Is it handmade? Expert reveals how to find authentic sellers on Etsy
When Etsy started in 2005, it was the go-to platform for local crafts, handmade items, and unique finds.
Today, the platform is flooded with drop-shippers, inauthentic resellers, and knock-offs. So, is it worth shopping on the platform anymore?
Luckily, Etsy is still full of talented artisans selling handmade items; you just have to know how to find them.
This post will show you how to navigate Etsy’s huge platform and find the best handmade items and authentic sellers.
Consider the Seller
Etsy works like a giant search engine. You type in some keywords, and it brings up a list of all the items it thinks you might like.
You can still use Etsy like a search engine, but you need to do some research on the seller before you part with your hard-earned cash.
When you find an item you like, here’s a quick checklist of things to check.
The Shop’s History
First, head to the seller’s shopfront and look and see if the store has any customer service badges. These will appear in a line just under the shop banner and say things like “speedy replies”, “rave reviews”, and “smooth dispatch”.
These are good indicators that the store is operating well, pleasing customers, and shipping on time.
You’ll also be able to see the year the shop opened toward the bottom of the storefront. Although new sellers are popping up on Etsy all the time, an established seller who has been in business for years is always a green flag.
Next, look at the reviews; are they mostly positive? Have they responded to negative reviews with appropriate solutions? Are there any pictures of what other buyers have received?
Etsy buyers are great at leaving honest reviews, so this will show you if they’re a genuine seller or ripping people off with knock-offs.
Remember, negative reviews aren’t necessarily a bad thing. We’ve all seen buyers get angry and leave unwarranted negative comments. What is important is how the seller responded to the review and resolved the issue.
Finally, check on their shop policies; what is their returns policy? Do they give refunds if you’re unhappy? How will you ship items back to them?
Some of the more dubious stores won’t accept refunds, exchanges, or returns. Others won’t have any store policies at all – both should be a warning sign.
If you’re deep into research mode and want to be extra sure, send a quick message to the seller and ask where they’re based and what their design process is.
Genuine makers will be happy to chat with you and explain their craft; counterfeit sellers and drop-shippers won’t be able to give you a whole lot of information, which is a sign to steer clear.
Pay Attention to Product Details
If the seller looks solid, it’s time to look at the product details inside the listing you like. The description should tell you what the product is made out of, how it’s made, and all the important information about it.
Leo of CNC Sourced is a pro when it comes to laser cutting, and he knows how to spot genuinely handmade items and cheap knock-offs.
“It's not uncommon to come across products made of wood. However, one common issue is that the wood may not be cut properly, resulting in a poorly crafted item. To avoid disappointment, it's important to take a closer look at the product photos to ensure that the item is accurately represented and that the cuts are clean and straight. This will help you get a better idea of the item's quality and whether it's worth your investment. It's always a good idea to read reviews from other customers who have purchased similar items to see if they experienced any issues with the quality of the product.” says Leo of CNC Sourced.
If the product description doesn’t give you enough information, reach out to the seller using the chat tool and ask questions.
Genuine makers are experts at their craft and will be able to answer any questions you have about the build process and materials.
Beware of Knock-Offs or Counterfeits
Unfortunately, Etsy is filled with counterfeit sellers posting cheap versions of genuinely handmade items. There was even a mass protest in 2018 where authentic sellers put their stores in holiday mode in an attempt to make Etsy deal with this growing issue.
When you’re looking at a listing, check for any inaccurate branding or watermarks in the photos - genuine sellers often use these so you can tell when items are theirs (and when their pictures have been stolen).
And if you do suspect a knock-off, report it to Etsy. This helps protect the integrity of the marketplace and keeps genuine sellers from being taken advantage of.
Be Wary of Bargains
They say that if something is too good to be true, it probably is. And this saying definitely applies to Etsy.
It takes time, skill, and investment to make handmade items, which is why they cost more than the mass-produced stuff in superstores.
When you’re going through the different listings on Etsy, you’ll notice that similar items tend to be similarly priced. However, if you spot a bargain that’s significantly cheaper, it’s a sign it’s a cheap knock-off.
This low price usually means the materials are much cheaper and lower quality, or the seller is using mass-produced items that just look like the handmade alternative.
You need to consider what’s important to you in this scenario. Would you rather pay less and get a cheaply made, poor-quality item or pay more and get an authentic, well-made piece from a genuine artisan?
Don’t let the drop-shippers and counterfeits put you off using Etsy. It’s still a wonderful site for finding local, skilled makers and unique pieces that you never would’ve heard about otherwise.
However, it’s now important to do your research when using the site. As long as you take the time to research the seller and the item you’re considering buying, you’ll find it easy to avoid scammers.