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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

How to handle returns?

I recently received the following two emails:

  Hello. I love your blog and find it very inspirational! So I have decided to start selling  a few items in hopes to start bringing in some money to help the family budget. However I have sold some hiking shoes that I thought were womens only to find out they are mens. The buyer would like to return them. I did not know they were mens! Has this happened to you and if so how did you handle it?  What should I do?And if I return them how is shipping handled?

And another one

Thanks for your blog!  It has inspired me to sell on ebay, and I have been selling clothes for the past few months.  Generally, this has gone well, however I received an email today regarding a return.
A woman had purchased 2 skirts from me, and would like to return them because they don't fit.  In my return policiy, it says 3 days and buyer pays shipping.  Since I don't have specifically that I won't return an item because it doesn't fit, do you reccommend that I accept the return and put a disclaimer on future auction pages?

I guess it’s time to discuss returns.
Returns are an unfortunate and sometimes messy aspect of eBay, but it’s most likely to happen at some point in time.  I’ve shipped many great items, only to have the customer not happy with the shade of blue or upset the pants are pleated instead of flat. 
My rule of thumb is this:
If the return is based on personal taste, I do not refund shipping.
If the return in based on error, for example a stain was found, a tear, or the item was mis-measured, then I refund all shipping costs as well.
Funny, I say all that like I'm the boss, but customers can be sticky.  
Here's an example.  A customer recently purchased this Calvin Klein Dress from me for $14.00. 
After receiving the dress, she was not happy with the low dip collar line and wanted to return the dress not just for a full refund, but for shipping costs too.  She said the photo does not clearly display the collar line and that was my error.
I'm not too sure about that, but because I don't want negative feedback, I did refund her shipping costs too.
Another idea if the customer demand you pay for shipping costs?
If I don’t want to pay the return shipping costs, I have the customer donate the item to their local thrift store, but I still return original shipping and cost of the merchandise.
Returns aren’t pretty and I’m glad they do not happen very often.
I do think it’s important to have a return policy displayed in all your listings.  Mine goes a little something like this:

Positive feedback is very important to me.  If you purchase something from my store, I want you to be 100% satisfied.  Please contact me if you have any concern with your item and I will do my best to resolve the issue in your favor.  I work for you, the customer and love finding you the cutest fashions and the lowest prices. 

  I do ship internationally and charge $14.95 for most items.  I am also happy to offer a shipping discount on multiple items.  Please add $2.00 for the first item and $1.00 for any additional items to the highest shipping price on the items you are purchasing. Paypal payments are expected within three days of purchase. I will send invoices out as soon as possible and you are welcome to pay for your item even if you have not received an invoice.  I will not contact you unless there is some problem with your item.  Please ignore the flash bubbles my camera leaves on dark clothing.  I enjoy making every eBay experience a great one. 

In a way, eBay can be so impersonal, with sellers and buyers barking at each other so I really want my customers to know that I will do my best to resolve each issue as it comes.  I think of how I’m treated when I shop at a department store.  For the most part, I’m granted requests on returns and I feel my eBay customer should have the same benefit.
Keep communication open and you should still have a good experience, even if you are out the shipping costs.


  1. There are some good dress designs you have posted.You did good job!

  2. My policy on returns is that I say "no returns." I only give returns when an item is not as described in the listing. I also state that buyers should ask any questions about an item prior to bidding.

    However, again, since they have you on a choker chain when it comes to negative feedback. My philosophy is this...Why cause yourself any stress? If you bought an item for $1 and it cost you $4.90 or less to ship, how much time and aggravation is the cost of dealing with a disgruntled customer. I just refund the entire amount and tell them to keep the item. Then, if I feel the person has not been pleasant and is one of those who will never be happy with what they purchase, I block them as a bidder.

    There are many more fish in the sea and I don't want to deal with the sharks. I'll just stay with the happy playful dolphins because after all it is just a game, isn't it?

  3. i agree with you. returns can be very messy and they can be a joy, depending on how you handle them.
    i look at my sales in dollars and cents, but also in feedbacks. no one wants to buy anything from someone who has negative things said about them. so i have to make a decision about what it will really cost me in the end. i have had to walk away from the computer and email several times to compose myself so i don't say what is really on my mind! i try to work with people and will refund the cost of the item and if they push the issue, i will refund postage rather than risk that nasty black mark on my feedback.
    right now i am not working and their is no income coming in. so ebay is helping to pay the bills. i have become even more selective in my listings, products and wording. even encouraging my buyers to contact me for more information. especially international buyers. i have taken for granted the english language and there are barriers from my keyboard to their monitor. what is written does not always translate exactly. keep in mind that someone may write an email to you that sounds a little strange or sometimes snobbish. it's all in the translation.

  4. Um is the collar really as high as it looks in the picture??? Laura you deserve serious kudos for working with her on that one!!!

  5. Just had to share. I sold a pair of jeans on eBay and the buyer did not send any e-mails after the fact just posted a negative feedback that said, "Pants were too short and did not fit". I had the sizes and measurements in my listing. I sent a nice but firm e-mail and said that the feedback is for feedback on how the transaction went, not whether or not you liked the product you bought. I asked them to retract their negative feedback which they eventually did. Crazy.

  6. I have been selling on ebay for a long time. In each listing I put Please Bid Carefully As All Sales Are Final. That way if a customer doesn't like it then it isn't my problem. I also encourage questions prior to bidding. I am not Walmart I don't have to accept returns, it just gets too tricky. By stating that I don't accept returns I may lose a customer or two but in the end I don't have to deal with the hassle of returns. As for when a customer has a problem I don't hesitate to refund the money including shipping immediately. Like Laura and Kelley I buy mostly $1 items so it really doesn't cost me much. I guess that to me is one of the costs of doing business. I do my very best to please the customer but sometimes things happen. I make sure as soon as I return their money I cancel the transaction so they can't come back after and leave neg. fb. If you don't cancel the trans they can, it happened to me.

  7. Thanks to anonymous for the tip about canceling a transaction after refund. I'd never done that and just discovered that option. I cancelled one transaction yesterday after a refund. Kelly, did you change your position on your return policy. I was just about to post something similar in my listings, but I don't see it on any of your current listings. Just wondering.

  8. Rita,
    No, I still have the same return policy- full refund, buyer pays return shipping (unless it's my error.

  9. If you have a good return policy then I feel there would not be much problem. And to keep a customer happy we can do anything....Its up to us to decide.