If I’m acting weird… thank Etsy’s Star Seller Program

Until they get the kinks ironed out, I might be behaving a little strangely

Recently, Etsy launched a program called Star Seller (and by ‘launched’ I mean ‘fantastically bungled’). To get a Star Seller Badge, I have to:
  • Have more than 95% of my reviews be 5 star
  • Respond to 95% of my messages within 24 hours
  • Ship 95% orders with tracking quickly
On the surface it doesn’t sound bad, but in practice Etsy forgot a LOT of things which can lead to seemingly strange behavior on my part until they get the kinks ironed out. They also didn’t tell us any of these metrics until AFTER they’d launched the program, so there was no way to course-correct before they started tracking these stats.

It’s not penalizing sellers… yet.

Etsy says this program is ‘celebrating excellent sellers’ but they also mention that it is not affecting placement in search ‘at this time’. And as I’ve talked about here, if my products are not on the first page of search, people don’t see them–the writing is rather on the wall that this is something I need to strive for. So let’s chat about these metrics and what strangeness you might see from me in trying to hit them!

95% 5-Star Ratings

Etsy has decided nothing but 5 star reviews is good enough. This one is a little frustrating as many people consider a 4 star review to still be very good, and some people don’t leave 5 star reviews on principle alone. I’m also only allowed to publicly respond to 3-star or lower reviews, and while Etsy claims seller protection (so I could in theory get a review removed if someone complained about a late delivery time if I shipped on time)–that’s not the case in practice.

I once had a woman message me after I had shipped a product to the address she gave me and the day it was to be delivered she decided she wanted it to arrive at her vacation home instead. I… I can’t do that. It’s literally outside my power. When I told her that, she demanded a new product be shipped, for free, to her vacation home. When I declined, she left me a poor review. When I challenged it to Etsy, even though she was wholly wrong and I had fulfilled all the expectations on my end, they let it stand because ‘that was her perception of my service.’

The same goes for people who just… don’t read the item description. I’ve had people leave negative reviews because Sarenrae didn’t turn their black hair blonde, even though there’s a color chart showing the resulting color they’ll get, and I say it cannot lighten hair both in the pictures themselves and in the item listing. Even after refunding these customers and challenging the review, Etsy more or less shrugged and said it was my problem to work out with the seller.

I could enthrall you all day with some of the bonkers stories I encounter, (like the one lady that was scamming people for free product and threatening them with negative publicity because she was a singer managed by Taylor Swift’s former manager–that one Etsy actually banned), but the point is every now and again I get dinged on reviews for something utterly insane and outside of my control and Etsy will not do anything about it.

Of course I want to earn a 5 star review from you on every order you place at NightBlooming. I am in no way entitled to that, but I sincerely do this because I want my customers to love my products and feel great about buying from me.

That means that if there is anything I can do to set things right, please let me know before you leave a review and we’ll get it sorted. If you’ve been happy with your recent orders, it’d mean an immense amount to me if you could take the time to leave reviews that say as much–it helps offset the crazy.

95% message response time within 24 hours

Many times, customers find it easier to ask me a question than to read the listing. This is, in part, because there’s a giant button that says “ASK MELISSA” on every Etsy listing and a tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiny little bit of grayed out faded text that you’re supposed to click on to expand the item description. Etsy has found they convert more people to buying by crowding the top of the listing with reviews and cart add-ons and whatever else–which means people don’t read, or don’t know how to even FIND the rest of the item description, and as such, I get a LOT of questions.

It’s also not uncommon for Etsy to double-send message, or for people to hop across multiple items of mine and send me questions from each one (this generates a new convo each time on my end).

Now, because I have to respond to EVERY message within 24 hours (and there’s no way to flag that a message doesn’t need a response), that means that rather than taking questions across several convos and replying with one comprehensive answer, I now have to respond to each. convo. individually.  That also means that if you send me duplicate Etsy messages in error, I’m going to respond to each one like a madwoman.

Ship 95% of orders with tracking quickly

You’d think this one would be a slam dunk for me… and you’d be wrong. I’m currently at 86% of shipping ‘on time with tracking’ because of the Ascension’s Reckoning preorders. I even reached out to Etsy and said that these are all preorders, that I very clearly state that they are and give the shipping date (and say that all items ordered with them ship with the book in October) and their response?

They wanted me to cancel all the preorders. And then ask my customers to re-order closer to the release date.

That’s… not how preorders work. And when I responded, asking how, if the point of the Star Seller Program was to deliver excellent customer service, how canceling orders and asking customers to place them again to essentially just game the system was accomplishing that.

They said they were sorry, but that’s the only thing I can do to ‘fix’ those numbers.  And I’m not going to because I DO think it’s poor customer service to make my customers jump through hoops so I can hit an arbitrary metric. So the preorders stand, and I’ll take the hit on that.

What this does mean, though, is if you preorder Ascension’s Reckoning and add any other item to the order? I am going to ship that add-on item right away so I can tick the tracking requirement and eat the cost additional shipping cost on sending out the book in October. If you preordered the entire trilogy of The Iyarri Chronicles with book bag? I’ll be sending the first two books, the bag and the oils now, and then shipping the final book after it releases.

Another thing they didn’t accommodate for was pickup orders. I have coworkers or friends that order things, and when they do I refund their shipping costs and drop it off on their desk the next day. The order is marked as complete, but there’s no tracking because… I hand-delivered the parcel. All these instances also count against me because there’s no way to flag that an order did not need tracking.

It sucks, it’s a bunch of double work and additional costs, but I’m boxed in on that 🙁

As always, I love your comments!

I’ll admit this entire thing has left me feeling out of sorts and demoralized. When I told my husband about this program he was like, “Well, you nailed it, right?” and was floored when I told him, “No, I actually came up short on two of the metrics.” He just stared at me like I’d been revealed as a space alien because, to him, the only person who really sees just how much of my time and effort and energy I pour into NightBlooming and the glowing reviews my store gets… to come up short on 2 of 3 metrics was insanity.

I’m doing my best because I know that, like offering ‘free shipping’ as an ‘incentive’ eventually Etsy’s carrot will turn into a stick–I do this or my store suffers by being buried in search, by being locked out of certain promotional efforts, by not being eligible to be featured in certain ways by Etsy (these are all things they say are perks of earning the Star Seller badge).

Just understand that if I’m acting a little crazy, responding to messages that are clearly errors and the like, this is why 🙂

22 thoughts on “If I’m acting weird… thank Etsy’s Star Seller Program”

    1. It’s not great coincidence that the CEO is a former Ebay exec and the Star Seller program is basically a copycat of a program Ebay runs. What Etsy ultimately wants is a bunch of high-volume sellers that make them money, and that’s almost the antithesis of what they started out as. That’s why I try to be so transparent about things like this because at times it is a struggle!

  1. If your store can’t earn the star seller badge, then I would be very surprised if many other high-volume shops did. If many other metrics are at play for what sellers land on the front page, and this becomes merely one of them, I wonder if you would even be lowered in the search results far enough to affect sales. Even if you were, as a high volume seller, if you were to submit proof that this was affecting sales negatively, then it would run counter to the entire point of the star seller program, which is to increase sales. At which point I’d think, if this experience is ubiquitous, that the program would be removed, since it’s entire point is to increase sales, right?

    I’ve never sold on Etsy, but that’s just my thoughts as a customer. If I could sign a petition to make Etsy pull their heads out of their butts, I would.

    1. “If your store can’t earn the star seller badge, then I would be very surprised if many other high-volume shops did” was essentially my husband’s take, too! I’m barely hitting the metric for ratings, and I just flipped over on the convo metric to succeeding now that I know the rules I have to play by, and I honestly might have hit the last one if not for the preorders, but ah well. I’ll get there eventually, I think.

      There are for sure some sellers, especially resellers (the people that buy things wholesale and post them to Etsy as handmade) and dropshippers that will hit this metric. What it’s doing is making it easier for the big stores with automated processing and lots of dedicated staff to be at the top of the pile rather than the actual handmade sellers 🙁

  2. I’m sorry for all the extra work this is creating for you. My first reaction is this program is going to backfire on Etsy. If they didn’t account for preorders, they obviously didn’t account for custom orders either, and several of the sellers I love on Etsy don’t make items until they’re ordered. It just seems like this program is counter to why people shop on Etsy to begin with. Hopefully they at least modify the shipping requirement to allow sellers to flag items as custom/ extended shipping, and still count those as long as they ship in the timeframe posted in the listings.
    From a customer standpoint, I wish Etsy would be better about pruning the ridiculous reviews. I try to make sure I read the negatives to see if they make sense, but I’d rather not have to waste time reading entitled people’s unreasonable complaints. Hopefully Etsy gets everything sorted out, and thank you for all the work you put into making your shop as wonderful as it is!

    1. To give Etsy some credit, I can set a processing time of up to 8 weeks. My preorders just fall outside that and it’s never been an issue before– now, though, they’re stuck on the fact that a faster processing and shipping time means more sales and they’re making it an issue. And I can only extend that shipping time ONCE. 8 weeks or so out from the release of Ascension’s Reckoning I’ll be able to add that processing time in, but until then I’m going to get dinged for every book I sell. It sucks because I should be over the moon with each book order, and I am, but now they added this layer of salt to the entire thing 🙁

      For feedback, yeah… I check negatives too, and about 10% of the time it’s a legitimate complaint and 90% of the time it’s caps-lock whargharble from a customer who is clearly in the wrong and taking it out on the seller in hopes that they’ll get free stuff out of it. And then when they DO get free stuff, most the time they don’t update the review.

      I’ll keep doing my best to keep my customers happy!

  3. Marta L Gillette

    Time to find a new platform, and everybody else should do so as well. More and more Etsy, like airbnb and all the other small business apps have become tyranical and expect to compete with Amazon and treat both their vendors and customers equally poorly.

    Well, you not Amazon or Ebay, and that’s why we like you, and used to like Etsy. Now it’s just a crowded pile of junk. I can’t get on it half the time because of 404 errors. You should start your own web selling site. You already have your own customer base. You don’t need Etsy anymore. That was to start. This is soul destroying and destructive. You have better things to do with your time, energy and beautiful presence than to drive yourself nuts trying to appease a bunch of lazy tyrants who don’t actually make anything of value that adds to joy in this world.

    I’ll still buy from you. Get your website growing, and keep the Etsy until you reach critical mass, then pull the plug.

    All the best,

    1. Honestly the post I was writing was about a NightBlooming.com roadmap, about my timeline for launching the stand alone store on this site, but the explanation of the Star Seller thing was so long that I decided it needed to be addressed on its own. Star Seller didn’t push me over the edge on a stand alone site, I’ve wanted that for ages, and I’ll still keep my Etsy store as a way to find new customers, but yeah… I trust you lovelies to migrate when I have things ready for you.

  4. Ugh, this sounds terrible! I’m rolling my eyes over here in exasperation, I can only *imagine* what it must feel like for you. :/

    I’m sure you’ve already considered this, but are you able to escalate to someone with significantly more “authority” than whoever you’ve been dealing with? Like @ the VP level?

    Etsy just continually seems to be moving away from the spirit in which it was created. It’s shifting from a platform for artists into a platform to showcase corporate bloat.

    I’m so sorry you have to go through this! Keep your head up and keep moving forward. You have a lot to celebrate this year, remember that when this gets you down. <3

    1. Thank you so much for being so sweet! I don’t think I’m going to have much luck escalating this (which is wild because my store is actually in the top 1% of Etsy stores and they STILL don’t care about how unrealistic this is for sellers like me), but I’ll push back where I can. Hopefully, at the very least, we see some revisions to the program (like a ‘this message does not need a reply’ button, or a ‘this order was delivered by hand’ way to waive the tracking requirement), but until then, this is where I’m at :/

  5. Joanna Mulholland

    I agree with everything everyone said in their comments… I pre-ordered Ascension’s Reckoning even though shipping costs were an absolute nightmare (to Europe). I knew it was a pre-order and what the time-frame to deliver was because you were very clear in your listing. I love the books and the oils so will still follow you once you open your own website!!!

    1. Oh goodness and I cannot thank you enough for preordering AND dealing with the insane shipping costs. That Ascension’s Reckoning clocks in at over 400 pages doesn’t help any, it’s a heavy book! One thing I’m excited to post about next is some of the details about the stand alone store that will be here, on NightBlooming.com and how it’s more fair to my international customers. You lovelies put up with so much nonsense, from the shipping delays to the costs, to being locked out of promotional stuff on Etsy, and on the new site that will be so much more fair.

  6. Okay. So I have a really hard time, figuring out how to write my thoughts in child friendly words… But this is a seriously insane program! And to just launch it! Shouldn’t they at least do a six months test run first!? Or talk to the people who it will affect, to hear their thoughts on what problems it will cause them?

    1. One would think… right? And I only scratched the surface and tried to keep to the items affecting me. There’s a thread, several thousand posts long on Etsy full of upset sellers who point out shortcomings and unfairness in this system. It’s seriously like they launched this without actually talking to anyone who actually runs a store.

  7. Oh man…this just stinks. Etsy has really gone down the toilet after going public. I used to be a seller and left. I’m sorry. I hope you know, if you had your own site, I would purchase there instead.

    1. Yeah that really was the start of this all, I think. A new site is in the works! And I’ve even enlisted help to get it done a little faster–this post was actually going to be about my timeline and roadmap to that, but this Star Seller thing started chewing up so many words that I just decided we’d treat this as it’s own issue and then I’ll tackle the roadmap in the next post!

  8. My partner and I are both long-term sellers on Etsy too. You articulated the madness with such charming wit that I got a few good commiserating laughs in while reading it aloud. Thank you for that! I’m working on a stand-alone site as well. Don’t worry, we will all follow you wherever you end up selling your marvelous and incomparable potions.

Leave a Comment