Local bridal designer banned from online marketplace
Darcy Wintonyk and Lynda Steele, CTV British Columbia
Published Thursday, November 29, 2012 6:00AM PST
Last Updated Thursday, November 29, 2012 7:59PM PST
A local bridal gown designer who sells her custom creations online says she's been unfairly shut down by a popular e-retailer.
Kathryn Bass, whose custom-made wedding dresses sell for up to $6,000, used Etsy to sell off samples and dresses used at photo shoots for a fraction of the cost -- and reach new customers. Each one of her gowns takes between 40 to 100 hours to craft in her East Vancouver studio.
Etsy, an online venue for independent artists to sell their homemade items, features thousands of unique and vintage wedding gowns through its bridal section.
Bass’s online Etsy store was shutdown suddenly last month after it accused her of being a re-seller – someone who attempts to pass off mass-produced goods as homemade.
The also charged her fees on the listings they removed.
“They send me a form message saying they can't accommodate my listings at this time. They won't tell me what I am in violation of, and refuse to address the issue of my fees,” Bass said.
Her account was suspended and she was asked, via email, to provide photo proof and documentation within five days. The requested materials included pictures of her dress patterns and step-by-step instructions about how she makes her gowns.
Bass said she wasn’t comfortable sending Etsy photos of herself and her private workspace.
“I just felt like it was a violation of my privacy and our trade secrets… of how we do things and how we finish gowns and who our suppliers are,” she told CTV’s Steele on Your Side.
“I just don't think that's relevant information that anybody else needs to know.”
Bass did send the proof they asked for -- twice -- but Etsy said the materials didn't meet its test for independent sellers and her account would remain suspended.
A quick Google search turns up lots of vendors who've been shut out of the site, also accused of not making their own goods.
The company declined to talk about the Vancouver designer’s case, but said it stands by its “System for Catching Resellers and Abusers of the Marketplace,” or SCRAM for short. SCRAM is an internal bot that seeks out probable resellers on its site.
“Scram has identified several hundred potential resellers, each of which our support team is reviewing for appropriate action, ranging from gentle reminders to outright banishment. It is a sophisticated system based on clever algorithms,” a post on the site reads.
Etsy reached out to Bass the day after Steele on Your Side contacted the company. A representative said she could send in her proof of authenticity a third time, and she would be re-evaluated.
But Bass said she’s done with Etsy, and is now seeking out other online venues to sell her bridal gowns.
“I think people should be aware so they can choose not to support Etsy,” she said. “There are many similar sites and local craft fairs and markets to buy hand made items where you truly can support the maker.”