Etsy is a huge handmade marketplace and properly policing it has been a issue for many years. That's not surprising as the volume of both buyers and sellers is very large, many tens of millions compared to Etsy's staff numbers. See my past post, Things Beginners Need to  Know about Selling on Etsy for more details. Etsy just can't cope. 

In the last couple of years, Etsy has been ramping up the use of bots to do the policing. While the bots are useful to some degree, they cannot replace human oversight. False positives do occur much to the consternation of legitimate sellers. 

Starla Moore on Youtube, is an Etsy SEO coach. Recently, she and her partner shared their insights into Etsy's Q1 Investor's Report and the revelations shared by Etsy's CEO. Their video is below - it is a long one, so grab a cuppa. Worth a listen if you are an Etsy seller. There were some eye openers there!

They cover many issues and warned that a big Etsy crackdown is on its way. High on the list of listings which will draw greater scrutiny from Etsy are the print on demand items. Designers use manufacturers like Printify to created products bearing their design images. Many of them use similar mockups - set photo backgrounds which their designs features in.  So many listings look the same to a bot. The bots are looking for identical items not just on Etsy but are comparing photos on other selling sites like AliExpress, Temu and Amazon.  Unscrupulous sellers buy cheap from Chinese sites and masquerade as their own handmade on Etsy.  

If you are a print on demand designer, it's best to order the items and then photograph them yourself using your own background and perhaps models. 

What to do if your listing is deactivated? I have that happen before, a few years ago, as mentioned in my past post. The bots picked up on the word Baltic for my birch laser cut wood. Baltic amber was what they were programmed to look for. Etsy no longer allows teething necklaces made from amber beads which mostly comes from the Baltic area.  They were sued by the parents of a toddler who died after being strangled on one of those previously sold on Etsy.  

Still, the email I received from Etsy said that it violated their policy on necklaces made from small amber beads. It puzzled me because my listings were laser cut wood and nothing to do with amber beads. Etsy did not ever elaborate and Support was unhelpful largely because they were never instructed to deal with this situation. I figured it out after some internet sleuthing and removed the word "Baltic" and all was well. 

The second deactivation happened recently for one of my laser cut wood earrings on my CraftaGems. These were stained and painted by hand. The explanation was that it violated their handmade policy.

This is part of the message I got :
  • Handmade items have to be made or designed by you. You can’t resell anything in our handmade category. Selling unaltered or unchanged commercial items, including offering personalisation as optional or featured as a separate item (i.e. an add-on card, gift tag or written note), is not allowed. Only certain vintage goods or craft supplies can be resold on Etsy. Learn more about reselling. 
  • Simple customisation, such as selecting colours, shapes, and other ready-made options available from a supplier, or adding your own logo or branding to items that you are not otherwise designing or making, do not meet our handmade criteria. 
  • Selling craft or party supplies? Mark it as “A supply or tool to make things” in your listing’s core details. 
  • If you work with someone who’s not part of your Etsy shop to help make your items, you’ll need to add them as a production partner in your listing’s core details. 
  • Use your own images for your listings. Using others' photos or stock images of items that are similar to yours is not permitted. 
I did mark my local makerstudio as the partner as I did not have my own laser cutter when I made that design. Note that Etsy does allow tools, including laser cutters, to make handmade items. The next thing I did was to reverse image search to see if my original design has been copied elsewhere. Nada. 

So I called Etsy support. This Reddit user helpfully listed several ways to contact them. I used this link to initiate a callback. Someone did call back within minutes - a sweet lady from India who tried her best to help. I gave her the listing ID number which is in part of the listing URL. She could see that it was an original handmade design but she was not empowered to reactivate it. What she did do was credit me the 20 cents to list the design again!

That was extra effort on my part and cold comfort to any legitimate and bigger seller who may have had several listings deactivated by the bots. I did write in the support feedback that I was disappointed at having to put in the time to correct a mistake I did not make. (I also answer Etsy surveys and where possible, add my suggestions for improvement).

I never yell or rant at any Support staff (not just from Etsy) no matter how frustrated I am. It rarely accomplishes anything. They are people just like you and me, trying to do a thankless job using the limited guidelines they are given. I have found that by being nice, the staff who have to deal with difficult and angry people all the time, are so grateful, that they go all out to really help me.  What I do is to ask them to forward my concerns and complaints to their superiors who are the ones actually making the decisions. 

Before you contact Etsy support, first make absolutely sure that your listing has not infringed on any Etsy policies. One of the most common reasons for deactivation is the infringement on copyright and trademarks. Make sure you have a licence or agreement/statement for free use before you use to make and sell a design. 

I still see a lot of Disney items and those from popular manga etc. So clearly, the enforcement is not tight. That's likely because it is the copyright holder who must make the takedown request. 

There is also the issue of AI use on Etsy. You've probably seen the fantastical and unreal crochet creations on social media. Many people are taken it by them - see this detailed post on how to spot them.  AI created crochet patterns are popping up on Etsy. These succeed in gulling unsuspecting beginners out of money and frustrating them in the process as the patterns do not work - see this excellent video by Elise Rose Crochet below where she demonstrates how ChatGPT utterly fails at making a crochet pattern.  Efforts with AI generated knitting are also failures.

All this AI garbage unfortunately takes away attention from real specialized design programs or talented human creators. AI is a language model which is trained (from whatever is on the internet) to generate text. So the text results look superficially like a knitting or crochet pattern with accompanying "final" images which resemble the style of a Disney animation still. 

I don't think AI can be used at all for beading with all its complexities of different bead types and thread passes.  

The one positive take on all this is that Etsy is clearly working on cleaning house. They know they have to. Theirs will be an unenviable,  never-ending case of Whac-a-mole.

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Original Post by THE BEADING GEM