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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Your safety as a user who provides income for Etsy doesn't matter. However, the privacy of scammers does.
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.
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.
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.
That's an enthusiastic yes if you want to:
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!