I decided to write this article as I recently discovered that a number (no just one or two) of my Etsy “customers” are re-selling my work on other websites. I do not wish to disclose their names (I probably don’t even have their real names) nor which ones of my items they are re-selling, but this has seriously affected my sales since 6 months ago and will continue to deteriorate the future of one of my product lines. I would like to share a few tips on spotting these so-called handmade supporters (my foot!) as I don’t want any of our fellow members to fall into the same trap.
First off, what I call “re-selling customers” are those who:
– Buy multiple items from various artists and re-listing them as their own work on other sites.
– Buy your work, mass produce multiple copies and sell elsewhere for cheap.
– Buy your work, take it apart, reverse engineer, mass produce and sell for cheap.
These people are in every way violating the artists’ intellectual property (IP) rights and making easy money out of our hard work.
There’s no silver bullet for preventing these buyers but here are some of the signs from my personal observation:
1. Freshly registered, first-time buyers – I’m not saying that all first-time buyers are IP thieves but there are dodgy accounts created for one-off transactions out there. These thieves create a new account for each purchase because they know they could be busted and receive bad feedback. So if you want to confirm if a first-time buyer is legit, try starting a conversation with the person by thanking him/ her for the purchase and asking a test question (Eg: Would you like this gift wrapped? Is it ok if I ship in X-days?) to see if they reply. Those with one-off accounts usually just abandon their account after one purchase and never bother checking back for convos.
2. Buyers who don’t leave feedback – Again, don’t generalise because unlike Ebay where a shop’s survival often depends on its feedback ratings, many REAL Etsy buyers don’t quite grasp the importance of the ratings to us or are simply oblivious of the existence of this feature. That being said, beware of someone who never left feedback or had any form of communication with past sellers, they are like some kind of bots that crawl around Etsy looking for what they want, buy it and go. If you are unsure, try talking to their previous sellers.
3. Those who buy similar items of the same category – They can be real collectors of something OR well organised syndicate! Always check your buyers’ purchase history, be extra cautious if you are selling things that can be duplicated like digital collage, patterns, tutorials, prints, photographs, books, recipes etc. They could be compiling a huge collection of digital files of the same genre and selling them as one file/CD/DVD.
4. Those who also make what you sell – This one is obvious, although some legit buyers could be so into something that they do collect works of other artists whilst making their own. Go through their shop listings and compare with their purchase history for traces of style/ composition similarities. This can also be tricky because some copycats have one account just for buying and a different one for selling. Anyhow, IF you are able to confirm that their work look like what they buy, you should consider canceling the transaction.
So what do you do if your buyer is quite likely to be a copycat/ re-seller? Well do what is important for your shop’s long-term survival! If the buyer checks all the boxes of the above symptoms, politely give them a well-made-up excuse (Eg: Sorry my dog ate my inventory?) to cancel the sale and send them a refund. I strongly recommend that you do it as smoothly as possible to avoid negative feedback because I *think* there is a buffer when you submit the application to cancel a transaction and the buyer can possibly return a nasty feedback. I don’t know this for sure but let’s not risk it.
I hope you find this article helpful, especially those who are battling copycat issues. Good luck!