Though this blog is primarily about toys and art dolls, this post should be helpful for anyone buying from Etsy… at least I hope it is! I’ve spent my fair share perusing Etsy looking for good toy patterns, costume pieces (I’m a role player, cosplayer, and steampunk), among many other random things I buy in the name of art. I’ve learned a few things – not that I don’t still make the same stupid mistake now and then – and I thought I’d share these little nuggets of wisdom with you.
Read the description. Don’t just read the title and look at the photo. That’s the difference between getting a pattern or getting a pre-made toy with no pattern. It’s the difference between getting a DIY kit or an already assembled item. It’s the difference between getting a vest or an entire costume. It’s the difference between getting something completely random or getting something you actually wanted.
For example, all the photos may be of a specific toy in a Japanese crafting book, but you are not buying the finished toy, nor the Japanese book. You are only purchasing the pattern from the book.
Let’s say you are wanting to buy a toy for your child (or yourself – cuz I love toys too!), if you don’t read the description, you might end up with a pattern instead. Pattern makers usually show off the finished product so that you know exactly what the toy will look like when it’s done (assuming you did it right). The same goes for clothing. If it’s a listing for a vest or skirt pattern, there will be photos of the finished product. Some sellers will post a sneak peak of the actual pattern, but many will not (probably out of fear of being ripped off).
Most clothing items are sold separately, but the models in the photos aren’t usually just wearing a vest or skirt and nothing else. They typically wear a full outfit to highlight using the vest or skirt, or whatever item is being sold.
So be sure to read the description carefully. Most Etsy sellers are pretty good about being clear about what you are buying; but the less experienced seller might not be. If you aren’t sure about something that isn’t clear, DON’T ASSUME! Contact the seller and ask them questions BEFORE buying it.
On top of that, you will want to take special note of whether the item is already made or is made to order. Made to order items take twice as long, if not 3 to 4 times longer to get than pre-made items. Once the seller gets your order, they may not be able to start on it right away. Other orders may be before you. Once they complete other orders, they can work on yours and that could take days or weeks depending on what they are making. After that, it takes time for the item to be shipped. A good seller will give you an estimated time of completion. If not, ask them BEFORE you purchase the item.
Not only that, but I highly recommend noting which country they are in. If they are outside your country, it will take even longer to arrive (even if it’s a pre-made item). The items have to go through customs, which can take a while depending on how backed up they are and what it being mailed. The seller may say it takes a week to ship items, but if they aren’t in your country, it’s likely going to be much longer. Some sellers will make special notes about shipping out of the country.
Now, aside from the plethora of knowledge that you can get from the description, I want to warn you to pay close attention to the shipping cost. Shady no-good sellers will try to rip you off! You might get excited seeing something you want for a fantastic or reasonable price, but then find that the shipping is $50 or more. I’ve seen listings where the shipping was $100 for something relatively light and inexpensive. That’s outrageous!
The good thing is, most sellers are not like that. However, there are instances in which shipping costs may be more than you would expect. The heavier an item is, the more it costs to ship it. The bigger the item is, even if it’s light weight, will cost more. The more fragile it is, it may require more care and special packing, which costs more. The further away the seller is, the more it may cost to ship it. You might even find that other sellers offer better shipping costs. So don’t be afraid to shop around.
Now, let’s say you need an item sooner than the description indicates it’ll take for it to arrive. Or let’s say you would like them to tweak the item (maybe you want the skirt longer, or blue instead of pink, etc). Ask the seller questions about rush orders and customization BEFORE you purchase the item. Not all sellers are willing or able to customize or rush an order. Maybe the seller is backed up with special requests and can’t make that date. Don’t buy the item just to have to go through the hassle of cancelling the order.
When you are placing an order, there is ALWAYS a comments box. Make sure to detail your customization request and/or rush order request (such as when you need it by), even if you’ve already discussed it with them. If you need the item by a certain date but choose not to contact the seller because the description says it should arrive by the time you need it, there is always a chance that you won’t get it on time because the time frames listed are usually estimations. It’s better to note in the comments that you need it by a certain date, so that the seller is especially careful with their timing and shipping options. Most sellers want you to get your items when you need them and they want you to be happy. They are not magical unicorns, life happens, mistakes happen, and estimations are usually never exact. Do the seller a favor and leave them a comment!
Be aware that not all sellers are ethical or even smart. You will find that some sellers put false or incorrect information in the title of their listing. They might even use tags that are irrelevant or incorrect just for the sake of luring you to their store. You will find random crap with nonsensical titles and tags. Don’t fall for shady sellers. If something doesn’t look right, shop around and do some research.
Now, not all inaccurate details are the workings of an idiot. Even smart sellers may not list items with fine accuracy. Even the most intelligent people in the world will make mistakes. For example, when most people think of a turtle they do not distinguish the difference between turtles and tortoises and thus both animals are listed generically as “turtles”. Some sellers pay more attention to those details, but many do not. They aren’t necessarily shady or incompetent. For example, I can list a tortoise as a tortoise, but most people will search for a “turtle” when really what they are looking for is a tortoise. The smart thing to do would be to list it as both!
So, I hope these tips help you on your Etsy journey!