPS recently instituted would make a good portion of what I sell too expensive even with free shipping. Plus, it’s dishonest. It’s not really free shipping. We are very small business people and can’t compete with Amazon and other free shipping retailers.

My collectible items over 2 pounds can cost from $10 to $50 depending on whether the buyer lives in New York City or LA. Just too difficult to include the high end of the shipping cost into the purchase price.

I sell vintage items (not tiny trinkets that ship for a couple bucks). I only charge pure/actual shipping costs using Etsy shipping calculator. My items are either too bulky or too heavy to ship for free and my customers know that. If postage is added to price; that ALSO means someone living in my same state will pay the same shipping cost as someone clear across the country – and that’s not FAIR to MY customers.

I can’t afford it. I would have to raise my prices and then items would be over-priced and not sell. Customers want cheap prices, period. If they want it, they will pay shipping.

Shipping isn’t ‘free’, and I find the concept to be deceitful. I live on the east coast and sell some larger and heavier items that require a 24x18x18″ box. To ship to a state next to me, it is around $25. To ship to California, it is $102. I find it dishonest to overcharge the person who would get a lesser rate, and it’s bad business for me to eat the cost. This is probably why some retail sites are moving away from always offering ‘free shipping’. West Elm and Chicos come to mind. I offer it on jewelry, since the cost is so minimal, and it is easy to hide. But, I probably wouldn’t offer it on these items either, if Etsy didn’t push it.

Because I like to offer my customers combined shipping if they buy more than one item and there is no such thing as ‘free’ shipping.

The shipping cost variance is too high between say Zone 3 and Zone 8. I would have to increase my prices to cover the costs of a shipment to a high-numbered Zone.

Sellers Weigh in on Etsy’s New Free-Shipping Tool
We asked sellers how they felt about Etsy’s policy to introduce tools that let sellers offer free shipping on orders of $35 or more. A majority (80%) said “bad.” 1.5% said “good,” 13.5% said “neutral,” and 5% said “don’t know.”

Clearly there’s something going on – why would most sellers think the introduction of a tool that gives them greater flexibility if they chose to use it was bad? Sellers said it was because it came with conditions – unless sellers use the tool to offer free shipping on transactions that total a minimum of $35 (or offer free shipping unconditionally), then Etsy will suppress their listings in search results.

It was clear from the comments that many sellers bristled at what they called coercion: “Offering the tools is good. Prioritizing (in search rankings) because you use the tools is not. The good & bad cancel each other out.”

“”Let’s” is not the correct word. Coerce is more appropriate,” wrote another.

But it wasn’t just a matter of principle – many sellers truly believe they are unable to make free shipping work for them financially. “How about Etsy pays for the Free Shipping and you can go Bankrupt instead of me,” wrote one seller. “I feel that Etsy is doing zero to support the sellers. We are Etsy’s customers. This free shipping push cost them NOTHING so they’re riding our backs.”

Another seller said the price threshold was too low: “My free shopping tipping point on other sites is $65,” they wrote.

We found at least one seller who said they would keep an open mind: “I might consider this as a possibility to increase sales,” they wrote.

Some representative comments follow:

It’s terrible that they will not give any search to sellers that can’t afford to offer free shipping due to weights and size factors in the products they sell. Please stay out of our business and offer a fair playing field for everyone.

Etsy shouldn’t be telling its sellers how to run their businesses. They aren’t suffering the consequences of this plan. I’m not going to offer free shipping on my items. Because of this I’m going to be penalized in Search. This could possibly ruin my business on Etsy.

I don’t know what these tools are, whether they are useful for the flat rate shipping I use.

Can u get that shipping money back if a customer wants to return an item for something they just decide they don’t want? Shipping rates vary across the country why would I over charge someone? That makes me as a seller look deceptive.

I sell paintings, cabinets, glass, etc. I can’t set a set shipping price on all my items and my items need to be packed carefully…it’s not like I sell tee shirts.

I think it is fine, I’ve done this in the past and don’t think it is a big deal.

Etsy “tools” never work as intended, and more often than not, are glitchy for months after introduction.

For me it makes no difference, because I have very few items that are under $35.

Doesn’t change anything for people like me who often list free shipping. I was under the understanding that when listing free shipping, it increased the visual of my items. Apparently that’s not so.

I really feel like I’m being pressured into this. It’s gross.

We the seller are getting hit by Etsy, why doesn’t Etsy pay for the shipping.

Etsy have not thought it through and will alienate small businesses. I was thinking about selling from my website, I will definitely be doing that now. I feel Etsy is too greedy they want money for nothing, their website is very rudimentary and they have terrible customer service for sellers.

Since the combined weight and size of the package is unknown until the sale, I have no idea how to include shipping on something like this without losing all my profits.

As a Canadian seller I will get hit two ways…first when I purchase supplies for my products I will pay higher item price and still have to pay shipping cost. As a Canadian seller, my ship costs are already higher than my competition so this will make it even harder to be competitive.

The Crux of Sellers’ Dissatisfaction: Search Manipulation
The next question specifically asked sellers about the section of Etsy’s announcement in which it said it would advantage listings in search results depending on whether the seller offered free shipping.

We asked: “Beginning July 30, 2019, Etsy will give priority placement in US search results to items that ship free and to shops that guarantee US buyers free shipping on orders of $35 or more. How do you feel about that new practice?”

The majority of sellers called it a bad move (89%). 4% said it was good, 6% said it was neutral, and 1% said they didn’t know.

Some sellers pointed out that they pay the same amount of money as sellers who will receive better exposure for their listings. “Sellers are paying a fee for listing items, so Etsy should not be manipulating visibility,” one seller wrote. “Not fair to those of us who pay the same listing fees as those who offer free shipping,” said another.

Some respondents called the policy “one-size-fits-all” that wouldn’t work for all sellers or all types of items.

A number of sellers used the words “blackmail” or “extortion” to describe Etsy’s new approach to “free shipping.”

One seller said the policy has the potential to increase returns: “I sell items that are nearly all under $35, so this forces buyers to add items to their cart that they might not really want, just to reach the $35 threshold. As a seller, I feel this just invites an increase in remorse returns.”

One seller was prepared to exploit the new policy: “More traffic for me until everybody else does free shipping.” But another said, “We aren’t doing it and the shops that do it in our category will lose their shirts in the process and fade away or reverse course quickly – so hopefully it won’t affect us in the long-term – EXCEPT to really, really motivate us further to get our own website up and running PRONTO.”

While the majority of sellers didn’t like it, one seller said, “I feel it will bring more shoppers to Etsy,” and another wrote, “If they really do this, it might work. Something to think about.”

Some representative comments follow:

This works for me, I really don’t think it will do that much.

It’s paramount to extortion! If they want to dictate to sellers about free shipping, than Etsy needs to pay for it, not tell sellers to (try to) deceive their customers by hiding the shipping costs. Buyers aren’t stupid – but Etsy constantly shows that they (Etsy) thinks they (buyers) are!

And who has to pay the return shipping if the buyer returns the item. If it was sent free shipping then the seller is out of pocket again. Why all the fuss now? Why not just increase placement for sellers who offer free ship now?

This is extortion, this means I will not pay Etsy for Pattern, dropping it and my 2.00 a day cut it no more spending money with Etsy

It is dishonest, some buyers will in effect be charged too much.

This will result in fewer sales for my items.

I am forced to offer free shipping or not be found in searches.

One price / policy cannot fit all scenarios.

If not, my items appear more expensive because of rolling shipping into the price.

Etsy is committing fraud by giving better (or worse) “placement” in search results when all sellers on Etsy pay the same listing price. Etsy cannot legally – as a “venue” – arbitrarily decide whose business they are going to ruin due to what business decisions are made by that business that has an agreement with Etsy to pay them to use their venue upon which to house their personal business. Especially when Etsy stands to profit greatly from having shipping costs (because shipping isn’t “free”) rolled into the cost of an item, thus driving up their “Final Value Fees”. This change has nothing to do with pleasing buyers nor sellers, Etsy doesn’t care about either, it is simply another money grab by Etsy, so they can falsify actual Gross Market Value reports for stock holders. Etsy needs to have charges and/or a lawsuit for fraud brought against them.

It will require sellers to raise their prices to ridiculous amounts in order to be able to ship items from outside the US, and also for US sellers to ship large/heavy items across country. That will penalize many local buyers, and many sellers.

This will really hurt many sellers, it could put many out of business. Etsy needs to stay out of our shops. We pay to sell on Etsy, we are their customers and all deserve a fair place in search. Giving Priority to some who do what Etsy wants them to do, when is impossible for many to do is just out and out wrong. I don’t think this will work well for Etsy. I think for many sellers this will be the straw that breaks the camels back! Many sellers are outraged, myself included.

If I were a seller of smaller and/or lightweight items (e.g., clothing, jewelry), I speculate my perspective might be different. But I’m a seller of vintage items, and as such believe that, once again, Etsy’s corporate, cookie cutter perspective has proven to be short sighted. I’ve long contended that shoppers are not so much expecting “free” shipping, as they by now surely know those costs are largely rolled into the price. I believe what shoppers DO want is the ability to see – up front – what their bottom-line investment most likely will be. Adding a $15 item to their shopping cart, only to then see $12 shipping, $2 tax, and $1.50 handling fee later added on makes for a very different financial commitment. Forcing shop owners to build shipping costs into the item price means a coastal shop owner must over-inflate price in anticipation of a possible coast-to-coast transaction, leaving them looking less competitive to, say, a Midwest competitor. With shipping costs on the rise, and many items larger than a cubic foot once safely packed, Etsy’s hell-bent need for “free shipping,” and the added insult of priority placement, is FAR from understanding or aiding many of its customers – the shop owners, including vintage shop owners like me.

I think you already have to wade through too many irrelevant listings when you search. Then throw in the sponsored ads to make matters worse. This could come back to bite them. Sponsored ads are fine in the relevancy sort, but when I search by price – I expect to see some logical order.

If we all pay the same fees, we should all have equal visibility.

Hiding my listings will only continue the downward spiral of my Etsy sales.

I think if they want to push free shipping, then they should have to pay for these shipping labels! In addition to paying 5% plus their payment transaction fees, I had to now pay $3 for my “free shipping” order to send it to the customer. I cannot afford this!!

So they only want to sell cheap lightweight items?!

It is a form of coercion to make sellers offer free shipping by threatening a lower placement. The listing and transaction fees are the same whether you offer it or not. And buyers won’t always see what they may want by relevance, but rather what Etsy wants them to see.

When I offered free shipping on everything, my sales did not increase, my place in search did not improve.

Etsy is already manipulating search and have been for a few years now. They manipulate it to the advantage of themselves, rather than advantage for the buyers or sellers.

Terrible change and makes me want to leave. I AM NOT offering free shipping and now my listings will not be seen. So why be on Etsy??

I feel that adding the shipping cost to the item price is misleading customers. Shipping is never free! For me it is an ethical dilemma. Feels like I’m lying and being deceitful.

If I am forced to offer free shipping against my will, I will start looking for another place to sell my items. At this point I am satisfied with how much and how I sell. If Etsy wants to penalize me for not offering free shipping, I will leave. I make (product redacted by editor to ensure anonymity), which only one other person does, so I don’t have a problem with advertising or selling all over the world. If Etsy wants my business, then they have to let me run it!!!

So I pay the same fee as everyone else, pay the same commission AND no one sees my listings, sounds like a really bad idea.

This is pure and simple blackmail. There is no such thing as ‘free’ shipping and why should European buyers have to pay higher prices because of hidden postage costs to the USA. The cost of overseas postage is high and if it had to be included in the buying price the items would be priced out of the U.K. market.

Obviously Free Shipping is the most important criteria for the placement. Etsy search is already nearly worthless due to the paucity of listing categories.

I pay the same fees as those who may offer free shipping but I am not getting the same benefits. And it’s a lie to say it’s “free.” I think this falls under consumer fraud.

Add to that the policy changes for the U.S. Postal service and regional costs, and large bulky items, and ETSY is forcing sellers to comply to a disaster.

This is extortion. This should be illegal in the online world of selling via marketplaces who have NOTHING to do with how a business ships its products. Only the buyer is involved in the cost of shipping, along with the seller. Fair shipping is NEVER an issue for any normal buyers who shop in specialty locations like Etsy.

As a result of this action by Etsy I have put my shop on vacation and most likely will not reopen.

Unfair to other countries, ethically wrong to mislead consumers about item pricing, has potential to falsely inflate prices all over due to perception that item price is the standard price.

Where did they come up with $35? If I sign on, everything in my shop will ship free & I have to pay for that.

I’m in France but a large percentage of my customers are in the US, presumably I won’t be offered the option to take part & will lose visibility.

This is not Amazon where people PAY for a prime membership that subsidizes some of the shipping charges. It’s insane, shipping charges are outrageous now & they want great pricing on items plus free shipping. On small things like jewelry, you can raise your price & still make it work but not for anything else. I will probably stop selling on Etsy. Why bother if my items will be buried in search.

Just another maneuver to get sellers to pay for search ads.

I will leave Etsy as a result.

Unfair to sellers AND buyers outside the US, they are paying way more than they should. All sellers pay the same fees and should be treated equal. There is already an option to select free shipping if a buyer so chooses, there is no need to favor sellers who offer free shipping, Etsy could promote that instead of forcing sellers into shipping included.

They are trying to compete with AMAZON (Like everyone else) They should try to be ETSY instead.

Sellers have been “low balling” price and inflating shipping for a while to get better search placement.

I am considering leaving Etsy.

How Sellers Will Adapt to the Changes
We asked sellers, “When this new policy takes effect, you will,…” and asked them to select one of the following options (shown with the results):

Make no changes (36%)
List more on Etsy (2%)
List less on Etsy (25%)
Stop listing on Etsy (13%)
Don’t know (24%)

We also asked sellers, “Etsy will begin actively marketing the free-shipping initiative to buyers in September. Do you agree with Etsy that this will drive more traffic to the Etsy marketplace and sellers’ shops?” 59% said no, 9% said yes, and 32% said “don’t know.”

Finally, we asked sellers, “Do you feel that Etsy’s free-shipping initiative was based on the wants/needs of their sellers?” 1% said yes, 96% said no, and 3% said “don’t know.”

You can comment on the Etsy policy change and the survey results on the AuctionBytes Blog.

Ina Steiner on EmailIna Steiner on LinkedinIna Steiner on Twitter
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.

29 thoughts on “Survey: Why Sellers Are Concerned over “Free” Shipping Push”

  1. I used to offer free shipping on Ebay but found that discourage buyers from purchasing multiple items because the shipping cost for each time was built into the price. While this was fine with single items it caused the pricing to be excessive when buyers made multiple purchases and I wound up spending more time fielding offers on multiple items and then having to send an invoice for it. I don’t know how it will work on Etsy as i do not sell on the site, but Ebay has made it impossible to alter pricing for sales tax or shipping multiple items when you offer Free shipping unless the Seller jumps through a bunch of hoops to figure out what they should be paying. I am not saying I will never offer Free shipping on any site, but all it becomes is another money grab by the marketplaces when buyers make multiple purchases and the shipping is already built into the item pricing.

  2. I sell fine art. Some paintings ship for $40+. I would lose $’s if I offered free shipping, plus the items are unique, if someone really wants a painting, they will purchase it. It’s not something that can be mass produced and found elsewhere. Customers aren’t stupid and know shipping fees are built into the price and will compare. I barely go to Amazon anymore b/c the products there have all the fees built in to the prices. It’s usually cheaper from the source than Amazon. Etsy has a lot of mass produced items and they will prob be the ones to offer it. If your products are truly unique, then there shouldn’t be much to worry about. People should boycott free shipping and not bother. We hold the power.

    1. I agree. I have tried offering free shipping on most items in my shop and found sales did NOT increase one bit, and in one such experiment, I had a decline in sales year-over-year. Etsy shoppers know they aren’t buying from drop shippers and don’t expect free shipping on OOAK and rare items. You never see Cowan’s or Sotheby’s offering free shipping!

      Maybe it works for suppliers of mass-produced craft supplies, but it doesn’t work for antiques and art.

  3. We rarely comment on the blogsites about the constant changes to various venues. We glean what we can and move on; we have a business to run. Reading this article, though, really makes me scratch my head.

    We have ALWAYS offered free shipping to our customers. We know it’s not really free, and THEY know it’s not really free, but in every survey I’ve ever read and in my own personal experience, folks just tend to gravitate towards an all inclusive bottom line. There seems to be this notion that sellers who include all the pricing up front might be more trustworthy or something. I’m not really sure what it is. All I can say is that over the years, we firmly believe that offering free shipping has separated us apart from those who don’t and put us in a more favorable light — read that “more sales”.

    Furthermore, we include it at the Cost of Goods level, so we’re actually making money on shipping. We sell at a 3 times markup, and that includes shipping. Our products are all handmade so buyers can’t do exact price comparisons. We charge whatever we feel is appropriate and if sells, good, and if doesn’t, we re-evaluate. We let the market determine if our prices are out of line. Back when we used to sell on eBay, we sold so cheaply that we never made any money. Now, we’re making more than we ever have on 1/20th of the sales. Adding shipping to COG just made sense.

    The only downside we see to Etsy encouraging EVERYONE to offer free shipping is that one day, we’ll just part of the herd, rather than part of the select few who offer shipping for free.

    But we’ll figure something else out — we always do.

    In the meantime, our sales are sharply up right now, and we were trying to figure out why. Not complaining, mind you, just curious. Being bumped up in visibility because we offer free shipping sounds great to me.

    We just don’t understand all those sellers that are whining and crying about being forced to do something that just makes sense to do. ALL of the surveys and research regarding free shipping show that it increases sales. No brainer. Just figure out how to make it work for you.

    I mean, just think about those annoying WayFair ads where the guy says “Free Shipping? Game changer!”.

    That could be YOUR customer…

    1. What kinds of stuff do you sell though, OOAK antiques or mass-produced stuff that thousands of others are selling?

      1. From the comment, it sounds like costume jewelry. Clearly, every market operates exactly the same. That’s why it’s so hard for her to understand that different products have different sizes and different weights – it’s impossible!

        1. My items range from ounces to 50 pounds. It is not impossible at all. It does require a deep understanding of the shipping metrics that pertain to a particular business however. You need to know where the product generally goes and develop a melded cost that is then folded into the product. AND it is an ongoing process not a one time effort.

          I have no issue with including shipping in my price … and it really is free shipping when no part of the individual transaction is buyer punitive. No cost of original shipping or restocking charge if a customer returns the product for instance.

          So sure shipping is not free to me, neither was the gizmo being purchased, the packing materials, my internet service, or any and all other overheads involved in operations. Cost to carrier is simply another expense, nothing more and nothing less and although size, weight, and location weigh on the expense it is not the buyers concern. Their concern is to look at the total selling price, (and it matters not if it is a single line or two lines), and then decide if the product meets their value ratio.

    2. You should look at who is conducting those surveys and whether or not there’s a conflict of interest. In Etsy’s case, they even manipulate test results, making sure the numbers are high by offering free shipping site-wide during the test period.

      Also, you should consider that “free” shipping has been around for a while now and many consumers are beginning to wise up to what’s going on. A shopper often finds themselves paying more for a product than they normally would if free shipping weren’t offered. If they’re questioning it on one product, that would certainly hurt multiple item sales even more.

      As you said yourself, you have an advantage because you sell unique, handmade items and have the luxury of setting your own prices and only let the market drive your prices if something isn’t selling. Vintage and antique sellers are forced to base their prices on market value, which fluctuates constantly, and many items can be costly to ship.

      Even a small, lightweight breakable takes a lot of extra padding to protect it en route. Some things are so fragile that they require double-boxing, especially if it ships internationally or to a domestic location known for mistreating packages (I’ve had customers warn me about their postal peeps). That’s a lot to roll into a price that’s set by the market and is the very reason we need to keep our shipping separate.

      Anywho, I truly am pleased that things are going well for you and you obviously have the ability to adapt when necessary. I just wanted to help you understand why it doesn’t work for everyone.

    3. Maybe you can help me out since you don’t think there is any reason for someone like me to “whine” about this issue. I’m on the East coast. A marble lamp costs $25 to ship within my zone. The same lamp would cost $100 to ship to LA. Short of eliminating this item from my inventory (which I surmise would be what you might offer as a solution), how would you suggest this quandary be solved? This “one size fits all approach” seems to be a non-issue for you; why would you suggest that it should not be an issue for any seller on the platform? What do you sell, if you don’t mind the question? Genuinely curious.

      1. I would just like to add that I’m more centrally located on the Texas Gulf Coast, but the differences in cost between zones are still rather significant. So, despite what others who don’t live in my area have claim, it’s not easier for a seller in Texas to finagle “free” shipping.

  4. It’s a form of fraud, telling buyers they are getting free shipping when Etsy is actual encouraging sellers to HIDE the cost of shipping in higher prices to the buyer. Eventually, some sellers will sue and the courts will determine fraud has been committed and Etsy will have to refund those costs to buyers through a class action suit. Big $ will be spent defending Etsy, more than they would spend by reimbursing sellers to ship free.

    Oh well, time to look for a new sales platform. Etsy is now driven by copying every failed policy eBay tries.

  5. I just saw this announcement at an Etsy shop:
    “Prices will go sky high on July 30 to accommodate costs to provide “Free Shipping.” Some items will double in price because we can’t predict shipping costs to all locations anymore. If you live in Chicago, you will be forced to pay the same shipping cost as someone in Hawaii. We have no way to control this since Etsy is mandating that we offer that imaginary perk called “Free Shipping” and that we “hide” the shipping costs in the price of the item. It’s meant to give you a feeling that you are getting something for nothing, but you aren’t. Etsy will likely close my shop when they see this announcement, so buy today while (shop name redacted) is still open. It would be better for Etsy to reimburse us for the cost of shipping if it is such an important factor in how people decide to buy OOAK, handmade items and precious antiques. Maybe it works for drop shippers of Made in China goods, but it doesn’t work for Etsy.”

  6. I am a 95% buyer and 5% seller so my judgment may be clouded. Stop complaining and just give the free shipping. Done. As a buyer I know that shipping costs are built in and I love knowing that if I buy widget A it will only cost $x.xx. I don’t have to speculate on what my total might be. When I buy anything I have found that by getting free shipping vs a lower price plus shipping I 99% come out on top. I’m glad that this change is being made.

    As a side note, if you think your items are so unique that shoppers will still come then why don’t you have your own site. Stop relying on another name. If you can’t sell it and make a profit then don’t sell it. No one is forcing you to sell anything.

    1. Etsy shows you the shipping cost of every item right on the listing page. There should never be a doubt what your final cost will be. As a buyer, you don’t understand what sellers go through and what things actually cost. A buyer in Chicago buys and item that cost $2.70 to ship, but because I don’t know who will buy it or where they will want it shipped, I have to add $7.00 to the price of the item to cover the cost of “free shipping.” That means YOU pay $4.30 MORE than it would have cost you if things were just honest and you knew what shipping actually cost. Only a person who can’t do math would thing that’s better for the buyer.

  7. Felyne has it.. the small seller doesn’t have a warehousing like Amazon.. And that’s why you see the china whines.. You wait 3-5 weeks for subsidized shipping direct. Amazon will free ship but the price point is higher and an educated consumer knows this.. I just listed a vintage vacuum yesterday.. I actually stuck this at the back end of my listing. “This vacuum weighs 35 lbs shipped and the package size is quite large. Shipping charges can not be adjusted. We are on the east coast and apologize to those on the west coast. We know there is a great vacuum collecting tradition there.”

    I’d be less concerned with the free shipping push, and more concerned about the free return push..

  8. @sylvarocks Looks like you sell jewelry? If you read the comments, sellers say they *do* offer free shipping on jewelry. The problems sellers describe, which I would not characterize as “whining,” are legitimate. Having just written about the DIM Weight rate changes the USPS instituted in June, I can attest to the fact that this is not a made-up problem.

    1. Hi Ina;

      There may be exceptions, but for the most part, you can figure shipping on an averaging basis rather than on a per item basis. Our shipping costs anywhere from $2-ish to $4-ish. We charge enough to cover it “on average”.

      Let’s look at it this way. If places like Wayfair can figure put how to do free shipping on a wide variety of products being shipped to a wide variety of locations, surely a small sekller can handle it.

      The other thing is that we’re the type of people who takes thing as they are, and adapts when things change. There is opportunity in each of these changes if you look for it and adapt.

      I think it bears repeating. There is a LOT of complaining and whining and crying and moaning and groaning and Wo is ME… There is so much “I’m gonna quit ’cause I’ve gotta put the cost of shipping into the price instead of adding it to the price after the sale. The math can be the same. All that’s different is tapping into a customer profile that’s CONDITIONED to buy FREE SHIPPING quicker than not.

      There’s an opportunity here. Seize it.

        1. Also, you seem to be forgetting that Etsy is forcing this on sellers if they want to be seen in Etsy search. Why should a seller be anymore obligated than the next guy to offer free shipping just to be seen in search when they pay the same amount in rent?

          So, essentially, they’re saying that they’re going to kill your business if you don’t comply. I’m sorry, but I don’t operate on those terms. If you want to consider that whining, then that’s just fine. I’ve spent decades working for executives in the corporate world in a variety of industries, so I’m confident that I can see this latest move of Etsy’s for what it really is.

  9. Why This “Buyer” is Concerned Over “Free” Shipping Push…I Sell and Buy on Ebay. I buy from Etsy. I know how much time and effort goes into photography, descriptions, wrapping, shipping. When I buy and receive a piece of vintage jewelry that is wrapped in a box and tied with a bow I know that the seller goes the extra mile and that it cuts into their profit. I know that I am not being ripped off on postage that costs under $4.00.
    Ebay’s “sponsored/promoted” listings and now Etsy’s “free shipping” listings are a huge turn off to me as a buyer because it makes finding what I want to buy more difficult. All these listings by lemmings at the top of every search result. (to say nothing of how ebay’s ridiculous Good Until Canceled on Buy It Now has complicated how much more time it takes to search through items to buy). Once again, the ability to find unique, fairly priced items from the smaller, hard-working seller who is not willing or able to spend the extra money to “promote” or offer “free” shipping has been eroded due to final, forced decisions made by Ivory Tower jerks with no vision.

  10. Giving listings with free shipping priority in the search results is NOT the same as suppressing other listings. Suppressing listings would be hiding them, which I do not believe to be Etsy’s plan at this time.

    Listings without free shipping may rank lower in the search results, but they will still be visible to those who look that far.

    1. I did a search for bedding and there were over 530K results, but Etsy only displayed 250 pages of items that totaled 14K — a mere 2.6% of what is available. So, how can you say that Etsy isn’t suppressing listings when they do it with just about any search query?

  11. I think the thing we’re not seeing here is that Josh has figured a way to encourage people to increase the final value fee so Etsy’s fees, and the shareholders’ value is increased, timed to start with the Q3. (Every time someone orders more than one item and pays double hidden shipping, Etsy takes a cut.) Then The Q4 sales are usually higher due to the holiday sales. Don’t know what craptastic idea Josh has for January (Q1, 2020). Sellers aren’t going to be able to keep ripping off customers while being leveraged by the the shareholders. Further, Josh will say he didn’t personally make the change, only made a suggestion, and is not liable if we are sued. It’s time to get an independent site before the holidays, or at least plan to migrate to another platform in January. This is going to go badly for sellers. Leveraging unethical behavior is how it starts. Then there’s a new normal of cheating your customers, and that’s when fraud starts to take over the business.

    1. Tinysaurs you hit the nail on the head, All of this is to increase GMS (Gross Merchandise Sales) which is the way Etsy calculates its sales for quarterly reports, it doesn’t include shipping in those calculations. Now with “free shipping” added to the price of goods it then becomes part of those calculations, thats why its imperative to be worded as “free shipping”. Increased Sales in reports and happy shareholders whats not to like?

  12. If you want free shipping, come buy from me at a convention. I have no obligation to provide a $9 handout on a $20 toy online.

  13. At Midnight, the beginning of July 30th,
    Let us ALL “vacation” our shops for ONE WEEK.
    Turn them back on Midnight August 7.

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