Etsy overnight shipping

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Was Etsy too good to be true?

As a stockholder, Jeni Sandberg loves Etsy. As a vintage homegoods purveyor selling midcentury glassware and linens on Etsy’s platform, she can’t help but feel like she’s being played.

In July, the company announced it would be encouraging sellers to offer free US shipping on all orders over $35. Or rather, it announced that sellers who didn’t offer free shipping would be de-prioritized by the site’s highly competitive search algorithm, which — on a platform with more than 60 million things to buy — can be the difference between regular sales and functional invisibility.

There was a good argument for the new policy on the company’s end: Right now, customers add things to their cart and balk at shipping costs, then bounce from the site for good. We, as a consuming public, do not like to be forced to reconsider. We don’t stand for being disappointed even for a moment. We are, frankly, skittish. And people who make lightweight products — jewelry, pins, embroideries, T-shirts — can afford to eat a couple of dollars in shipping cost if it’s going to boost their sales overall.

But can a furniture maker? Can a woman who makes ceramic planters shaped like Frida Kahlo? Can a man who sells (heavy!) replicas of human skulls? The directive from the company has been to staple the cost of shipping onto the item’s price, which sellers have pointed out is not actually free shipping. It doesn’t help that Etsy changed its transaction fee from 3.5 percent to 5 percent last June — fair enough, it had been flat for 13 years, but still, the timing. Back-to-back summers!

“I’m like yeah, damn straight. Make everybody get free shipping,” Sandberg says, as a stockholder. “Believe me, I can’t wait for fourth-quarter earnings reports. It’s going to look like their gross sales skyrocketed. It’s going to look awesome on paper.” Then she adds, as a vintage homegoods purveyor, “But they’re screwing sellers to get there.”

When Etsy went public in 2015, it offered a participation program that let Etsy sellers buy stock before the offering. Sandberg bought $2,500 worth then, and she bought more right after the IPO, and she bought even more after Etsy announced its free shipping push. The cognitive dissonance she experiences every time Etsy announces a move that wrings additional revenue out of its sellers is the product of a tension that isn’t exactly Etsy’s fault. Have you heard of Amazon? In 2005, four months before Etsy launched, Amazon decided that everyone wanted things delivered fast and for free, and announced a service called Amazon Prime. Now, after a while of getting things delivered fast and for free, we agree this is something we need, the same way we agreed we needed phones that could access the internet or televisions that could record football games we missed or highways that could connect major cities.

What choice does Etsy have but to try to thrive in the new normal? It’s advertising on television now, gearing up for a marketing push around free shipping in mid-September, and implying to sellers that all of their financial concerns will vanish once Etsy is a true household name.

“Why would you expect free shipping from the nice lady in Iowa who hand-knits afghans? Why would you think that she would be able to do that for you?” Sandberg asks, hypothetically, of the customers Etsy says it has polled in robust surveys over the past few years. “If I were sending something to her, it would cost me $12. I understand that. I’m a grown-up.”

The lady hand-making afghans in Iowa has enough working against her, you know? Plus, as Sandberg explains, channeling the sentiment of Etsy’s 2 million sellers: “Etsy was supposed to be different.”

Etsy was founded in 2005 by Rob Kalin, a construction worker and bookseller in New York City looking for a way to sell handmade furniture on the internet. Most of his friends were looking for a way to sell handmade things too. None of his friends knew how to make an online shop, but he did. It was clear: He should make one shop for all of them and set them up to be, as he often says, “the protagonists of their own lives.”

The timing was perfect. E-commerce was just getting off the ground; Martha Stewart was getting out of prison! Women were running enormously popular and newly lucrative personal websites, where they posted their DIY projects and wrote about the value of their labor. “The new crafter wave is fueled by an intriguing alliance of the oldest and newest of social technologies, the sewing circle and the blog,” craft historian Glenn Adamson wrote shortly after. “In a sense, the 21st century of craft is beginning the way that the 20th did: by finding in tradition the possibility for social change.”

The mid-aughts conception of Etsy was heavily informed by Kalin’s friendship with New York University professor Jean Railla, creator of the early online crafting community Get Crafty, who wrote often about the handmade as an act of resistance against capitalism and patriarchy. Kalin’s vision for Etsy, as he told the Wall Street Journal in 2010, just 16 months before he would be ousted from his own company, is this: “Instead of having an economy dictate the behavior of communities, to empower communities to influence the behavior of economies.”

Crafters have tried to take down mass production before. The Arts and Crafts movement that took place in England and the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was a reaction to the Industrial Revolution. There was a boom in DIY-ism in the US after World War II, jump-started by the founding of the American Craft Council in 1943 and the sprawl of the suburbs, where there were always home projects to be done — a backlash, once again, against assembly-line goods and the American dream’s emphasis on cookie-cutter conformity. Feminists manipulated crafts to make various statements about gender and power from the 1970s all the way up through the riot grrrl movement in the 1990s, and continuing even now, with, most famously, thousands and thousands of (controversial) hand-knitted “pussy” hats.

But dreams of unmaking, by hand, what the Romanticist scholar and furniture designer William Morris called “the terrible organization of competitive commerce,” have historically been only that: dreams.

In the beginning, by all accounts, Etsy was the epicenter of the internet-age craft movement and its attendant community. About 90 percent of the early sellers were women — today it’s still 87 percent — and they were all making certifiably handmade objects: paintings, sweaters, porcelain bowls. Also, infamously, crocheted tampon holders. The buyers were other people like them. The company’s employees were people like them too.

The site’s first in-house counsel Sarah Feingold started selling jewelry on Etsy after graduating from law school, then bought herself a JetBlue ticket and explained to Kalin that his company needed at least one lawyer. The earliest Etsy office rented out spare desks to the editors of Make Magazine and a soon-to-be creator of the 3D-printing company MakerBot, as well as the co-founders of sewing community site BurdaStyle, Benedikta Karaisl and Nora Abousteit. Hanging out in the first Etsy offices, in a beat-up building in downtown Brooklyn, Kalin taught Karaisl and Abousteit how to use Adobe Illustrator, helping make the wireframes for the first version of their site.

Abousteit got a front-row seat to how things worked in Etsy’s earliest days. “There was this one woman who [worked there] who used to wake up every two hours just to curate the Etsy homepage,” she remembers. “It was really a passion. It was amazing. I mean, there wasn’t that much going on in the tech scene in New York, and also the whole craft-making scene was just starting, just budding.”

Soon after Etsy’s founding, the company started Street Teams: coalitions of crafters who could organize to get better treatment and fairer rent when they wanted to participate in art fairs or set up pop-ups. Kalin had plans to open “co-production” sites across the country, and he hosted public craft nights in the Etsy headquarters every Monday. In the New York Times, journalist and artist Rob Walker observed the early Etsy scene, writing, “This is not a utopian alt-youth framework; it’s a very real-world, alt-grown-up framework.” It was a gorgeous and daunting one, with the odds quite obviously stacked against it.

The press did not know what to do with Kalin, or with Etsy. Who would take Silicon Valley’s optimism to such a twisted extreme by excising the get-rich stuff that made it so sexy? Every reporter who wrote about Kalin paused for a moment to note that he made his own underwear.

Etsy grew quickly, but with strings. The New York venture capital firm Union Square Ventures put up a small amount of money in the summer of 2006, a year before it invested in Twitter. By 2008, venture capitalist Jim Breyer — a board member at Facebook and Walmart — was leading a $27 million funding round. Suddenly, a better life for crafters could not be the company’s only goal. It also had to make serious money for some people who are pretty serious about their money.

In a fit of twisted luck, that same year saw the start of a global recession that made the case for Etsy obvious. It was a moment when people were reluctant to spend money but expressed some desire to spend it in venues where it seemed as though it might directly benefit another person, and Etsy sold $10.8 million worth of goods in November 2008, up from $4.2 million in November 2007. The company was profitable for the first time the next year, and transactions doubled again between 2008 and 2009.

But the growth — and yet another round of VC funding — put even more pressure on Etsy. Chief technology officer Chad Dickerson had taken over as CEO after Kalin was voted out by the board in July 2011, and in October 2013, in an infamous town hall meeting at Etsy HQ, he announced that the company would allow sellers to contract with outside manufacturers to help make their products, so long as they designed everything themselves and were willing to provide detailed explanations of their process to Etsy’s Marketplace Integrity team.

Much of the community was aghast, fearing the change would ruin the culture of the site forever. But the decision was necessary; popular sellers were turning themselves into one-person factories, working 90 hours a week to make enough to keep up with demand and turn even a modest profit. It was silly not to be allowed to collaborate. It didn’t make sense to define “handmade” as “made from scratch by one person”; almost everybody has to use some kind of machine or buy supplies or incorporate something that didn’t go straight from the earth to their hands at one point or another. Litigating “handmade” wouldn’t be very modern. In itself, it seemed against the spirit of Etsy.

“I think the question of Etsy losing its way or abandoning its values is one that’s been reported five years ago, seven years ago, at many different points in time,” says Alison Feldmann, one of the company’s first employees, who started as an intern in 2007 and left the company in November 2017 as the director of brand and content. When she started, she was elated to be in the mix — filling the office with used desks from Craigslist, taking out the trash, saving the world. “As a progressive business, people are going to be taking potshots at any change that happens in terms of ‘selling out.’ You know, it isn’t a nonprofit. It is a capitalist world that we live in.”

Vania Scharbach opened her first Etsy store in 2007, soon after immigrating to Brooklyn from Brazil, where she sold handmade clothes in a brick-and-mortar storefront. At the time, she says, it was “so cool, the hipster eBay.”

Now it’s different: “I understand they’re a corporation and they need to make a profit, okay, but the thing is they went away from what they were, from the goals of the website.” A lot of the vintage clothing she sees is junk; a lot of the print-on-demand products are just a basic design that a third-party company slaps on a product and drop-ships to the customer.

“If I go buy 100 percent linen at a store in Manhattan and make a dress myself and list it on Etsy, I can’t sell that for less than $150,” Scharbach says. “Then when you’re shopping, you see these other listings for like $50, the same type of dress, it looks like the same quality. You buy it and you realize it’s not really linen, it’s made by a person but it’s made in a sweatshop somewhere. It’s hard to compete.”

Etsy refutes these kinds of concerns. “Our policies haven’t changed. You either have to be the person who made the product or the person who designed the product with a direct relationship with the people making it, or it has to be vintage and over 20 years old,” Etsy’s current CEO Josh Silverman says, asked about seller complaints that mass-produced, imported junk or boring, basically identical bridesmaid-font products are taking over the site. “If you look at the composition of products on the site, it’s the same. There is not an increase in products from bigger sellers.”

But I am looking at the site. When I typed “scarf” into Etsy, the first page of results included $6 pashminas and “custom satin edge scarves” with “Your Logo Here” photoshopped onto them ($9.99), and very few “handmade” listings that are priced anywhere near what an actual handmade scarf costs.

To me, this doesn’t read as “Etsy.” But to Etsy, in 2019, it does.

There are competing opinions about when exactly Etsy took the turn that would lead it here, but most agree that the company’s IPO was one of the stops along the way. The company had taken in a total of $97.3 million in venture money by the time it went public in 2015, and Etsy’s IPO was a big deal, imbued with surreal significance; The New York Times called it “an experiment in corporate governance, a test of whether Wall Street will embrace a company that puts doing social and environmental good on the same pedestal with, if not ahead of, maximizing profits.” But Wall Street did not embrace Etsy. Within two months, share prices dropped to about 50 percent of where they’d been when trading opened. Initially a smash hit, it soured quickly into one of the worst IPOs of the year.

Silverman, a former president of consumer products and services at American Express, former CEO of Skype, former CEO of eBay’s, co-founder of Evite, and so on, came in about two years later to put out what investors openly referred to as a fire. (“The house was burning and nobody was paying attention,” Etsy board member and Union Square Ventures co-founder Fred Wilson told the New York Times.)

Private equity firms and hedge funds were swarming around Etsy, buying up shares and giving off serious potential-hostile-takeover vibes, suggesting to the board that the company wasn’t growing fast enough, that it wasn’t focusing on profit, and that it was overspending. It wasn’t even making very smart technical operations decisions at the time, insisting on running its own servers rather than contracting with Google Cloud or Amazon Web Services. So the company fired 80 people, including Dickerson (who declined to comment for this article), and Silverman took over. Within two months he fired 140 more. He shut down major projects including Etsy Studio, a separate online store for craft supplies than had been live for less than a year.

Silverman doesn’t like the words “handmade” or “craft” because they “don’t communicate anything to buyers about when to think of Etsy.” he says now. Nobody wakes up thinking, “Gosh, I need to buy something handmade today,” he tells me, which may be true but I rarely wake up thinking I need to buy anything at all, and more commonly wake up in horror because I’ve already bought way too much.

“You need to furnish your apartment. You need to prepare for a party. You need to find a gift for a friend. You need a dress. Handmade is not the value proposition — unique, personalized, expresses your sense of identity, those are things that speak to buyers.”

Handmade is not the value proposition!

Three months before Rob Kalin was forced out of Etsy, Inc magazine ran a cover story about him, which ended up as an interrogation of whether he was fit to be the company’s CEO. The story is brutal, starting off with a parody of hipster Brooklyn and moving quickly toward the statement that Kalin is “given to eccentricities that can seem downright crazy.” Most notably, the reporter recounts Kalin pointing an “8-inch combat knife” at him for emphasis, in the middle of a sentence about his lack of respect for the tech and finance sectors.

“That was a letter opener!” he says when I ask about it, sitting at a handmade table surrounded by handmade chairs draped in pieces of wool purchased from sheep farmers located near his house and studio space in Catskill, New York.

The letter opener was made by someone on Etsy, he says, obviously, and he was just fidgeting while he was talking. He hates press. He hated that year, which “hurt like hell.” Now he has two young daughters — they picked a pint of blueberries for me before our interview — and he’s spent the past eight years dabbling in various things you might not necessarily want someone to just dabble in, like founding a school or starting a farm, but for the most part making stuff, same as always.

“It felt like my life’s work was being taken away from me,” he says. “But looking back, I’m glad that it happened. Making incremental improvements to a publicly traded company is not my bailiwick, that’s not what I would have been the best at anyways.”

(The Inc profile also quotes co-founder and early Etsy engineer Chris Maguire talking about Kalin’s management style, saying, “There would be a brand new idea every day. Usually it’d be something that didn’t even make sense. How are you supposed to teach blacksmithing over the internet?”)

He didn’t know what seed funding was when he took it, Kalin says. He didn’t really get what a startup was or understand the obligations of institutional money. Accepting the Union Square Ventures investment was probably the moment when things got away from him, he says now. “I didn’t have enough awareness of the context of what was going on there, in terms of if we take this step will it compromise the values.”

This was a long time ago, and Kalin has moved on, and it feels so far away, but that doesn’t mean that talking about it for a few minutes doesn’t bring out the hypotheticals. “Was any of this necessary? Could it have happened a different way? Do I have regrets?” he asks aloud. “I don’t know. I think I’ve gotten way too into Buddhism; I accept what happened. I have a lot of compassion for the people who are trying to run their businesses on Etsy and are being marginalized by these corporate decisions that clearly benefit the shareholders but not the stakeholders.”

He doesn’t pay attention to Etsy anymore because it doesn’t do anything he thinks is interesting. All of the news is about quarterly earnings and share prices, and he finds it boring to reduce a company to a small handful of numbers. He thought the new CEO’s name was Jason until I emailed him. He didn’t know about the free shipping push either, but the “Robin Hood in reverse” arrangement rankles him now that he’s been filled in.

Though he once dreamed of Etsy sellers making their livings selling things they made themselves, he knows now that was never really what happened for the vast majority. Even when he was CEO and things were small and maybe idyllic, only a fraction of a percentage of sellers were making more than $30,000 a year.

“How much money does Etsy have in its bank account and how much does the average Etsy seller have in their bank account? Who can afford to be more generous?” he asks, I assume rhetorically because he doesn’t pause for breath. “Yet here we are, the company is asking the sellers to be more generous with the company.”

“The world needs Etsy more than ever,” CEO Josh Silverman tells me. We’ve all been buried and desensitized by “the same commoditized products sold by these few logistics companies.” (Yes, he’s talking about Amazon.) The disposable things in life are piling up, arriving faster and cheaper every day — we buy them and they don’t mean anything to us — but on Etsy we can find the things that “should hold a place in your heart.”

Whether he means this or not is, in some ways, irrelevant: Josh Silverman’s Etsy is a runaway success. “Our sellers are selling more than a billion dollars a quarter of product,” he says, “and that’s growing at an ever-faster rate.”

The company’s revenue is up 65 percent since Silverman took over, and the share price has quintupled. The company is in the process of migrating everything to Google Cloud, which is significantly cheaper and easier than maintaining its own servers. The site has guest check-out and “buy it now” options. The search bar did not have autocorrect until 2017. In the company’s second-quarter earnings report this year, it reported a 37 percent revenue growth from the same quarter last year and listed as a highlight: “We completed the test and design phase to make free shipping a core part of the Etsy shopping experience.”

Sellers don’t have access to the same level of research as Etsy does, Silverman tells me. They’ll come to the forums and argue that the people buying their wares don’t mind paying shipping. “We talked to all of the buyers,” he says, surely a little hyperbolically, “including the ones who went away. It turns out there’s a lot of them. What we hear is that high shipping prices is one of the top reasons people don’t buy on Etsy. Most importantly, it’s the No. 1 reason they say they’ll never come back.”

The catchphrase that comes up repeatedly in my conversations with Etsy executives is “table stakes.” (A poker metaphor, although it doesn’t mean what it means in poker.) In other words, Amazon has made free shipping the bare minimum for any online retailer to be competitive, a polite way of saying it’s removed a choice. From one angle, if Etsy is forcing its sellers’ hands, it’s just a passing-down of pressure.

“At this point in e-commerce, consumers expect fast and free shipping, and so Etsy really is no exception,” Etsy’s senior vice president of people, strategy, and services Raina Moskowitz says — though, like Silverman, she doesn’t use the word “Amazon” specifically. “The goal is to make sure that we’re driving demand and bringing buyers to our marketplace so that we can drive sales and growth for our sellers’ businesses.” Etsy’s role, as she expresses it, is to bring more people to the site and to assure shoppers that they can trust any one of 2 million strangers with their money.

Yet every day since Etsy announced its intentions to tie search rankings to a seller’s willingness to offer free shipping, dozens to hundreds of confused or angry comments have flooded the site’s seller forums.

“Free shipping forced on us by blackmail is the lowest Etsy has gone to so far!” wrote one seller in July.

“I have a large stoneware bowl that now costs $26 to ship to a nearby zone and $80 to ship to California. Who do I screw over?” another seller wrote in another thread posted the same day. “Do I add $80 to the price and screw over a buyer who lives close to me? Or do I add $26 to the price and take a $50-plus hit on shipping if someone in [California] buys the bowl?” Frustration mounted as Etsy moderators responded to questions like these with canned answers and links to a shipping strategies guide that concludes, “As always, how you determine and set prices for your shop is up to you.”

Kate Kennedy, who started a line of quirky doormats on Etsy in 2014 (she owns the trademark for “Turn off your straightener”) and now makes a living off her brand, says she understands that the company is trying to be helpful and make everyone’s stores more attractive to customers. “I get it, Etsy as a whole needs to be competitive in a marketplace that’s completely shifted toward being convenient,” she tells me. “But it’s a financial issue for people like me whose products are extremely expensive to ship. All of a sudden my items are $10 to $15 more expensive, but I didn’t add any value to justify that pricing.”

The feeling that “free shipping” is a lie comes up often too. Amazon Prime, after all, is a paid yearly subscription. Etsy is “asking their sellers to be dishonest and roll the shipping costs into the total price, which of course means it’s not ‘free’ at all,” says Owen Johnston, who makes about 90 percent of his income selling replica skulls on Etsy but plans to look for a different platform.

The more you stare at the issue, the stranger it looks. Where once the company and its community were one and the same, they’re talking past each other now, both making sense, neither able to meaningfully persuade the other.

“We want to have their back and be by their side through this transition,” Moskowitz says. It’s not as though Etsy has shut down communication with sellers. But the terms of the conversation, many of them say, have shifted, with Etsy adopting an attitude so carefully superior, it ends up being something repugnant to the people who make the company money.

“They have this very condescending tone,” says Abby Glassenberg, who started her Etsy shop in July 2005 and her crafting and business blog While She Naps around the same time. “Like, ‘Don’t worry, we have everything under control, don’t worry your pretty little heads about money.’ It’s very paternalistic.” In addition to the free shipping change, she cites the recent rollout of a consolidated ad platform called Etsy Ads. Rather than selecting themselves how to divide their money between Etsy’s onsite Promoted Listings and offsite Google Shopping ads, the company volunteered to spend sellers’ marketing budgets for them.

Just before Silverman took over, an Etsy executive told Forbes that more than 50 percent of Etsy’s revenue comes from seller services, like its proprietary payment processing system, which takes a fee of 3 percent, plus 25 cents per US transaction (the company made it the mandatory default option in May, removing the option for sellers to use individual PayPal accounts). New advertising options and customer support features in Etsy Plus — available to sellers willing to pay a $10 monthly fee — expand on that.

“It often feels like they’re just trying to sell us more products,” says Jenny Topolski, an Etsy jeweler and a member of the board of directors for the New York Handmade Collective. “It’s almost like a pay-to-play style of business, which I think people feel insulted by.”

The divide between the company and its sellers feels new to her too. “Oh, my god, Etsy was so good to us at the beginning,” she tells me. She remembers monthly workshops, random phone calls asking for feedback on any given idea, invitations to casual catch-up lunches. Etsy continues to fund the collective’s holiday markets — while the collective is now an independent nonprofit, it originated as the Etsy NY Street Team — and lets them use Etsy branding to advertise, but that’s kind of it. “They’re still good to us, but the relationship is like night and day.”

One moment that sticks out in her mind: a tour of Etsy’s new nine-story, 200,000-square-foot offices in Brooklyn’s Dumbo neighborhood, which opened in the spring of 2016. “I remember immediately getting this sinking feeling that none of it was for us,” she says. It didn’t seem like the type of place she could show up for a casual lunch. It was nice that the building was environmentally-friendly, that it was big and beautiful. It was weird that there was so much more security and less crafting, replaced by the sleek lines of a grown-up startup.

“We’re the heart of the company, creating literally all content and revenue,” she says, “and suddenly we weren’t particularly welcome anymore.”

Emily Bidwell joined Etsy as its first head of customer support in April 2006 and left the company as senior merchandising specialist just four months ago. “The mythology is that it must have been wonderful in the early days,” she says. “Yes and no. There were a lot of concerns coming from the community then too. People started their own websites to complain about Etsy.”

As heated as many of the threads about free shipping have been, they’re nothing compared to some of the old blogs, like Callin’ Out on Etsy (which was basically a public burn book about sellers that seemed to be breaking the rules), or Etsy Bitch (which gave Rob Kalin the nickname “Bozo Dick” and regularly oozed with vitriol). Etsy has hardly ever made a decision that didn’t make someone furious, and still — in spite of repeatedpredictions — it has never actually alienated a substantial number of its sellers to the point where they’ve walked away.

When Etsy was founded, there was no such thing as a reliable platform from which to start a small, creative business. There is still not really any other platform from which to start a small, creative business. There are the curated marketplaces of Witchsy or Bulletin, the art-focused print-on-demand site Society6, the Gen-Z-favorite vintage resale app Depop, and, of course, Amazon Handmade, a poorly designed and obvious afterthought, which charges transaction fees as high as 20 percent for some categories. There’s nothing that provides the reach and accessibility of Etsy. You can build an audience on Instagram or Pinterest, or set up a web store with Squarespace or Shopify, but Etsy remains the best place to do both.

The biggest Etsy success stories do tend to line up fairly precisely with the company’s original mission. Before discovering Etsy, Matthew Cummings was a full-time glass sculptor hustling to find enough well-off, art-collecting customers. In 2012, he came up with a simple design for a hand-blown craft beer mug, started off selling 20 glasses a month on Etsy, was featured on HuffPost, and then rocketed up to 200 glasses a month. He was working 80 hours a week and was back-ordered for months for the first two years, but the income he made from Etsy allowed him to hire five people to help with the glass studio, as well as move to the Smoky Mountains and open a brewery. To him, it’s a story of democratizing art: Nobody he knew could actually afford to buy a glass sculpture, but handmade glasses were something that could give people the experience of “quality and soul on a daily basis.”

But the shadow of Amazon looms over him too. He can’t imagine what would happen if he told someone, in 2019, that something they want to buy won’t be available until production catches up in “a few months.” He doesn’t offer 24-hour customer service because he doesn’t think there’s a way to do so that wouldn’t be detrimental to his employees’ health, and some people have not been particularly understanding of that.

“We talk about educating people about handmade, I think it’s also about educating people about good practices for small businesses,” Cummings says. “This isn’t a corporation.”

Cummings, having once depended on the platform almost entirely, now has a sturdier setup that allows him to make his own choices. He’s “empowered,” as we say. About 40 percent of his sales come from the inventory he keeps stocked at his brewery, which makes him less vulnerable to unexpected dips in online popularity. But if a business doesn’t make it to that point, it can stay entwined with tweaks to the search algorithm and homepage design and manufacturing policies and transaction fees forever. This is not so much an Etsy problem as it is the fundamental problem of any online business, on any platform.

“I think the most important thing to focus on for sellers, for small-business owners, is the broader lesson that e-commerce stores can’t put their eggs in one basket,” Kate Kennedy tells me, shuddering when she remembers what happened to everyone who built audiences on Vine. “It’s important to leverage platforms like Etsy that give you passive access to high volumes of new customers. But you have to build it in tandem with properties that you own and have control over.”

To her, Etsy’s growth targets contribute not just to tighter margins for sellers, but also to an unsustainably broad audience for Etsy sellers who are used to catering to a more craft-aware niche. It translates into a whole lot of people buying things on Etsy without understanding exactly what Etsy is.

“My customer interaction at the beginning was so different than it is now,” Kennedy says. “People were much kinder, more flexible, more understanding, and now people are expecting things in two days and asking for coupon codes and free shipping. By cosmetically making it look more like Amazon, there’s a huge disconnect between the customer’s expectations and what the sellers can realistically provide.”

So sellers like Kennedy, who do really well on Etsy, eventually try to move their business onto a personal website. Others develop various off-platform social media presences to serve as a safety net underneath their Etsy shops should they ever need to spin away completely. Vania Scharbach keeps in touch with customers on Instagram, where she can even sell to them directly and run better, more personalized ads. It’s crucial, she says, to get the emails. You have to have a listserv. Etsy can’t allow sellers to export customer email lists, as per the European Union’s GDPR privacy law, even if they were inclined to do something like that. But if you ask people for the emails yourself and you get the emails, you have the emails. You have the customers, and they’re your customers.

Or, she says ominously, Etsy can change the rules overnight and “you can end up with nothing.”

Even Amazon, with all its might, is not a good home for an upset Etsy seller. In October 2017, Amazon expanded its Handmade section with a special category for “gifts.” In September 2018 it launched Amazon Storefronts for small and medium-sized US businesses, mimicking Etsy even more directly. Not really for any apparent reason, other than to seem like an existential threat to Etsy.

“I think I tried it for a few days, and then I was like ‘What am I doing?’ And I closed it. Because I don’t like Amazon, I actively dislike Amazon,” Topolski says. “The actual storefronts are hideous. They’re really unintuitive to use. Terms for the sellers are awful.For all of the things they’ve changed, you still run your own business on Etsy. If you sell on Amazon, you’re working for Amazon. You’re just the same as anyone selling, like, restaurant supplies.”

While we talk, she reminds herself quickly that Etsy offsets all its carbon emissions (Amazon only just announced a goal to offset half of its emissions by 2030); Etsy offers its employees great benefits and pay and parental leave and houses them in an exceptionally eco-friendly building; Etsy’s values align with her own, even when Etsy’s business interests don’t align with her own.

Seventy-sevenpercent of Etsy’s sellers are businesses of one, and 28 percentlive in rural areas, isolated from the urban centers where makers can organize to sell together and where many of the customers for higher-priced handmade goods live. For some, it’s not even solely about money but about validation of their art: knowing that someone out there doesn’t think what they do is worthless.

“Your own website is a lemonade stand in a desert,” Kennedy says. “Etsy is the world’s largest craft fair. Which one do you want to be in?”

Even Rob Kalin, who doesn’t at all believe that Etsy has lived up to the mission statement he set out for it and largely blames himself for failing to keep the company on that path, says that Etsy might have collapsed if he’d succeeded. He is not a businessman.

When Etsy went public in 2015, long after it was first accused of selling out, the paperwork described a company largely still beholden to Kalin’s original mission. “We believe we are creating a new economy, which we call the Etsy Economy, where creative entrepreneurs find meaningful work and both global and local markets for their goods,” the SEC filing read.

“I don’t think anyone realized the state of the business, what it was before Josh came in,” former head of brand and content Alison Feldmann says. “I don’t know if Etsy would still exist today if he hadn’t come in.” Though when Chad Dickerson was fired she found it jarring and upsetting and decided to resign, knowing she couldn’t sign on to work for yet another CEO, after first working for Rob Kalin and believing in his vision and then losing that and then believing in Dickerson and losing his. “Etsy at its worst is still better than so many companies at their best,” she says now. “They try to live their values and help people succeed, and not every company can say that.”

Crafting used to have a kitschy lowbrow reputation, seashells with googly eyes glued on them, Topolski says; people used to think she was stringing beads on dental floss. (This perception is also notoriously gendered, formed by the idea that women’s handiwork is silly and devoid of value.) Etsy changed that by making crafts mainstream. That’s great, and it’s also the worst. Proving that crafts could be big business also meant passing over the niche and the creative and the strange in favor of one dominant aesthetic that could be easily marketed. Topolski has noticed the Etsy aesthetic homogenizing over the past several years, with new sellers copying what they see doing well in other Etsy shops, and big-box stores like Target and Michaels copying them, and a huge wave of customers who don’t really want to dig past the surface for the unique stuff. “It’s like, oh, god, mason jars, twinkle lights, and owls. You know what I mean? I’m an owl fan too. I don’t hate owls. There’s just always owls.”

The beloved “Keep it Weird” blog that Feldmann ran with early brand writer Michelle Traub, featuring products like gargoyle-shaped candles and ceramic planter baby heads, hasn’t been updated since 2012. One seller pointed me to an interview with Etsy chief financial officer Rachel Glaser, which stunned her, because in it, Glaser said that the company is unconcerned when it loses sellers, even high-performing ones, because there are so many people who can come in and make up the lost revenue selling something nearly identical. For people who have invested years of their lives in the platform, it can feel deflating and all-too-unsurprising to type “Namast’ay in bed” into the search bar and see more than 1,300 results. That can look like betrayal, and in a sense, it is.

But Etsy isn’t a tragedy. Etsy is, in many ways, what it set out to be: the best alternative to having no options at all. It set a new standard for what corporations can talk about in public and strive to hold themselves accountable for. You can still buy a crocheted tampon holder, and you can still sell one. What Etsy failed to do is much more abstract and beautiful, which is probably why the people who get the most angry when they talk about it are also the ones who are very sad. “Individuals gain satisfaction from either making or buying handmade products but the transition from individuals to communities to the world is not easy to accomplish,” sociologist Michele Krugh wrote in 2014. Etsy promised to crack apart the system and it could not. Who could?

“It’s just a place to sell now,” Topolski says, delineating her personal relationship with the platform that built her business and helped her find the community that makes up much of her world. “I still think the company is more ethical than a lot of big companies. I don’t feel particularly mushy feelings toward them, you know what I mean? It’s kind of just business. Whereas I used to feel a lot more.”

Ultimate Guide To Etsy Shipping - Getting Started On Etsy... When you are getting started on Etsy, everything seems scary but the worst is understand Etsy shipping procedures!

When you are getting started on Etsy, everything seems scary but the worst is understand Etsy shipping procedures! Should you do your shipping on Etsy (yes), should you ship internationally (yes) or should you go to the post office to do your shipping (no!)

Like every Etsy seller who ever started shipping, I have made my share of mistakes so I will lay them all out here so you don't have to pay for your own mistakes!

I am super lucky to have an Ebay friend so we talk about shipping A LOT and have bounced ideas and great resources that we have found over the years off of each other. You can think of me as that nerdy friend who really cares about a topic that you just need the basics on (until a crisis comes up!)

This post will walk you through EXACTLY how to ship on Etsy!

Update June 2019

In January 2019 the USPS made a change to first class packages, making the pricing zone-able (meaning you get charged more to ship further away0.

Additionally, June 23rd they are going to change the way that they charge dimensional shipping rates…

  • The Dimensional Weight (DIM) divisor for Priority Mail packages over 1 cubic foot (1728 cubic inches) is being adjusted from 194 to 166.
  • Priority Mail parcels in all shipping zones will now receive DIM pricing for packages over 1 cubic foot. Previously, only Priority Mail parcels being delivered to Zones 5-9 received DIM pricing.


What does that mean? You will charged more for larger, heavier items, even ones shipped closer to your home or office.

For me this necessitated the change back to calculated shipping from free shipping which I had offered since October 2019.

If you ship smaller items (under 1 pound) First Class, prices went up in January, just not as dramatically!

This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase anything, I earn a small commission at no extra charge to you. Thanks for your support!

Why You Should Use Etsy Shipping

Etsy has a shipping feature built right into the program! When you get an order you simply click the button that says “Print Shipping Label”.

Etsy Print Shipping Label

It walks you right through all the steps to ship including:

  • Manner of shipping (first class, priority, etc.)
  • Package Type
  • Dimensions
  • Weight
  • Insurance

More about this later!

Etsy Shipping Costs Are Cheaper Than The Post Office

Etsy has negotiated rates with the post office that are lower than regular rates so shipping on Etsy can save you money!

For example, I sent a package the other day to Michigan that was 16″X12″X8″ inches and 2lbs, 10oz). The cost for shipping it “Parcel Select” through Etsy was $9.50.

Doing a quick review of shipping costs on the USPS site it would have been $11.65 for Priority Mail or $11.14 Ground (which is the equivalent of Parcel Select.

So I saved $1.64 on just that one package by using Etsy's shipping. Now that might not sound like that much to you if you are just starting out, but shipping can be a big part of your costs as an Etsy seller!

Track Your Packages

One of my favorite things about the built in Etsy shipping is the they automatically add tracking to the packages. You can “follow along” as the package moves across the country and see where it is (your customer gets this same notification so you don't have to answer a whole bunch of questions about where their packages are!)

Etsy Shipping Tracking

Setting Up Shipping In Your Listing

Having successful shipping starts with making the shipping in your listings “perfect” (for you!) This is because you have to honor the shipping that you quoted when you set up your listing, even if it is A LOT more than what you said.

There are two Etsy shipping options, Manual or Calculated Shipping.

Manual Shipping

The first way you can do shipping is to set up fixed costs manually. While I rarely use this option, it does have its place for some businesses.

Etsy Shipping - Enter Fixed Costs Manually

Say you sell super heavy small items that could fit into a Small Flat Rate Box or Padded Mailer. Your actual cost to ship it in the US would would be about $7.35, but calculated could quote up to $12.50 depending on how far away from your house the buyer is. In this case you would add a manual cost for that item and an additional cost for an extra items they buy.

Or say that people often buy multiples of your items (like if you sell planner stickers) and you need to combine shipping often, doing fixed cost shipping would make sense! In that case you would enter the cost for a First Class Package and then make the cost for additional items $.00.

Fixed Shipping Costs Plus Additional Items

(please note, shipping costs vary, the amount shown is an example only!)

Figuring out the cost to ship Internationally and having fixed costs makes sense too if you only sell one kind of item and it is the same weight and size every time.

Want more Etsy shipping? Check out Etsy Shipping Tips – How To Reduce Your Shipping Costs

Calculated Shipping Costs

Etsy Shipping - Calculated Shipping Costs

For me calculated shipping costs make the most sense (if your listings are set up right in the first place.) Because all my items are different sizes, shapes and weights, doing calculated shipping is the fastest and least scary way to ship.

With calculated shipping, Etsy figures out what the cost should be depending on the item's weight, dimensions and the distance to ship.

Calculated Shipping Weight and Dimensions

Please note, these are for your packaged items! So you need to figure out what sized box you are going to use (if I don't know I generally will add 2″ to each dimension of the item) and how much your item will weigh + the weight of the packing materials. Generally this is how much I add when when accounting for packaging weight:

  • 2oz for a small box, bubble mailer or poly mailer
  • 8oz for a medium sized box
  • 12-16oz for large box with lots of packing

You can also add a handling charge if you think that packing will require special features (sometimes I have large mirrors or pictures professionally packed at UPS).

You can add the cost of your packaging materials or special handling, just remembering that the higher the shipping costs, the fewer customers you might attract.

I feel that the shipping supplies are a cost of doing business and do not charge an extra fee unless the item I am shipping is super hard to pack.

Add A Handling Fee To Your Etsy Order

This “handling fee” does not show up as a line item in the shipping costs shown to the customer.

How To Ship Large Items

Just a quick word about how to ship large items. Make sure that there are not weird cutoffs on pricing for larger sized boxes.

For example, I once shipped an African wall hanging that was going to cost $100+ because the height, width and depth added together put it over the 72 maximum for that level of shipping.

I wound up cutting the box down 2 inches on one side which reduced the cost by at least half.

If you are shipping large items and the cost seems really high, it is worthwhile to fiddle around with using a smaller box to see if you can bring the cost down.

When I started shipping I got a Box Reducer Tool that helped a lot. Now I just do a box cutter to score the cardboard… much less precise but faster for sure!

Shop My Etsy Shipping Supplies

International Shipping

Choosing where to ship to is a really personal thing. I have heard other “Etsy Experts” say that people are stupid for not shipping Internationally, but I think each person should decide how stressful for them that it will be to do!

Customs Form Pouch

That said, the ONLY difference about shipping Internationally is that you will print out 4 customs forms (that you need to sign and date) on plain paper.  You then put them into a customs form envelope from the USPS site and stick them on your box or package. That is it!

I read somewhere that you have to have at least a 10″ box or package to fit the form so if my box is smaller I just use a poly mailer around the box to make it fit!

Which Countries Will You Ship To?

When I started shipping Internationally I shipped to any country. But after doing this for a while I have found that some countries are just not a good fit for me to export to.

Many countries in Europe charge a VAT (Value Added Tax) to incoming shipments. This means that you charge your normal shipping costs, the buyer pays them but then when the package gets overseas they have to pay an ADDITIONAL tax of up to 25% of the cost of the item. For this reason I have stopped offering shipping to Europe.

You can pick and choose which countries you will ship to!

Etsy Shipping - Countries I Will Ship To

Shipping Services You Will Offer

There are six default mail classes and then 2 additional ones that hide underneath the dropdown button.

Shipping Options In Etsy

USPS Priority Mail – I include this option on EVERY size package I ship! If someone wants to upgrade to Priority that is their choice. This gets the package there in 2-3 business days. This includes Priority Mail, Flat Rate and Regional Rates. Find out more about USPS Priority Mail!

On this note, please do not try to make a choice for your customer! Sometimes shipping has cost more than the item and I have still gotten 5 star reviews. You don't know WHY someone wants to buy your piece, give them the choice of how to ship it!

USPS Priority Mail Express – I include this option on EVERY size package I ship! This is the super fast shipping option and generally gets it there overnight-ish. It is quite expensive and I have only had one person ever choose this, but I was happy to get it out fast. You may have to take your package directly to the post office if they absolutely need it the next day.

USPS First Class Package Service – This is for lightweight items (under 16oz) that are smaller than 17″ on their longest side. I uncheck this option if my item weighs over a pound.

USPS Priority Mail International – At this point I generally only ship Priority International except for super low price items. With this option they will generally get their package in less than 10 business days.

USPS Priority Mail Express International – SUPER expensive but gets their package there faster.

USPS First Class International Package Service – This is available up to 4 pounds and takes a LONG time to get to your customer (up to 6 weeks in some cases). For the most part I have stopped offering this as it takes quite a bit of time and turns into a customer service nightmare as the buyer convos to ask when I think it will get there. (I have no idea, tracking ends when it leaves the USA!)

Download Your Free Etsy Shipping Guide

USPS Media Mail – This is for non-commercial books or papers.

USPS Parcel Select Ground – Okay, this one was a mystery to me for the first 6 months I was shipping (I didn't even know it was there behind the dropdown button). Parcel Select is the old parcel post and is a slower, cheaper way of shipping heavy items.

Please make sure you check this if your item is over a pound and under 70 pounds. It also allows for larger packages (up to 130″ combined length, width, height).

The thing about Parcel Select that is the most brilliant though is that it overrides Priority as the cost to ship shown to your buyers. Say you have a heavy item that is 12″X12″X8″ shipped… if you only have Priority checked the cost could be up to $17-ish but if you have Parcel Select to choose from that could drop to around $9 which would make your buyer more likely to buy!

AND when you go to print your shipping label and put in the actual dimensions and weight, oftentimes the cost to bump it up to Priority is only a buck or two!

Definitely make sure you give this as an option with your shipping!

note: you CANNOT use Priority Mail boxes with Parcel Select, you have to provide your own box

Shipping Your Package With Etsy Shipping Labels

So now we are going to start actually shipping your package! This is what the shipping page looks like…

Etsy Print A Shipping Label

So starting at the top, make sure to check that the address the customer gave matches what the USPS thinks it is. Mostly when it says it doesn't match it means that they put “Street” and the USPS wants it to be St. or something like that.

If you need to change it, go ahead and click “edit address” and make any changes necessary.

Etsy Address Matching

Next shows you kind of shipping that the customer selected. In this case they picked USPS 1st Class. The size and shape pulls in from what I input from the listing. You can change the type of shipping if needs be, but this is super handy to have!

Etsy Shipping Type

So next is the dropdown box where you can choose the type of shipping.

Select Etsy Shipping Method

If you pick priority mail you get a number of different other options. I use this a lot when I trying to pick shipping options for heavier items. For example, I might try and calculate costs based on whether it is going in a Regional B box or plain Priority Mail box. The cost calculates automatically as you change your options.

Priority Mail Extra Shipping Options

Now you want to double check that the information that you put in matches how you actually boxed up the package! I weigh each of the items again on the scale with the packaging included. I generally round up to the nearest ounce since I know I will be putting in the packing slip that shows the shipping information!

Package Dimensions and Weight

Package dimensions is a huge factor in the cost of postage. Sometimes reducing the box size by even just an inch can make a big difference in the cost to ship an item. I use a New Carton Sizer Cardboard Box Reducer if I need to cut an inch or so off a box!

For Priority Mail $100 shipping insurance in the US is included and $200 for International shipments. Parcel Select Ground and 1st Class do not include insurance although you can use Shipsurance. It usually costs just a couple of bucks and I generally only add it on high ticket items.

Add Shipping Insurance

That's about it…it really is that easy to send something out!

Etsy Shipping Supplies

When I started selling on Etsy I didn't have all these things so don't freak out and spend a fortune on “stuff” you might never use. Get a few key pieces and then as you make more money you can get more an more things to make your shipping life easier!

If you are just getting started, don't panic, there are just a few Etsy shipping supplies that you need right away… let's say bubble wrap, packing tape and a box or mailer. That is it! The rest of the things that I will mention are “add-ons” and not necessary right away.

Bubble Wrap

Biodegradable Bubble Wrap

The first thing that you will need is bubble wrap. Using a high quality, biodegradable one is good for your shipping and the environment!

I got my first few rolls from Home Depot and had some left over from moving but then discovered you can buy HUGE rolls on the internet for CHEAP!

I got four rolls of the smaller sized, perforated and biodegradable bubble wrap for $43.95 and that lasts a few months. Bubble wrap is the biggest regular expense I have and it is priceless for making sure my items don't get broken in transit.

I get my 3/16″ bubble wrap from the ESupplyStore. 

If you are shipping a lot of breakables you might want to get both small bubble wrap for the inside and then larger bubble wrap for the outside to protect it even more. I tend to just use massive amount of tiny bubble wrap instead.


While it is possible to scavenge boxes, the best way to start your “box collection” is to get them for free from the USPS website. These are ONLY for use when shipping Priority Mail and have seen some sellers who only ship Priority to start because of the free boxes.

Link to the free shipping supplies on USPS

There are three types of free Priority boxes… Flat Rate, Plain and Regional (I will go over all of these shipping types later). But for now, get a mix of these. You can order 10 or 25 at a time or a sampler pack and depending on your storage space, it is better to have more than you think you will need, especially around Christmas time.

Paid For Boxes

Now that I have been in business for a while I KNOW that I will need smaller boxes that I send using first class mail. My two favorite sizes are 8″X6″X4″ and 6″X4″X4″. These are small enough to limit the weight for shipping but sturdy enough to make sure that my items don't get crushed.

I use a company called Value Mailers on Ebay to get my boxes 

I also got a bigger sized box that would hold larger items (even though I still ship them priority). These are 16″X12″X8″ and hold quite large items.

Boxes generally cost between $.50-90 each.


Now you may be selling something that does not need the protection of a box. In that case you can use mailers which are lightweight and sturdy.

Poly Mailers

Poly Mailers

Poly Mailers are Polyethylene, light weight covers for your items. They should cost pennies to buy and it is a really good idea to double bag your items in case they get torn during transit.

Poly Mailers generally cost $.02-$.05 each.

These are great for shipping items like clothes or fabric, shoes and other non-breakables. I also use them when I want to wrap my smaller packages for international shipping or to make them more weather resistant in the winter months.

Padded Bubble Mailers

I use padded bubble mailers ALL THE TIME. Because I ship smaller architectural salvage items, pins and other things that just need a little protection, these are perfect. They are lightweight while still providing an additional layer of protection for my pieces.

I spend a wee bit more and get colored mailers because of my pink branding obsession but you can use plain plastic ones or even craft paper ones (although they may have a trouble during winter weather if you are shipping something that could be damaged by water).

Bubble Mailers generally cost $.50-$75 each.

6″X9″ is a great size for mailers, not to big that they are floppy and not too small to fit anything in. I accidentally bought ones that were 4″X8″ and those are REALLY small and hardly hold anything bigger than a pin or jewelry.

I use a company called Uneeksupply on Ebay to get my pink bubble mailers. 

Tape Dispensers

Heavy Duty Commercial Tape Dispenser

When I was getting started I used the standard “tape gun” that everyone has from moving, but once I got a little more sophisticated about my shipping I started using a heavy duty commercial desktop tape dispenser from Uline.

This lets you use 2″ packing tape just like you would any old regular tape. I think I am just clumsy, but using the old fashioned tape gun resulted in several mishaps of me almost taping myself to my packages. With this kind of desktop unit you can just pull the amount of tape off that you need!

Desktop tape dispensers cost about $20 plus shipping.


When I was getting started I watched the coolest video about shipping done by a warehouse guy and he said something that impacted me so much! Tape is cheap so use lots!

I have taken that to heart and am a maniac about making sure that my boxes are super solid with tape. This is not the place the place to skimp out on.

The company that I got my tape from OVER A YEAR ago is no longer in business, but this is what I got “36 Rolls Box Carton Sealing Packing Packaging Tape 2″x110 Yards(330′ ft) Clear”.

I am not quite half way through my rolls of tape and have never had a complaint about a box being damaged because of tape!

36 rolls of tape was $26.89 so about $.75 a roll.

Sticky Etsy Shipping Labels

Sticky Labels

When you do you your shipping labels through Etsy they make a half page label that you can just print out.

I found these labels early on so never had to go through the hardship of printing labels, cutting them in half and then taping over them to keep them safe. Instead I just print them out on sticky “round corning half sheet labels”.

I got my labels from Ucalfy.

The ones that I got were $26.75 for a thousand, so about $.02 each (SO worth it.) Do NOT get ones from Avery at a big box store, they are like $.17 each!

Hand Stretch Wrap

Okay, this one was a tip from my shipping buddy Tena D! She was staying at my house and kept insisting she had to show me something… hand stretch wrap! Functionally this plastic wrap that comes on a handle and lets you “shrink wrap” your bubble wrapped item.

I thought it was silly, why get this when I had tape BUT come to find out I was wrong. This is my absolute favorite hack for advanced shipping EVER!

I get my hand stretch wrap from Packing Supplies By Mail.

Clean Fill

Clean Fill Etsy Packaging SuppliesClean Fill Etsy Packaging Supplies

The last thing I want to talk about shipping supplies wise is clean fill. Functionally this is the packing material that you crinkle up and put into boxes to “fill” them up.

Most damage to boxes doesn't come from being too full, most comes because the boxes are not completely filling all the space inside.

Clean fill helps to keep your items from banging around inside the box. I have had my roll (I got the tall, skinny 24″ 30 lbs 1420′ Brown Kraft Paper Roll) last year and it is still going strong! That is because I supplement it with clean fill that I get and reuse from inside boxes that come to the house!

I use Value Mailers on Ebay to get my clean fill rolls 

Mailing Your Packages

1st Class Mail

Many of my items get shipped 1st Class Mail in small boxes, poly or padded mailers.

You can ship anything, any size first class mail up to 16 ounces and 34″ long, or 17″ high, or 17″ thick (so quite a big item).

You can also ship International 1st class up to 4 pounds. I find that many of my overseas customers pick this option when they can as it makes the cost MUCH cheaper than sending International Priority.

The USPS doesn't guarantee a delivery time for first class mail, although I find it generally takes 3-5 days to get there.

Tracking is included but insurance is not.

Sign Up For Etsy Get 40 Free Listings

Priority Mail

Many of us start by using Priority mail because it is easiest. You can get the boxes for free from USPS and there is tracking and insurance included.

Generally you should use Priority Mail for any package over 16 ounces (1 pound), under 16 ounces you can use 1st Class postage.

The USPS guarantees delivery in 1 to 3 business days for the United States.

You can go directly to the website and order your boxes and your postman will deliver them right to your door!

There are four types of free Priority Mail… regular boxes, flat rate boxes, regional boxes and padded envelopes.

>> Get all of these boxes, envelopes and stickers for FREE on the USPS website!

Priority Mail Regular Boxes

USPS Large Priority Mail Box

Right off the bat are regular plain jane Priority Mail boxes. These can be used for any area and DO NO have any other “notes” on them besides the size of the box.

My two favorite sizes of these are the 7″X7″X6″ (Priority Box #4)  for smaller items and 12″X12'X8″(Priority Box #7) for larger items.

These are great for when you have something light that still has to go priority because the cost to mail goes higher and higher the heavier your package is.

Flat Rate Priority Boxes

USPS Large Flat Rate Priority Mail Box

For some reason, this is what I thought ALL priority boxes were! When you use a Flat Rate Box weight doesn't matter as you are paying one price for shipping based on size of the item rather than weight.

Each of these boxes clearly states “Flat Rate” somewhere on the box.

You CANNOT use a Flat Rate box that is a better fit and then just do the postage amount for a regular Priority package. Your customer could get a notice that additional postage is due on delivery.

This is the famous “if it fits, it ships” box that you can pack full and as long as it will close with the right shape they will deliver it.

Additional Resource :: How To Use USPS Flat Rate Boxes For Ecommerce

Regional Rate Priority Mail Boxes

USPS Priority Mail Regional Rate Box

This is the most confusing of all boxes! There are two different kinds of these (Regional A and Regional B) and many different sizes.

Functionally, you pay shipping  for these boxes based on weight AND distance.

Regional A's are for lighter heavyweight items and Regional B's are for heavy items.

So if you have a super heavy item but it is being shipped close to you, it would be worth seeing if a Regional B box would be best since the zone would be close and you might not need to pay as much as a Flat Rate would be in this circumstance.

But if you had a lightweight box going far away, this would NOT be the way to go as you would pay big for going a lot of zones away and be missing the benefit of the heavy factor.

Here is a great article on Flipper Tools about Regional Priority boxes if you would like to learn more! It talks about selling on Ebay but has a great explanation!

Priority Mail Padded Flat Rate Envelopes

I know the post office loves us because they made the Padded envelopes that we can use to ship ANY weight item for the same price as the smallest flat rate box (around $6 at the time I am writing this).

These are 9.5″X12.5″ and fit quite a good sized package!

This is great if you have a heavy, weird shaped item or if you have a heavy item that is too big for the smallest flat rate box!

I have found that while there are some things I can ship plain in this mailer, mostly I like having a box to put in there too. The Scotty Stuffer is a box that fits perfectly inside the padded mailer. This added light weight box really does help protect your items.

Your Own Boxes… Duh!

Priority Mail Stickers

This was my biggest “Duh” moment of my whole shipping career. For the longest time I tried to find a USPS box that would fit. If I couldn't find the right box I would do FedEx or some other shipping until I found out that you can use ANY box for Priority (are you freaking kidding me?)

Simply record the measurements and weight and pick Priority Shipping in the Etsy dropdown.

I think that they like if you put a Priority Mail sticker on it to show the postal workers that is a priority package! You can get these for free on the USPS site too!

>> Get all of these boxes, envelopes and stickers for FREE on the USPS website!

Parcel Select Ground

This is another tricky one that I feel like no one told me about (I warned you that I have made mistakes, so many mistakes!)

Parcel Select Ground is what used to be called Parcel Post and is only available when someone purchases online (like they do from Etsy!)

With Parcel Select there is no guarantee of delivery times, although they do give a window of 2-9 days that could be the expected time.

Parcel select is a great option to offer if you have big packages or if you have a heavy item and customers are complaining about the cost to ship it.

You have to use your own boxes for Parcel Select Ground. Tracking is included although insurance is not.

Frequently Asked Questions | Etsy Shipping Tips

I started this page right after I did a talk at a library where almost 30 brand new and potential Etsy sellers peppered me with all kinds of questions about shipping! Hearing their questions I was struck by how much I had learned about Etsy shipping over the years and how much easier I could make the process for them if I just wrote it all down!

Here are some additional questions the gals had about Etsy shipping…

Do you have to use Priority flat rate shipping boxes?

You DO NOT have to use Priority Flat Rate shipping boxes! You can use any boxes you want and then put the Priority Mail stickers on them (free from USPS).

What if the USPS says the address is wrong?

I ALWAYS check and see if the address is right for the shipping label. Sometimes what is “wrong” is just how the address is spelled out, but sometimes the customer will mess up their zip code or other details. If it seems really wrong I will do a Google search to see if I can find them (this fixes it 80% of the time) or as a last resort I will convo the buyer to confirm the shipping address.

Are your packages standard sized?

If your packages are all a standard size it is worth taking the time to find the “perfect” shipping materials like boxes or mailers. Oftentimes you can buy shipping supplies in bulk and save yourself some money.

Are your packages all different sizes?

Because I sell vintage, ALL my packages are different sizes. That said, I was able to find some standard sized packaging that works for a lot of my orders. You will also have to become a “packing ninja” since you will have to learn how to pack all different kinds and shapes of boxes.

Should you just use Priority Mail?

One suggestion I hear often is to just ship Priority Mail. That way all your shipping boxes are free and you get free insurance on every item. While I think this works if your items are over 1 lb., I think you will miss lots of sales if your shipping costs are artificially high due to only shipping priority.

Should you offer free shipping?

This is a personal question. Some people think that offering free shipping will result in more sales. I have found that when I increase the price of the item to cover the this shipping cost I price myself out of the market for the item. I simply make sure that I ship the most cost effective and fair way possible.

Should you ship Internationally?

I think yes! Shipping overseas will help increase the number of sales that you get and since it is so simple it is worth taking the time to figure it out.

Why do things break when you ship them?

I had a mover yell at me one time about how horribly I had packed my boxes. He said things had gotten broken because I hadn't filled all the space in the box. I have never forgotten that and make sure that I use clean fill, air pillows or something else to fill up the empt space in my boxes. Surprisingly enough, a box that is “full” and only slightly bigger than your item provides more protection than big box it can rattle around in.

How can you ship super fragile things?

You should “double box” fragile items. By this I mean to pack it up like normal with bubble wrap, tissue paper, everything just as if you were going to send it out. THEN get a bigger box and put that box inside it and put packing in it to fill it. This “floating” the smaller box in the bigger box will help your item not break if it is dropped or crushed.

Does the post office drop our boxes on purpose?

I toured a mail deliver station with my son's class a couple of years ago and it was so enlightening to see how our packages travel around. They are on conveyor belts, dropping down from as high as 5′ and then in baskets all jumbled up with other packages. Then in the trucks they are piled up with other packages and driven around. So I pack my boxes with the expectation that they will fall off a 5′ cliff!

What if you mess up and the shipping costs A LOT more than you thought it would? Can you ask the buyer to pay more?

Last but not least, what if you messed up the shipping. Maybe you did manual shipping and it cost a lot more than what you put or you did International but had to use a much bigger box so it cost a lot more. Can you go back and cry to the buyer? Nope! I feel like all the times I messed up on shipping were teaching me to do better the next time. It is not my customer's fault that I don't know how to price shipping. Eat it and do better next time!

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About Tara

Tara Jacobsen Tiny Pic

I am Etsy seller with two stores (Paperly People a digital store and Glamorously Vintage where I sell fabulous old finds!) I also sell on Ebay and so have shipping A LOT of items and am finally starting to feel like an old pro.

I started selling on Etsy after we adopted three kids and I needed a job with more flexible time! I LOVE selling on Etsy and would be happy to answer any of your questions that are not already in this guide! tara (at)

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Ultimate Guide To Etsy Shipping & Etsy Shipping Tips…. All my best tips about how to ship your Etsy products. As an Etsy shop owner figuring out shipping is one of the most important parts of your business. Includes packaging, labels, boxes and more!
Ultimate Guide To Etsy Shipping - Getting Started On Etsy... All my best Etsy Shipping tips in one place! Whether you need to know about International Shipping, using Etsy shipping labels, Etsy shipping costs or even shipping LARGE items on Etsy, this post will help navigate the whole Etsy shipping experience saving you time & money!
Ultimate Guide To Etsy Shipping - Getting Started On Etsy... All my best Etsy Shipping tips in one place! Whether you need to know about International Shipping, using Etsy shipping labels, Etsy shipping costs or even shipping LARGE items on Etsy, this post will help navigate the whole Etsy shipping experience saving you time & money!
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Etsy Launches A Same-Day Delivery Service For The Holidays, But It’s Pricey

Everyone wants to offer same-day delivery these days, and apparently, the artisan marketplace Etsy is no exception. Today, Etsy announced the debut of a new pilot program called Etsy ASAP, which allows Etsy shoppers on web and mobile the ability to request same-day and next-day deliveries from sellers in the New York City metro area, for an additional fee.

The deliveries themselves are being handled by logistics company Postmates, but the cost for this sort of instant gratification is a bit steep: Etsy says that its ASAP deliveries will require a flat fee of $20.

That’s a lot more than, say, Amazon Prime Now, which charges nothing for two-hour delivery windows and just $7.99 for a one-hour delivery time frame. Meanwhile, Google Express offers free same-day deliveries on eligible orders, though there are order minimums required ranging from $15 to $35 (the latter for two-hour delivery windows). Postmates itself, meanwhile, offers one-hour deliveries that start at $5 and are determined by distance, along with a 9 percent service fee.

Meanwhile, UberRUSH also just this month officially launched in NYC, San Francisco and Chicago, offering same-day deliveries for around $5 to $7, the company said. 

Etsy declined to detail the terms of its partnership with Postmates. However, the company did say it’s only collecting the standard fee of 3.5% on the listing price from sellers.

With the plethora of lower-cost alternatives, it’s unclear if there will be high demand for same-day Etsy merchandise, or if shoppers will simply turn to other, less expensive services to fulfill their need for last-minute gifts.

How It Works

To use Etsy ASAP, shoppers choose the new ASAP option at checkout and then select from three-hour delivery windows. (For orders placed after 7 PM, delivery is scheduled for the next day.)

Unlike Amazon with its Flex program, Etsy is not hiring a contractor workforce to handle its deliveries, but has instead integrated Postmates’ API into its website and mobile application. This allows Etsy sellers to adjust their pick-up availability on the fly, the company notes.

When sellers receive an order, they can request a pickup from their Orders page on Etsy, and then Postmates dispatches the nearest courier to fulfill the delivery. Sellers can also track the progress of the delivery from the time the item is picked up to when the package reaches the customer.

But because sellers themselves can control which products are available for ASAP delivery and when, Etsy notes that the actual product selection will change throughout the trial period.

At launch, Etsy says there are more than 5,000 products available for Etsy ASAP. That’s a very small percentage of the 32 million products that are currently for sale on the online marketplace, according to the data tracked on the Etsy homepage.

Screen Shot 2015-10-26 at 2.08.13 PM

To some extent, that’s because Etsy ASAP is in pilot testing, but another factor is the limited delivery area. The Etsy sellers offering ASAP delivery are based in the NYC area, and shoppers can take delivery in Manhattan, parts of Brooklyn, and Queens.

To find items that are eligible for this faster delivery service, Etsy shoppers will be able to visit a dedicated site featuring the available products,, where they’ll find products like Halloween costumes, last-minute gifts, jewelry, housewares and more. They can also use new filter options on both desktop and mobile to display only Etsy ASAP merchandise when searching for products.

The launch of Etsy ASAP is an extension of the marketplace’s recent efforts at engaging more directly with local sellers. The company earlier introduced Etsy Local on mobile, which helps shoppers find nearby sellers with stores, or even those who are just exhibiting at a local craft fair or flea market, for example.

However, unlike Etsy Local, Etsy has not decided whether ASAP delivery will become a permanent feature – the pilot program was briefly tested internally and will only run through the holiday shopping season, the company says. Afterwards, Etsy will listen to feedback from buyers and sellers to determine if it wants to continue to support this delivery option.


Wow, that's cutting it close!! I'd find out from your Fedex drop off location what time you would have to have the package there by and if it would make it there by Christmas eve. It looks like there may be a special handling fee for overnight on Dec. 22.

Here's info from Fedex's website: Saturday, December 22, 2018
• Saturday pickups are available for FedEx First Overnight®, FedEx Priority Overnight®, and FedEx Standard Overnight® shipments in our A1, A2, AA, A4, A5, and AM primary service areas for a special handling fee. Saturday pickups are also available in select ZIP codes in A6 and PM service areas. Saturday dropoffs are available at various convenient locations. Find one near you at
• FedEx SmartPost will make deliveries, but not pickups • FedEx Ground and FedEx Freight unavailable
Sunday, December 23, 2018
• FedEx Office will close by 6 p.m.
• FedEx Express, FedEx Ground, FedEx Home Delivery, FedEx SmartPost, and FedEx Freight unavailable
Monday, December 24, 2018
• FedEx Express stations, on-call pickups, and drop boxes will be closed in some areas
• FedEx Office will close by 6 p.m.
• FedEx Home Delivery and FedEx Freight unavailable

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Shipping etsy overnight

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They went into the room.

Etsy Print On Demand Shipping Profiles Tutorial 💻 PRINTFUL \u0026 PRINTIFY

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