Judging by the number questions we get on the subject (and the questions clogging up every eBay seller Facebook page) returns are one of the scariest and most difficult things for a new seller to deal with. We ourselves have had several "oh crap"moments with returns, including a return for a $300 item after we had already spent the money. Along with honest buyers simply wanting their money back, we have been the victims of several scam attempts. These difficult returns and scam attempts are on top of the half dozen returns we deal with a month which go off without a hitch. A typical return rate on eBay is about 2%. As we are totally average in that regard and have had several thousand eBay sales we have become something of experts on the subjects of returns and, trust us, it isn't hard. All of our returns fall into 3 different categories and, once you get the hang of it, you'll be able to handle returns in your sleep.
To start off with, we figured that the easiest way to convey the information was in a flowchart. Whenever you have a return, work your way through the chart to figure out the best way to proceed.
Common Questions We Get About Returns:
Should I offer returns?
Short Answer: Yes. Offer a 30 day return policy.
Long answer: If you sell on eBay, you already off returns. If you do not create your own return policy, eBay just goes ahead and writes one for you stating that "the seller does not offer returns but you are protected under eBay's Money Back Guarantee." So if a seller receives a defective item, eBay forces the return and you pay for return shipping. If a seller receives an item they don't like, they claim it's defective or flawed, eBay forces the return, and you pay return shipping. It is far better to simply offer returns on your own terms so as to provide the seller with another option. Pleasantly handling returns has also been the source of some of the most glowing positive feedback we have received!
To be a top rated seller on eBay you must offer 30 day returns. Contrary to popular belief, a longer return window does not increase your number of returns. If a person is actually going to return an item, they will do so immediately. If they are trying to run a scam, they will also do so immediately. Offering a longer return policy does nothing but improve your level of customer service and get you a cool discount on Final Value Fees. Plus there's the possibility that they'll put off returning and just forget about it...
Example eBay Return Policy:
"We accept returns for any reason! Our goal is to always provide 5 star customer service. If you are not fully satisfied with the product you receive or our service, please contact us and we will strive to meet your expectations. If a return is necessary, please initiate a return through eBay’s return system and we will issue you a refund upon our receiving and inspecting the item. Items must be returned in the same condition in which they were sold. New items must have tags still attached. To be eligible for a return, the return must be initiated and the item postmarked within 30 days of your receiving the item. All items returned are subject to a 20% restocking fee at our discretion."
Should I charge a restocking fee?
Short Answer: Yes. Reserve the right to charge a 20% restocking fee. You don't have to charge it.
Long Answer: If you have reserved the right to charge a restocking fee, you will have the chance to either charge it or refund the full amount for every return (unless if was a SNAD case). We find that a 20% fee is enough to defer most frivolous returns. However, when a return does happen, we rarely charge the restocking fee as we prefer to go the extra mile with customer service and make sure the customer is happy. When we do charge a fee, it is to recoup the cost of our shipping time/materials.
*Do not charge a restocking fee as revenge to an problem customer who forced a return. The type of seller who creates problems is the same type that would simply love to leave you negative feedback. Don't give them a reason.
How returns work on eBay:
Let us preface this section by saying, Never ever ever do returns outside of eBay. Communicate with buyers only through eBay and, if you extend a refund (even a partial one) or offer a return, do it only through eBay so that there is a "paper trail." It is far to easy to get scammed if you simply refund an buyer through PayPal or if a buyer just wants to "ship something back to you without opening a return to save you the defect...."
eBay will guide you through the process to have a perfect and painless return. Follow their advice and never refund before receiving and inspecting the item. If the sellers returns an item that is obviously not in the same condition as it was shipped in, contact eBay before refunding.
This leads us to another piece of advice, if you have been taking pictures of things as you pack and ship them just in case the buyer breaks the item and tries to return it....stop it. The pictures prove absolutely nothing. You could have broken the item after taking a picture. eBay does not care about the pictures and your time is better spent listing new products.
What counts as a defect?
To clear this up once and for all (at least for people who are reading this), returns do not count as defects! The only things that count as defects under the current eBay system are: canceling an order (if the buyer sends the cancel request it does not count as a defect), and cases being closed without you resolving the issue (eg - it's escalated to eBay).
When can I get negative feedback removed?
Contrary to what all the sad, bitter, and angry people on the internet would have you believe, eBay does look after its sellers. It's is the sellers that make eBay money after all. If you provide excellent service, eBay will side with you and close cases in your favor when you're dealing with unreasonable sellers. eBay is well aware that there are scams run on their site or, as they call them, "poor buyer practices." Because of this, it is possible to get negative feedback removed in many instances. If you feel than a negative is unwarranted or just plain false, contact and eBay rep and explain the situation.
Never ever give into feedback extortion. If says anything along the lines of, "Unless you do X, I will be leaving negative feedback" contact eBay immediately. Be professional, stick to your policy, and if they do leave negative feedback odds are that eBay will remove it for you.
Should I agree to a partial refund?
Short Answer: No. Accept a return instead.
Long Answer: Partial refunds are very useful but are one of the most abused systems (by buyers). A partial refund is completely acceptable as method of satisfying your buyer after you made a mistake. Unfortunatly, we have recieved many messages along the lines of, "Hey the boots are really great but run a bit smaller than I expected. I gave them to my daughter though and she loves them. However I would never pay that much to buy boots for her. Can we reach an agreement so that she can keep the boots? " No we cannot. If you buy something from me, you agree to the price. If you decide that it isn't for you, someone else will want it and you can return it. And you pay for shipping on the return as well... See more about partial refunds in the "scams" section below.
Avoiding Common Scams
The Switcheroo Scam
In one of the more common eBay scams, buyers will buy an item off your store that they already own a broken or worn out version of. When they get your item, they will simply open a return, ship you back the broken one, and get a refund. If this happens to you, contact eBay immediately! If an item is not returned as it was shipped, you do not have to refund and eBay will side with you.
We have several friends who include something along the lines of this in their listing, "We mark all of our products with a small mark which only shows up under UV light. If you return an item, we do not refund until we have ascertained that the item we receive in return was indeed the item we shipped." Whether or not this is effective (or even if our friends actually mark their stuff...) is up for debate but you might consider this option if you are overly concerned. However, we do not mark our items and have no intention of starting.
The "Damaged Goods" Scam
Electronics and home goods are perhaps the most susceptible to this particular shenanigan. The buyer claims that the item was dead on arrival or has some issue (makes weird noises, etc). Often, they are willing to keep the item but want a partial refund. Be sure to request a picture to verify the damage if they say there is a physical problem with the item. If they want to get the item fixed or repaired locally, ask for them to get a quote and scan it in. You can then refund them the quoted amount. When it comes to asking for proof, be a stickler. A polite one though.
The "Partial Refund" Scam
We have had several instances where a buyer messages us to let us know that the item we sent them was "very much not as described, was sized incorrectly, has a hole that we missed, etc." and that they need a partial refund to be satisfied. DO NOT GIVE INTO THIS! Instead, we respond to the message with the following:
We are very sorry to hear that you are unsatisfied with your purchase. Although we do not offer partial refunds, if you initiate a return through eBay we will gladly accept the return and refund you the entire original cost plus shipping! Again, we apologize for this convenience and offer our thanks for allowing us to fix this problem.
More often than not, the buyer simply wants to keep the item but get a discount and will disappear when we respond with the above message. If there really is a problem, we have still offered exemplary customer service and they can return the item!
We hope that answered all of your questions! If you have other questions, feel free to contact us via email or ask us questions on our Facebook page. Until then, happy sales!
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