Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Difference Between Customer Service and Mail Fraud ~ Important Tips from Leal

Many of us who sell on Etsy have had this experience, and I think it's something that should be addressed so that those that are new to the world of Etsy and selling have a reference.

When you sell Internationally, as many of us do, you occasionally run across the odd customer who wants you to help them circumvent their customs fees by marking "gift" on the customs forms or by claiming the item's value as less than the purchaser's paid price.

This seems harmless, and because most of us are focused on providing exemplary customer service, you might even feel tempted to agree to this request.  But, you might want to re-consider this decision because, contrary to your first instinct, this is not good customer service.

It's mail fraud.

Mail fraud of this type may seem harmless, but it's a felony. It carries a sentence of up to five years in prison and/or fines of up to $250,000.

Are you willing to go to federal prison for a sale?

One way to ensure your customers are aware you're not willing to participate in this is to add a note into your shop policies under your Shipping information.  If you've had a request or two like this, or are concerned about getting these kind of requests, I encourage you to do this.

Here is an example from our shop - "INTERNATIONAL SHIPPING shipping is available at reasonable rates that are listed at the bottom of each item description. Please note that we are not responsible for any VAT/Customs fees that may be related to to your order nor will we help you in illegally circumventing these fees if they are applicable to you. Falsifying customs declarations or having an item marked as "gift" in order to avoid customs fees is classified as Mail Fraud and is a felony."

Although good customer service is everything in any type of business, please remember that stepping over the line from good customer service into fraud or illegal action is often a line that the unscrupulous can try to blur.

Be careful out there!

- Leal

This article was written by Leal Kim, a 21 year old full time college student and artisan that makes handcrafted jewelry and accessories. Coconspirator of Bits n' Beads by Gilliauna on Etsy ( ) and proud member of the Queer Etsy Street Team ( ).


  1. Interesting post, I had no idea though my customers never asked me! But now I know, thanks :)

  2. I am borrowing your international shipping statement for my shop policies! It's so well written!

  3. Well done! I haven't come across this request on Etsy yet but too many times on eBay.

  4. Wow, I have never had this requested because my items are low cost but, WOW i never knew people asked that of sellers, this is really good to know for the future. Thank you excellent blog I am a new follower :)

  5. Great post! Hope you're doing well! :)