Etsy Alchemy Returns
November 25, 2009 1:31 PM   Subscribe

Etsy Alchemy buyer's remorse - what to do?

I posted a listing on alchemy for a gift for a very close friend. I only got a couple of responses and only one that could come close to providing what I wanted. The price was nearly 4x the 'ideal price' I put down and was certainly more than I really wanted to pay but I decided it was worth it for a great, unique gift for this friend.

The seller posted some pictures when he was finished and it was OK - not knock your socks off awesome but not bad considering how difficult a request it was.

A month later it finally arrives (international shipping and clearing customs etc) and I'm not happy. The build quality feels very cheap and the construction is poor (the lid doesn't fit properly and comes off way too easily). For the price I paid (nearly $200 including shipping and charges) I expected top notch quality and this feels very amateur. (to put it in perspective, without giving away what the item is - to buy a top quality one in a shop, without the customisations I wanted, would cost around $50, based on the pictures and information he sent me about the materials he used, I estimate they cost around $30-$40. I paid $150 ex shipping and charges for the item)

I contacted the seller about my concerns and his response was pretty much along the lines "I'm sorry you feel that way", I don't think he even understands what the problem is and now he's not responding to my conversations. So what now?

I looked at Etsy's policies and they just say to contact the seller if there is a problem, well I did that and he wont talk to me now. How long should I give them to get back to me before filing a paypal dispute (its only been 24 hours so far but previously he had been responding within the hour). Do I even have a chance of getting my money back through paypal? How would they handle the dispute? He did ship the item and it arrived, it is the item I purchased but on arrival I have found that it doesn't meet my expectations based on the price charged.

I more annoyed at myself than the seller (for spending so much money on something I hadn't seen in person and forgetting about the import tax) and I would have liked to have come to an amicable compromise but if he wont communicate what recourse do I have? Even if I get a full refund I'm out nearly $40 (import tax) - even more if I have to pay to ship it back to the seller.

What do I do, how do I resolve this if the seller wont communicate?
posted by anonymous to Shopping (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Did you post negative feedback to the seller's store?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:41 PM on November 25, 2009

If the seller is in the US, consider waiting for the holiday weekend to be over before you write him off as not responsive. He could be traveling/at grandma's without internet/cooking a huge meal.
posted by chiababe at 1:49 PM on November 25, 2009

I searched throughout the Etsy site and could only find the following as being relevant to your situation:

In the event the buyer receives a product that is significantly different from the original listing, the buyer may contact Etsy Support to report the item not as described.

I'm not sure Etsy Support can help you very much, but Etsy makes a big deal about ensuring that everyone is happy so perhaps they would intervene since the seller isn't being very responsive.
posted by DrGail at 1:53 PM on November 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure what you're looking for. Based on your question, you asked someone to craft a unique and "difficult" to create object for a gift. You saw pictures of it before it was sent to you, didn't like what you saw, but seem not to have raised an objection at the time. When it arrived, you were disappointed with the quality of the materials, but clearly the cost of the object includes the maker's time. Now, you are "more annoyed at [yourself] than the seller."

It doesn't sound like fraud, it sounds like pure buyer's remorse. Don't mess with your seller. It doesn't sound like you were scammed, you just bought badly. I'd let it go.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 1:58 PM on November 25, 2009 [11 favorites]

The product quality is not what you expected. Write to the seller and suggest a resolution. Perhaps a partial refund. If you complain and give no suggested resolution, the seller is unlikely to make any offer, but once you specify a resolution, the seller has to counter-offer. Be reasonable, be explicit about what's not perfect, add pictures if it adds clarity. If you get no response, then go to Etsy.
posted by theora55 at 2:05 PM on November 25, 2009

So you got something that was handmade, to your specifications, for 150, and the materials were 30-40. You've paid the maker 110 for their effort - sourcing the materials, working to your design, constructing the whatsimajig, taking photos, sending them to you, getting your (affirmative) response, packing and organising international postage.

Even if everything went smoothly and the seller didn't have to spend half an hour queuing in the post-office to get the thing out and didn't have any difficulty sourcing materials, you're probably looking at over two hours of "not making stuff" time. Add in however many hours they put into making this allegedly difficult secret "thing", and unless it's a quick job you're probably going to have a reasonable hourly rate for skilled work. And if it was a really quick job, why on earth would you bother sourcing it from an overseas internet stranger?

Seriously, to me, it doesn't sound like you've been ripped off. It sounds like your idea doesn't quite match the reality - which sucks, but it's not the sellers fault. Unless there are obvious problems hidden in the photos (which you OKd) and you can claim they tried to conceal faults from you. But there probably aren't because you don't mention that.
posted by handee at 2:18 PM on November 25, 2009

you didn't buy something from walmart where they expect buyers remorse and have a return policy.

if you want the ability to change your mind, buy something mass produced.

don't try to screw with the seller because you didn't practice enough due diligence.
posted by nadawi at 2:44 PM on November 25, 2009

I'm not sure what you're looking for.

Anonymous wants the lid to fit . . .the construction is poor (the lid doesn't fit properly and comes off way too easily)

The "makers time" is not worth much if he can not build an item that has a lid that fits.

Anonymous: I would emphazie that the item is defective when you speak/email Etsy customer service.
posted by mlis at 2:50 PM on November 25, 2009

I paid $150 ex shipping and charges for the item

A good portion of that (minus shipping) is the time it takes the buyer to make the item.

It's unfortunate you're unhappy with such an expensive item, but you could have said something:
1) when you realized how expensive it was and chose who would make it
2) when you saw the photos

You can keep trying to get the seller to work with you, and to contact Etsy, but since you ordered a custom-made item I think you're out of luck. It's too bad, but it's not really the maker's fault your expectations didn't line up unless the photos or agreement really misrepresented the item. You can mention that you're unhappy with the finished product in your review. But going through paypal would be wrong.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 2:50 PM on November 25, 2009

Unless there are obvious problems hidden in the photos (which you OKd) and you can claim they tried to conceal faults from you. But there probably aren't because you don't mention that.

You can't tell if a lid is loose or if an item's construction feels cheap from a photo.

I think theora55 has a reasonable approach. Inquire and propose some sort of compromise resolution. If your seller doesn't reply by Friday, then to to Etsy support.

Though you likely should've halted the process when the photos showed something not to your liking.
posted by cmgonzalez at 2:54 PM on November 25, 2009

follow-up from the OP
Just to clarify, I wasn't 'thrilled' with the photos but I wasn't unhappy either. It was a difficult task and he had a really good crack at it. The problems with the ill-fitting lid weren't apparent from the photographs - the problem is internal and couldn't be seen in the pictures - the sides line up on the outside but not on the inside so there is considerable wobble and the lid falls off very easily if the item is knocked over

I understand that the large part of the cost was the sellers time in creating this item but at the price they were charging for their time, I expected a professional quality product. The quality of the materials is actually very good, its the finished product that's poor quality.

I haven't left negative feedback yet, I was hoping to sort it out in a friendly way before resorting to such measures.
posted by jessamyn at 2:57 PM on November 25, 2009

Leaving aside any of the moral or ethical considerations about a crafter's time or skill I will say that getting a resolution from PayPal is never, never, never going to happen. They are the worst when it comes to that.

Example: I bought something that was broken before it was shipped. I could prove that the seller shipped defective product, that it wasn't new, that he wouldn't refund or replace...and they still wouldn't do anything. Said "Gee, that sucks for you, we're closing the ticket." Turns out he was a huge ebay seller, and they cared more about him than me.

If I use paypal now, I realize it's not like using a real credit card. You, the buyer, have zero protection using PayPal.
posted by dejah420 at 2:58 PM on November 25, 2009

One thing people don't understand about handmade items, or especially realistic expectations on Alchemy is the labor cost. People will say they want hand-knit socks for $10 when that would mean the maker was getting paid like 2 cents an hour (that is a completely made-up number just to illustrate my point).
However, if whatever your item is doesn't work properly, like the lid issue, the crafter should be made aware and if they don't respond, you should contact Etsy Support. I'm a crafter myself who has sold things through Etsy and Alchemy, and if someone bought something from me that was not to their satisfaction for legitimate reasons, I would want to try to rectify it. If they don't, and they ignore you, they deserve to be reported.
posted by ishotjr at 3:49 PM on November 25, 2009

I've had refunds from PayPal on Etsy products when they didn't arrive (an alchemy request) or were damaged. But you may be running out of time if you paid a month ago. I have become much more cautious about buying from Etsy, particularly through Alchemy - there are some things you can't tell from photographs. Sounds like you have a good case here.
posted by paduasoy at 4:02 PM on November 25, 2009

Not sure the best way to go in resolving this, but I think it's reasonable to assert that amateurs should not be earning pro prices.
posted by rhizome at 4:19 PM on November 25, 2009

The sequence of events as per the post:
OP wants difficult-to-make custom-thingamabob for friend.
OP enlists the help of people who likely make crafts as a for-profit hobby, not as an artisan.
OP chooses someone because "they were the only one that could come close."*
OP isn't 100% with the photos, but tells the seller to continue.**
OP doesn't realize international shipping costs apply.
OP ends up spending a lot more money on something admittedly quite hard to make.
OP calls seller 'amateur'.
Seller stops responding to OP.
I know how this feels -- I've been on both sides. It sucks for everyone, but I'm failing to see why this guy should give you your money back.

In my situation, I did some work for a 'friend' after he failed to make the client happy himself. I told him I was busy, but I made an extra effort to get this work done for him. After sending him the first round, he said it wasn't exactly what he was looking for. I told him that I was sorry but he didn't really give me much to work with. He then sent me some collateral that gave me a feel for what he wanted, but by then I'd already wasted time on a project that was completely useless to either of us.

I informed him that due to my schedule, I couldn't deal with someone that wasn't communicating effectively enough for this to get done in the time frame he needed it to be done in. I excused myself from the project and asked to be paid for my time, which we had a contract for. He berated me and insisted that he wasn't going to pay for something that he didn't ask for. The problem was that he had this idea in his head that this sort of thing, no matter how long I'd been doing it for, came naturally for me and there was no reason for there to be any mishaps along the way. He felt he wasn't going to pay me until I did it right and he wasn't going to pay me for the time it took for me to 'get it right.'

This is where those asterisks I inserted above apply:
* How did you know what his specialty was; did he do similar things in his shop or was he the only one that actually wanted to go through with this project?
** Did you notify him upon seeing the photos that you were a little wary of the product? Did you give him any further direction or act hesitant about him sending the product as it were?

If I were the seller -- I'd see it as: you posted, we negotiated, agreed, agreed some more, and all of a sudden it's not okay and you're insulting my work. I may have gone out of my comfort zone to make it because you emphasized it was for a dear friend and I felt I could help you achieve this to some degree. While using someone's money isn't the best way to get better at your craft, that's what you allowed him to do.

The only argument I can see you making to Etsy/Paypal is that he lied about his qualifications, but I can't imagine it would because you went through the whole process seemingly no questions asked.

I'm sorry this has happened to you, but it sounds like it was bad planning on both parts.
posted by june made him a gemini at 5:24 PM on November 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

I need to add that if you want something custom made you need to consider the fact that the artist has to pay for his health insurance, health care, and retirement fund out of the money he makes. So by my calculations, after you account for product materials, tool investment, workshop rent, research, drafting, shipping the product, time spent at the Post, insurance, retirement, you end up getting around $50 worth of skilled labor. So that's where I think you missed the mark. I bet this product is $50 dollars worth.

As an artist, I would want you to contact me so I could make it right. But I still would only want to do a $50 job (after costs). And if that doesn't work I think you should let this go and don't do anything like this again unless you are really willing to consider all the costs of a "customized" product.
posted by cda at 5:48 PM on November 25, 2009

If your seller is in the U.S., try contacting them again next Monday. This week is one of those weird holiday weeks where people might just not be checking their email.
posted by drezdn at 5:49 PM on November 25, 2009

I need to add that if you want something custom made you need to consider the fact that the artist has to pay for his health insurance, health care, and retirement fund out of the money he makes.

Unless you have the balls to put these on an invoice, I don't think they're a factor here.
posted by hermitosis at 8:31 PM on November 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

I feel like the point is being missed: the item you received was not only not as described, but--more importantly--actually defective.

The shoddy workmanship wasn't visible in the photographs--the OP has clearly stated that the exterior looks fine, and the problems aren't obvious until you're holding it and looking inside.

It's not unreasonable, when purchasing something with a lid, to expect the lid to fit, nor is it unreasonable to think that an item designed to stand should do so without wobbling or falling over.

If you want to try the seller once more, go for it, and suggest, perhaps, a partial refund, or see if they're willing to remake the item (doubtful). If the seller's not responsive, though, contact Etsy. Explain to them that the seller has delivered a defective object. Put it all very simply: "I approved the project based on the photos I was sent, but when I received the object, I discovered that the lid did not fit, nor would the object stand as it was designed to do."

You're not the bad guy here. Regardless of the seller's overhead costs, they sold you a defective whatever, which was clearly not what you ordered. Using the hypothetical socks that someone mentioned above, it's one thing if you get the socks and you discover that in person, you're not as keen on the color and stitch pattern as you thought you'd be. It's another thing entirely if you get the socks and find out that the tops are sewn shut. This is a tops-sewn-shut deal.
posted by MeghanC at 8:53 PM on November 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

the sides line up on the outside but not on the inside so there is considerable wobble and the lid falls off very easily if the item is knocked over

The nature of this item matters. Things like jewelry boxes, kitchen canisters, and teapots are not generally considered to need lids that will stay on if they are knocked over.

I'm trying and failing to think of any examples of handcrafted items that fit your description where one would commonly expect the lid to stay on tightly if knocked over. (Well, the only one that leaps to mind generally has the lid glued in place.) Were you clear in specifying that the lid would need to stay on when it is knocked over? If not, how was the seller to know?
posted by yohko at 1:40 AM on November 26, 2009

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