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

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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