Why Getting Kicked Off Etsy Was the Best Thing That Ever Happened to My Business

Two weeks before Christmas, Etsy shut my shop down with no notice. I logged on to fill the 16 orders I had in queue, but to my surprise there was a message saying that my shop privileges had been suspended. In a terrified panic I started drafting a message to Etsy support hoping they could fix the error (because this had to be an error). Before I could finish the message I got an email from a member of the Etsy Marketplace Integrity Team. For the purposes of this article we will call him “Bob”. The email read: “…We have carefully reviewed the information you submitted in your outside manufacturing application and concluded that your business does not meet our selling guidelines. As a result of this, we have closed your application and suspended your shop privileges.”

BACKSTORY

Almost a year ago, Etsy made an announcement to all sellers that if a seller was working with an outside manufacturer, they had to prove two things:

  • Sole authorship over the item
  • A role in the design process from start to finish

When I saw the announcement I thought – Great! My socks and handmade labels will definitely qualify. I designed the socks from start to finish – I designed the dimensions, dictated the colors, fabric and sizing to the manufacturer. Surely if Etsy sellers can justify selling t-shirts with slogans printed on them, my socks that are unique to my shop will pass the test!

Months after I submitted my information to Etsy Marketplace Integrity and I got an email from Bob asking if I could send more information, photos, and screenshots to help them further understand my role in the design process. I sent the information he requested and hadn’t heard anything back – until now…after my shop had already been shut down.

I was baffled. I could not believe that Etsy would shut my shop down with no warning at all! No grace period. Nothing. I had 16 orders in queue that needed to be filled and with my shop privileges suspended, I couldn’t even fill those orders. I practically had to beg Bob to reinstate my shop privileges so that I could at least fill the 16 orders. In exchange for my shop being reinstated, I had to submit more information, and take all of my sock listings down until they reviewed the information further.

ISH GETS REAL

After reviewing my additional documents, Bob told me my socks still did not qualify…but he never gave me a specific reason why. I had SO many questions. Below are my questions and Bob’s paraphrased responses.

  1. What specifically am I missing to convey authorship?
    Bob replied that I needed to provide more images to convey authorship of the sock design process. 
  2. How are my socks different from other Etsy shops that sell printed t-shirts, or day planners? These sellers do not make the fabric for the shirts by hand nor do they make the day planners by hand. They design the items, buy shirts in bulk and print their designs on them. For the day planners, the sellers design a planner and get a manufacturer to print them. If my manufacturer is the issue, why doesn’t it qualify? Bob told me that using supplies such as t-shirts and printing on them is okay, so if I were to buy socks in bulk and dye them it would be fine. 
  3. Why was my shop closed down so suddenly? I would have appreciated it if you would have just asked me to remove all of the listings in question until I could at least ship out the orders I had pending. I would have also appreciated more time to gather the information you needed and a detailed explanation of why my submission was insufficient. All I received from you was what sounded like a canned response you send to all shops that get suspended.
    Bob stated that Etsy reserves the right to suspend my shop privileges within 24 hours of receiving the outside manufacturing application.

I replied to Bob and sent more documents along with a written verification from the manufacturer. At this point there are 2-3 day gaps between responses from Bob. I finally got a response from Bob’s boss saying that they decided that my items do not meet Etsy’s qualifications and they were sorry they couldn’t provide a more favorable outcome.

Still no specific reason why my involvement in the design process didn’t fit the bill.

ISH GETS WEIRD AND HARD TO BELIEVE

After several emails to every Etsy support email I could find, I got an email from Bob’s supervisor. I will call her Beth for the purposes of this article. Beth told me that since the argyle pattern is already an existing pattern that I did not create, my items are not suitable for Etsy.

So now the issue is that the argyle pattern is an existing design. But Bob said that if I was buying socks and dying them myself, they would be appropriate for Etsy. What if I dyed the socks in an argyle pattern? Do they still qualify? Since the argyle pattern being an existing pattern is the issue? That’s like saying an Etsy seller can’t sell a polka dot print skirt that they sew by hand because polka dots are an existing pattern. Weird.

The Epiphany

Needless to say this entire ordeal was super stressful. I lost sleep, lost money and I’m pretty sure I lost some hair…but most importantly I lost my focus. I was so focused on getting answers from Etsy, I lost track of the most important part of being entrepreneur – perseverance. Success means rising above obstacles.

After two weeks of emailing back and forth with Etsy, it hit me – why continue trying to fight this battle when I could just branch out and build a standalone site? From that day on, I put all of my effort into creating a new site, which led to the idea of creating a new brand, which led to the idea of creating new products. This experience it gave me the push I needed to get out of my comfort zone and take my business to the next step. For two years I had much success on Etsy – over 3,000 sales, 5 star reviews, and little competition…but I was just coasting along. I wasn’t moving toward anything.

I am a firm believer that what is meant to be will be. If a door closes, it’s closed for a reason. I am SO happy with my new brand and the new direction that my business is headed. THANK YOU Etsy for shutting my shop down!

Sincerely,
Kendra Barnes
Owner,
AisleAlwaysLove
www.AisleAlwaysLove.com

Comments (39)
  1. Pynk Posh says:

    Way to go Kendra!!! Cheers to your next chapter, onward and upward! 🙂

  2. Megan says:

    Oh wow, this is such an interesting story! I can’t believe they would do that with no notice, but it was definitely for the best. It’s so often that the best things come out of something that seems completely devastating at the time. I’m so glad you were able to make the best of the situation and revamp your brand! The new site looks awesome. Keep it up!

    xo Megan, Lush to Blush

  3. Kendra: Thanks for sharing your story. I am SO glad you took what truly is an awful experience and turned it into motivation to do bigger and better things with your business! Your new site is beautiful 🙂

  4. Shannon St Jean says:

    The article I’ve been searching for to share with a group over at Life After Etsy. Thank you. We need to know that we can rise above! We’d love to have you over there to talk with everyone.
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/lifeafteretsy/

    1. Kendra Barnes says:

      Thanks for sharing Shannon! I joined the group!

  5. Lacy Smith Hornberger says:

    Love your story. Thanks for sharing. I, too, was kicked off of Etsy but I believe it was a blessing in disguise. Your website is beautiful

    1. Kendra Barnes says:

      A blessing in disguise for sure! Thank you so much for the kind words and support.

  6. Rose LaChapelle says:

    Etsy shut down my store with no notice in January, 2014. I had a very successful wedding jewelry store. They sent me an inquiry about how I made an item on a Friday, I sent them a 30 page document with pictures outlining how I made it on Sunday, and my store was closed on Monday morning. They said I was lying to them. All of my items were handmade by me, everything was customizable. I sent them more documentation, even sent them a video, it didn’t matter. I started my own website http://www.the-Crystal-rose.com & although it was difficult at first, I’m doing well now. The Marketplace Integrity dept at Etsy is a joke.

    1. Kendra Barnes says:

      Congrats on your new store! Sorry to hear what happened to you. I know how stressful that can be. Wishing you much success with your new shop!

  7. tetonmoon says:

    Wow this is no surprise but still infuriating to here. I am a vintage seller on Etsy. I hate them but I don’t have the experience in social media or web design to do it on my own ( old fart I am) But I have reported dozens of shops hundreds of times from China, Turkey, Indonesia and EU I am sure you all know what I am talking about. I not only send a generic report but take the time to send the links to the wholesalers like Sammydress.com and others or the dozen other illegal sites that are selling exact same items.. and the don’t do shit. These shops are killing the vintage business.
    I cannot compete with cheap Chinese shit and child labor. I have to work to death to make a buck and yet they shut you guys down ( above and below)
    Etsy is a joke. Ebay is a joke. I wish I knew web better we need a site that sticks to the rules.
    I am just hoping a class action law suit comes soon against them for blatantly ignoring their own policies. It is profit over policy and greed over integrity.

    1. Kendra Barnes says:

      Yes it is upsetting for sure! It can be hard to walk away from Etsy because it is so familiar and comfortable but I hope that you are able to find a selling venue that is best for your company!

  8. salski57 says:

    Boy… if they treated me like that… I would be mighty tempted to hop on a plane to their office and Kick some ASS!

    1. Kendra Barnes says:

      hahahah!

  9. Yeah I logged on just a week ago to find they deleted ALL of my listings which I had fully translated and everything. I was going to update the pictures to better ones and also start getting things ready to move over to the website I am building but was surprised to find my listing are gone. I followed Etsy’s advice since I opened shop back in the early winter of 2014 and only made one sale so I didn’t really plan on sticking around there and with all of the not so favorable changes I have made that a permanent decision. Glad you found success. My best wishes.

    1. Kendra Barnes says:

      Omg so sorry that happened to you. Best wishes to you and your business!

  10. jkantor267 says:

    That’s why we have the right to cheap handguns and assault rifles in America.

  11. Erin says:

    Your article is fantastic!
    I have been looking for an outlet to sell a large collection of designer clothing that I have control of. I have had luck with poshmark but I first explored Etsy for vintage sales. When I saw your article I was in utter shock since they do sell items that use stock photos from designers and patterns. This, I believe, would be far more in the realm of copyright infringement and boot someone off. Rather than pick on a real creator from every point.
    I’m sorry you experienced such a horrible experience, especially around such a hectic time. But your new site is gorgeous and Etsy’s loss was definitely you’re gain! Congrats and much luck

    1. Kendra Barnes says:

      Aww thank you! Much luck to you as well!

      1. Erin says:

        You may want to look into listing a few of your items since a lot of booted Etsy sellers have succeeded selling one of a kind pieces. Especially wedding related. My son also works at one of the top 10 wedding sites in the country. I have shared your site with their planner.
        Good luck to you!
        Erin

  12. Idowu says:

    Thanks for sharing. I had this same evil experience with Alibaba (as a buyer) which cost me money already paid to a manufacturer. Also had the same issue with Papal shutting down my business account without notice during m annual christmas sale. all my online customers couldnt pay and when it was finally resolved after 2 weeks i had lost so much. Like you i was so caught up trying to reinstate my accounts that I missed out the important part of being an entrepreneur. I leant a valuable lesson and you post has further inspired me to move on. I am now building a bigger brand too.

    1. Kendra Barnes says:

      Awesome! So good to hear! Best wishes on your new and improved brand!

  13. jepito says:

    Just follow the rules like everyone and you d be fine. ETSY rocks.

    1. Kendra Barnes says:

      Thanks! There are lots of people on Etsy that are not following the rules, and their shops are still open!

    2. Stephanie says:

      ETSY does not Rock! I was a loyal shop owner for 3 years and was shut down for a minor complaint regarding a candle they said was store bought being in a gift basket. I never had a complaint against me, had awesome reviews, made unbelievable revenue and followed protocol. I removed candle in question and apologized for over sight. Last year they had questioned me about an item being vintage or not and I told them it was….. Come to find out a competitor of mine had reported me because we had a similiar item listed for sale and this puts up a red flag. Regardless, nothing I did prompted or was deserving of having my shop closed down. I was a great shop owner and very loyal to Etsy and this is the thanks I get. This happened to 2 other shop owners that I know of that live in my neighborhood over the last year. Shop owners beware they are your friend one day and enemy the next. It’s hurtful and wrong how they treat good people!

  14. Anna Veeraagsorn says:

    I’m glad it all worked out what a frustrating situation. However I’m alittle confused upon looking at your site, you don’t have many items. Is this a new site or seperate business from the original etsy one?

    1. Kendra Barnes says:

      Hi Anna! I still have all of the same items that I had on my Etsy site plus a few more.

  15. HauteGirl says:

    This same experience happened to me, and I must agree I get to keep my $400+ a month in fees and I am not in direct competition with anyone anymore with Etsy racking up my seller fees along with my Ad fees. What I learned is that your competition is who alerts Etsy in the first place. Etsy doesn’t on its own come gunning for you, just because, “BOB” told me that it comes in the form of a complaint, but they never tell you who or why without some jargon that makes NO sense whatsoever… Great article!!! We Haute Girl Beads are going strong 3 years after this happened THANK YOU ETSY you made me realize how much I didn’t need you in the first place, my customers followed me to my own website and I could offer better prices, since NO MORE FEES!!!!

    1. Kendra Barnes says:

      Way to go! I am so glad it worked out for the better for your company! It was a wake up call for me too and I LOVE that I do not have to pay those crazy fees anymore. The funny thing is, my direct competition was also in violation but they are still selling socks and ties on Etsy. Oh well, their loss!

  16. If it happend to me says:

    Thoughts here…. What if you contacted state attorney general. If enough people started racking up complaints maybe Etsy would take notice?

    Also why not inundate Etsy with flags? Report all the clearly commercial sellers, copyright violators etc…. So that they have to look at the things that actually go against the spirit of Etsy and not go witch hunting for legitimate sellers of hand crafted items.

    1. Karen Mahony says:

      I used to flag the Alibaba resellers just as a matter of being a good member of the community. Months later, the same resellers would still be there.

      Etsy is not interested in ridding itself of resellers. It IS, we think, interested in trying to do an intellectual property grab from successful studios and the demands for more and more information so that they can “check” you is a facade, a way of trying to force you to hand over your years of knowledge and experience.

      Presumably they think they will then be able to resell all the information to other start-up makers. It’s the only explanation that makes sense to us (see my detailed post below).

      Etsy is astonishingly poorly run, has never had coherent and practical policies and has persistently turned a blind eye to blatant resellers while demanding unreasonable amounts of valuable information from legitimate studios and makers. Not surprising that their share price has plummeted.

    2. Kendra Barnes says:

      Hi! Yea, I really really wanted to go through and flag every single violator but I thought…why even waste my time. Etsy is fully aware that there are hundreds of shops on their site that are not following the rules but they decided to single me out. I just decided to use my energy on focusing on building my new brand.

  17. Karen Mahony says:

    We had the same experience. Totally bizarre and another brilliant example of Etsy shooting itself in the foot through sheer incompetence.

    Etsy approached us last summer saying they loved what we did and asking us to do wholesale with them. I said, “maybe” and they said we would first have to “apply for manufacturing”. So I went to their forms (which seem to have been written by an intern who has no knowledge of design or craft – really weird questions that sound like something out of a school project) put in details of the sewing and casting workshops we use and assumed all would progress.

    Three MONTHS later I got the email below. October is our busiest time and in any case, we were off doing a conference for five days so the demand to write enormous amounts of information in ten days was completely impossible. I also pointed out that they were effectively asking me to write step-by-step illustrated “how to do it” manuals for hundreds of products. Who in their right mind would spend months doing that?

    I also mentioned that I am not only a graduate of the Royal College of Art, but have taught there, and at several London art schools. Every one of our items on Etsy, EVERY ONE, is designed by us, made by us and unique to us. We are a well-known design studio. We were paying Etsy thousands of dollars a year in fees and had an immaculate feedback record going back seven years, with a big fan following.

    A rather snarky kind of “hipster hissy-fit” email came back after more than a week, informing us that our shop had been shut down, I’d already closed our shops in sheer exasperation but this was annoying and stupid (god, why is Etsy so inept?) but not a surprise as I’ve heard the stories about Etsy doing this to real designers while ignoring Alibaba resellers.

    Meantime Etsy is still absolutely flooded with plastic rubbish from Alibaba that’s being resold. It’s also still flooded with Disney, “Game of Thrones”, “Twilight” etc etc knock-off items. These seem to be blithely ignored.

    So what is really going on? Because this is not rational.

    Intellectual property grab? We strongly suspect that the reality is that Etsy was trying to bully us to force us to hand over vast amounts of intellectual property for free. They say they are soon going to be “connecting makers with manufacturers”. We assume that approaching us and demanding all this information was an intellectual property grab so that what we have learned over a lifetime of design could be sold on to other makers. If so, Etsy is deluded – design doesn’t work that way, you need to learn and get experience, not just copy someone else’s processes. Even if they are illustrated! (sorry, but it IS funny – this degree of stupidity is comical).

    Etsy is a complete mess. The share price continues to plummet and I predict that it will have be taken over in a hostile bid within a couple of years. Which would quite honestly probably be an improvement. Certainly it could be be managed worse, and someone like Amazon might be able to provide rational, professional management.

    If you’d like to visit our shops we use Shopify:
    http://baba-store.com
    http://eu.baba-store.com

    You can also see our work in an eight-page spread in Faerie Magazine this winter, and the national television channel here is making a documentary about us which will be aired early in 2016.
    ______________________________________

    Hello,

    My name is XXX and I’m a Maker Specialist at Etsy. I’m
    here to work with you on your outside manufacturing
    application, to make sure we have all the information we
    need.

    The more detail you can provide, the easier it will be to
    complete this review.

    First, we need you add all of manufacturing partners to
    your application, including your seamstresses. Please
    follow the steps below:

    Access your application here: https://www.etsy.com/your/shops/me/manufacturing/application/step3

    Click “Add a manufacturer” and fill out all the
    information.

    Save, repeat as needed for all
    additional manufacturers.

    Submit your application again.

    Next, a big part of this process is demonstrating the role
    you play in creating both the artwork that is printed in
    your items, as well as the items themselves.

    Regarding the following images:

    https://www.etsy.com/listing/118117508/the-fair-face-victorian-fairy-picture-by

    https://www.etsy.com/listing/118120046/a-japanese-winter-geisha-print-large

    https://www.etsy.com/listing/177646618/large-shoulder-bag-sir-john-tenniels

    https://www.etsy.com/listing/189497617/scarab-beetle-cushionpillow-printed-on

    https://www.etsy.com/listing/220212436/wings-of-an-angel-soft-viscose-scarfwrap

    https://www.etsy.com/listing/220212436/wings-of-an-angel-soft-viscose-scarfwrap

    https://www.etsy.com/listing/118930017/princess-hyacintha-ipad-kindle-tablet

    https://www.etsy.com/listing/97305975/printed-large-shoulder-bag-purse-the

    Please describe, for each one:

    How did you develop your original creative work? What
    makes this artwork uniquely yours?

    What are the stages of your creation process? Please
    describe your decisions around composition, color,
    aesthetics, etc.

    Please include:

    Pictures or screenshots of your sketches, original
    artwork, or photographs.

    Before & after (or step-by-step) images to
    demonstrate your creation and editing process.

    Additionally, regarding the following types of products:

    Jewelry

    Cushions

    Bags, pouches, and clutches

    Please describe:

    How did you develop the original designs?

    What are the stages of your design and sampling
    process? Please describe your choices around shape,
    textiles, and design details.

    Where do you work and what equipment do you use to
    develop the design of these goods?

    Please include:

    Your original sketches, technical drawings,
    and details on measurements/construction

    Patterns, samples, and prototypes.

    Photos of your workspace and equipment.

    Finally, please be sure to include all your shop
    members’ names and their roles—including your husband
    and employees—in the Shop Members section of the About
    page. Here is a direct link for editing your Shop
    Members: https://www.etsy.com/your/shops/me/staff

    Please get back to me with this information within the
    next 10 days.

    If you have any questions in the meantime, let me know.
    I look forward to learning more about your creative
    process!

    Best,

    XXX

    Etsy Outside Manufacturing

    http://www.etsy.com/manufacture

    Hello,

    My name is Any and I’m a Maker Specialist at Etsy. I’m
    here to work with you on your outside manufacturing
    application, to make sure we have all the information we
    need.

    The more detail you can provide, the easier it will be to
    complete this review.

    First, we need you add all of manufacturing partners to
    your application, including your seamstresses. Please
    follow the steps below:

    Access your application here: https://www.etsy.com/your/shops/me/manufacturing/application/step3

    Click “Add a manufacturer” and fill out all the
    information.

    Save, repeat as needed for all
    additional manufacturers.

    Submit your application again.

    Next, a big part of this process is demonstrating the role
    you play in creating both the artwork that is printed in
    your items, as well as the items themselves.

    Regarding the following images:

    https://www.etsy.com/listing/118117508/the-fair-face-victorian-fairy-picture-by

    https://www.etsy.com/listing/118120046/a-japanese-winter-geisha-print-large

    https://www.etsy.com/listing/177646618/large-shoulder-bag-sir-john-tenniels

    https://www.etsy.com/listing/189497617/scarab-beetle-cushionpillow-printed-on

    https://www.etsy.com/listing/220212436/wings-of-an-angel-soft-viscose-scarfwrap

    https://www.etsy.com/listing/220212436/wings-of-an-angel-soft-viscose-scarfwrap

    https://www.etsy.com/listing/118930017/princess-hyacintha-ipad-kindle-tablet

    https://www.etsy.com/listing/97305975/printed-large-shoulder-bag-purse-the

    Please describe, for each one:

    How did you develop your original creative work? What
    makes this artwork uniquely yours?

    What are the stages of your creation process? Please
    describe your decisions around composition, color,
    aesthetics, etc.

    Please include:

    Pictures or screenshots of your sketches, original
    artwork, or photographs.

    Before & after (or step-by-step) images to
    demonstrate your creation and editing process.

    Additionally, regarding the following types of products:

    Jewelry

    Cushions

    Bags, pouches, and clutches

    Please describe:

    How did you develop the original designs?

    What are the stages of your design and sampling
    process? Please describe your choices around shape,
    textiles, and design details.

    Where do you work and what equipment do you use to
    develop the design of these goods?

    Please include:

    Your original sketches, technical drawings,
    and details on measurements/construction

    Patterns, samples, and prototypes.

    Photos of your workspace and equipment.

    Finally, please be sure to include all your shop
    members’ names and their roles—including your husband
    and employees—in the Shop Members section of the About
    page. Here is a direct link for editing your Shop
    Members: https://www.etsy.com/your/shops/me/staff

    Please get back to me with this information within the
    next 10 days.

    If you have any questions in the meantime, let me know.
    I look forward to learning more about your creative
    process!

    Best,

    Any

    Etsy Outside Manufacturing

    http://www.etsy.com/manufacture


    Karen Mahony
    Baba Studio and Magic Realist Press

    Our shops http://eu.baba-store.com http://baba-store.com

    Baba Studio on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/BabaStudios

    Our new “Alice Tarot” deck—https://www.facebook.com/AliceTarot

    Join our monthly mailing list, click here http://www.baba-baba.com to sign up. Always with special offers and updates.

    Our new “Alice Tarot” deck—https://www.facebook.com/AliceTarot

    1. Kendra Barnes says:

      Oh my! I am sorry that happened to you! Yikes!

  18. Kendra Barnes says:

    Thank you Carrie! Your kind words and encouragement mean so much! I am so thankful for awesome Ladypreneurs that have my back!

  19. Jennifer says:

    Hi Kendra! I’m so sorry to hear that this happened to you. What a stressful experience! I’m going through something very similar right now, and it appears that my shop will be shut down on Monday (I seem to have been lucky in that I had some warning). Like you, I am shocked that the “violation” my shop has been deemed to have committed is grounds to have it shut down – I create original designs, but because one of them included a shamrock and a ladybug, a shop was able to say that their entirely different shamrocks and ladybugs held the copyright on all shamrocks and ladybugs on Etsy… very confusing, shocking, and honestly, I think it was simply a competitor deciding they’d like my business. I got nine copyright violation emails yesterday morning, all on original designs that looked nothing like the material it was supposedly infringing on. Perhaps I’m rambling here… I think I’m still in shock!

    I’m trying to gather my wits over the weekend, and in the course of it, try to figure out how to complete the 50+ custom orders I have for my customers if I am no longer able to access my shop. When your shop was shut down, did you still have access to your conversation history, or your order history? I hate to leave my customers in the lurch, and feel sick thinking that I might do so.

  20. Roxane Horton says:

    Thank you so much for writing this. I have just had the EXACT same experience with Etsy and I’ve been devastated that they called my integrity into question. I’m so sorry to everyone else who has gone through the same thing, but I’m kind of relieved to read that it’s Etsy that seems to have issues, not us. I hsve also spent frustrating time trying to get answers from them, with no luck. I’m going to focus all my energy on positive selling experiences from here on and happily leave Etsy behind. (www.alexandriamain.com)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *