Etsy is an online selling venue for artists of handmade, sellers of vintage wares and sellers of crafting supplies. I have been selling my pottery on etsy since early 2007. www.earthnelements.com Over the years things have changed and there is increased activity by "less than reputable" members..... both buyers and sellers, who may be trying to scam you. I have seen many buyers come to the community forums looking for help, how to buy, and asking if it is safe. Yes it is! All you have to do is "shop smart", like you need to on other selling venues. There will always be scammers, but us smart shoppers can outwit them!
So I have decided to provide this bit of information to be of help to buyers, especially those new to etsy. Here are my tips on how to buy with a good level of confidence and have a good buying experience.
After selecting items of interest to you (which is going to be hard, etsy is vast and varied and I bet you will find more than one thing you want) know that etsy is comprised of numerous individual shops. You will have to make separate payments if buying from more than one shop.
These are several things I recommend you look for and do:
1) Feedback/Reviews: Does the seller have good reviews, read the content of them to make sure that there are no complaints of non shipment, poor quality, general disatisfaction. I don't recommend going by the actual star ratings themselves as there is a bug in that program which isn't allowing some mobile users to leave the full 5 star rating they may have meant to leave or sometimes changes the stars to 3 or 4 even if the reviewing buyer selected 5.
2) Sellers Location: This is important for two reasons: the first is to get a feel for the amount of time you might expect to have to wait to receive your item. It is not uncommon for international shipments to take a month or more to arrive. Sometimes it's less, but patience is definitely needed when ordering from another country.
Also, there has been an influx of sellers of mass produced items over the past several years, and while that is not on par with etsys guidelines, it can take quite some time for their shop to be discovered and removed from etsy. So be watchful and diligent, if there is any inkling that the item(s) being sold might be mass produced/not handmade by the seller, you might want to avoid purchasing from that shop. Once discovered and the shop removed from the site, you would see a page that says "Uh oh, this user no longer exists" message and both you and the seller will have no means to make further contact, hence you may never get the item. In the even the etsy shop had been closed, immediately go to Paypal or Etsy depending on how you paid, or directly to your credit card company, and file a dispute to get your money back.
3) Method of Payment: Whether you choose to pay through Paypal or Etsy's own Direct Checkout, depending on what the seller offers as payment options, (it could be one or both), ALWAYS use a credit card to pay for the merchandise. Your credit card company offers you the best level of protection in the event something goes wrong. You do have the first option of filing a dispute through Paypal or Etsy, and additionally reporting the shop to Etsy too. Always attempt contact with the seller first though, there may be a way to work out any problem with your order without going to the extent of filing a claim. Sellers do have the ability to issue refunds when warranted and buyers have met the sellers requirements to receive a refund.
4) Ready to Ship or Made to Order: It is always a good idea to look at the listing info box in the upper right hand page area to see if the item states: Made to Order. Made to order items should indicate in the shipping/policies area as well as the item description area how long of a lead time is needed for the item to be made. Not being aware of this information can be disappointing for all involved if you needed the item quickly, but did not realize it was not already made. Please note most Custom Orders are not eligible for refunds, although this is up to each individual shop owner to determine.
5) Digital Downloads: PDF files for patterns, graphic arts, and other digital goods
While the listings may contain photos of finished items as examples, be sure to read the description and note (again in the upper right hand page area) if the item states Digital Download, that you are not getting a finished item - you are getting the instructions to make that item. Digital Downloads are not eligible for refunds.
6) Read the Description, Look over the Policies and learn more about the seller on their About page. You may find a wealth of information and maybe even a bit of a kinship.
Happy Shopping Everyone!