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No Easy Answers for Good Intentions

May 21, 2010

I saw a sign in the beautiful beads I received out of the blue and decided to Pay It Forward

I honestly thought this was going to be a bone simple post to write. It’s a beautiful balmy Friday, I’ve got great plans for the weekend, and all is feeling right with the world. It’s that “feeling the love of the universe” kind of day, so I was going to write about Pay It Forward. You know, the phrase from that book (which eventually became a movie with Helen Hunt and Kevin Spacey) about doing good deeds for one another? I didn’t really care for the movie, but I love the idea of passing along a kind deed purely for the good feeling of doing it. The inspiration took root, however, not with the movie, but because of another ETSY seller. When my first little package of vintage beads arrived in the mail yesterday from Blue Marble Beads, I was touched to see an extra little package tucked into the envelope. Nothing I had purchased, just eight little beads to make me happy. 

 Two beads in particular caught my eye — some clear faceted tear drops in a very light grey color. Later that night, as I was trying to get to sleep and recounting all the good and difficult things that had come my way recently, I couldn’t stop thinking about those beads and how perfectly they would match some “greige” Swarovski rondelles that I had recently acquired. So this morning I decided to pull out my fine silver head pins and go to work. The results speak for themselves, don’t they? Simple, elegant, shimmering with understated power — because they’re quite nearly colorless, they don’t scream for attention — I could see myself wearing them to an opening night at the theatre as well as to the grocery store. But this isn’t about me or my tendency to overdress when food shopping is it? It’s about me saying my “thank you’s” to the universe.

 So before I listed them in my store, I was curious to see if any other Etsy folks may have had a similar idea. Off I went to the various nooks and crannies in Etsy world to find some answers, and all I can really say to sum up my findings is … well, duh! Of course other people had the same bright idea well before me! However, I was really struck by a very long thread I found from a couple of years ago where the idea of PIFs was being hotly debated. Evidently, the PIF idea must have been going like wildfire back then because people were talking about whether and how PIF items should be listed, how much should be charged (some think shipping and listing costs shouldn’t be passed along to customer), and if there should be a special place for them on Etsy … some even thought that the world would be a better place if the PIFs were sequestered on a separate site for goodness sake.  And then I came to the comment that stopped me in my tracks. Basically, it said:

 I don’t think we should undermine the value of handmade goods by giving them away for free.

 Wow. I don’t think that such a thought would have ever crossed my mind before I read those words. To me, it was all happy feel good sort of stuff. But then, after I sat there for a second, it was as if I’d been struck dead in my tracks by my own naivety. 

 Would my posting a PIF make someone think there was really no value to these things we make? Would it cheapen my store or credibility as a vendor trying to do right in this world? Is there a possibility for my actions to undermine this wonderful handmade revolution I’ve become so proud to support? I’ve been thinking about it most of the day.

 Ultimately, I’ve decided to go ahead and list the earrings . After all, my inspiration was born of good intentions, so I am going to continue to listen to my heart and hope that I can make someone else feel good about their day in the process. Heck, depending on what sort of response I get, I might even make it a regular exercise. However, I’ve also decided that in fairness to the enterprising and hardworking people I’ve met so far on Etsy, I’m going to price them for .20 to cover my listing costs; along the same lines, I’ll attach my usual shipping fees, too. The earrings are essentially “free,” but the costs associated with acquiring them (paying Etsy/paying postage) are not.

 Hopefully, down the road when my life settles down a bit and I’m not thinking about jewelry practically every waking minute of my day, I can find some easier ways to “pay it forward” in my life. Goodness knows we all need it.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 21, 2010 5:06 pm

    If you’re uneasy about PIF-ing them on Etsy – I can see some reasoning behind that – maybe unscrupulous people *are* scouring PIF listing to get free stuff, as I’ve seen mentioned – perhaps consider donating items to a charity such as Dress for Success or the one giving dresses for girls going to Prom (blanking on the name, sorry!). Maybe not earrings because of sanitation concerns, but other things like necklaces or bracelets might be something they would accept. In any case, it’s wonderful to see such a kind attitude out there 🙂

    • May 21, 2010 5:27 pm

      Good idea about sharing things with Dress for Success! And you raise a good point, gugelhupf, one I forgot to mention having come across in the forums. Personally, I have no concerns about sending my stuff off to potentially unscrupulous people in search of freebies. If they want to scoop up free stuff and not return the favor to someone else, well that’s on them. I don’t want to judge. However, I am concerned about other people getting the wrong impression about the value of handmade items …

      I came across another clip earlier this week on Handmade News that inspired me in a different way — “One of the most important ways we’re going to turn around our disposable society and end rampant consumerism is by supporting handmade goods and indie artists.” (it’s from maya at — I’d add that link, but still getting used to WordPress). Anyway, I just hope that most people see PIFs for what they really are and not as a reason to undervalue handmade goods.

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