My name is Bethany, and I am an Etsy seller (etsy.com/shop/theripeword) and writer (bethanysuckrow.com).
I'm opening this discussion thread because I'm concerned about the ethics behind "cause" crafters, e.g. Etsy sellers that sell items related to a charity cause. I read a blog earlier today (pinkgoose.wordpress.com/2012/10/10/oh-for-fks-sake-etsy/) that revealed that an email Nicole Smith sent to Etsy users over the weekend, "Tickled Pink" (www.etsy.com/mailinglist/email/TkJzek1URFN0V0d3eXcySjlSTjl1MzZWZWRP...) linked to a bunch of Etsy sellers that sport the pink ribbon for breast cancer awareness without actually donating to the cause.
I've been debating about closing my Etsy shop for awhile, partly because of time constraints and partly because my reasons for opening the shop have changed. Today, I officially decided to close my shop, thanks to that blog post and email.
You see, the reason I opened my Etsy shop, aside from my love for watercolor painting and the attractive prospect of making money from it, was to donate 50% of my proceeds to my mother's medical bills. It started when I made a few paintings for a benefit auction that her church planned, and when friends and family saw my work, they encouraged me to sell it online. I decided to use my work to honor my mother, who was in her final months of life. Friends and family that knew and loved her bought my paintings to support us, but also to keep in remembrance of her friendship and her bravery. It wasn't much of a donation, but it was a small and profound token of our gratitude for her, and all she meant to us. It was my way of saying thank you to a woman that had a deep influence on my life, not just because she raised me, but because she taught me what it means to be a survivor.
Maybe you can begin to see why it is so deeply frustrating to have discovered that the majority of items listed in your "Tickled Pink" email, while sporting the pink "breast cancer awareness" ribbon, do not actually donate funds to the cause they tout.
It is infuriating enough that corporate America has emblazoned pink ribbons all over pretzel bags and t-shirts and coffee mugs when the actual portion of profits donated through those products are low or nonexistent, but I expected more from Etsy. I know Etsy can't necessarily police each of their sellers, but when the whole point of the pink ribbon was to earmark donations for the cause and the independent sellers aren't actually doing it, then Etsy is turning the cause of breast cancer awareness into nothing more than a trend of appearing generous and aware, rather than actually caring for those in need. It proves our point for those of us that have suspected for a long time that Etsy is so corporate that "independent" is hardly an appropriate word anymore. It is the same old corporate crap that we have been trying to avoid by supporting independent businesses in the first place. It is unethical, disrespectful, dishonest. It is wrong. As a daughter that just lost her mother to breast cancer, and as an Etsy seller that actually donated a portion of my profits to a breast cancer patient, I am deeply offended by Etsy's choice not just to host these sellers, but to celebrate them in their dishonesty.
What's more, I find Nicole Smith's twitter reply to Jane and Acacia (the metastatic breast cancer patient that blogged about it and asked you to be accountable for your actions) absolutely deplorable. "Thanks so much for bringing this to my attention. Always appreciate the feedback on how to improve & grow."
Is that all you have to she has to say for herself? I sincerely hope not. I sincerely hope that if any of you and your loved ones are ever diagnosed with a terminal illness, that you take a moment to think about how you would feel if a company or an independent artist used your misfortune to reap millions of dollars in profits by turning it into a trendy craft purchase without ever donating any money or lending a helping hand.
Can we please address this issue? It's already salt in the wound for me, but it would be even worse if it's never addressed and made right.