Well folks, we’re entering into what may be my least favorite two weeks of being an Etsy shop owner: The two weeks before Christmas. There are shoppers–like me–who have had most gifts bought and wrapped for weeks (and who may or may not have purchased those first gifts in February). There are those who started shopping on Black Friday and have finished over the last few weeks. And there are those who haven’t even started yet but still see online shopping as a viable option. (Oh yes, and the fourth group: Those who go to the mall between Dec. 22 and 24 and buy everything they need. Like my husband.)

I’m starting to deal with those in the third group, those who want to gift Jac & Elsie but need it by a particular deadline–a holiday party or Christmas, usually. I work my tail off in December to get orders out in a timely fashion. I list purchase deadlines for domestic and overseas orders based on the post office’s estimated shipping deadlines. (If you’re wondering, it’s Dec. 12 for first class to U.S. addresses and Dec. 17 for priority U.S. addresses. The deadlines are past for orders overseas.) I respond to convos promptly. And yet, there’s always that small handful of folks who don’t get it.

And to those last-minute shoppers, I offer some friendly guidelines:

planning1) I love working with folks on Etsy. I love working with people to help them find that perfect gift, and I love talking through what they’re looking for to create something especially for them. To do this effectively, you should contact the shop owner no less than two to three weeks before you need your item. Maybe she doesn’t have the chain you like in stock. Maybe “light purple” means something different to you than it does to her. There are many reasons a custom order can be delayed, so when you request something über personal on Tuesday and say, “You can ship by Thursday, right?” that may not always be the case. I will try my hardest to accommodate, but please try to keep your expectations reasonable. (When this happens, I often think back to a sign I’ve seen in my boss’s office: “Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.” Much too rude to post in my shop, but true nonetheless. And look! It’s sold on Etsy!)

2) Understand the post office. Once I ship a package, it’s gone. I’m not able to get it back. I can’t go to my local post office and check on it. I ship all domestic orders with tracking information, which works perfectly 98 percent of the time. Sometimes, the system gets a hiccup. Sometimes, it can take a package a month and a half to go one state over. Sometimes, the post office machines can use your package as a chew toy and it arrives in three pieces. I will do everything in my power to make things right, but I have absolutely no power over the post office. When ordering online, patience and understanding is key.

3) Be prepared to hear “no.” My favorite “WTF??” story happened two Christmases ago. A man purchased a necklace on Dec. 22 and selected to pay by check. Then he messaged me to see if he’d receive the necklace by Christmas. He lived in Hungary. Well … I don’t send items until I receive payment, and it will take a check from Hungary at least two weeks to get to me. Once I cash that, it will take the package two or three weeks to get to Hungary. So … no, you will not receive this in three days. He never responded. The check never arrived. I cancelled the order and promptly STOPPED accepting checks.

4) Similarly, calm down. Most people don’t like to be told this, so I never tell it to any customers. But people can get so worked up about things that really aren’t that huge of a deal. This most often, for me, relates to shipping times. Post office delivery times are estimates at best, so sometimes, you will receive a package later than you hoped. And yet, I suspect your friend or family member will be totally OK if you tell him or her, “Your gift it on its way to me!! I’m so sorry I don’t have it yet.” You can probably even laugh about waiting too long to order it–everyone’s done it. If you’re concerned about appearances, tell a little white lie: “I found the perfect gift for you, but it’s on back order!”

env 5) If you have a question, ask before you purchase. I’m good at responding to convos in a timely fashion. This is most often an issue with some of my friendship sets. Instead of receiving, say, one envelope necklace in each color, they want them all to be the same tone. Yes, I offer this, but there’s an upcharge (it has to do with how I stock these necklaces). So if you purchase the listing and then mention in the comments that you want to alter what you’ve bought, that only adds to your shipping time as I try to figure out if you’d rather pay the difference or simply receive what you actually purchased. Which leads me to …

6) … Check your convos! I will occasionally have questions about an order. Maybe you purchased a necklace with an initial charm and forgot to tell me what initial you’d like. Maybe, like in No. 4, you requested something you didn’t actually pay for. There can be any number of questions I need answered before I’m able to ship your order. The problem is that a lot of people seem to use their junk email addresses for Etsy. So when I abcsend a convo, it gets set to an account that is never checked. And if the buyer never checks Etsy again, my questions go unanswered. Which means you end up getting something you didn’t mean to buy, or your order gets cancelled.

7) Read the item’s description. It never ceases to amaze me that people will purchase something without reading any of the specs about the item. I try to include multiple photos and detailed item descriptions because I want to make sure shoppers know what they’re buying. If an item has a small flaw, I describe and photograph it (and usually give a percent discount). I share how long a necklace or bracelet will be. But if you make a purchase based solely on that first image, you may not be able to see the tiny chip, or you may have in your mind that the necklace is 18 inches when it’s actually 24.

8) Be nice, pretty please. So many businesses can have such crummy customer service, so I understand if someone has been burned before that he or she may be curt and even rude to me. However, I’m not Amazon. I don’t employ a customer service center in a third-world country. It’s just me, at home, in my pajamas, watching reruns of Big Bang Theory while I make your order. And I’m pretty friendly. But when requests come over from someone who is rude, who is mean, who is short, it make me less likely to want to help. Being nice goes such a long way. You can ignore every other tip on this list–please be nice and understanding.

Are you planning on purchasing, or have you purchased, online gifts this season? How was the customer service you received?

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