I know the title of this post sounds like we’re about to spotlight a bunch of our merchandise, but I want to actually use this space to not just encourage you to shop with small artisans this holiday season, but to offer some advice on how to do it wisely.
As a small artist, the holidays are my busiest time of year (along with Halloween). People order everything from big gifts to stocking stuffers from me, which is great, but people shopping in Etsy sometimes make things more difficult than they need to, for themselves and whoever they’re buying from, so I wanted to offer a few tips to everyone considering shopping small this Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Festivus/etc. I’ll start with my number one tip:
Like many Etsy artists and crafters, I make everything to order — which is to say, I generally do not carry an inventory of finished items that are ready to go the day the order is placed. It takes time to make things, especially if I have a lengthy production queue (which I do), and it takes time to ship things (more on that below). Waiting until the last minute with an Etsy shop almost guarantees you’re not getting your purchase in time to give as a gift, so make your purchases ASAP.
Read the listings.
Before you buy anything, take the time to read the listing thoroughly, because that will tell you how long it’ll take to fill an order and other useful bits of information, such as how the item will ship (First Class, Priority, etc.), whether you can upgrade to a faster shipping method, and whether it comes with tracking information — which I strongly recommend people pay for at this time of year, especially if it’s a significant order. Packages get lost more frequently during the holidays, so tracking info is a worthwhile added expense to guarantee that you get your goods.
Be mindful of shipping times.
There are two aspects of shipping time estimates: how long it takes the artist to get the item in the mail, and how long it takes the item to arrive once it’s been mailed. This link will take you to the US Postal Service’s schedule of shipping deadlines, but the TL;DR version is, if you’re a US customer and your order isn’t in the mail by December 15, it might not get to you by Christmas.
International customers have the added wrinkle of customs, which can delay a delivery by several days to a few weeks — and that’s under normal (non-holiday) conditions. If your order is shipping First Class and it isn’t in the mail by tomorrow, December 1, you might not get it by Christmas — and yes, Canada and Mexico, that applies to you too.
Don’t hesitate to contact the seller — emphasis on “hesitate.”
If you’ve procrastinated and you’re not sure whether your order will arrive for gift-giving, it’s perfectly okay to contact the seller and ask if an order placed that day would get to you by Christmas.
There are several caveats to this, the first of which is: ask first. Don’t make the purchase and then ask about shipping times, because that might end with you canceling your purchase and the seller having to issue a refund. Save yourself and the seller the hassle and ask before buying.
Next, as the buyer, you need to be responsive. Many times we’ve had buyers ask us if they could get something shipped to them by a certain date and we’ve said, “Yes, but you have to place the order today,” only to have the buyer dawdle for another day or two before making the purchase.
It’s okay to ask if you can have your order prioritized to ensure its timely arrival, but that doesn’t mean the seller will accommodate the request, at least not without charging some kind of rush fee.
As they say, life happens. Equipment breaks down. Materials run out and can’t be restocked right away. The Post Office loses packages. You can do everything right and yet you still not receive your order in time, and while it’s understandable to be upset, a good Etsy seller will do what they can to make things right if the fault is on them, so if something goes wrong, reach out to the seller and calmly and politely work with them to resolve the issue.