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Fri Dec 6 2019 00:38:45

Is AI Creating Inaccurate Attributes in Etsy Listings?

By: Ina Steiner

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A seller is blaming Etsy's use of Artificial Intelligence for problems in search. In a post on the Etsy boards, she said she found inaccurate attributes in her listings she hadn't added. These attributes caused her items to show up in searches that didn't apply to her products, which had the potential to mislead shoppers, she said.

Specifically, she found "outdoor" in the attribute field for "Room." That's a problem, since her pillows appeared in search results for the term "outdoor pillows," she explained. "I specifically avoid using the term, because there are special fabrics that are meant to be used outdoors, and mine do not include that."

That could lead to a poor experience for buyers (and returns for her).

Another Room attribute she avoids using is "nursery" due to safety concerns, but she found that attribute in her listings as well.

She wondered if Etsy was using image-recognition technology to make incorrect assumptions about her items. When she searched her shop for "Nursery," it showed a few of her items in the results - "they were items that had "pale blue" and "pale pink" - further bolstering my theory that this must be some image-recognition program at work," she said.

"Sometimes Artificial Intelligence gets it wrong, and for Etsy to add misleading, inaccurate, and possibly dangerous details to our listings without our knowledge is just setting us up for failure, especially in view of the recent ODR rules." ODR is a reference to Order Dissatisfaction Rate, an issue that drew some negative attention last month.

Sellers responding to the original poster described similar cases, such as Etsy automatically adding turquoise as a "Gemstone" attribute when the seller had simply used it to describe the color of the item. 

Hat tip to Cindy Lou of CindyLouWho2.com who tweeted on Thursday, "Notice to Etsy sellers: they are adding attributes to your listings again, so keep an eye out for inaccurate ones" with a link to the discussion board.



Comments (19) | Permalink

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This user has validated their user name. by: Life During Wartime

Fri Dec 6 02:33:06 2019

This complaint has been discussed in the Forums for maybe 2 years now?  

The issues described in the post cited above -- specifically the bit about the ''outdoor'' attribute -- first surfaced when Etsy changed its category system.  Shop items were automatically assigned to new categories that, at least for my shop's items, had nothing to do with the item.  This happened even when there was a new category that matched the previous one.

In the case of my shop, Etsy's AI assigned my pieces of vintage art pottery (vases as well as planters) to OUTDOOR and Gardening.  These should have been matched to Home Décor (vases and indoor planters).  Because no one is going to put an expensive American Art Pottery jardinière outside over the winter in most of the USA.  I thought that assigning Art Pottery items to OUTDOOR was in a way telling customers that these items were designed for outdoor use.

And I should mention that the current categories aren't actually ''categories'' at all, but attributes.  

None of this is new.  It just isn't noticed all at once by shop owners, even when it's been happening for months, or longer.

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by: maxmad This user has validated their user name.

Fri Dec 6 06:30:02 2019


Just imagine how awesome it would be, in a business to make up anything you want to sell a product, tell the buyers as many lies as you want, profit from the sales, and to never be held responsible, with all the blame going to someone else, when something goes wrong.


etsy is a disgrace, we would never sell thru them again, they will destroy your brand

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by: eBay Shill Buster This user has validated their user name.

Fri Dec 6 14:29:50 2019

Yes, they are following eBay in the flawed catalog approach that eBay is trying unsuccessfully to copy from Amazon, this leads to errors in ordering and returns, eBay has massive problems with their auto fill AI.

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by: Lisa This user has validated their user name.

Fri Dec 6 19:15:31 2019

this isn't new

plus etsy search has been screwy for over a decade

so

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This user has validated their user name. by: The End

Fri Dec 6 20:03:21 2019

Just tested the tags I put on my items.
NONE show in their respective categories.
I'm COMPLETELY hidden.
Business is less than 25% of what it was this same time last year.
There's no point any more.

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by: Lisa This user has validated their user name.

Fri Dec 6 21:30:16 2019

make sure you search incognito when you search for your own items

i'm actually up this year, but i'm going to quit while i'm ahead.

im just clearing out  stuff so i dont have to count it in inventory

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by: Freeeeeeeee This user has validated their user name.

Fri Dec 6 22:23:21 2019

Incognito won't do the job.  You need something like Tor for actual anonymity.  The great thing about the term AI is that suggests the machine knows what it is doing.  It doesn't.  The I stands for Idiot. Artificial Idiocy.

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by: Flying Childers This user has validated their user name.

Sat Dec 7 09:07:38 2019

Great comments all around, and it's true this is not a new problem.  Just chalk it up to the complete disregard that Etsy Corp. has for the sellers who have generated their millions.

Not only are they not grateful to us for doing ALL the work, but at every step they do things that actually keep us from selling our wares.  This is true insanity!

You'd think that Josh & Co. would go out of their way to make it easy for buyers to find our items.  But NO-O-O-O!  It gets harder to sell every day.

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by: purpleiris This user has validated their user name.
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Sat Dec 7 17:13:22 2019

AI definitely is not the answer to Etsy's search problem. They keep saying they're going to fix it and Josh acts like they already have, but it just keeps getting worse. All while they're doing absolutely nothing about fixing their lack of visibility in Google organic.

Etsy search is simply a tool for the crooks to use for their own gain and nobody else's.

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by: Lisa This user has validated their user name.

Sat Dec 7 20:35:56 2019

i think i do ok in google organic, it's the only thing working right now

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by: Snapped This user has validated their user name.

Sun Dec 8 10:51:48 2019

The biggest disability of AI is that for all it's programming and evolution, it still doesn't actually 'think'.

That requires a nuance unable to be incorporated into a box essentially comprising instructed setting of on and off switches that are limited in scope and interdependence potentials.

Thinking, assessing, judgement, applicability - those are not black and white attributes. Those require assimilation and evaluation of sometimes otherwise unrelated elements; every 'situation' is specific and unique. All too often, 'decisions' reached in one area impact others with unintended consequence (like real life), but there is no concern for assimilating that (unlike real life) in AI.

Sure, it might 'look' like intelligence, sometimes even act like it is. But when applied stubbornly and lacking tolerances, (an eBay hallmark), it's no more than a sophisticated and potentially dangerous light show.

It's not intelligence, it's just data processing on steroids. Blind reliance on it is, as shown by this and so many other examples, is just stupid.

And you can't 'patch' stupid to make it smarter.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Life During Wartime

Sun Dec 8 13:36:15 2019

Back in July 2019, an article was published on the FAST COMPANY site about Etsy ''improving'' its search algorithm to associate items with various style trends.  Based on the article, it seems that items would become less relevant in searches if the style assigned to it by the AI was rated as less popular.  This would explain why shops and items that had been doing well found themselves shut out of views and sales.  

The article seemed important to me, so I posted about it on my blog.  Don't think I saw a mention of it here, but maybe I missed it?

Yesterday I read a discussion in the Etsy Forums about sellers seeing the keyword ''Gucci'' showing up in their stats as a frequently searched term...except none of these shops used that keyword because Gucci has nothing whatsoever to do with what they sell.  Reselling counterfeit luxury brand items has really taken off on Etsy during the past 3 years.  The Gucci brand has a certain hip hop cache, and Gucci fakes are all over Etsy -- and are popular with buyers.  So it's no surprise that Etsy's AI is adding ''Gucci'' as a keyword to shops it (mistakenly) sees as a fit.

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by: Eagle This user has validated their user name.

Mon Dec 9 01:47:41 2019

Since I'm still charging shipping costs I'm happy to get any kind of exposure in searches! LOL

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by: purpleiris This user has validated their user name.

Mon Dec 9 02:57:23 2019

@Lisa, as long as you're following Google's basic SEO rules, you should continue doing okay despite how badly Etsy is doing overall. All of those listings with word salad titles were blocked by Google a long time ago, so that's all lost external traffic for Etsy.

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by: WhatsUp2656 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Dec 9 08:48:51 2019

I do not think Josh cares to fix anything. As his history repeats itself, I’m of the belief that Etsy’s sellers investing into promoted listings is keeping them afloat and perhaps the profits are larger than ever. Why would they change anything? As soon as the third quarter report come out, team leaders were hitting the forums telling sellers to be sure to invest because it will take a while for Al to pick them up. If you look at the NOW 173 pages of Etsy Ads Are Rolling Out, you will see sellers still crowing about their losses in sales. It was first invest 30 days, then invest 90 days, but still no help. I believe they are sitting on their hands watching this as if it were a casino. Make a bet and see how that turns out for you.  

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by: railady This user has validated their user name.

Mon Dec 9 14:32:14 2019

@ Freeeeeeeee --  
Would you mind if I one-up you and say, not Artificial Idiocy,  ACTUAL Idiocy ?  

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by: purpleiris This user has validated their user name.

Mon Dec 9 15:12:42 2019

How about Atomic Idiocy? LOL

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by: eBay Shill Buster This user has validated their user name.

Mon Dec 9 16:04:24 2019

WhatsUp2656, You are right, Devin Wenig created a casino out of eBay and Josh is doing the very same thing with ETSY, I said that years ago.

You are taking your chances when you list something, and the house will fee churn you, you are also right, they don't care because they think more suckers are getting off the tour bus.

But as Wenig discovered, White Collar Crime does not last forever, so they steal as much as they can before they get canned, all of them do.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Life During Wartime

Wed Dec 11 11:30:34 2019

I think Etsy is going down some of the same paths as eBay because the current version of Etsy is a lot like eBay -- with a narrower customer base ( mostly young women ages 14-29).  Anyone who believes that Etsy is actually focused on shops selling handmade, vintage, and crafting supplies hasn't taken a careful look at what is for sale there.  eBay also has vintage/antiques sellers, artists and artisans, and crafting supplies.  

Sure, Etsy carefully curates its home page features (and some of the promotions linked there),  But venturing away from curated territory shows a site that is a lot like eBay -- with a lot of the same products listed -- except the prices are higher.  

I don't expect Etsy to return to the same kind of venue it was more than a decade ago.  What I am watching for is when and how management will admit that Etsy is just another site selling mostly mass manufactured products online.  



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