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West MI Etsy seller 'at a loss', says site's policy change costing big

The small business owner said she worried a policy change may make shops like hers a target for scammers.

NEWAYGO, Mich. — A West Michigan small business says selling her items on popular retail giant Etsy is costing her money.

She says the company has automatically issued refunds to customers who have filed erroneous complaints against her, saying Etsy simply took the money back, even though she never got a chance to argue her side.

Mary Van Wylen contacted the 13 ON YOUR SIDE HELP Team for answers.

“I've done my due diligence, and there's really no reason,” Van Wylen noted.

In business with Etsy for well over a decade….

“It kind of made me concerned a little bit at first, but I really didn't think a whole lot of it.”

Now she's thinking about taking her business elsewhere.

“I depend on them and if they aren't backing me up,” Van Wylen related. “It’s really hard for me to trust them and to move forward with them.”

The small business owner first dipped her toes into the e-commerce scene in 2011, then launching Vintage Atmosphere from her home in Newaygo.

“I started going to auctions and thinking, oh, I could probably make money buying and selling stuff online,” she explained. “I love it. It's been an adventure.”

Until recently…

“Both of them were found in favor of the customers, and then a refund was issued on my behalf before I even got my product back,” Van Wylen said, detailing several recent interactions. “It puts me at a loss because it's worked so differently the last ten years.”

She told 13 ON YOUR SIDE that she hasn’t lost a dispute in a decade, yet indicates several had gone through since August – all in favor of the buyer – with Etsy, she says, automatically approving the refund and pulling the cash from her account without first returning what they bought.

Van Wylen says the issues coincide with the launch of a new policy by the retailer called the Purchase Protection Program and is concerned it may be making small businesses like hers a target for scammers.

“I was starting to really become concerned about how viable my business is anymore working with Etsy,” she related.

13 ON YOUR SIDE couldn’t find a way to reach Etsy by phone.

The HELP Team emailed them to clarify and was told the platform couldn’t address specific cases.

The platform said none of its policies would result in the problems Van Wylen described and included a link to Etsy’s appeals form.

It's a step the small business owner says she’s already taken.

In mid-December, Van Wylen received an emailed response from customer support, which claimed the dispute had been handled ‘according to policy’ and didn’t qualify for the Purchase Protection Program, citing issues with the listing’s accuracy.

“Wording things is very important to me, because you never want to be misleading,” Van Wylen said, denying the claim. “It just was very confusing.”

13 ON YOUR SIDE consulted the rules section on the platform’s website and found a summary of the program that debuted last year.

The program described a kind of insurance policy for refund requests up to $250, claiming it exists ‘to ensure that buyers and sellers have a positive experience on Etsy.’

“It's been extremely difficult,” Van Wylen said of the ongoing ordeal.

Still short on the answers she’s seeking, Mary says she’s started the painstaking process of manually moving her two-thousand plus listings to another site.

“I will have to almost completely restructure how I do my business,” she noted. “If I start using Shopify or eBay or whatever, it's a completely different system. So, it's discouraging.”

13 ON YOUR SIDE intends to keep in touch with Van Wylen and will update this story with any new developments.

Jay and Charlie may be the faces of the HELP Team, but there are more members behind the scenes working to get the job done. HELP Team stories can be seen on weekdays at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. and at www.13HelpTeam.com. People are encouraged to contact the HELP Team by calling 616-559-1313 and leaving a message or emailing help@13onyourside.com.

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