I wrote last year about an experience I had on Amazon with a seller trying to game the review system by offering cash prizes to people who left only five-star reviews. Well, now I have had the opposite experience: a seller on Etsy who has not used reward, but punishment.
I ordered a crafting stamp from her earlier this year, and it was fine. It turned out that the stamp was a little big and unwieldy for me. I am not the best crafter in the world, and I am not blaming her for this. But when Etsy prompted me to leave a review, I left only three stars. I complimented heron her speedy shipping and great customer service, mentioned that the stamp had been a bit big for me but oh well, and that was that.
So yesterday, I was doing a little Etsy browse and she had some new stuff. I remembered the speedy shipping and cute packaging, and the stamp I had ordered before—while not perfect for my needs, as it turned out, but whatever—was very well-made. So I ordered another one.
An hour later, I got an email from the seller that she was refusing the sale. As the email explained, in charmingly effortful English:
“We’re thinking customer’s satisfaction is very important. It is difficult to sell a similar product to the customer who is not satisfied with goods. It’s very regrettable, but we can’t sell goods to you again. We are thinking we’d like to cancel to order your this time. We’re to cancel etsy and paypal, and the price you paid returns to you completely.”
Whoa. I am not sure where to start on this one. If I leave less than a five-star review, I get banned from the store? What is the point of a review then?
That it seemed, was the clincher. I did a little research on this, and the only form of ‘review extortion’ Etsy specifically gets concerned about is a seller who tries to bribe you to change your review. Absent that, they can choose to do business—or not to do it—with whomever they please.
And it seems that Etsy sellers have this pathological obsession with the five-star review which borders on the manic. I found a thread on Etsy’s support forum from a customer who had a banning similar to mine, and it goes on for eleven pages. Some tidbits of interest:
“There does seem to be a general opinion amongst Etsy sellers that anything under 5 stars is a “bad” review…”
“I personally get slightly offended and anxious at 4 star reviews. I try not to, but my business is my life and livelihood. (I work 60+ hours a week on it…) So I can sort of understand her reacting the way she did.”
“I have to say that I would personally be hurt by anything less than 5 stars. If a buyer left me 4 stars, I wouldn’t raise the issue with him/her, but I would feel that my hard work was not appreciated.”
“I think a seller who performs all the things they “promised to perform” should get 5 stars. A 4 star review means I think the seller did something less than what they promised me ~ like they over stated the actual condition ~ or they failed to ship it right away. Giving a rating less than 5 stars pulls their ENTIRE RATING down and affects their public image…”
It seems there is a huge disconnect here between what buyers think feedback is for, and what sellers think it is for. Sellers (at least, on Etsy) seem to think the feedback exists to give their store a mark of reputability—like, proper stores all have shiny bright stars, and lesser stores don’t have all five stars. Buyers seem to perceive it more as an actual feedback tool.
I always ask myself, before I leave a comment, what I would have wanted to know as a buyer making that buying decision. For example, if someone is too afraid to leave a review to mention that a book has typos, they will not be able to warn away people like me who really care about that. Similarly, if you say in your review that there are typos, and I was a person who did not care about that, this comment would not affect my decision to buy or not. Etsy does force you to leave a comment; you can’t just star and run!
To me, the bottom line is that if I truly had been dissatisfied, I would not have ordered again. So this seller should have been happy for the repeat business. Instead, they have ensured I will never buy from them again. That is too bad; my one three-star stamp notwithstanding, they did make some nice things. But I can’t deal with The Crazy, and I will take my money elsewhere.
Still, as a policy decision—I think Etsy should intervene on this. This is review extortion, and should not be permitted.