This post is a follow-up to our previous post, "What's going on at 1stDibs?"
About two weeks ago, 1stDibs sent a letter to design trade users defending their removal of dealers names from listings and their moves to control the interaction between clients and dealers. 1stDibs also announced a "trusted partner" program in which trade users would get additional "editorial" coverage in their blog/social media and be able to see dealer names (in some cases) - the requirement to be a trusted partner would be doing a minimum of $50000 worth of business on the platform.
In defending their actions, 1stDibs claimed they had not "removed seller branding". This is simply delusional. If an image of an interior designer's work had the designer’s name removed, would the designer consider that a removal of his/her branding? Of course. Creators, makers and dealers are defined by their pieces the same way a designer is defined by his or her work. It is their brand.
1stDibs may be referring to the fact that dealer store-fronts are still on the site - that's great; except how do they expect users to get to a store front if pieces aren't attributed to dealers and there is no link? The only way for a client or user of the site to get to a dealer’s store-front is if they search specifically for that dealer on the site. I think it's safe to say the vast majority of the users on 1stDibs are looking for objects and pieces, not particular dealers.
In their letter, 1stDibs says these changes are part of their efforts to “facilitate the transition of the luxury design industry to a digitally driven world.” The implication is that the only way for this to happen is to keep dealer and client information from one another, and protect their commission in the process. Yet their mission, in their own words, is to connect “the most qualified buyers to the best design product in the world.” The design business isn't one you can pretend to promote by hiding one half of it from the other. More importantly, the idea that an online luxury design industry, and the idea that having pieces attributed to dealers, with unfettered communication with clients, are two mutually exclusive concepts is false. See Houzz, InCollect, Decaso, Dering Hall, Etsy and even Amazon - all of which attribute pieces to their dealers.
Then we come to the trusted partner program, which is basically a pay-to-play scheme. The more business designers give 1stDibs, the more perks they will offer. But why on earth should a designer, or anyone, have to pay $50000 to know who is on the other side of a trade? All it takes is some extra keystrokes, or using another site, and they would more than likely be able to find that information online anyway. And say a designer joins this program, what happens when they raise the bar to enter this program to $75000 or $100000? Is that the annual fee for having the basic information you are entitled to? Making trade users have to pay for basic information about the dealers they are buying from is the opposite of transparency, and one that made 1stDibs great in the first place - bringing dealers and clients together from all over the world.
So, what are we doing about it? Well, my father and I came to the decision that being on 1stDibs, under the current listing regime, is detrimental to our business and, in our opinions, to the industry. We have tried to end our membership but were told that their Terms & Conditions are essentially a contract and when we accepted those Terms (which we had to do in order to access our content on the site) we agreed to another year of membership. 1stDibs intends to keep us on the site until June when our “contract” is up - Apparently they want all possible dealers on the site, even those who don’t want to be there. So, while we wait for June to arrive, we are increasing our presence on InCollect and Dering Hall and possibly Decaso. We are also investing in our website; specifically in the ecommerce function and the ability for clients to get quotes through the site.
What can you do? If you are a dealer, find out when your “contract” with 1stDibs renews. If you are considering not renewing with the site, you will need to notify them in writing 30days prior to your renewal date. If you are a designer, let 1stDibs know how you feel about their new policy. I believe what 1stDibs is banking on is the idea that designers don't care anymore where a piece comes from. That as long as it arrives on-time, fits the project etc, they do not care who the dealer is. But, if you like supporting small businesses and craftspeople, and appreciate knowing who you are dealing with, please let 1stDibs know. If you haven’t already done so, check out some other sites like InCollect, Dering Hall and Decaso to see if they work for you. If they don’t, tell them how to improve their site. The same goes for your favorite dealers - if you find their websites unusable or in need of improvement, let them know. I know I would appreciate that sort of feedback!