A former Etsy seller and author of a book called "Crafty Superstar" has written a negative piece about Etsy for Wired - and she sets the stage right away with the dramatic title, "How Etsy Alienated Its Crafters and Lost Its Soul."
In the opinion piece, Grace Dobush writes:
"Etsy is the fifth most-visited marketplace site in the U.S., after Amazon, eBay, Walmart and Best Buy. But for that visibility, sellers have little autonomy in the store's design, and are subject to the site's rules, fees and design. A customer complaint can freeze your payment account. An accusation of copyright violation can freeze your store or shut it down entirely. For a full-time crafter, that's too much of a risk."
To be fair, one could write that about nearly any marketplace - intellectual property issues and bad buyers are a reality of selling online. And Etsy is not just a marketplace for crafters and artisans - it's also a channel for vintage goods.
The former Etsy seller also throws Amazon under the bus in an aside. "Like book authors who hate Amazon's policies, crafters who hate Etsy find it hard to leave because of the site's immense traffic and generally positive public reputation."
Despite such sweeping statements, the article makes some valid points, including the problem of "resellers" and the challenge Etsy has in trying to scale its business.
It's difficult to keep everyone happy and very difficult to scale without a lot of growing pains. Alibaba's U.S. marketplace 11 Main is trying to limit the type of seller it allows on its site and what types of items they can sell - but that can make for a very frustrating experience for sellers. And in Etsy's case, becoming a global marketplace intensifies the challenge of scaling while trying to keep control of what's sold on its site.
Reading the piece in Wired
, one gets the idea it is now cool to accuse Etsy of being not cool. "While Etsy maintains a hipster facade, they lost their indie cred years ago," Dobush writes.
Will Etsy be able to keep its "hipster facade," or will the backlash intensify once Etsy goes public later this year?