Tag: gig economy

Etsy sellers are taking their battle with Etsy Inc. public this week to protest higher fees and other changes the company says are necessary to compete for shoppers.

Starting Monday, April 11, thousands of Etsy sellers put their shops on “vacation mode,” urging customers to boycott the platform for a week.

Etsy is a global online marketplace where people come together to make, sell, buy and collect unique items. People create individual virtual storefronts and sell millions of items including art, jewelry, face masks, furniture, pottery, on and on.

Kaitlin Daniels headshot

Etsy CEO Josh Silverman announced in February that, while sales and revenue were at all-time highs, transaction fees would increase 30% in April. Sellers, in turn, organized a collective strike through the platform Coworker.org.

“I think this is one more instance of workers flexing their bargaining power. We see this playing out in the broader economy in the form of rising wages and ‘the great resignation,’” said Kaitlin Daniels, assistant professor of supply chain, operations and technology at Olin. Her research focuses on the operations of gig-economy platforms and the resulting impact on consumer and service provider welfare.

Just the latest in a series of changes for sellers

The fee increase is just the latest in a series of changes that irk Etsy sellers.

“It’s worth noticing that Etsy worker complaints extend beyond the fee increase,” Daniels said. “They are also demanding changes to the Star Seller program and the offsite ads program.”

The Star Seller program rates sellers’ customer service, e.g. responding to 95% of emails within 24 hours. Etsy’s discovery algorithm prioritizes sellers in part based on their Star Seller status. 

The offsite ads program allows Etsy to promote sellers through paid ads on other websites. This program automatically charges the promoted seller a 12% fee (about twice the usual fee) if the ad produces a purchase. Most sellers cannot opt out of these offsite ads.

“These programs restrict how sellers run their Etsy business, which limits sellers’ flexibility in how they balance their Etsy work with the rest of their lives. Since flexibility is one of the main reasons people say they work gigs, it is not surprising that these programs are unpopular.”

In this installment of The Boeing Center’s In the Pipeline, Kaitlin Daniels, assistant professor of operations & manufacturing management, shares some motivation for her recent research on the “gig economy,” which engages contract workers for short-term work. A perfect example of a gig economy is Uber.

Daniels is particularly interested in the operational challenges companies face in the gig economy. Gig economy workers get to decide when, where, and how long they will work, in contrast to the traditional employment arrangement, where the firm directly controls its workers’ shifts. Daniels focuses particularly on the incentives offered by gig economy firms, and the policy implications of those incentives.

Another area of focus in Daniels’ research is surge pricing, or the increase in cost to consumers during times of high demand. While she notes that surge pricing certainly improves Uber’s profitability, she wonders if the practice is actually better for consumers. Daniels is also interested in driver welfare. “There has been a lot of talk recently about how to ensure that drivers or gig economy workers are ensured some base level of welfare in the same way that we protect employees,” Daniels said. As interest and opportunity in the gig economy rises, research on the topic will become increasingly important.

In the Pipeline is a Boeing Center digital series that highlights in-progress academic research in the fields of supply chain, risk management, and operational excellence. It features professors from Washington University’s Olin Business School, and demonstrates The Boeing Center’s ongoing pursuit of cutting-edge research and knowledge dissemination.

For more supply chain digital content and cutting-edge research, check us out on the socials [@theboeingcenter] and download our app on iOS or Android for access to exclusive content and events!

• • •

A Boeing Center digital production

The Boeing Center

Supply Chain  //  Operational Excellence  //  Risk Management

Website  • LinkedIn  • Subscribe  • Facebook  • Instagram  • Twitter  • YouTube