The Ethics of Etsy

Author: Mia Sell

If you’re anything like me, you’re part of the 96 percent of Americans that shop online – in my case, maybe a little bit too much. Buying online is far more convenient than trekking to traditional brick-and-mortar stores. Why drive all the way to the mall when you can log onto Amazon and have your order appear at your door in less than 48 hours?

The rise of online shopping does provide consumers with much easier and convenient ways of shopping, but the benefits are not felt equally. Local economies lose loads of revenue when people opt for online shopping, and the online shopping industry opens up lots of ethical questions for us as consumers. How can I in my own small way give money directly to people instead of big corporations like Amazon, who infamously mistreat their employees?

Enter Etsy, an online marketplace that purports to “keep commerce human.” Sounds great, right? Sellers open shops where they can sell homemade goods and vintage products. Well, as it turns out, Etsy might not be the perfect solution I was looking for.

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Let’s start with the positives… Etsy provides people with a platform to sell goods on a worldwide scale. Especially for people that don’t have the means to open up a storefront, this is a great opportunity. In my experience, buying items from Etsy has been great, the communication with the sellers is fast and the prices are reasonable. I also feel a lot better having a more personal connection with the sellers. I’m far more willing to spend more money knowing that there’s a face behind the stores.

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But, of course, nothing in life is as perfect as it seems. The seller experience is rather different from the consumer’s. Stores have to pay a percentage to host their products on the site. Opening a shop on Etsy costs $0.20, which sounds great, but on top of that, there are several other fees. There is a 5 percent transaction fee, meaning that Etsy takes 5 percent of all sales. There is also a 3 percent fee for processing transactions, which amounts to almost 10 percent of lost revenue for sellers. This may not seem like all that much of a loss, but for smaller sellers, it can be as large as a 64 percent total increase.

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So, maybe Etsy isn’t as pro-seller as it says it is. They are a business after all, and businesses exist to make money. Even though it seems like all the money you pay goes to the seller, there are hidden fees and only a fraction of the price you pay goes to the sellers themselves. That being said, Etsy does give people a platform they would not have access to otherwise.

So, is Etsy ethical? I would say in relation to other retailers, yes. While it’s not perfect, it’s a good way to support small businesses and purchase unique goods.

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