I started using the Tindie platform in April to sell my WiFiStation kits. I’ve now sold out all of my initial inventory and am not planning on making any more, so I thought I’d offer my opinions of Tindie as a platform for selling things.
Each product being sold on Tindie must be manually approved by a staff member. This happened within the same day I submitted my product for approval, after they requested that my first photo show the product unassembled since I was not offering any assembled kits for sale.
I announced my new store on Twitter and two orders came in right away. Shortly after, I received an e-mail that there was “some suspicious activity” on my store. I didn’t get any further communication from Tindie so I’m not really sure what this meant or how it impacted my product listing, but more orders followed soon after.
Adding a product and configuring add-on choices was pretty easy to do. Unfortunately shipping options are not as easy, which I’ll get to later.
At one point I had to refund two orders since I thought they had gotten lost in the mail on their way to Germany, which required that I e-mail Tindie to refund them. It would have been nice to be able to do this myself without any intervention, since some explanation is required when requesting that Tindie refund an order.
Tindie holds all funds received for orders and then disburses payments through PayPal, minus their ~9% fee. For new stores, Tindie imposes a 30-day waiting period where no disbursements are made. This is important to keep in mind if upfront inventory costs are high or one has a lot of orders within that 30-day window.
This automatic approval never happened for my account so I had to contact their support department to approve my account so I could request disbursement of this initial 30 days of sales. They told me the previous “suspicious activity” warning was what caused this delay.
Once an account is approved, if any funds are left in one’s account for an extended amount of time, Tindie will automatically send them out, which is nice.
My biggest complaint with Tindie is around shipping. There is no integrated shipping mechanism in Tindie to purchase postage, print out labels, or even calculate shipping rates on the order form. One has to load their own postage rates into Tindie for each area where one will ship. I just stuck with USPS’ flat-rate shipping boxes so I could set one rate for all buyers in the US and thus load one rate into Tindie. Occasionally I would get requests from buyers to ship to a particular country and I’d have to manually look up the rate on the USPS website and add it as an option in Tindie before they could order.
I assume some larger sellers are using 3rd party services that automate the integration between Tindie and shipping companies like UPS or USPS, but unless you want to pay for one, you’re on your own.
For me, a new order would come in and Tindie would list the customer’s name and shipping address on an order detail screen. I was buying my USPS postage through PayPal, so this meant for each line of the user’s name and address, I would have to copy a line on the Tindie order page, switch to the PayPal label order page and paste it, then switch back, copy the next line, etc.
Once the postage was purchased, I would print out the label, then copy and paste the tracking ID back into Tindie, mark it as shipped, and then print out the packing slip to put into the box.
Also, because of this lack of integration, I would have to pay for the postage myself upfront, then wait to get reimbursed by Tindie. This is in contrast to eBay where shipping rates are automatically calculated and displayed based on the buyer’s location, funds are collected by eBay, and then I can use those funds to purchase the postage with just a click before eBay disburses anything to me.
As a customer, I like Tindie as a platform and have bought a bunch of things through it. It’s easy to find new products, understand what I’m buying, and see reviews of it before I buy. As a seller, I probably won’t use Tindie again unless they integrate some shipping options.
eBay is very crowded and it can be hard to come across as a genuine seller, especially for a low-volume product.
If I were to sell another product again, I’d probably just do it directly through my own website with a PayPal checkout button or something similar that provides automatic shipping rate calculation. That way I’m in control of my own orders and funds, and I can handle variable shipping costs much easier.