Etsy is an amazing forum to interact with vendors. 90% of the vendors are working from home, on their free time from their normal jobs and lives. Most don't have business licenses or are registered with the state they operate in. There are an immense amount of sellers who are amazing, but for every 5 good sellers there is a bad seller.
As an invitation designer I want to give you guys a list of things to do when purchasing invitations from etsy. This is to protect you from the bad invitation vendors:
1. SAMPLES: Always order a sample, even if the sample is 10 dollar. This sample will show you the quality of their work, paper, etc. If possible order the exact sample of the invitation your ordering. This may mean that your going to order 2 samples or order the sample after the design process.
2. PROOF: Always work with a proof. Do not pay for anything other than a design fee until you verify the proof. Once proof is OK'd by you then make the full payment for the remainder of the invitations. Most experienced designers request a deposit or a design fee. This is to start the proof process. Then payment for the full invite order is required after acceptance of the proof.
3. VERIFICATION: After verification of the proof. Print out the PDF and the email of you saying that is final. This is to protect you if s/he changes anything.
4. PRODUCTION TIME: Verify production times, if they say it will be 2-4 weeks, and your on week 5. Contact them immediately for an update. Most good sellers will keep you updated throughout the process. But don't start emailing the designer on week 1 of production when they say 4 weeks.
5. SHOP POLICIES: Work with a designer/shop that has shop policies and always read the shop policies before purchasing. Shop policies are to protect the seller and the buyer and are essential on etsy since there are no contracts.
6. ISSUES: If you not happy with their work, first contact the seller directly, then contact etsy if the seller won't cooperate. Once etsy is contacted to do not contact the seller any more, do everything through etsy.
7. REVIEW: Good or bad please review the sellers. Reviews are key to knowing how that seller is. Chances are if you leave a bad review your probably not the first one unhappy with them, the other brides just didn't review them.
There are also etsy groups that moniter their sellers. There is a Knottie/Nestie group of previous brides and a Wedding Group. http://team.etsy.com/teams.html You can't be in these groups unless you were a good seller.
Just as with buyers having bad sellers, sellers have bad buyers. Most brides don't even realize they are doing it but here is a breakdown of some complaints of certain types of brides. As a bride myself, working with other brides have made me aware of the type of bride I want to be.
Here are the most common complaints of types of brides sellers work with:
1. THE NICKEL AND DIMER BRIDE: They want the lowest price for the top product. If you can't afford the 7.00 pocketfold, then get the 5.00 panel pocket or 3.00 panel invite. You can always find someone to do it for cheaper on etsy. Be weary of some those sellers. Prices normally are reflective of the quality of work you will receive and also are reflective of experience doing invites.
**MORAL- Order the invite you can afford and is within your budget, if you can't afford the one you want then move on to a different seller or a different invite type. But always order a sample.
2. THE LAST MINUTE BRIDE: Example: Invites need to be mailed by December 15, 2009. Contacted the seller regarding working with them on September 1, 2009. Pays design/deposit on September 15th. Seller makes proof by September 20th. Then asks for any changes. Doesn't hear from buyer until November 15th. Buyer has 15 changes to the proof over 2 weeks. Pays for full invite order on December 5th. Expects invitations by December 10th. Seller does everything possible to make 200 invitations by December 10th (5 days away). Seller gets invites out on the 10th, doesn't even get a "Thank you we got the package" from the buyer.
**MORAL- Respect the sellers time frame. Also make sure you give yourself plenty of time to work on your invitation proof. On average it takes about 2 weeks for a perfect proof, then 2-4 weeks for printing and assembly. Plan early, it doesn't hurt. If you are in a RUSH please be responsive to the seller, respond within 24 hours to the proof changes and payment requests.
3. MULTIPLE EMAIL BRIDE: Example: A custom map design is done for a bride. The seller sends the map and asks if she needs any changes. Then within the next two hours the seller receives 22 emails with a different change in each one. This clogs email inboxes and allows for changes to fall through the cracks.
**MORAL- Go through your proof write down your changes. Have someone else go through your proof. Then email the seller with all the changes in 1 email. Normally 1 email per proof is what is wanted by the designers.
4. DISCOUNT BRIDE: This has been a complaint from multiple sellers. The buyer threatens to leave a bad feedback if they don't receive a discount or a refund. The seller issues refund or discount. THe buyer then comes back for more work. Clearly the buyer wasn't as unhappy with the product to begin with if they come back for more. This hasn't happened to me but I know at least 4 reputable sellers with amazing quality products that have had this happen to.
**MORAL- If your unhappy with the product and the seller refunds you. DO NOT purchase from them again. If the seller doesn't refund you and you have evidence that the product was not what you ordered then contact etsy. Only ask for a refund when the product was a mistake by the seller, not if the mistake was on your part.
5. NO THANK YOU BRIDE- Please notify your seller that you receive your product ordered. They want to know if you like them and if you actually received them. Just a simple "Thank you, we received the invites" is enough. If your not happy with them please contact and tell the seller the problem. If the seller is new they need to know the compaints to help improve their product.
**MORAL- Notify seller that you received the product. If you have the 2 minutes to leave feedback... LEAVE FEEDBACK!
*I don't want to offend anyone from the "types of brides" part but these are reoccuring problems that many sellers face and talk about with each other.
Hope this helps!