Wednesday , 2 December 2020
Are you prepared for these worst case scenarios in your Etsy shop? In this series of articles I'll take a look at the bad and the ugly and offer up some suggestions about how to protect your shop when things go awry.

Etsy Shop Worst Case Scenarios

Etsy Shop Worst Case Scenarios

Etsy Shop Worst Case Scenarios by: bombastitch

Etsy Shop Worst Case Scenarios
It’s a painful fact of life that even when we do everything right, we often end up with unexpected results. Are you prepared for these worst case scenarios in your Etsy shop? In this series of articles I’ll take a look at the bad and the ugly and offer up some suggestions about how to protect your shop when things go awry.An Unhappy Customer
This one is at the top of the list because in the retail world if you sell long enough, you’re bound to run into a dissatisfied shopper at some point. Sample scenario: a shopper buys something from you, receives it and sends an email requesting a refund. Most sellers have their return policy posted in their “shop policies,” but you may choose to be more accommodating depending on the situation. My goal is to keep the customer happy. It’s up to you if you can afford to take a loss on an item in order to keep a customer smiling. The most important thing to remember when asking questions about what they might not like about the item you’ve made is – don’t get personal! They don’t dislike you. I’ve found some people just imagine things one way in their mind and when they receive it in person they would be let down no matter what. You could offer to make a new item, modify the existing item, or give a refund less shipping. Compromise can be very tricky, but I’ve found when you go the extra mile for a shopper they almost always shop with you again.

Bad Feedback
Etsy’s feedback system is a wonderful way to make sure you are shopping with a reputable seller. When you have an unhappy shopper on your hands, it can feel like you’re being held hostage by feedback. Here are a few scenarios:
A shopper wants a refund on an item but you’re unable to accommodate them, and they leave you negative feedback. If you try your hardest to make a customer happy but they aren’t willing to meet you in the middle, they may leave you a negative feedback. It’s up to you at this point to decide whether giving them what they want is worth it. That 100% positive feels really important to me as a seller, but I also have to do what’s right for me as a business owner. Even though my heart tells me to stick to my guns, sometimes it helps to swallow your pride and stick to business.

Scenario 2: A shopper purchases an item, and then leaves negative feedback with no communication. Some shoppers don’t understand how a negative feedback can impact your livelihood. Some may not even notice this is public information. If a shopper leaves you a negative or neutral feedback, you may choose to contact them to work it out. Contact the shopper as soon as possible to see if you can remedy the situation and “kiss and make up”. If the customer didn’t ask for a refund, you can offer them one if you’re able. You might choose to throw in an extra item or store credit, or even give them the item free of charge. It’s a tough spot to be in, and you don’t want to get taken for a ride. Weigh your options and proceed with something that works for you and your shop. Without getting too personal, you might explain to the shopper what this negative feedback means to your business. Remind them that while they might not be happy with the item, you are trying to provide them with excellent customer service.

Have you found yourself in any of these situations? If so, how did you handle it?  Let me know if you have any worst case scenarios you’d like me to write about next week!


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  1. First of all, handmade does not mean tailor made. If you make for instance, a bracelet, and you make it one of a kind, that does not mean that you have to alter, or modify the product, to fit the buyer, unless that is what you offer. If something is wrong with the bracelet, for example the spring clasp does not close, or something breaks, to no fault of the buyer, I think a refund is due.
    If it is just not what the buyer expected after seeing photos and reading the description, I don’t think a refund is necessary, at all. They may leave negative feedback, but that is part of doing business online, and I would not change an item, or refund, just to get positive feedback.

    • I agree. I actually have in my policies that I won’t change any finished item that isn’t a custom request except to adjust the fit. If you want something different I’ll take a custom request, but if it’s in my shop you should like it before you buy it. I understand it’s difficult to be absolutely sure about online purchases, but I try to have good photos and descriptions and I’ll be happy to answer any questions. If you specifically have made-to-order items then that’s different, but in that case the buyer gives the specs at purchase.
      I mean if it’s actually totally different from the description and photos then the buyer can open a paypal dispute if you don’t refund it yourself, because they’re in the right, but if it’s the same and they just didn’t pay attention or changed their mind then it’s frankly their fault.

  2. Oh thank you, thank you for tackling these subjects! I live in fear of that negative feedback! But-I know I make a quality product, so I need to own that fact and trust that I just can’t make everyone happy.

  3. I certainly do not want negative feedback but I do not understand why some customers do not leave feedback. I know my items are high quality so why no feedback. And like everyone else, I know I am going to have dissatisfied customers but I will try to work with them if reasonable.

    • Yeah most of my buyers don’t leave feedback. :-/

    • Two things: First, I recently purchased some supplies thinking I was doing the seller a favor – they had no feedback and looked like they were new. They didn’t have the item in stock as advertised, sent me two e-mails telling me there was a delay, and I just couldn’t think of any way to give them good feedback.

      Second, I have asked buyers (non-Etsy venue) to let me know when a package arrives. I get a lot of really good feedback from that I plan to post on my website. Why not ask buyers to leave feedback? ‘Could I impose on you to post feedback on our transaction and let me (and other folks shopping) know how you like the item?’ seems like a reasonable thing to ask.

  4. In my experience, people just don’t READ. Although I have an excellent track record in the customer satisfaction department, there is the occassional loony. Most is due to people not reading the item descriptions which I make excruciatingly accurate in all respects. In my shop, all sales are final and if someone wants to return something they have to do so within three days of receiving it. They have to ship it back to me the way I ship it to them (for domestic US that is w/insurance and delivery confirmation.) They get a shop credit less a 15% restocking fee. Most complaints are quite whimsical and although I honor the fact that people can change their minds as to what they like, if they were purchasing the same thing from a large company, they would be laughed out of town if they asked for a refund. So, I do attempt to make an effort, even to the point of remaking something (for example, if it is too long or short), but no refunds! LOL

  5. All are definite problems,and if you’ve had your business long enough, you’ve faced one or two of them. When I started out, I jumped through hoops to make my customers happy. I’ve always believed in good customer service. Those hoops helped me develop a good, loyal customer base. Now that I’m more established, I still do all I can to make them happy, but I’m more comfortable saying no, when a reasonable resolution is not in the horizon. If I present it in a business-like way, and leave out the personal junk , they understand. When all else fails, I just give them their money back upon receipt of the item returned. Thankfully(knock on wood), that rarely happens.

  6. I did run into a problem with a custom order. I didn’t have the size she wanted so after calling around, I finally found a store that had them with a closeout since this material was now out of season. I bought the last four they had and it was all in the same size. I then replicated a very difficult designed sweatshirt that I had listed but was not her size. She emailed me when she got it, said it was beautiful and that she loves it but it was four inches shorter than her normal shirts. I checked the remaining three and yep….her’s was a defect it was four inches shorter than the others I had bought. I knew this because I had measured the remaining shirts and another one was short just like hers even though they were all the same size.

    I offered her a refund or to make another one for her…which I really didn’t want to do because the design was difficult and now on a 2X sweatshirt with fleece inside, meaning it absorbs more paint and requires more scrubbing. Add on top of that, she sent me the mfr of her other shirts and by the end, I ended up paying 2x what my shirt cost her. But she left me a beautiful feedback. I have a no return policy on clothing since it may have been worn then becomes used clothing, but this was a case of a defective item and being a nice customer who really loved my shirt…it payed to give her what she wanted, which was to paint her another shirt since she didn’t want a refund.

    She promptly sent back the short shirt…so now I am looking for a short waist buyer!LoL!

  7. Refunds are a tricky business and it’s up to each seller what is right for them. I would hesitate to tell sellers to flatly refuse to accommodate an unhappy customer unless they feel they are being taken advantage of or it’s a completely unrealistic request. I personally have found offering a little leeway when possible so everyone comes away smiling has led to more repeat business for me. I’ve only ever had to provide one full refund since I started up, so a little compromise has worked a lot better for me financially as well as for my reputation. That was hopefully what I conveyed with this article.

  8. Useful article! I have had both of these situations recently. A lady purchased a necklace from me without reading my item description, despite me saying very clearly that some of the photographs were taken in close up. She left me negative feedback without contacting me, then sent me a quite frankly abusive and threatening e-mail about 10 days later. It’s hard not to take things personally in that situation. I asked her to return the item to me, so that I could give her a refund, but that prompted yet more nastiness, so the only thing I could do was give her a full refund and count it as a loss.

    It was tough, and quite upsetting, but definitely a good learning experience.

  9. You are so very correct to try not to take customer service personal…it is business.

    The minute negative emotions get involved, one will start losing money, time and energy and positive motivation. For me, from past life experiences that cost me way too much in all of the above, I’ve learned to take the path of least resistance. I’ve quit worrying about what the customers’ motives are, I just take care of it.

    99% of our customers are honest and amazing! When you have wonderful customers you need to highly engage with them; when you have customers who make life miserable for you, think about disengaging as quickly and painlessly as possible. Don’t think about the monetary loss on that particular transaction……..move on

    In the long run, you will be more prosperous for it.

  10. This is a great piece. I have not received negative feedback…I am lucky. Of course, I tell my customers that my goal is that they LOVE my jewelry. Right now I have a customer that waited 3 months to tell me she can’t fasten her watch because she can’t do the toggle clasp. I would have changed the clasp for her from the start so I am doing it now. I don’t care that it has been 3 months. I want her to love her watch and be able to wear it. I will bend over backwards to get repeat customers and have them LOVE my jewelry. That was commitment I made from the start.

  11. I really enjoy reading Handmadeology! This is a great article! You’ve tackled a very tough subject. I agree with you that going 125% for your customers will result in very happy customers who will come back and spread the news about how great your product and customer service are. You’re right, diplomacy is a must in retail!!

  12. I found an item on Etsy that I liked ordered it – and it was too small. Trying to get a refund from ChineseBeSpoke is very hard.

    Their contact Robes Rouge has delay after delay.
    Even if the product was wonderful I would not deal with a Company from CHina ever again.

  13. Even though this post is rather old, I still wanted to add my $.02.
    I recently sent out a beautiful package to a customer, I handmake dog supplies. The customer ordered 2 sets of booties. I included nice packaging and a gift. Immediately, the customer emails me telling me that there is a point on the boot that scratches the dog. So I replied telling her that there’s no problem fixing it. I would exchange them for her, or issue a full refund. Then she mentioned that she doesn’t want these booties after all, but rather wants a custom bootie completely different from what she ordered. The order is getting so incredibly detailed and out of the ordinary that I feel very uncomfortable moving forward. I received a snotty comment saying that there is no need to include gifts. I feel that there is nothing I can do to make this right for the customer. I take great pride in my business and nothing makes me happier than a customer excited about their order and writing a glowing review. That makes me a proud shop owner.

    Sadly with this customer, I feel that I cannot win. After all I cannot afford to get a bad review. Sad situation.

  14. Bailey I understand completely where you are coming from.
    I have just come through a horrible experience with a buyer. I offer custom logo designs, where I hand drawn very detailed illustrations. It is very time consuming and detailed work, and for anyone to expect a refund after I have been working on these logos for them is beyond my comprehension. However, people do. it seems many people out there just want things for free and don’t respect or understand the artistic process.

    It seems custom work is an area where requests for refunds seem to be more common than others.

    I have written some very comprehensive shop policies which I make every buyer agree to before commencing their job, and I give the buyer 48 hours to cancel their transaction. But after this, absolutely no refunds are possible. And yes, I have been held hostage to the old “negative feedback threat”, but you can’t let yourself be.

    I have found that some people will just never be satisfied, and some people just don’t care. So you can’t stop them from leaving negative feedback. So let them is what I say! I believe the negative feedback says more about the disgruntled and mean buyers than the shop owners.
    And I know that when I peruse shop reviews if there is one or two negative ones it never dissuades me from the shop, if you have a few negatives and mostly positive, believe me the negative are not going to affect you.
    So I say don’t care about your reviews, care about your product and doing the best you can do. As with life outside of Etsy you will never be able to please everybody, and you will come across those difficult, rude and unappreciative people. Don’t give them any of your energy, don’t give in for fear of negative feedback. Just keep doing the best you can do…..

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