Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Pretend that you care . . .

This post is not directed at any of the professional vintage sellers that I've known over the years, and it's not really meant to offend anyone, but I'm sure that it will. It's just been bugging me as a buyer of vintage clothing, so think of this post as feedback from someone who buys and wears vintage.

I'm tired of being disappointed with purchases on etsy and ebay. Either the items are not properly described or they are shipped poorly, and customer service is lacking.

Recently I bought 2 raincoats from a seller on etsy. She charged me $13 for shipping. They came crammed together in a tyvek envelope, no bag, actual shipping cost was $7.80.
I emailed to let her know that I was happy with the coats but not with the way they were shipped. Her response was that she is busy, and doesn't have time to take care with shipping and that I could just fluff the coats in the dryer to get out the wrinkles. My response was that it's not about the wrinkles, handling and shipping is part of the job of selling vintage. I see poor handling and I think this seller doesn't really care about what she's selling or her customer. I'm not asking for glitter, tissue and ribbons. Just basic, safe secure shipping. If you don't have time to take care with shipping, then you're only doing half the job.

I bought a jacket from another seller with shoulder and bust measurements listed. The jacket arrived and it turns out to be a child's jacket, size marked right on the label, never mentioned in the listing. I told her that I liked the jacket, but she should have mentioned it being a child's size because a child's jacket is cut differently than a women's jacket.
She replied that she included all the measurements (shoulder and bust) and thought that was fine, she did offer to give me a discount off my next purchase with her. No thanks. The jacket does fit me, but it's a little snug across the upper back (because it's a child's jacket) When I washed it, I stretched it and hung it to dry, it would have ended up too small for me if it had gone through the dryer.
This is just 2 recent examples, I'm not even going into the items that I received with flaws and smells. And don't tell me that vintage just naturally has a 'Vintage Smell' - if you wash it, it doesn't smell. I love it when people try to educate me about vintage and what I should expect when buying it. I've handled over 25,000 pieces of vintage over the past 12 years, I know what to expect. Just be honest and tell me about it before I decide to bid/buy.

Am I supposed to just 'make do' or just suck it up with purchases like this? Am I being too picky? I don't treat my customers that way. As a buyer, why should I settle for less?

I know there are some 'vintage' sellers out there who thought it would be fun and easy to buy cheap stuff at the thrift store and take pictures of themselves or their friends wearing the items to make $$ on ebay and etsy. Most of these sellers have no prior knowledge of vintage - the dating and pricing on alot of things on etsy is laughable. And it's obvious that many have no knowledge on how to run a business that keeps customers coming back.

So my advice to those sellers, while you are riding the Vintage Train, before you move onto the next popular thing, is to 'Pretend that you care' - Pretend that you care about the item that you are selling and about your customer and whether they will be happy with the whole transaction and possibly think about buying from you again. This is your own business, how lucky are you to be able to have your own business! Do it right, do it well.


Diana said...

Carol, I think you're preaching to the choir, but great points. I used to ship everything in a box, with great care. With Ebay's emphasis on cheap or free shipping, I now ship almost everything in a Tyvek. It saves those all important $2-3 dollars so the stars are higher. But I cringe at how some of the items must look when they arrive. I know I received a Tyvek package that looked like it had been run over, and I doubt that is rare.

tiddleywink said...

Carol, I'm one of those vendors on etsy who sells vintage, but doesn't "specialize" in it. I sell my items at a fraction of the prices I've seen, simply because I know I don't have the deep knowledge required to identify unmarked pieces. I do, however, have a deep, long-standing love for vintage, and have been an amateur collector for 20+ years. I try to write descriptions that are accurate, and I make no claims that I don't feel confident in. Each listing takes a startlingly long time to photograph, scrutinize, investigate, and compose. Like you, I've seen too many inaccurate listings written by folks who haven't done their research, but I've been lucky in that most of what I've bought online has been exquisitely packaged. And whenever I open something shipped so well, it is not only like opening a present, but inspiration to provide that same feeling to my customers. I hope that I never let a customer down.

Carol@Dandelion Vintage said...

The tyvek isn't my problem. I realize that ebay sellers are held hostage by those stars. And for something small and inexpensive, I would want it shipped cheaply in small packaging.

I ship internationally in tyvek or padded envelopes to keep the weight/shipping cost down. But I buy tyveks that are big enough for the items to fit comfortably into.

These coats were rolled up and crammed into the bag. The $5 savings that was made from shipping them in a tyvek rather than a box (or at least a tyvek that was the right size) went into the seller's pocket.

Meg said...

I stopped buying from sellers that I don't know on ebay because I was fed up with being ripped off. I ended up with so many items that had flaws that weren't mentioned in the descriptions. Holes and stains are not something I want to find when I open my package. Just because its vintage doesn't mean I should expect small imperfections that sellers are too lazy to mention in the listing. and I don't want to be told that stains might come out at the dry cleaners after I already paid for it expecting it to be stain free. And when you contact sellers they ignore you or take several emails to get a response from.

Ms. B said...

I'm an Etsy seller and I try my best to list any and all flaws that are on an item because most vintage items do come with flaws. I've also been an Etsy buyer longer than a seller and I've had my fair share of opening up the package only to find moth holes and stains that weren't mentioned. Such a terrible thing to find when you're a collector of vintage cardigans.

I think as long as vintage is "in" we're going to have sellers that just don't give a rat's butt what about what they are selling and are only doing it for the money, not because they love what they are doing.

There are so many things I've come across at thrift store that were genuinely vintage but were in pretty bad condition so I left them there. I didn't want to buy them, pass them off as in even good condition only to have a frustrated and disappointed customer like a lot of sellers do.

Also, as a side note, I wanted to mention that because I would rather ship in boxes and make sure that the item is somewhat protected in shipping and USPS prices have gone up, I take a hit in shipping, I often end up charging less for shipping than it actually is. A lot of customers don't realize that costs have gone up and aren't willing to pay for the increase anyway. Oh the trials of being an Etsy seller!

propriatress said...

yes, what meg said. Thanks for writing on this subject...the good sellers know that you aren't talking about them (tho we can all make a mistake, and when we do, we fix it!)...
but yes, the Quick Buck Artists...and the random seller of vintage clothes, each, who don't know vintage, and don't want to learn anything, are certainly a drag for the rest of us who take pride in our work, who are constantly learning, and want to learn from mistakes and those things we do that don't work.

Tyvek is a great alternative for holding down shipping costs. Wrapping in plastic (recycled) and then, in nice recycled tissue/wrapping paper or a clean paper bag with a recycled ribbon and small note or a business card, takes only a few minutes...about 4 minutes is my average time to "dress" up a package. It can make a difference.
I will never forget the simple dress I bought on ebay years ago that was wrapped in shiny foil paper! It was like opening a present!

If a seller makes a mistake, own it and fix it.
There is no excuse for laziness or fraud when typing out a description. Tell the truth or ...don't let the vintage screen door hit your heiney on the way out..of the vintage business.

andapanda said...

Well said Carol.

ZipZapKap said...

Well said. There is nothing more frustrating to me as a buyer than to complain about poor service and receive an excuse that "I'm too busy"

If you're too busy to treat me right, I'm too busy to give you my money.

My own shipping practices are informed by too many bad experiences as a buyer. I'm stunned by the number of people who think they can stuff a vintage pattern in an envelope and have it magically survive the journey cross-country or cross-world unscathed.

My patterns are sealed in a reusable plastic sleeve, backed with card and shipped in a bubble mailer. If I don't receive the same care when I purchase, I don't shop there again.

maddy said...

I have to agree with Carol, there seems to be a new breed of ebay seller- one that does not care. ebay drove off all the vintage sellers trying to earn a living years ago. Having my own website, we do many things to make our customers happy - including free shipping and a money back guarantee.
So, roll the dice at ebay or etsy, or buy from sellers (like yourself) that care.