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How to Sell Vintage on Etsy: 5 Biggest Customer Service Mistakes

What customer service has to do with how to sell vintage on Etsy

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Customer service always comes up when someone asks me how to sell vintage on Etsy.  The reason is, customer service is like a secret skeleton key to opening the gates of sales…yep, even for vintage sellers!

With decades of customer service experience, I’ve learned a thing or two about customers & business.  From helping people build stuffed bears to solving big problems for corporate hotshots, and everything in between, the basic concepts are the same.

Fast forward to now >> as a vintage seller on Etsy since 2013, I prioritize customer service at the very top of my brand strategy.

Customer service is ALWAYS the key to having a successful business and that is no different when you sell vintage on Etsy…though it does translate in slightly different ways ;)!

Have amazing customer service and you will set yourself apart from all your competition and get the sales!  Cha-Ching!

Here are the 5 biggest customer service mistakes I see Etsy vintage sellers make!

Spoiler alert: I’m going to GIVE you exactly what to say for the thing #2 down below!!

How to Sell Vintage on Etsy_ 5 Biggest Customer Service Mistakes

{ONE} not accepting returns ON VINTAGE ITEMS

I see so many vintage sellers say things like “I’m a small vintage business, it’s just me.  I definitely am not going to deal with returns. That would be a nightmare!”

To be completely honest, anyone who has that viewpoint doesn’t truly understand how to sell vintage on Etsy.

The thing is, you will hardly ever have to deal with returns if you have the right strategies in place! You will, however, absolutely be flushing sales down the toilet if you do not accept them.

The reward far outweighs the risk!

There are only a few reasons you could/should have for not accepting returns and Etsy allows you to exclude them in your return policy.

If you choose, you can exclude things like custom or personalized items or intimate items.  Not accepting returns on these things will make sense to the customer but not accepting any returns will not make sense and can and will make people decide not to buy from you.

Not accepting returns might make a customer wonder what’s wrong with your items or cause them to not trust you. Simply put, they just might not be willing to give you their money.

how to sell vintage on etsy - accept returns

To minimize your quantity of returns, put these strategies in place:

  • Have excellent customer service- you decrease your chances of a return greatly just by doing this one thing.
  • Make sure you have detailed descriptions and photos- this goes hand-in-hand with great customer service and it will ensure there are no surprises.
  • Be very careful with your shipping process- we all make mistakes, but if you have a careful shipping process you will keep your returns to an absolute minimum.  Triple check to make sure you are sending the right item to the right person & make the receiving experience a good one for the buyer with branding and packaging.

Still hesitant? It is standard practice for the customer to pay for shipping charges both ways when they return something unless you are at fault. So you are not out anything besides some time in the rare instance you do get a return!  And that, my friend, is just the cost of doing business. 🙂

{two} Not Having a Good Item Description

Your customer service begins with your first impression! Often times when you sell vintage on Etsy, that boils down to your item photos and listing description since those are the first things your customers will see if they search for you through Etsy search. Hint: that’s probably where most of your traffic is coming from!

When you sell one-of-a-kind and vintage you have the unique challenge of having to write a listing description for every…single…item. This is NOT an easy task and the probability of missing information or writing hap-hazard listing descriptions is high. Let’s face it, who has time to come up with a GOOD listing description for 100’s of items?

To streamline, have a listing description template so you are not recreating the listing description process for every new item you sell. You can keep a Word or Google Doc template that you copy and paste from, and/or you can copy an existing good listing as a draft and edit from there.

But before you start copy and pasting like a mad-man/woman, make sure your original item description is set up for success.

Here are a few easy ways to have a kick-butt listing description:

  • Answer all your customers’ questions- what size is it, why do they need it, who would need it, what condition is it in, etc?
  • Make sure you have good grammar and spelling- use eRank regularly to double check your spelling. Good spelling and grammar build trust.  Side note: eRank is one of my favorite tools for helping you sell vintage on Etsy!
  • Have an organized structure to your item descriptions that make it easy for the customer to find what they are looking for- think sections and bullets where appropriate.

If you can anticipate your customers’ questions & build trust in addition to keeping your copy interesting and easy to navigate through, you are WAY more likely to get that sale!  Boom!

All that said, I know very well that even when you know the pieces of the puzzle it’s sometimes hard to put it all together.

Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered…never get stuck with what to say in a listing description again or worry that you aren’t including the right things.  Steal my perfect listing description that sells…you can GRAB IT FOR FREE RIGHT HERE!

You can literally copy and paste and then just tweak it here and there to make it uniquely yours!  #yesplease

{three} not Shipping Promptly

Part of being a successful business is having an edge against your competitors. Unlike hand-made sellers, vintage sellers typically have items in stock ready to go.

Not shipping super quickly will work against you in a big way because your competitors will steal the sales from under your turtle-paced feet ;)!

Do everything you can to get packages out in the mail no later than the next business day. Think about the online retail competition out there…do people wait to get things? Of course not ;). Even though we are no Amazon, people are still conditioned to want things they order online *like* yesterday.

Shops that make quick shipping a top priority, really understand how to sell vintage on Etsy.

Make it happen and you will be rewarded with sales + more happy customers & great reviews!

If you don’t ship promptly, customers may move on to someone who will…it’s that simple!

If something comes up and you are not able to ship as promptly as you planned or promised, keep your customer informed. Believe it or not, that’s usually all it takes to keep ’em happy!

{four} Not Having a VINTAGE Brand

If you think you don’t need branding because you are just starting, or it’s only for businesses that are more successful than you, you are absolutely wrong.

If you are wondering how to sell vintage on Etsy in a way that will make you stand out, branding is a must!

Branding is how you show your customers what you are all about and it’s more than just what colors you use and your logo.  Though, those are important too ;)!

Branding is how you treat your customers, your tone in your item descriptions, your about section and your profile picture.  It’s your photos, your banner, and your social media presence.  All these things add up to answer the question every customer is subconsciously asking “can I trust you and why do I want to purchase from you”.

There’s nothing that says “you know what you are doing” more, than having cohesive and professional looking branding!

Invest the time figuring out your branding, and you will set yourself up for success and set yourself apart from many of the other vintage businesses on Etsy just by looking like you are a successful business!

{five} Not Having Enough Communication WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS

One of the biggest rookie mistakes I see Etsy vintage sellers make is to not communicate enough with their customers and especially their buyers.

This lack of communication is often a result of fear.  Etsy tells us that we are not allowed to spam customers or potential customers.  However, there are many ways we can and should communicate with customers and buyers that are well within Etsy’s Terms of Use {aka: rules}.

As an Etsy shop, your small business edge and personal touch are precisely what will set you apart from all the big guys out there.  If you want to know how to sell vintage on Etsy the right way, definitely use them to your full advantage!

Consider these points of communication to build trust, get sales & repeat business {P.S. they are all Etsy “legal”}:

  • Have a social media presence- the two I recommend the most for Etsy vintage sellers are Instagram and Pinterest.
  • Respond to inquiry messages timely and end with an open ending like “please let me know if there’s anything else I can help with”.
  • Make full use of Etsy’s auto response “message to buyers” by letting your new customer know what they can expect such as “quick order processing”…just make sure to follow through on your promises!
  • Follow up with a personalized message that lets the buyer know when their order will ship.
  • Send a message letting the buyer know their order shipped and include the estimated date of arrival when possible.
  • Include a hand-written and/or personalized note and business card in your shipment.
  • Optionally, you can follow up later with a message such as “I see your order was delivered, following up to make sure everything is perfect” and use this opportunity to sneak in an “if you love it, it would mean a lot to me if you could leave me a positive review here {provide a link}”.
  • When someone leaves you a review, feel free to follow up and thank them for taking the time to do so.

Last, but definitely not least, start and build an email list. This is your secret weapon when it comes to having direct communication with your customers and potential customers because it’s something you own and have complete control over…unlike social media or Etsy.

If you are new to having an email list, I recommend MailChimp for beginners as it’s free to get started and has an easy drag and drop interface!


You are never going to please all the people all the time…but if you avoid these 5 customer service mistakes you will be well on your way to pleasing enough people to make a real difference in your business and ultimately your sales!

And you will be well on your way of learning how to sell vintage on Etsy like a pro!

Make sure to steal my swipe copy of a perfect listing description that sells & you will no longer stare at a blinking cursor wondering what to say…

This FREE swipe copy is optimized for getting you more sales!

Give me the listing description!

Post your questions below and I’ll be sure to answer them!

Happy cha-chings,

-Traci 🙂


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