I had a good and busy weekend. Even though we had some (more) snow delivered to our area, I made good use of my time indoors and made headway on my new designs and spent a couple of hours each night doing some needlework.
That (to me!) was a great weekend.
There was one incident that rather bothered me though, and I am not sure why, but I need to vent about it here. Those of you who read on a regular basis know that I don’t usually use my blog here to gripe about things. I like to keep it as positive and inspiring as I can. Even though every moment of the day isn’t always sunshine and lollipops, I like to focus on the good things that happen and minimize the not so good things. But I feel that it is necessary for me to mention this because I often have people write me to seek my advice about selling their wares on sites like Ebay and Etsy and I don’t feel that I am being honest if I don’t share this with you all. I feel that you should be aware of the things you need to be cautious of as well as the upside of these forums.
Keith and I have been selling a few of our patterns on Ebay and Etsy for over a year now. We don’t do it really to increase sales, but more so for us to get out patterns ‘out there’ a bit more and perhaps pick up some new customers. It is a lot of extra work for us to even have a few listings on these sites, and we realize that sales from these listings are very limited and in no way can support us. Nonetheless, we thought we would give it a try to see if it would bring more people to our site and make them aware of the patterns we have.
I will be honest in saying that the sales have been low. If we were to have to try to survive on what we earned from those sales, our future as designers would be rather bleak. Perhaps it isn’t the proper forum to sell patterns, but whatever the reason our patterns just don’t do very well. When they do sell, there is a very complex system of ‘paperwork’ that takes time to go through and figure things like fees (to both Ebay and Paypal) and other things like that. It seems that the book keeping involved just isn’t worth the few extra dollars that we are earning.
We have come to realize another problem as well – especially on Ebay. Since we only offer “digital” patterns (PDF patterns) we have very little control as to how to protect ourselves from fraud. On more than one occasion, we send the digital pattern (sometimes multiple times) only to have a customer say they changed their minds and demand a refund. In that case, we really have little choice but to refund their money, after they have the purchase in hand. It is very frustrating.
An incident such as this happened yesterday, and it was pretty much the ‘last straw’ with us selling on Ebay. A customer bought a PDF pattern over a month ago, and yesterday afternoon I received an email from her saying she never received it. Naturally I was upset about it and checked my email and indeed – on the date that she ordered there was an outgoing email to her address which had the pattern attached.
Since in her note she requested I re-send the pattern, I forwarded the previous email to her and again attached a copy. I apologized to her for not receiving it and told her that in the future if she ordered with me and didn’t receive the pattern in 24 hours, to please let me know then instead of waiting a month. I truly felt bad that she felt that I didn’t meet up to my end of the bargain and wanted to make it right. I ALMOST included a free additional pattern as a show of sincerity, but for some reason I decided not to. After all, the dated email was there and I do have to consider my own living that I make from my work. Surely she would understand.
About an hour after I resent her the pattern, I received another email from her. In this one she said she now received the pattern, but decided she didn’t want it and wanted a refund.
I was (putting it mildly) not happy.
I did refund her money promptly through Paypal, but it was at that point that Keith and I both decided to remove all of our remaining items from Ebay and not sell there anymore. This was just one of several incidents such as this and we both feel that for the little additional business we gain from the site, it isn’t worth our time in aggravation and electronic paperwork.
It was very upsetting and frustrating to me to have this happen. The customer did have 100% positive feedback, and I will be honest in saying that while I wanted to report her, I was afraid to do so because of any retaliation on her part with the feedback she would give me. To me it wasn’t worth the $5.00 and I just wanted to wash my hands and be done with it. I have better and more positive places to spend my time.
I am sharing this story because many of you ask me if I feel that Ebay is a good option for selling your wares. I must say that I am very leery of it because of things like this. Both Keith and I find that when we need help or intervention, the site is so large and impersonal that it is very difficult to get anything resolved at all. I believe that there are many people who scam others in this way and while we only lost a digital pattern, there are others who work hard and lose physical products and have no way to protect themselves against customers such as this.
While I do believe that you should give the benefit of the doubt to people, I am not understanding why this customer would request another copy of the pattern just an hour before she decided that she didn’t like it. To me, it is as if you went to a restaurant and ordered a meal, ate it and then told the owner you didn’t want it after all and didn’t want to have to pay for it. I found myself feeling very fortunate that we don’t sell physical items, as we would surely have taken a bigger loss if that were the case. This really left a bitter taste in my mouth concerning selling on Ebay.
As far as Etsy goes, we have a few things there and so far have had no problems. To me, Etsy seems to be a more personal type of venue and while I am sure that people have their own horror stories regarding it, so far it has been OK for us. Again, we don’t have much there except a few things that will hopefully bring additional traffic to our own site.
I suppose that the bottom line that I learned from all of this is to ‘beware’. I don’t think I would sell anything on Ebay again unless I was completely ready to write it off as a total loss if necessary without too much pain. I truly believe in protecting buyers in these forums, but there also needs to be protection for sellers as well, which unfortunately is sorely lacking. Once your rating as a seller is compromised, it is very difficult to earn the trust of strangers back again.
With that said, it was otherwise a good weekend. I made great progress on my next design and I have a photo of it here to show you:
I used the DecoArt Chalky Finish paint to color in this simple and fun basket design that I created. I do have another version of what to do with these shapes though, and I will be working on that today and hopefully have it to show you tomorrow, along with some other things that I am thinking of.
I hope you didn’t mind me venting a bit. I just wanted to spread a word of caution from my own point of view as a seller. Those of you who do business with me know that my first concern is my customer service and making sure everyone is happy. I suppose that is why this bothered me so much.
For now, we pulled all of our patterns from Ebay. I don’t think that we will be putting them back there anytime soon. We are doing well in our other venues and we really don’t have the additional time to spend on something that is so volatile for us. Unfortunately, there are a few dishonest people that ruin it for all. While I buy things from Ebay from time to time, I will just leave it at that and no longer look to sell there.
I hope you all have a good week ahead. I have a lot planned and besides doing the second half of our wholesale order, I have a couple of new things to complete as well as beginning to work in earnest on the lesson plan for the classes in New York. Our time to leave is quickly approaching.
Have a wonderful Monday!
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"