My Shitty Experience — How My Etsy Account Got Suspended And Why You Shouldn't Sell There

December 22nd, 2023
Cover image of the post

I wanted to sell a signed copy of my newest book Wild Flowers Electric Beasts with a personal message and a cute bookmark. Having no experience with that, I decided to go with Etsy just because I'd heard some people did it there, and I had also bought some stuff there in the past, so I figured, why not? Without doing any research, I set up an account, which led to the worst experience I've ever had. It's really quite baffling how bad it was.

Red Flag # 1. "Vacation mode"

After setting up my shop, I didn't get any sales for a few weeks. Everything was quiet. My shop was just there, waiting to get its first order.

Then I realized that I had limited time before going away for a while and not being able to sell any books, so I set up a 25% discount and made posts on social media, encouraging people who wanted the book to hurry — they had less than a week to order before I'd close shop for a few months.

That's when I made my first sale, and immediately after that my shop was put into "vacation mode" by Etsy, which meant that no one could order anymore. The reason? They found a problem with my government ID that I had provided a few weeks before while setting up my shop. What problem? That remains a mystery until now because that wasn't explained to me. I just got a vague automated email about it (a pattern with Etsy, as you'll see). Why hadn't they mentioned the problem before? Why, if that problem was so critical that they temporarily banned me from selling, had they allowed me to set up shop in the first place? Shouldn't they have verified it earlier? No answers to any of that. Everything was great until it suddenly wasn't.

A screenshot of an email from Etsy. Hello Alina,   Nice work getting your first sale! We’re reaching out since it looks like we couldn’t verify the seller info you shared in onboarding, so your shop is in temporary Vacation Mode. This means you can’t receive new orders, and your listings won’t appear in search results on Etsy during this time. Learn more about Vacation Mode   To get paid and start selling again, you’ll need to upload a legal document (like a government-issued ID) confirming your identity in the next 60 days —-this helps us keep our community safe. If you can’t verify your info, the buyer will be refunded and your shop will stay in Vacation Mode.

Hey, I only made posts on social media, but imagine investing money in an ad campaign just to direct your potential customers to a link saying that "the shop is on vacation, we'll let you know when they come back."

I was very frustrated by that. I uploaded another ID (which, by the way, I wasn't comfortable with, because I don't know what protections Etsy has in place to prevent hackers from stealing it). More importantly, I quickly set up shop on Gumroad. It's not the best and has it's issues — I chose it because I'd already had an account there selling ebooks, so it was the easiest and fastest option for me. Still, despite its drawbacks, compared to Etsy it turned out to be like a paradise.

The next day, my shop resumed functioning. My other ID met Etsy requirements — not sure why.

Lesson Learned

The fact that you were able to set up shop doesn't mean you've met Etsy requirements. Something can go wrong any moment, especially after you make a sale. You won't get any explanation about what exactly is wrong and how you can fix it, but you're free to read their endless rules and guidelines, trying to figure out what might apply to your case.

Red Flag #2. Account Reserve a.k.a Some Of Your Money Is Being Held By Etsy

Two days after my shop resumed functioning, I got an automated message saying that Etsy placed a temporary account reserve on my shop. Again, the message was vague, without a specific reason it was done in my case, just a list of possible reasons and links to their endless policies.

Below, you can see a part of their email. It's too long to post all of it, and this already isn't a short read.

A screenshot of a part of an email I got from Etsy. It says: Why are my funds being held?   As outlined in our Etsy Payments Policy, reserves can be driven by a combination of factors, including:   • A large increase in sales   • A large increase in cancellations or refunds to buyers   • Many of your orders didn’t ship in time   • Many of your orders didn’t have tracking info, or Etsy couldn’t verify the tracking info you added   • A history of low reviews  What does this mean for my shop?   During the temporary reserve period, 30% of your sales funds for orders with physical items won’t be available for deposit. This money in reserve is yours and will still show up in your Payment account. You’ll be able to receive these funds as soon as you ship your order with a tracking number that Etsy can verify, or after 45 days—whichever comes first. You can learn more about Payment account reserves in our Help Center.   View your Payment account  When will the reserve be lifted?   We’ll remove the Payment account reserve in 90 days, as long as there are no more holds on your account. You’ll get an email from us when this happens.

Basically, they could hold 30% of the money I earned for up to 90 days. First, I thought I'd done something wrong again. Then, I found in their policies that they routinely did it for new shops in order to have some money for potential refunds so they wouldn't have to charge your card.

Okay, that would have been great to know before setting up shop. It's weird that they decide what to do with your money like that, and you only find out about it after you make a sale.

And look, it says your reserve will be released when you ship an order with a tracking number. That might not always be possible, and in that case, you're stuck waiting. But I shipped all my orders with tracking numbers and made a net profit of €68.59. However, I only have €10.76 available for deposit, and I don't know why or how it was calculated. It's just all vague.

Lesson Learned

You don't have full control of your money. It's your responsibility to ship a product on time and provide a good service for your customers, but it's not Etsy's responsibility to transfer the money you make with your hard work. They decide when and how you get paid. They get their fees immediately though.

Red Flag # 3. An Avalanche Of Spam

I've never gotten so much spam anywhere. In my short time on Etsy, I got 9 messages, and all of them were spam. Most of them were pretending to be Etsy support and phishing for my email or directing me to suspicious links. I always got them after making a sale. After my last sale, I got 5 of those! See an example below.

A screenshot of a spam message I got pretending to be Etsy support. The icon of the sender is Etsy. It says: An appeal requiring an immediate response!  Hello! It looks like your bank details are outdated and payments for orders are not reaching you.  • To update them, you need to send us your e-mail in a reply message in the chat to create a request. • After that, you will receive an email and act according to the instructions.  Otherwise, your account will be blocked within 24 hours from the moment the email is sent to you.  Sorry for the inconvenience, Etsy

I'm a bit embarrassed to admit it, but the first time I got it, I fell for it. Probably because it happened on the same day when I received an email about my funds being held before I figured out what it meant. It looked legit with the logo (they often have shittier logos, but that one was nice), and I was already frustrated by my experience with Etsy, so it just fit into the pattern. I tried to respond but couldn't. Later I learned it was because the user had already been suspended, but I didn't know it at the time. The error message I got when trying to respond looked like this.

The username you have entered is not a valid Etsy user

Which wasn't entirely clear to me, because I thought that I wasn't a valid user. Thinking my account was going to be suspended, I reached out to support, and got a response. Which leads us to the next red flag.

Red Flag # 4. Useless Support

We'll get back to this red flag soon, because it's not an example of them being the most useless, but it's still pretty telling. Basically, they explained that my account was fine, and that I couldn't respond to the user because they were "currently unavailable". However, this paragraph pisses me off.

A screenshot of a part of an email from Etsy support. It says: Upon checking here, I can see that the member to whom you want to send your message is currently unavailable here on Etsy. For privacy purposes, I won't be able to provide further details on why they are not available on Etsy right now, but that is the reason why you can't send messages to this member.

Excuse me, for privacy reasons? Privacy for a scammer? Okay, I was stupid and fell for a scam. The only reason I didn't give my email to them was because the account had already been suspended. Wouldn't it be better to educate me? Let me know that it was spam and that Etsy would never ask me for my email? It would be especially useful because of how prevalent this type of spam is on Etsy. But no, there are privacy reasons to protect the scammers, sure.

Lesson Learned

Your safety as a user who provides income for Etsy doesn't matter. However, the privacy of scammers does.

#5. Cherry On Top — My Account Got Suspended For No Reason (A Common Experience)

As you can see, I'd been having a fantastic time on Etsy, but I didn't know it could get even better. I had the last day to sell the last few books before I'd go away for a while, so I created some posts on social media, and got another sale on Etsy. Immediately after that, my account got suspended.

By that time, I'd made 3 sales on Etsy. I shipped each order the next day after I got it (I had 3 days to do that) and provided a tracking number that Etsy could verify. I know, that's awful behavior that deserves the worst punishment!

The message from Etsy said that I'd get an email with an explanation, and I got none. I could appeal the suspension, which I did. I got a response within 5 minutes saying that "after careful consideration" they decided that my account didn't qualify for reinstatement, and they wouldn't reconsider this decision.

An email from Etsy support. It says: Hello,   This is Gaurav from Etsy’s Member Services team. We appreciate you taking the time to file an appeal with Etsy. After careful consideration, we've determined your account does not qualify for reinstatement. We've performed a comprehensive review of your account and the information you provided, and are unable to reconsider this decision.  While we’re unable to disclose our internal review criteria or discuss your account status further, if you have questions related to your Payment Account please review Etsy’s Payments Policy.  We’re unable to reconsider this decision and can no longer respond to further messages about your account status. We appreciate the time you’ve invested on Etsy and wish you success in your future endeavors. Regards Gaurav

Oh, I'm sure that they made the most careful consideration and conducted the most thorough investigation within 5 minutes. I couldn't ask for more.

Remember I said their support was useless? This was clearly an automated response. No one even bothered to look through my account. Maybe some algorithm did. And not understanding why the algorithm made this decision only made the experience more enjoyable.

A quick search showed this was a common issue. No one knows why accounts get suspended, but one of the reasons is the blasphemy of using a VPN. Then, people get nowhere with brainless automated responses, but some managed to get their accounts reinstated by calling support (that's when you get to talk to a real human!) and waiting for weeks or months. Often only to have their account suspended again shortly after. Someone got lucky writing to them on Twitter.

I personally am not interested in doing any of that because selling on Etsy is not something I would ever want to do again. I'm sorry I allowed them to earn money from me.

The next day, I got an email saying my account was permanently suspended. Of course, it was automated, and of course, there was no explanation. Why would anyone want to get one? It's basically the usual vague shit with links to their policies. I'm particularly excited about the following paragraph.

You may see a delay in getting paid for up to 180 days, in line with our Etsy Payments Policy. This helps us make sure that we can refund buyers if we need to. After this delay, you’ll be able to get paid on the next day in your deposit schedule (unless there’s a payment reserve on your account).

Ah, it's heart-warming to know they get to keep my money for up to half a year. The only thing that could make this experience even better would be if I didn't get paid at all.

Conclusion: Should You Sell On Etsy?

That's an enthusiastic yes if you want to:

  • not have financial control
  • be constantly bombarded by spam
  • not be protected
  • often get punished but never know what you did wrong
  • be unable to contact an actual human to solve potential (inevitable?) problems
  • always be ready for your account to get suspended without an explanation or a possibility to appeal the decision

If you are one of the weirdos who wouldn't like that, you should look for other options.

Featured image by stevedimatteo.

P.S. This isn't typical content for this blog. It's mostly about sci-fi and sometimes fantasy!

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