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Buy this, not that!

Etsy under assault by Asian knock-offs

Etsy has been a great resource for creative types looking to sell their handmade wares online, but be careful what you buy on there -- that charming "handmade" item might actually be an Asian knock-off constructed in a factory.

As reported by the Daily Dot, Etsy's marketplace is being filled with mass-produced items from Asian factories -- specifically sellers who buy them in bulk, then resell them at low prices while passing them off as handmade.

It's an ugly situation that undercuts Etsy's business model, along with the sellers who really are making handmade items and have to compete with the lower prices and higher production runs of these knock-off items.

This has been a controversial issue for Etsy for the last several years, with the now-defunct site Regretsy even pointing out how Etsy has promoted "Featured Sellers" who were actually selling knock-off items as handmade. Members of Etsy's online community have made a point of calling out these "resellers," but it's extremely difficult to monitor the sheer number of shops on Etsy. The site has procedures for monitoring and suspending questionable sellers, but this is still an imperfect process.

Buying from Etsy can be a hit and miss prospect, with some sellers inexperienced in meeting product demand or fulfilling orders. But it also represents a real opportunity for people creating art on their own to introduce and sell their work to a marketplace outside their immediate community, and in some cases do what they love for a living.

The full details of the investigation into Etsy's shops in the Daily Dot's article are fascinating, and make it clear that this problem is only going to get worse. However, that doesn't mean that it's worth abandoning Etsy altogether. Carefully look at the details for the items sold, the information about the sellers, and most importantly, any positive feedback that they have already received.

Etsy's helped bring the marketplace of craft fairs and flea markets online, but just like those places, it pays to be smart about what you're buying.

Photo: Lindsay Maizland