Sunday, September 23, 2012

Thanks... I guess?

Hello Polite Readers!

This week's column is very special, because I have an actual letter to respond to, rather than a quest to address a broader topic! Oh happy day! My Etsy teammate Melissa of Rainwater Studios sent me this message:

 Hey AJ ~

Thanks for taking this on! I haven't responded because I wasn't sure what to say, I've never gotten a message like that before.
Here is the convo that this person sent to me, I love how she threw in the "special discount" to Etsy owners. ;D


Hey Melissa!
These earrings are gorgeous. FYI the completely correct description would be verdigris patina - versus turquoise patina.
I found your item in a treasury that featured one of my items as well.
I am favorite-ing your item.
this means it will show up on my fb.
good luck!
If you ever want any of my items, I will give a fellow etsy shop owner a discount.

Thanks again AJ,

Faery wishes,

Around this time is when I realize I should have come up with a catchy moniker for myself, like Dear Abby or Dear Prudence or Dear Sugar, but you know, I already have a real name and a stage name, do I need a third identity? AJ it is.

So, this letter represents a very special sort of message which Melissa says that she gets as many as four times a week, and has seen others complaining about on the forums. It's the "Sales pitch masquerading as a compliment." But this one has a very special twist -- advice on how to improve her listing!

The only thing worse than unasked for advice is bad advice. Melissa knows what she wanted to say. She wanted to say turquoise patina. I think we can all agree that verdigris patina is actually a little redundant. Verdigris is a type of patina. It would be like saying copper metal or bread food.

I've already responded to Melissa privately because I didn't want her to have to wait all week to respond. This is what I said to her:

So, you're well within your rights to just. not. respond. But if you want to sweetly acknowledge her note and politely let her know that you do actually know how to use your words, I'd recommend something to the point,


Thank you for your note. I'm glad you like the earrings, I think they're just gorgeous and I was happy to see them included in that treasury.

While I appreciate your concern about my item description, I really do mean 'turquoise patina.' I find that most people associate verdigris with the lovely green color of aged copper, whereas these earrings have a definite turquoise blue hue that is really unusual and beautiful. I wanted to play that up.

Have a nice day!

Note that I did not address her offer of a discount, because it's just so beyond ridiculous. Much like traditional etiquette suggests that everyone politely ignores a belch at dinner, my brand of Etsy etiquette politely ignores silly spamming.

This whole message has an odd note of self-congratulations. "Look at me, I am smarter than you, I am politely telling you how to write your description. I was so kind as to add your item to my favorites so that all of my FB friends will see it! I am so invested in your success, all because you were lucky enough to be in the same treasury as me!" She lays it on a bit thick. Believe me, if I sent a convo like that every time I added something to my favorites, I wouldn't have time to write this blog.

Of course, it's really just a way to advertise yourself by trying to skirt around the Etsy rules. Oh no, it's not an unsolicited advertisement! I'm telling her how much I like her item! I'm helping her with her description! I just happened to mention that I give discounts to Etsy shop owners (ie, most of the Etsy population), and if she happens to buy something because of that, well, that clearly was not my intention! I was just being friendly.

If you're an Etsy seller and you're reading this, here's my advice to you. Don't do this. Just don't. Remember that time is money, and the time that you spend sending personalized "Oh, I like your item! Like me too!" messages could be spent creating new things. In the meantime, invest in some cheap advertising on Facebook or Project Wonderful or by sponsoring a blog. You'll reach more than one person at a time and you won't look like a pedant for correcting someone's actually accurate description.

That's all for this week. Remember that you can E-Mail Me if you would like your own Politely Worded reply to a ridiculous message.


  1. A big thank you to you AJ for the advise. It really helped. ;D

  2. You're welcome! I'm glad it helped!