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Etsy sellers on strike as company increases transaction fees

Posted at 10:21 PM, Apr 19, 2022

Etsy is an online marketplace where people can buy and sell handmade items or vintage wares, but since the company hit sellers with a 30% transaction fee, the vendors are pushing back. They're even eyeing a union. 

An estimated 14,000 makers, like clothing designer Sky Cubacub, have gone on strike shutting down their virtual shop for now until Etsy meets their demands. 

"I'm not feeling supported by Etsy. I haven't for a long time, but just this is definitely the last straw," she said. "It's just like rapidly trying to turn into Amazon, which doesn't make sense, because that's literally the anti-thesis that I thought that it was to Etsy." 

More than 80,000 people have signed a petition demanding Etsy cancel the fee hikes among other charges. There's also a call to crack down on reselling mass-produced goods in a marketplace originally launched for individual artists. 

Sellers also complain that computerized bots sometimes remove their stores even when they don't violate any platform rules and the company is slow to respond. 

Cubacub has seen changes since she launched her shop on Etsy in 2014. 

"Last year, they started doing these ads like offsite ads that nobody could opt-out of. Literally, everybody has to participate and they'll take like 15 to 20% of what you make, so it's like a huge chunk," Cubacub said. 

An Esty spokesperson said: "The new fee structure will enable us to increase our investments in areas outlined in the petition, including marketing, customer support, and removing listings that don't meet our policies."

Etsy would not make anyone available for an on-camera interview, but a spokesperson tells Newsy the fee increase will be used to improve marketing and customer support for their sellers as they grow their businesses.  

"I just think it's been brutal and, you know, it's been really hard on small business owners," said University of San Diego Professor Priya Kannan.

Professor Kannan says sellers have to be creative to survive, particularly because inflation has also hit.  

"Everything has skyrocketed," Esty Wood Art Seller Dave Stencil said. "The price of wood has probably doubled. The price of my glue is probably up 30-40%. The price of my shop in the past seven years is up 50%." 

Recent organizing efforts at Starbucks and Amazon have inspired some sellers to try to follow suit. Etsy has 90 million buyers on their site and reportedly made $717 million in revenue in its 4th quarter.   

Cubacub, who makes 50% of her overall sales on Etsy, is looking at other options to sell her products but doesn't intend to leave the site.

"We know what it can be and what it used to be, so we want them to just go back to what they originally were intended for," Cubacub said.

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