Etsy’s Reign of Terror – Discrimination and Abuse

Most of the press we encounter about Etsy talks about how great and innovative of a company it is and how they give small artists and artisans a chance to sell their wares in a global market. But that is only a partial truth, no one is talking about what happens behind the scenes, about the corpses scattered all over and the lives left in ruins along the way.

Yes, darling Etsy has been abusing its power and victimizing sellers with a very flawed, discriminatory, arbitrary and ineffective Integrity Policy, in which many shops are shut down without any evidence of misdoing or any legitimate explanation. Many of these sellers are genuine craftsmen following all the rules and whose only income is derived from Etsy. Some of these sellers are people who have been building a business and reputation for years and are left with nothing as Etsy with the click of a button erases all, even their feedback history which is the core of someone’s commercial history online.

Etsy has a very discriminatory way of applying their so-called Integrity Policy, they react to reports of Etsy members, usually sellers, who can anonymously and freely flag any store without having to produce any evidence of violation, Etsy then make some of these flagged shops a target and overlook others, needless to say that some of the targeted shops belong to legitimate artisans and some of the overlooked ones are from resellers of mass-produced items.  Many of these targeted sellers are bullied and harassed, asked to proof themselves time and time again with poorly designed and inconclusive processes that are arduous and take many hours, some others are simply kicked out without having the opportunity to defend themselves or being offered a legitimate explanation or in many cases citing a violation that doesn’t exist anywhere in their TOU or one that has been interpreted at their whim. All this happens while many infractors are left totally undisturbed.

BUT IF ETSY NEGLECT THEIR DUTIES TOWARDS SHOPS THAT ARE BLATANTLY BREAKING THE RULES, AND THEY THEMSELVES VIOLATE THEIR OWN RULES SO OFTEN, WHAT KIND OF MORAL AUTHORITY CAN THEY CLAIM IN ORDER TO SHUT DOWN A SINGLE SHOP?

Being realistic, even if their Integrity procedures were efficient and transparent, in most cases is almost impossible to prove if an item was produced by the owner of the shop or someone else, or if certain vintage piece is older than 20 years. So the arbitrary and frenzied “cleaning” they are engaged on added to the incompetence of their Integrity Team, becomes more of a blind witch hunt inside their little Dictatorial Regime, that is hurting more innocents than culprits. Haven’t they realized their system doesn’t work and that this is not the middle ages nor are they an Independent Republic?

Their vague “DOs and DON’Ts” leave tons of room for unsavory characters to get in disguised as craftsmen/artists and also allows Etsy to accommodate and bent these policies according to their convenience, which they do without any hesitation.

But if you are among the many Etsy community members who is already aware of the situation, you also know that you are forced to keep your mouth shut, as criticizing them in any way, shape or form will get you expelled and “excommunicated” faster than you can say “oh!”, you won’t even be able to do shopping there ever again. No, this is not a joke! This is their idea of business in the 21st century.

So if you are part of the 25 million members of the Etsy community who believe this kind of behavior doesn’t affect you or will never apply to you, because you have been there for years, always follow the rules, or are just a buyer not a seller, think again, this can happen to anyone and affects everyone.

Lets dissect the anatomy of the damage with the following case study in which we will focus on one shop that has been reported many times and for some reason Etsy allows it to keep running. Etsy knows who we’re talking about so here we will call it XYZ, not because we feel the need to protect its identity, but because there are many like it and then we will need to name all the cases we have identified.

XYZ has been in business for a little over 2 years, it sells “handmade” jewelry by a very talented girl, so much so, that up to today (when this article was published) she has sold over 15.000 items  (not cheap ones). Her sales triplicated in 2012 (to about $400,000-$450,000 in gross sales), the only problem is that about 80% of her sales come from items manufactured in India, specially gold vermeil bezel set gemstone rings, but bangles and earrings also. But she is talented alright, she has managed to fool thousands of buyers under Etsy’s watch. Here is the breakdown:

  • XYZ buys her finished rings from India at about USD$8 or probably less as she buys them in the thousands.
  • Because she claims these rings to be handmade directly by her or her “collective”, she is able to charge anywhere from $56 to $66 per ring (although the manufacturer charges her the same amount of money for all rings, as the different stones used are in the same low price range category).
  • She is able to sell them at these ridiculously high prices because people are buying them under false pretenses. Exact same rings sell in ground-floor retail stores in Mid-town Manhattan for $25, although physical stores have to pay rent and overhead, XYZ doesn’t.
  • BUYER HAS THEN BEEN MERCILESSLY RIPPED-OFF AND DECIVED.
  • As XYZ sells anywhere from 15 to 50 rings per day (subject to time of year, discounts, etc.), is taking a lot of business from legitimate jewelry makers.
  • Legitimate jewelry makers are also forced into unfair competition or not to compete at all since many of them can’t or won’t produce such big amounts of rings per day.
  • Legitimate jewelry makers leave and the genuine artisan community shrinks.
  • Other people see XYZ is getting away with it so easily, is an invitation for them to do the same.
  • If Etsy’s very intelligent and sophisticated SCRAM system (Systems for Catching Resellers and Abusers of the Marketplace) hasn’t flag this store many times already, means it is totally useless.
  • The only reason this is happening in the XYZ case is because Etsy is allowing it to happen.

Now multiply this by the hundreds or thousands of shops in the different categories that are reselling mass-produced stuff.

How is this happening under Etsy’s nose? It’s a great question, they have been notified of XYZ for more than a year, all the info regarding the Indian manufacturer has been offered to them to no avail. Corroborating this story was as simple as visiting the manufacturer’s showroom in mid-town Manhattan (short ride from their Brooklyn offices), it was not a coincidence for XYZ to be selling the exact same jewelry items with the exact same shapes, exact same stones and exact same craftsmanship quality.

A big number of us who make jewelry and buy our gemstones from Indian manufacturers will recognize their finished jewelry offerings on the spot, it is actually very easy and does not require much genius or expertise, but why is that Etsy’s Integrity team doesn’t have the expertise (Etsy have plenty net income to hire as many specialized, competent people as they wish), or do they and they just turn a blind eye on these sellers because they produced them a lot of money.

These sellers also get a free pass hiding behind Etsy’s “collective” concept, but a shop that sells 30-50 items a day (items that are not made in a few minutes) is not even a “collective” anymore, it is a Factory! Etsy refuses to draw lines wherever is not convenient for them.

As harsh as some of this may sound to some of you, especially those who have no clue this is going on, know that  it’s all true and verifiable!  We know many of you love Etsy and your first reaction will be denial, but remember that the portion of the Etsy community comprised by very talented artists and artisans that you love and who in some cases are so altruistic to even donate their time and work to the noblest of causes have nothing to do with Etsy Corp, which is the portion we are denouncing here. And please, stop assuming that all stores shut down did something to deserve it. There are many people suffering due to Etsy’s injustices and the inhumane, arbitrary and unprofessional ways of applying their policies.

We, the people writing this article, are among Etsy’s latest victims and had to speak up, because what they are doing is WRONG.  Etsy’s honest sellers and buyers deserve more clarity, more honesty and more equality, Etsy needs to stop the tyranny and the double standards!

Unfortunately, like many of you, small artisans and artists, we cannot afford to spend thousands of dollars going through JAMS Arbitration as specified on Etsy’s ToU or hiring a lawyer to right the wrong. The only thing we have that we can afford to use is our voices.

After this happened to us (our story here: http://wp.me/p3kXuD-V) we have spent many hours of many days researching in order to better understand the nature of the beast, we have read all the cases we have been able to find from people reporting the same or similar issues with Etsy (there are way more than expected, but these are just a few, unfortunately, most folks don’t report these cases publicly). But, in all we read, we found only one person claiming being successful in having her Vintage Shop reopened on Etsy and getting financial compensation from them, but she was lucky to have a cousin who is a lawyer and partner of a law firm to work her case. The rest of us will crash with the reality that no lawyer will take this type of cases, because the financial loses are not in the thousands of thousands and litigation costs will be higher than any gain.

CONCLUSIONS

If you are planning to open a s tore on Etsy, think first like a business person and ask yourself : “is the risk worth it?”. Or simply apply this mantra: “If the deal is not right, walk away”.  Remember that is your livelihood that is a stake.

If you are already a shop owner these are some things you can do to mitigate the damage if something like this were to happen to you:

–         Don’t make Etsy your only option, have other stores in different sites and if possible open you own website. Have plans B, C, D & E always ready.

–         Keep PayPal as your checkout method, that way if your shop gets shut down, you will be able to fulfill any pending orders and save some of your reputation.

–         Even if you can proof in 1000 ways you handmade your items yourself, you have 100% positive feedback and have been selling on Etsy for many years, don’t make the mistake of thinking you are safe and don’t put any faith on the fairness or good judgment of Etsy, because there is none. Once you are flagged by another seller or by SCRAM you are a target and if they decide to review your case, it’ll be done by a entry level agent with no real qualifications to analyze and judge your manufacturing methods/procedures, your materials, tools or any other document you present as proof.

–         Don’t stay quiet; REPORT, REPORT, REPORT “Injustice thrives when good men do nothing”.  Wait until the anger has subsided and report your case in as many places as you can, do it in a clear and concise way. You can do it anonymously, but let people know the items you were selling, this creates a record of which categories are being attacked.

If you are a buyer do your research before purchasing, you might find the exact same item cheaper and without any deception in a lot of other places.

This video depicts Etsy’s Integrity Team discriminatory and draconian practices.

——————————————————————————————

OTHER RESOURCES:

SITES TO BUY AND SELL HANDMADE OR HOST YOUR WEBSITE:

http://www.artfire.com/http://www.luulla.com/http://www.zibbet.com/http://www.storenvy.com/http://en.dawanda.com/http://trembu.com/ –  http://www.bonanza.com/   http://www.craftisart.com/http://www.shophandmade.com/https://handmadeartists.com/http://crafterstown.com/http://www.rubylane.com/http://madeitmyself.com/http://meylah.com/http://articents.com/http://www.silkfair.com/http://www.shopdelighted.com/  – http://www.craftshowcase.net/http://www.storemate.com/

http://www.ecrater.com/http://bigcartel.com/http://www.bigcommerce.com/http://www.shopify.com/http://retailrapp.com/ 

LINKS TO A FEW OTHER VICTIMS’ COMPLAINTS:

http://wtfbyrne.tumblr.com/post/50655942027/my-letter-to-etsys-executives
http://www.justanswer.com/law/7qrzq-hi-i-own-ed-store-www-etsy-com-website.html
http://www.consumeraffairs.com/online/etsy.html
http://www.ebay.com/gds/why-etsy-is-unsafe-for-buyers-and-sellers/10000000013523439/g.html
http://www.handmadeology.com/etsy-shop-suspended-what-you-need-to-know/  read comments also, they are current!
http://www.yelp.com/biz/etsy-brooklyn#hrid:7HJ4pEIEQR6NM6dpyi5nCQ/src:self
http://amplicate.com/hate/etsy/5312988-unreasonable-suspension-etsy-is-fraud
http://amplicate.com/hate/etsy/5358236-unreasonable-suspension-not-acceptable/
http://www.why-girls-are-weird.com/2012/11/dear-etsy.html
http://tsilivithrini.blogspot.com/2011/12/etsy-shop-suspended.html
http://cinderssays.blogspot.com/2013/01/i-used-to-sell-on-etsy.html
http://www.auctioninsights.info/etsy-still-dropping-sellers.html
http://community.zibbet.com/forum/topics/etsy-suspended-my-shop
http://blogs.houstonpress.com/artattack/2012/01/etsy_closes_azreals_accomplice.php
http://artmakersworlds.com/etsysucks.html

AGENCIES AND SITES TO FILE A REPORT AND/OR COMPLAIN:

http://www.ag.ny.gov/internet-bureau-online-complaint-form
http://www.bbb.org/new-york-city/Business-Reviews/internet-shopping/etsy-inc-in-brooklyn-ny-104233/complaints
http://www.consumeraffairs.com/online/etsy.html
http://amplicate.com/hate/etsy
http://etsy-reviews.measuredup.com/3184
http://www.consumerabuse.org/
http://etsy.pissedconsumer.com/
http://www.complaintsboard.com/complaints/etsy-useless-trust-and-safety-team-admin-c610901.html
https://getsatisfaction.com/etsy/topics/_shop_suspended_message
http://www.ripoffreport.com/Search/etsy.aspx
PlanetFeedback.com
http://www.consumer-action.org/helpdesk/
http://www.sitejabber.com/reviews/www.etsy.com
http://www.viewpoints.com/Etsy–25479-reviews

 

26 responses

  1. […] Etsy’s Reign or Terror – Discrimination and Abuse (itsaboutprinciple.wordpress.com) […]

  2. […] help you decide for yourself. You can read more about their own harrowing experience in their post "Etsy's Reign or Terror" Has anything like this ever happened to you or someone you […]

  3. Etsy closed me down today because they said I had a copyright infringement. I tried over and over to contact them and even changed my listings several times. The more I asked for clarification, the more they just sent me repeat emails… then they closed me down. Jeeze, after thinking about contacting an attorney, I just decided to give up and sell else where. Now I will encourage others to do the same. I will have a new website of my own soon. Tired of being bullied by Etsy.

    1. That was probably The Regretsy mob who told on you-they lie on everyone on Etsy, it’s their hobby-they are a mob that loves to get people in trouble.

    2. Sad to think that all some jealous, competitive person has to do is scream “copyright infringement” about someone and this can happen. I have heard of this before. Unless someone has total proof this has happened or has won a judgment against you, they shouldn’t be able to close a shop or risk being prosecuted themselves. I haven’t joined yet, so they obviously have paperwork on their site protecting them.

  4. […] Etsy’s Reign or Terror – Discrimination and Abuse (itsaboutprinciple.wordpress.com) […]

  5. Good day! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be okay. I’m absolutely
    enjoying your blog and look forward to new posts.

  6. […] Etsy’s Reign of Terror – Discrimination and Abuse. […]

  7. It is Regretsy.com (now called aprilwinchell.com) that is responsible 4 the reign of terror. They tell on all the shops 4 no reason, they get people unjustly banned from the forums, they are a mob set out to destroy Etsy. You should read my online story called Regretsy: trampling on people’s Happiness & that will tell you how Regretsy tries 2 destroy everything Etsy related.

    1. I don’t know exactly what followers of April Winchell do, but what I know for sure is that etsy’s policies suck, the lack of professionalism and the double standards they operate with plus the member-to-member abuse they ALLOW in their site is etsys and etsys alone wrong doing, they instigate and promote this behavior you are describing.

    2. Just read that regretsy.com was a joke site making light of the real etsy, tongue in cheek.

  8. This is good.

    Mine is one of the links above. I wrote my little rant right after etsy kicked off two of my shops but I’m over it now. Artfire is SO much better in so many ways.
    I only leave my rant on my site because darn it all, the thing gets hits every single day.
    From searches like “etsy sucks, sue etsy.”.. and like that. Sometimes people follow links to my new shop on Artfire. What ever works right?

    Thing is, once a site gets that big, our little tiny voices are meaningless to them.
    Best thing to do is just move on. And don’t ever put all your eggs in one basket. Nothing is forever. Etsy started out so good. Back when each person was valuable to them. Now they are so big they can afford to treat their own paying customers like dirt. So what? They can afford to lose people and they don’t care. Plenty more where those came from is their attitude. Customer service is non existent. They don’t even have a phone.

    Yea well, I won’t be supporting them anymore. I don’t pin anything if it says etsy, I tell people all the time who ask where to sell to NOT use etsy. And I can’t shop etsy even if I wanted to. (I do not.)

    And I’m ok with that. It was good while it lasted. Brief though that was.

  9. Really good article. It is nice to know that many of us feel the same way and that there are many other options out there.

  10. I am so glad I researched more before opening up a shop on etsy…thank you so much for all your info…I will work more on my own blog now instead of getting fired up to open a shop on an online store!!

  11. I think the best place to sell is Shippi.com You choose your own url and they take care of the shipping so you don’t need to deal with UPS or Greyhound.

  12. […] April 27). Etsy’s Reign of Terror – Discrimination and Abuse [Web Log Post]. Retrieved from https://itsaboutprinciple.wordpress.com/2013/04/27/etsys-reign-or-terror-discrimination-and-abuse/ [20] Orange Swan. (2012, June 6). Etsy’s Unique and Handmade Problems [Web Log Post]. Retrieved […]

  13. Good article. etsy shut me down about 1 1/2 years ago out of the blue one day. luckily, i always maintained an ebay business too but concentrated and sold mostly on etsy over the years. etsy was and became my lively hood (huge huge!!! mistake) i fought etsy ‘s action s with a lawyer but after a while could not afford further legal proceedings any longer, also filed complaints with the better business bureau.

    i figured after the shock i better move on and tripled my business on ebay instead and opened my own website, went to artfire and bonanza. in hindsight i am glad i did. i had 7000 feedbacks on etsy 100% positive and was selling there for over 7 years supplies and my own handmade jewelery – all gone by the click of a mouse.

    reason: one day i bought an NYC subway iphone cover in a wholesale place in manhattan to resell so buyers could use that item to bling with my offered rhinestones like many other iphone covers with flower motives i offered. then i got a complaint from the New York City Port Authority claiming copy right infirngment as they apparently own the NYC subway map!!! outragous!. Had no idea the nyc subway is copyright and as i bought the item in a legitimate wholesale outlet in the city on 27th street and broadway ( buyers beware!)

    what pissed me off the most is they are sending emails to unsuspecting and potential sellers (including me) urging sellers to give up their day jobs and make etsy their career!!! what a scam! every job is more secure then they are. i highly recommend to anyone if you ever consider them as your outlet – don”t take that etsy business serious – you could be in the streets in a second out of the blue totally unexpected! on top of that – their customer service is about the worst one can imagine. no phone calls, emails get answered so every other day if your lucky and if your shut down forget about it – no appreciation for any members and you will be treated as their slave having to be thankful forever to be able to sell on their site. feel free to copy and paste my story to any site you wish.

    1. getting a class action lawsuit against them, contact me

  14. etys has become a big joke with this copyright infringement thing. anyone can now false claim they own a trademark or copyright and etsy will take your listing down. etsy does not even do any research on these matters. what a joke stay away there are many other online sites to sell on besides this joke of a place. So what im going to do is just claim copyright on anything similar that i sell and they will just take it down without even looking up the copyright or trademark to see if its a real thing!!!

  15. Regretting Etsy and thier bulling tactics | Reply

    Please be aware that it does not matter what’s your shop policies are on etsy. Etsy threatens with suspension if you do not comply with a customers every whim even if you have policies in place protecting and your shop Or so you thought!!!! They are worse than ebay!!!!!!

  16. […] 7. Its About Principle: Etsy’s Reign of Terror and Discrimination  […]

  17. Suzannah (from the integrity team)

    A big thumbs-up to your integrity team, for pulling down genuine artisans and promoting blatant violators. Here is a sample:

    1) This search:

    https://www.etsy.com/search?q=mandala%20tapestry

    Yields these listings, among others:

    https://www.etsy.com/listing/219407513

    https://www.etsy.com/listing/208797491

    https://www.etsy.com/listing/219005149

    https://www.etsy.com/listing/228134423

    https://www.etsy.com/listing/218966738

    https://www.etsy.com/listing/209828958

    All from different stores, with the EXACT SAME SNAP, nearly the same descriptions and prices. Did all of them have a simultaneous big bang burst of creativity and use their “creative designs” individually to come out with the same snaps and products? In your words, this is prohibited- Reselling an item you weren’t involved in designing or creating is prohibited in our Handmade category.

    Handmade?? These are screen printed machine made bedsheets. One can order 30-40 pieces of these “handmade” creations from these stores at any time. This is just one example- there are countless such simultaneous bursts of creativity at these stores. Nor is this an exhaustive list of stores that are most probably controlled by one person.

    2) Here is an extract from Labhanshi, another of your “authentic handmade artisans”

    All of the designs are our own and I have two great helpers that help me stitch.
    The quilts that you see are made up of vintage saris and painstakingly stitched by some women who live in rural areas. This work provides the livelihood for several families. The stitches used are small and delicate Kantha stitches which hold together several layers of fabric…

    So TWO people come up with 455 items of multiple pieces each?? And quilts stitched by “some women who live in rural areas” doesn’t construe reselling? In your own words, this is prohibited:
    Representing other artists, artisans, or creators (even if you’re authorized to sell on their behalf)
    And this is gross misrepresentation of the size of his operations. Also, these quilts are CHEAP IMITATIONS of kantha stitch, which is essentially from Bengal and not Jaipur, as claimed.

    3) This listing is called “vintage”

    https://www.etsy.com/listing/208849102

    Really?? These are two-three year old sarees that are combined to make quilts!

    4) This listing clearly states that these items are resold after procuring from FAIR TRADE organizations:

    https://www.etsy.com/listing/164249918

    In your own words, this is prohibited:
    Selling on behalf of charity or fair trade organizations
    5) This shop is heights…the owner calls himself Bhisma Pitama, which is a mythological character from the Mahabharat (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhishma) and not even a real name! He doesn’t even have his snap or anything verifying his authenticity as a seller…

    https://www.etsy.com/shop/BhismaClothings

    This is just the beginning. Congrats on your IPO. I guess your new shareholders would be very interested in how Etsy has varied policies for different people, depending on how much commission they manage to rake up.

  18. A story I wish to share and alert everyone.

    *Copy of message sent to Etsy:
    I see that Etsy has removed 2 orders from my sales, which paid through Direct Checkout. Please allow me to express this – Etsy really should not have let me take in two Direct Checkout orders and then removed them due to Etsy’s Nationality preferences. This is really hurting not only my business but also my customer relation; resulting in business liabilities. One of the orders Etsy removed was from a returned customer buying silver parts from my Etsy shop regularly for her business, and has been relying on me to ship her orders on time. Can Etsy imagine what kind of business loss I will have down the road? Is this a reasonable question to ask?

    Previously, I have specified that I am an U.S. citizen working and shipping products from China, and I have provided a Valid U.S. ID and 3 months of my most recent U.S. Bank Account Statements as requested by Etsy. I don’t mind if I don’t get approval to use Direct Checkout. But if “China” is not one of your acceptable countries, why even bother asking me for proof of “U.S. legal documents?” I can’t help but to suspect that Etsy is demonstrating some kind of racism discrimination. May be I got it all wrong, but please forward this message to your superior. As an honest citizen of the United States, I will seek justification from the United States Court of Law. I will also do so strenuously.

    Last but not the least, may be Etsy will remove my seller’s account because of the legal actions I am about to take, but I believe that I must stand my right as a Citizen of The United States. It is about time someone stands up. Isn’t it?

    *Etsy totally ignored my message and replied to me by sending me a copy of countries they accept for Direct Checkout. They also removed my post at Etsy forum few hours later.

  19. Come and share your stories on Life After Etsy on Facebook!
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/lifeafteretsy/

  20. I AM GETTING A CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT TOGETHER AGAINST ETSY, MESSAGE ME IF INTERESTED IN BEING PART OF IT

    1. Yes, I am interested in this lawsuit and being a part of it.

      Valerie Glaser Brick Shtick® http://www.brickshtick.com 919.672.0839 val@brickshtick.com

      >

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