For most sellers, fraudulent returns are one of the hardest and most frustrating situations to deal with on eBay. What makes it worse, is that eBay provides very little information on what you should do as a Seller. So this post will go through some of the most common issues with returns and how to handle them.
First though, you should understand one thing. eBay prefers to side with the Buyer. That is not to say they will always side with the Buyer, but you are fighting an uphill battle anytime you try to fight a return. Sometimes all the facts will be clearly on your side, and you can do everything right, and eBay will still end up siding with the Buyer. So, while this post will go through some tips for handling issues with Returns, it won’t help you win every return case.
Not as Described Return to Avoid Return Shipping
Sometimes a Buyer will claim an item is Not as Described when they open a return, in order to avoid return shipping costs. If you can get them to admit to this, that may be enough to go to eBay. Assuming they won’t admit it, if the item has not been returned yet, try to get them to be as specific as possible about what is wrong with the item. This will make it easier once the item has arrived to check it out for the problem they are indicating. It also makes it harder for them to change their story later about what the issue is.
Once the item has arrived, and you confirm it is still in good condition, respond to the buyer (via a message, since the current return system does not allow responses after you accept the return), and inform them of the condition of the item. Again, see if they will admit there is not really an issue. If not you have a few options.
- You can try to contact eBay’s Facebook support via Facebook or contact them via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org). Usually they will have you contact them via e-mail, so that is probably the best place to start most of the time. You should contact them with the e-mail address you have registered with eBay.
- You can contact eBay support via phone (this is probably your best bet, if you are good at arguing with support).
- You can escalate the case and hope they decide in your favor (if they don’t, this will be a case decided against you).
- You can do nothing, and simply refund them.
The way I personally handle these, is by contacting support (usually the e-mail for the eBay Facebook support group). If I don’t get anywhere that way, I will then either refund them fully if the cost isn’t too high, or I will escalate the case. You can also try just refunding them minus all the shipping costs, however they will normally escalate the case in that situation (and they will usually win).
Buyer Returns a Different Item (Trade)
This is when the Buyer purchases an item from you in order to replace theirs. For example, they may purchase the same model DVD player from you, and then send you their DVD player in its place. In order to avoid this, try to get good pictures of the serial numbers on items that have them. If your items don’t, then just try to get the best pictures you possibly can. That way once an item is returned, you can verify it is the same one you sent. If it’s not, then you will need to try to contact support. However, these are very difficult to win. Your best bet is to call eBay, and basically stay on the phone as long as you can making your case. Sometimes they will refund you, but the buyer will keep their money as well.
Buyer Returns an Empty Box
If the Buyer returns an empty box, or a box containing random items to add weight, you basically need to contact support (via phone) as soon as possible. eBay knows about this issue, and if you call right away, when you are still nice and upset, usually they will take care of it for you. The buyer will still keep their money and your item, but eBay will give you back your money as well.
Buyer Claims Part of the Item is Damaged, Wants Refund and Item
So in this situation, the Buyer tells you that part of the item is damaged. They would like you to issue a partial refund, or send additional items in order to make up for the damage. Frequently, these are not return fraud, but the item was actually damaged during shipment. However, sometimes a buyer will do this in order to try to get extra items, replace an item they damaged themselves, or get money back.
The biggest issue with this type of fraud is you usually can’t be sure that item really isn’t damaged. This can make it very difficult to determine exactly what to do about it. However, below I will list some tips / options on how to handle these situations.
- If you strongly believe the return to be fraudulent, and what they are asking for is significant, you should push for them to return the item rather than giving them whatever they are asking for (frequently, they will just not return the item, which then allows you to escalate the return after enough time has passed to get it closed).
- If what they are asking for is a relatively small amount, it is usually easiest to just give them what they are asking for. As an example, if you sell a DVD and they claim the case was cracked in the mail and they would like a $2 refund to replace it, that is probably not worth arguing with them about. However that is ultimately up to you.
- As with other types of return issues, have them be very specific about the issue. This can help you later if they end up returning everything, and you need to try to argue that the item actually is as described.
Buyer Claims Item Was Not Received, Tracking Shows Delivered
This one is easy. Do nothing, unless you want to. Advise them to contact their local carrier. Other than that, there is not much you can do. You are covered as long as the item shows delivered to the address provided.
Other Tips and Information
-If you are going to try to escalate a case, or call support, report the Buyer first. Sometimes they will look to see if you have done this.
-When reporting a Buyer, or preparing to escalate a return, upload pictures.
-The Support via Facebook (or using the e-mail address) will try to help you, but if they cannot, it is not worth arguing with them. They will do what they can, but after that your best bet is to call eBay.
-If you have the time and are willing, calling eBay will be your best chance at fixing a situation. However long hold times should be expected.
-Although not return fraud, sometimes items will be refused or returned to you for other reasons. The easiest thing to do on these items is to just issue a refund. You can try to issue them a refund minus the initial shipping or restocking fee, however if they open an Item Not Received case, eBay will decide against you and issue a full refund. It isn’t fair but that is how it will work.
-Remember that escalating returns can cause them to be decided against you. Sometimes, if the item is of low enough value, it can be better to simply refund the Buyer, in order to avoid the negative impact on your account (particularly if you are a top rated seller).
-Remember to be polite but firm with phone support. Anyone who has worked in customer service will tell you they don’t try as hard to help the rude people. So be as polite as possible. However, you can still keep asking if there is something they can do or if you can speak to their supervisor if they aren’t able to help.
-If you escalate a return to a case, make sure you provide only the important information. Be direct and to the point. Don’t spend six paragraphs explaining the situation.
-E-Mail address for eBay Facebook support group is email@example.com. You should contact them with the e-mail address you have registered with eBay.
Sometime in the future I will try to focus on each of these separately, as this particular post got away from me a little. Unfortunately there is a lot to cover when it comes to return fraud, and I wanted to get something out there sooner rather than later.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below.