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The Time I Got Negative Feedback

A common fear among Etsy sellers is receiving negative feedback. I see it brought up often in threads and groups I follow. That dreaded 3, 2 or even 1 star rating that most likely came out of a misunderstanding that you weren’t given the chance to amend. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? Will it ruin your business’s reputation? Will it scare potential customers away?

I want to tell you a story.


Back in August, I went on vacation. My shop was closed for 19 days. Being a small business owner, putting your online shop into “vacation mode” can be scary in itself. What if you lose potential customers? What if there’s a customer issue that you can’t be immediately available to help with? What if you lose your SEO ranking? Common concerns. I felt all of these things the day I put my shops into vacation mode to enjoy a family trip to Italy.

The morning I put my shop in vacation mode I took my dog to the doggy camp she would be staying at while I was gone. If you follow me on Instagram, you know my dog is extremely important to me. She is a very anxious little girl and I could see worry in her face as I dropped her off FOR NINETEEN DAYS. I felt awful and admittedly shed some tears as I headed back to my car. I was using my phone to map out my drive home when I saw an Etsy conversation come through. Despite being on vacation mode, the conversations can still be received.

I, of course, immediately looked at the e-mail and found a complaint from a buyer about an order not being received. When I clicked on her order to investigate the situation I saw that she had already left me feedback. A one-star rating.

Of course, I refunded her, and apologized for the issue (an incorrect shipping address was supplied, mind you). But I sat stewing over that feedback. Here I was, crying over my dog, about to get on a plane to fucking Italy and now I had this nagging in the back of my mind.

“Should I publicly respond to her feedback?” “Why didn’t she give me a chance to amend the situation?” “Ok, I’m not going to respond.” “She was a repeat customer! She should know customer service is important to me!” “Maybe I should respond, so other people will know I care.” “Will someone see that feedback and be scared away from my shop?”

I can tell you I probably thought about that feedback every single day while I was in Italy.

When I came home from our trip, I sat down at my computer to make a final decision on how to handle this. When I went to look again at the negative feedback, I had to scroll through six pages of feedback that I received while I was on vacation. Six pages of 5 star reviews. That’s really when I realized it. That 1 negative star rating DOES NOT MATTER. I have enough positive feedback that speaks for itself. Why is it that the negativity always screams louder and effects us so much more than all the positives we hear?

What I’m telling you is, bad feedback is not going to make your shop go all dooms day if you have an otherwise exceptional reputation. What’s more, the likelihood that a potential customer is going to see that feedback and shy away from buying from you is super slim. And sometimes, there are just customers who are hard to please, no matter what you do. Here, I apologized, I issued the refund, what else could I do? Sometimes you just have to remind yourself that you did your best.

If you’re afraid to put your shop in vacation-mode because shit will hit the fan while you’re gone, well I’m here to tell you that it just might. But I’m also here to say that life goes on. And so does business! So take a damn trip because you deserve it.

xo JA


What are your thoughts? Has this ever happened to you? How did you handle the situation?

Join the discussion 11 Comments

  • Lisa says:

    Thanks for writing this! I feel your pain. I received two 3 star reviews over the last Valentine’s Day season because their order arrived after Valentine’s Day. I shipped their items the same day they placed the order! I was so mad, I did leave a response, but I’m hoping it was at least professional! I also received one 3 star because they said the item was too small – the size was clearly listed and ummm – there’s a photo! …Grrr… I really took them personally because I still new and building my business. It gets me in the gut when I see my shop on google with an average of 4.9 stars because of things outside of my control. Yeah, I know the average will go up eventually…I keep checking 🙂

    • Julie Richardson says:

      I’ve been there! Unfortunately, despite doing our best, there are just things that happen outside of our control. It’s not always easy, but it’s part of running a business. And you are right, your rating will go up eventually because you care enough to make it so!

  • Christine says:

    As a customer, I’d say that ALL of the time I look at reviews (mainly on Amazon), there are always those assholes who either didn’t read the description correctly, perceived something differently than it was described, or just doesn’t think their shit stinks. I always look at how many more people were satisfied with what they received (in terms of customer service and the product). If 90% or higher were satisfied, I will be too. Hope this helps 😉

  • Thank you for sharing this Julie! When I first started my ETSY shop in 2009 I worried so much over the seldom neutral or negative review. Having had a shop now for 6 years, the occasional low star review stings a little less … still stings, but not as bad or for as long. I think what is important for all of us who run small businesses to remember is offering outstanding customer service will prevail and all of the positive feedback will overshadow the few negatives. I have grappled, like you did, whether to respond publicly to the low star review, but have decided it is best not to even acknowledge it. I think almost every negative is like yours, related to the buyer providing the incorrect address, but have decided to take the higher road and just not respond to the negative review and handle it privately with the buyer. I hope lots of new ETSY shop owners see your blog post – you are an outstanding model and have great advice.

  • Cassie says:

    I’m a frequent Etsy customer and I can honestly say I only left one negative review in my entire time purchasing. But how that negative review was handled left me feeling pretty crappy.

    I ordered a custom-made necklace ($200, for my wedding), and they said that it would take between 1-2 weeks to make before shipping. I was fine with that time frame as I had ordered it before my dress fittings began. However after a lot of back and forth communication, a missing chain and emergency enamel flower replacement, it took over 6 weeks for my necklace to get to me and we missed my fitting. The shop owner communicated with me each snag, but I had to initiate each conversation. She included a pair of “matching” (they didn’t match) earrings for my troubles. I left a negative review (I don’t think it was as low as a 1), and only then was the shop owner extremely quick to reach out and offered to send a bracelet for my troubles if I could just change the review to something more favorable. I told her I didn’t need the bracelet, but she sent it anyway and I felt I had to change my review at that point.

    Here is why this upset me: I didn’t need “matching” earrings or a shotty sympathy bracelet. I needed my necklace that I paid a lot of money for, to be completed in time for my fitting. I also didn’t need to feel pressured into changing my review.

    Not all Etsy creators are created equal.

    I say from a customer point of view, do what you believe will satisfy your customer, but don’t ask them to change their review.

  • Oh boy. Yes. I get a billion 5 star reviews…but the three that are low and people complaining or leaving a bad review just eat at my core. I know I shouldn’t let them. Jesus, it sucks when someone doesn’t even give you a chance. Especially since they are almost always things that are out of my own control (ie: mishandling by the post office, it being delivered but the customer cannot find it). Super frustrating. I’m trying to learn how to let it go but it’s hard. Us creative types take everything to the core, especially when it comes to our businesses!

  • Nadine says:

    My Etsy shop has caused tension on many vacations when I first started. My Etsy shop is approaching its 8 year anniversary. Unfortunately, I still check things out when I’m on vacation but not nearly as much as the first few years 😉
    Julie…thank you for sharing. It is reassuring to hear that I’m not the only one in this situation.

  • Marie O says:

    Just found your site & love yr creations! I wanted to chime in from the customer perspective – yr correct, one negative review doesn’t matter! Usually what customers do is scroll through recent reviews & look for patterns/overall responses. If you have overall positive reviews & then one or two negative ones, it’s assumed these were an anomaly.

    Hopefully this will help you relax & fully enjoy your next vacation! It’s enough stress to have to board the furry friend!


  • OMG this literally happened to me about 2 months ago. Everyday for about a week I was just dwelling on it. I was like oh my gosh.. someone is going to see this and think I do not ship my items in time (but what really happened was I shipped the item 6 days early and the post office took 9 days to deliver the package opposed to the priority 3 days). When I just thought… this is literally the same things that went through my mind and i did the same thing! I refunded, I said sorry and all and yet she still thought it was my fault. In the end, there will always be those few that do not understand what it takes to run a small business and what reviews actually mean to us. We are not large corporations, we are one person businesses that put our whole heart into everything we do! I am so happy I landed on your site! I am deffinitely bookmarking you!

  • Lovely text, thanks so much for it, you really understand me and I understand you 🙂
    I am also an Etsy seller ( and my small business means a world to me. I have almost 4.000 positive feedback and 14.608 sales 🙂 Here’s what happened to me: on May 8th, we went to the emergency with our 18 years old daughter, because she had a sharp shoulder pain. There, completely out of the blue, she was diagnosed with a big tumor in her chest. The shock is hard to explain. For 3 weeks we went in and out of hospital with her, not knowing what it was. She ended up having to have an open-heart surgery on May 29th. It lasted 7 hours. The tumor was removed, luckily, and in one piece. We waited for another week of very difficult recovery for her, in order to find out the tumor was benign. We could breathe again. In the process of all this, enormous stress and pain, 2 of my parcels on Etsy were delayed, each containing ONE (1) garland in the value of 10 USD each. Both clients chose to leave a 1-star feedback 🙁 I responded immediately, refunded their money, kindly asked them to keep the garland anyway and apologized, explaining the whole situation in details. Both of them chose to NOT respond to my numerous messages, AND to leave their 1-star feedbacks in my shop. What can I say? What to say? What to think of people who can do this? I am speechless and so surprised that someone can act like that. But, at the same time, I just have to accept that it’s like that. Nothing I can do, but wait for the next rush of positive feedback to “cover” their “work of shame”.

  • John says:

    Reviews on Etsy seem skewed anyway. Most shops get less than half their sales reviewed anyway , in many cases less than a quarter! Most people simply do not bother. Plus Etsy has a wait period of 19 days to leave a review after point of purchase. 19 days. By the time those days tick by, even a very pleased customer has moved on. AND any customer can edit their reviews for 100 days. That seems suspect. So if you have a repeat customer and they decide to get pissed at you suddenly they can decimate your star rating by going back and whacking stars off!
    Or a customer who bought multiple items.. they can whack you for everyone even if their original problem was for one item. I’m in a extortion situation where I’m told 3 of 4 items a purchaser bought 6 weeks ago..are defective , but ” obviously ” she is going to keep them. She expects money off or a full refund but wants to keep the items???!!! No. And she prefaces this with saying she is giving me chance before she leaves her review, which ” obviously ” will be bad.
    I won’t be held hostage. This is feedback extortion. The review system is extremely flawed on Etsy. .

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