How to be a better small business buyer this holiday season

Creative Entrepreneurship

how to be a better small business buyer

The fastest way to make it to Santa’s nice list is to shop small and follow the suggestions on this list as closely as possible! 

Shopping small during the holidays is appreciated not only by the business owner but also by the lucky recipients you’ve chosen to purchase gifts from them for! Makers and artisans are turning out some of the highest quality, most unique gifts money can buy. They can’t wait to be a memorable part of your holiday. 

We have some tips for making the process of buying from a small business more seamless and successful for all the parties involved in the transaction this holiday season and beyond!

To be clear, I don’t have any insider information about these; I think they would be sweet expansions or additions for Etsy to make, or I think they seem somewhat likely.

Communicate with the seller the way they request.

Most sellers prefer you email them or use the Etsy messages function rather than send a direct or private message through another app. When in doubt, return to the page you ordered from and use the native or most apparent function on that site.

Take responsibility.

Check turnaround and processing times before ordering, and don’t expect them to change! If you aren’t comfortable with the stated timeline, don’t order! Don’t order if the turnaround time is too tight for your needs on the longer side of the estimate! You can ask the seller if there is any way to rush an order but be prepared for whatever their answer is.

Confirm your details!

Be sure that your shipping address is current and accurate at checkout!!

Read the shop’s policy!

Read and understand the policies in each store. When shopping on a marketplace like Etsy, be aware that all Etsy shops are individual entities and have their own policies.

Don’t skirt the shipping!

If you are ordering as gifts to be sent to recipients, place separate orders, so you are charged appropriately for shipping. 

Leave a positive review!

If you have a good experience with a seller, your positive review is so appreciated! Likewise, if you’ve had a less than positive experience, reach out to the seller before leaving a negative review! Sellers want the opportunity to help. The impact of even a single negative review on a small business can be immense, so please allow the seller a chance to solve whatever problem you’re having.

Share the love!

When your order arrives, or after gifting, take some pictures and share them on social media! Be sure to tag the maker. They will love to see your photos! When giving, include the seller’s information so the gift recipient can participate in the photo-sharing, too! Bonus points if you educate the recipient that they should mention the seller’s business name as the source, not just Etsy, when speaking about the item. “I got it from Etsy!” vs. “I got it from (business name”)!”

Expect that customizations of any kind will cost extra.

And be sure to confirm any of your specific other desires are possible before ordering! Confirm that what you want is possible and that you will be charged correctly for it. This includes any sort of rush order requests. Consult with the seller about what is possible and order following their advice. 

Repeat what’s essential.

If you spoke about your order elsewhere before purchase,  reiterate all the information the seller needs to be successful with your order at the time of sale. Fragmented conversations and discussions outside of the final order are hard to track and leave room for errors or misunderstandings that both buyer and seller want to avoid. The seller will appreciate it so much that ALL of your item details are in one place! And check your spelling!

Provide all the details period.

If the listing calls for your input at any point, whether a color choice or other option, be sure to make your selection! Provide those details in the way the seller has requested them. (Example, they might ask you to send a photo via email, send the email to that exact address.)

Don’t outsource the thought process.

Unless you will genuinely, indeed, be happy with the choices a seller makes on your behalf, do not invite them to do so. “You pick” are two words no seller prefers to hear during the holiday season. Some sellers (myself included) love that buyers trust their judgment but hate the pressure of having to get it right, particularly around the holidays. Please choose and know that the seller will reach out and advise you if it’s a horrible choice.

Buy early.

This year it applies to big and small businesses but place your orders early! If you know you’ll be wanting to order something, don’t wait. Order it now. Mail is slow, supply chains are disrupted, factors are not ideal… buy early and save everyone some stress!

Be patient.

Every step of the way, sellers appreciate your understanding and patience. Even during the busiest time of the year, sellers do take some days off. Expect to hear from sellers during regular business hours and days. Don’t ask the seller for updates on your order unless you have not received a shipping notification and the entire turnaround time/ processing time has passed.

Read everything available.

And look at all the photos. The seller has tried to answer your questions already! Be sure to explore the site and listings fully to see if the information you need is already provided. Inbox overload slows down the process for everyone, including you. 

If your order is delayed in transit, don’t take it ou ton the seller.

Suppose your order is in transit, marked as shipped but has no tracking information or other postal-related issues. In that case, the first step is to be patient. Sometimes tracking information isn’t updated immediately or doesn’t exist at all, unfortunately. Tracking is only as good as the scanning process along the way. It should go without saying that once the item is in the mail, it’s no longer within the seller’s control. Trust me, they hate that, too.

It’s best to check your tracking number on the USPS website directly. Sometimes, the information is there but not showing on Etsy or other third-party systems. You can also opt-in for text message updates on your package, which, sometimes, is coincidentally linked to suddenly seeing action on a dormant tracking. If your package is marked as delivered, but you don’t have it, wait a bit. It might show up (sometimes they get scanned as delivered before actually being delivered, no one knows why.) Ask any neighbors if they got your package by accident. If all else fails, then contact the seller to see what their next steps are.

Pay for upgraded shipping when available.

Is it a guarantee that it’ll help? No. But the chances of it helping are pretty good, so, if it’s available, take it.

Be kind.

Many of the small businesses you are buying from online are run by one single person. One person is doing EVERYTHING, and this time of year can be really hectic. It should go without saying but, give them the benefit of the doubt until you have evidence that you no longer should.

If you are shopping small this year, know that your support is appreciated, and your business is valued! 

Happy shopping!!

Special shoutout to my maker friends who lent me suggestions for this list to be even more comprehensive. Check out their shops:


*This post is written and published by The Merriweather Council. The Merriweather Council is not affiliated with Etsy Inc. Etsy is a trademark of Etsy Inc. We write about Etsy, from our own experiences, not for Etsy.

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Oh, hi! Welcome to The Merriweather Council. I’m Danielle and I am a maker in business and mentor to other makers in business. I teach you how to turn your crafty tendencies into profits!

Oh, I’m also really into crafts, boy bands + iced coffee. Email me anytime to say hello or send cute Backstreet Boy videos or dog pictures .. or whatever! danielle (at) Thanks for stopping by.

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This is a for profit blog and includes a few affiliate links. This means that if you purchase something through one of these links, I may receive a small commission. I only bother suggesting products or services that I have used and loved because if you buy something on my suggestion and hate it that would suck. So I only suggest things i’m 99% sure you’ll love as much as I do.

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