Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Customer's Patronage and the Power Struggle

So who wins the power tug-of-war that goes on between a buyer and a seller? Recently I have noticed on Etsy the growing trend of the buyers in a way using their possible patronage to almost run the shop of sellers. What in my opinion started as a well-needed way of communication between buyer and seller turned into a threat of sorts.

It started when sellers, including myself, started asking buyers what turns them off and on about a shop. This was a response to slow sales, and I believe a desire to have better customer service, and improve the viability of a shop all around. It started friendly enough, with buyers simply stating what common mistakes sellers make, that leave a bad impression, or other things that work against the seller. This was very good, as I looked forward eagerly to see just what buyers wanted and expected out of a shop. Then I could decide which of these things works best for me, and I could implement them in such a way as to be consistent with the vibe and appeal of my own shop space.

It started to take a bit of turn as time went on, when some buyers began making statements beginning with the words "I won't buy from you if......" These words are now infamous among some sellers on Etsy. Indeed I, being the person I am , just had to speak out about that. So I made a thread about it. Nothing big. It got a few responses and that was that.

Now obviously, you and I know that not all the buyers were guilty. Most people on Etsy are quite nice and helpful. Most are reasonable and very level-headed individuals. What I think happened was that people just got a bit carried away. We can do that sometimes. We get started on what we don't like, and then we start nitpicking about ALL the stuff we don't like. The buyer critique (so to speak) went from "I don't like it when sellers don't ship internationally" to things like "If I don't see my country listed I won't buy", never mind that the option of EVERYWHERE ELSE is sitting right there. One of those is a legitimate gripe, and one is a nitpick.

Here's the tug of war part. Sellers, including myself to a certain degree, began these massive shop overhauls. I did an overhaul on shipping which I think may have been long overdue anyway. I thought it was legitimate to make the shopping experience easier for people. I have no problem with that and don't believe many sellers do. Where does it end though for the sellers? How much do you take into consideration the opinions of potential customers? Do you draw a line? Where is that line anyway (rhetorical question)? Do you allow it to change your whole perspective or even your own vision for your creations, to please the customer? Or do you just make what you make, run your shop how you run it, and let the ships fall where they may?

I was stressing it before, but now I'm letting those chips fall and I ain't even watchin where they fall. I take the advice/suggestion/opinion I think makes sense to me and I apply it when and if I can. I'm starting to just concentrate on my craft and let that be that.


Maggie said...

Great article! I used to run and change thing in response to forum threads but then started noticing that someone might get peeved about the opposite thing the next week, so now I just do what I feel is right for me.

Amby said...

Very interesting post! I once had a buyer tell me I needed to start taking checks and money orders AND to put it as a payment option. It was well-intentioned, I know, but I also know that wouldn't work for me, so I didn't. I thanked her for her input and moved on. :-)

But yes, I could see how some buyers could take a simple request for suggestions and turn it into a "design my ideal Etsy store" free-for-all.

GemsByEm said...

Great post. I've thought long and hard about what works best for me and my business. I run it as I see fit. That doesn't mean I don't take the opinions of buyers into consideration, though. It just means that if a suggestion will not do me or my business a benefit, I won't institute it. :~)