Etsy has long been a popular online marketplace known for its handcrafted jewelry, vintage clothing, and one-of-a-kind products. However, in recent years, some sellers have started using the platform to resell marked-up mass-produced goods you can find for cheap on online marketplaces like AliExpress, Amazon, or Taobao.
While Etsy has made some progress in suspending these dropshippers and non-handmade sellers, it’s become increasingly difficult for conscientious shoppers to identify and support genuine sellers.
Luckily, we’re here to help. Here are some key tips and tricks to keep in mind when navigating Etsy’s platform in search of unique handmade items.
What is Dropshipping?
Dropshipping is a business model where sellers accept customer orders without handling inventory themselves; instead, products (typically not designed by the seller) are shipped directly from a supplier or manufacturer.
While Etsy’s policies do not explicitly ban dropshipping, it’s a major contributor to the influx of mass-produced non-handmade items on Etsy — in fact, all over the internet are guides on how people can use dropshipping on Etsy to make a quick buck or create a passive income stream.
What is Print-on-Demand?
Print-on-demand (POD) allows sellers to sell customized products without holding inventory. Unlike dropshippers, POD sellers do design their own products; however, third parties and manufacturers fulfill each order directly.
While print-on-demand is a great way to eliminate inventory waste, buyers often report poor quality — after all, sellers don’t have the opportunity to conduct quality checks.
7 Tips for Avoiding Dropshippers on Etsy
Analyze product photos carefully
A picture speaks a thousand words, and this is especially true when trying to avoid dropshippers and non-handmade items on Etsy. Genuine handmade products often exhibit slight variations, unique details, and imperfections, while mass-produced items tend to appear flawless and uniform.
Beyond poring over each product photo, consider performing a reverse image search:
- Right-click on the product photo you want to verify
- Select “Search Image with Google”
- Scroll through the results to see if the product appears in other stores or marketplaces
If you find the same image associated with different sellers, it’s probably non-handmade or dropshipped.
A quick reverse search (on the right) shows that this item on Etsy is dropshipped on Aliexpress
Look at other product photos from the seller
Another telltale sign of dropshipped or print-on-demand items is the repetition of product photos with different designs. POD sellers often use a single base product image and digitally superimpose various designs with Photoshop. For example, the seller might offer a dozen different colors for the same piece of apparel — except every image is identical, with just the apparel color changing.
An example of a print-on-demand store
Often, the apparel will look fake because the wrinkles, shadows, or lighting don’t align with the rest of the image.
Read multiple customer reviews
Etsy’s default “suggested” review always displays five-star reviews first. So, we suggest sorting by “most recent” instead and reading customer reviews beyond page one. Look for comments that specifically mention the handmade nature of the item and the customer's satisfaction with the craftsmanship.
Be warned: some Etsy sellers will refund unhappy customers who change their one-star review to five-star. Always read the actual text in the review rather than simply eyeing the star rating.
An example of a poor review with a five-star rating
Check out product descriptions
When browsing Etsy listings, pay close attention to product descriptions and titles. Genuine handmade items are often accompanied by detailed narratives about the maker's creative process, the materials used, and the product's unique qualities.
Comparatively, sellers who dropship or use print-on-demand services may have generic or cookie-cutter descriptions that lack the personal touch and craftsmanship associated with handmade goods. Worse yet, some just dump a wall of keywords to help their listings’ SEO.
Consider pricing and inventory
If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. While it's not a foolproof method, pricing and quantity can provide clues about the authenticity of an item. Handmade products often require time, effort, and specialized skills, resulting in higher prices than mass-produced alternatives.
If a listing offers an abnormally low price for a seemingly intricate item, it may be a red flag. Similarly, if a seller has an extensive quantity of identical items, it's worth investigating further to ensure they didn’t simply dropship it.
Pay attention to shipping times
Dropshipped items are often sourced from overseas suppliers, meaning they tend to have longer shipping times compared to handmade products.
An example of a very long delivery time
If you come across a listing with an unusually extended delivery period or a disclaimer mentioning international shipping, it might indicate that the item is dropshipped from Aliexpress or Temu.
Check out their social media presence
Genuine Etsy sellers who are passionate about their craft and committed to their handmade products often put effort into social media marketing. So, take a moment to search for the seller's accounts on platforms like Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, or Twitter.
In particular, look for signs of authenticity, such as behind-the-scenes images, work-in-progress shots, or glimpses into their creative process.
What To Do When You Find a Dropshipped or Non-Handmade Item on Etsy
If you do come across a clearly dropshipped or non-handmade item on Etsy, consider clicking on the "Report this item to Etsy" button in the bottom right corner of the product page:
Reporting these listings helps maintain the integrity of the platform, ensures that genuine handmade products receive the love they deserve, and discourages low-quality dropshippers from flooding the platform.
Support Handmade Small Businesses
While truly handmade treasures still exist on Etsy, they’re not easy to find. With these tips, you can better avoid dropshipped and non-handmade items on Etsy, enabling you to make informed purchasing decisions that support independent sellers.
Psst: This is probably obvious, but everything in our store is 100% handmade! Find the perfect gift for you and your loved ones today.