Merry Christmas, everyone!
Yes, I know it’s barely September and Christmas is still more than three months (and two other major holidays) away, but the holidays will be here before you know it…and that’s especially true for an online merchant such as myself.
The Christmas shopping rush hits me just as hard as it hits a more conventional business, maybe even more so since I am mostly a one-woman operation, and that’s not going to change; I don’t have the luxury of hiring temporary holiday help to assist me in keeping up with the increased demand.
I know many of my fellow independent crafters are in the same boat, so I wanted to offer some suggestions to anyone who might be considering shopping on Etsy for a unique, unusual gift — which I of course highly recommend, and not only for myself. Remember, when you shop with Etsy merchants, you’re supporting small, independent, local businesses.
The first thing you should do whenever shopping at any Etsy merchant is to check out their shop’s main page for any important ordering information. It’s extremely time-consuming to add new information to each individual listing, so shop owners will likely put their holiday ordering details on the main page, so that should be your first stop.
Check holiday ordering deadlines
Based on how crazy things got for me over the past two holiday shopping seasons, I set an ordering deadline of November 30, meaning: if you want to guarantee that your Storied Threads gift arrives in the mail in plenty of time for Christmas, you need to place your order no later than 11:59 PM on Saturday, November 30.
Why such a long lead time? First consider that, under normal circumstances, it takes me up to a week to fill an order for patches, and three weeks for bags. The Christmas rush can easily add another day or two to that timeframe.
Then there is the post office to consider. Its volume goes up too, which means the US Postal Service also needs extra time to do its job. Last year, its deadline for sending a package via first class mail for delivery by Christmas Eve was December 20 (you can check out the USPS holiday delivery schedule at http://www.usps.com/shippingdates), and I’d rather not be sending out orders at the eleventh hour.
Check item descriptions
A savvy Etsy shop owner will tell you everything you need to know about each product in the item description section, including whether the merchandise in question is in-stock and ready to ship on the same day it’s ordered, or is made to order and takes a few days to get in the mail. It will also tell you if the merchant offers different shipping options, shipping restrictions, add-ons, et cetera.
It’s not unusual for me to receive questions from buyers that are answered in my product descriptions. I don’t mind answering such questions — it’s all part of good customer service — but had they read the description more carefully, they could have placed their order right away instead of waiting for me to get back to them (and, in a lot of cases, they do not see my response right away, and that delays the process even more).
Please be patient
Although the previous two items on this list illustrate that the process takes a little longer during the Christmas rush, and I try to make that as clear as possible up-front, it’s inevitable that I will receive a handful of frantic e-mails asking me, “Has my item shipped yet? I need it for Christmas!”
Once again: check each store’s holiday shipping schedules, both on the front page and within each listing, and expect that the process for your order will take at least that long. I also make a point of sending each customer a message the day their item ships so they will get a better idea of when it should arrive. Sometimes these messages get filtered into an e-mail client’s spam folder, so check there, and check your order status on Etsy to see if it has been marked as “shipped”.
If you’re concerned about getting your order in plenty of time, you might want to pay a little extra for any express shipping options the seller might offer.
Communication before complaints
One of the occasional frustrations I experience is when a customer files a complaint directly with Etsy because their item failed to arrive. It’s frustrating because the issue has never been a failure on my part but rather on the part of the post office, which lost the package or was for some reason unable to deliver it.
Regardless of the reason, a buyer chose to assume that they had been ripped off and went right to Etsy instead of taking five minutes to contact me and ask what was going on. It’s not fun, and really, it’s not necessary. If a customer tells me an order has gone missing, I send a replacement out immediately, at no extra cost to the customer and with no questions asked.
There are always going to be scammers and unscrupulous merchants and bad businesspeople on the Internet, but until someone gives you a very good reason to take your grievance directly to Etsy, my advice is to go right to the source and work out a solution directly.
Addendum: remember my advice to check out a shop’s front page? That page also tells you, on the left-hand side, what the merchant’s customer rating is. If a shop has a lot of positive ratings, you can safely assume you’re dealing with a sound businessperson.
So, please, do as much of your holiday shopping on Etsy as you want — I know I will be. But also remember that you’re dealing with a small business, possibly only a single crafter. Following these few simple guidelines will make it a better experience for you, and for them.
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