Every eBay Seller eventually has to deal with returns. Whether that is because the Buyer no longer wants the item or there is a problem with the item, returns are unfortunately an unavoidable part of selling on eBay. However, when dealing with returns, as a Seller, it is important to fully understand the return process.
Before the Return
Before a Buyer starts a return, sometimes they will contact you to resolve the issue. This can be an excellent opportunity to stop a return before it starts and prevent any negative consequences on your account (although these consequences are typically very minor). Sometimes better explaining or helping the Buyer with the item can resolve the issue. Other times you can offer the Buyer a partial refund to cover an issue with an item.
However, if you issue the Buyer a partial refund, be absolutely sure to issue that refund through the PayPal transaction, and not by sending money to the Seller via PayPal or otherwise. If a refund of any kind is not issued through that transaction (or through eBay after a return is open), it could lead to you being out that money in addition to the full refund amount as neither PayPal or eBay will recognize that money as being related to that transaction. For more information on the proper way to issue a refund through PayPal, please take a look at PayPal’s step by step instructions for issuing a refund.
Staying Calm with an Open Return
If working with the Buyer did not resolve the issue, or they did not contact you before starting a return, you will now have a return open. First, don’t let it get to you (as incredibly hard as that can be sometimes). If you get upset, it gets more difficult to handle the return properly, and can lead to bad decisions and make it hard to be professional. So if possible, try to remain calm, regardless of what the Buyer does or says.
You also need to be polite, or at least professional. It may be hard, and sometimes that Buyer may not deserve it, but be as polite and professional as possible. There are two reasons for this. The first reason is because sometimes you actually can, as the saying goes, “kill them with kindness.” Or at least wear them down and they may let the whole thing go. The other reason is because in the event you need eBay to review a situation with a refund (which I will cover separately), you want to make sure you come off as the reasonable one.
Types of Returns
There are basically two types of returns. The first is when a Buyer no longer wants the item. Items returned in this way can be subject to restocking fees (which I will cover another time) and the Buyer has to pay to ship the item back. The second type of return, is when the Buyer returns an item because they believe it to be not as described. In this type of return, you (the seller) will typically have to pay return shipping, and you cannot charge a restocking fee. There are situations where a Buyer may claim the item is not as described in order to avoid paying restocking fees / return shipping, however this will also be covered separately, as fraudulent returns is a very complicated topic.
The Buyer No Longer Wants the Item
If the Buyer no longer wants the item, it will often be best to just accept the return. For a new item that was opened, that may not always be an option, but if the item is used, or loses very little value after opening, it will still likely be best to accept the return. However, a restocking fee to help you cover these costs should help. Also, if you sell items with Free Shipping, it is worth noting that you may want to charge a restocking fee to help cover this as well, since the Buyer will be entitled to a refund for the full purchase price (minus the restocking fee). If you charge shipping, then the Buyer is entitled to a full refund for the price of the item, but not for the shipping they paid.
The Buyer Believes the Item to Be Not as Described
If the Buyer believes the item to be not as described, things can be a little more complicated. If you believe what they are saying to be true, you should accept the return. You can also try to offer the Buyer a partial refund. Sometimes this is a more cost effective way to handle things when you consider the return shipping costs, the initial shipping costs (which you will be out as well), and the hassle of dealing with the return.
If you do not believe the item to be Not as Described, you can try to argue the point with them (again, be professional). Frequently it does not work but sometimes if you, for example, point out that their issue with the item was clearly described in your listing, then sometimes they will let the issue go. If not, then you can either refuse the return, accept the return, or try to offer a partial refund, which, even if you don’t believe there to be an issue, could still make more financial sense.
If you decide to refuse the return, there is a better than even chance that they will escalate that return. If that happens, the vast majority of the time, eBay will side with the buyer, regardless of what facts either of you have provided. There are a few situations where refusing to accept the return is a good idea, but the majority of the time, it is better to just accept it.
Once you have accepted the return (or the return has been forced through by eBay), and you have received the item, inspect it. Check to see if the Buyer was correct. If they were, you should issue them a full refund. If there are no issues with the item, or it was correctly described to begin with, you have two options. You can issue them the refund anyway, which can be easier if the item is still in good condition. Your second option, is to attempt to fight the return. This is again, another topic I will cover separately but what is important is that if you are going to fight the return, YOU should be the one that escalates the case. A year ago, that may not have been true, but now eBay seems to be taking a closer look at these cases, particularly if escalated by the Seller rather than waiting for the Buyer to escalate the case. If you are going to fight the return, do not just let it hang open. Escalate it and explain to eBay why you believe the return to be against their policy.
Other Important Return Information
- Damage during shipping IS your responsibility. We all wish certain carriers would handle our items better, but if they damage the item, that IS on you.
- The maximum amount eBay can charge for return shipping is what you originally paid in shipping (assuming you printed the label through eBay).
- Buyers have 30 days from the delivery date or expected delivery date (if tracking is not uploaded) to open a return, unless you offer a return duration longer than 30 days.
- As of Feb. 20th, 2016 returns that are not escalated to cases, will no longer count as a defect against your account (important to Top Rated Sellers).
- As of May 1st, 2016 you will need to offer a return duration of 30 days in order for your listing to meet Top Rated Plus standards (again, important to Top Rated Sellers).
Additionally, I will update this topic regularly with links to other topics on returns as I cover them.
If you have any questions about returns, please ask them in the comment section below and I will do my best to answer them (if this post is old by the time you are reading it, you may still get an answer to your question, as I periodically check back on important topics like this).