AuctionBytes Blog
Covering auctions, collectibles and marketplace selling.

AuctionBytes Blog The AuctionBytes Blog has been giving a voice to online merchants since its launch in 2005. Named one of the world's top 30 blogs in 2008 by "Blogging Heroes." Weigh in with your thoughts on the joys and pitfalls of selling online.
Mon Dec 23 2013 21:58:53

Could These Tactics Decrease Your Returns?

By: Julia Wilkinson

Sponsored Link

As much as a third of all Internet sales get returned, according to an article in today's Wall Street Journal. I was shocked to read the number was that high, although, of course, it was "as much as," which means that is the high end.

A couple of the causes stated in the piece were the lenient returns policies of companies such as Zappos.com and Amazon.com. (And some companies' return policies - such as REI and Orvis - are so generous that some people actually abuse the system to make money, as I blogged about a while back). But the Journal pointed out that companies are now data mining and taking proactive action to prevent so many returns.

For example, a retailer web site may keep track of how many returns a given customer makes, and if they do it a lot, they may ask questions such as "Are you sure you want that in a size Small and not Medium? The last time you ordered a size Small you returned it." (This is me paraphrasing the article's question, but that was the gist).

I must admit I chuckled when I read that. It sounded like the kind of question that would get a husband in big trouble with his wife (or vice versa) if he asked it.

But it is interesting to think about ways we as online sellers can obviate against returns. I can think of a couple. With clothing, of course, give measurements. And detailed ones. I noticed, for example, some customers ask for the sleeve length from armpit to end, or even armpit to armpit. There are a lot of measurements to think about besides just waist and length with clothing.

Another thing, and this would be particularly helpful with big-sized items to prevent  shipping refunds: make sure the buyer knows exactly what they are getting. If you listed a major flaw in the listing and they bought it anyway, I know some sellers who would ask, "You do know it has X wrong with it, right?" before shipping it. If they do know, they would likely appreciate it being confirmed.

Another thing, and this is one I plan to do myself in the next few days, is to take a good video showing every angle and as up-close views as I can of the item, which in this case is a beautiful, ginormous, expensive art glass bowl, and showing it to the buyer. The bowl has a couple tiny specks, and I was asked if it had any "flea bites." I tried to show everything in the pictures, but I want to make sure the customer won't have a problem with the bowl when receiving it.

Have you thought of these kinds of tactics to prevent returns? How does your return rate look these days? Is it higher around the holidays? Post a comment here!

(Don't forget to email any holiday greetings, tree photos or even pet pix - with your store link - for our AuctionBytes Pinterest Board to me at julia@auctionbytes.com).



Comments (14) | Permalink

Readers Comments

Perminate Link for Could These Tactics Decrease Your Returns?   Could These Tactics Decrease Your Returns?

This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Tue Dec 24 02:29:50 2013

In past SIX holiday seasons, I had zero returns. I've never had had more than one return ever. Until this year.

This year -- in spite of furnishing more detailed product descriptions, more photos, and more Item Specifics -- my return rate has been horrendous.

I'm convinced it's because the practice of renting products and "try before you buy" that PayPal promotes is becoming more widespread as ebay's anti seller policies are now very well known in  the ebay buying community.

Furthermore, it's quite clear from some experimentation I've done that the filing FVFs results in decreased visibility while we wait for these renters to approve them. as soon as they're closed, normal search visibility returns.

Also a higher rate of returns within a short period of time puts our accounts in purge jeopardy and Guardrail kicks in.

So due to ebay's illegal and secret punishment policies, in order to preserve my business I feel compelled to not file for most of the FVFs.

Return abuse will continue to worsen until ebay relinquishes control over the returns process and permits sellers once again to determine and enforce their own return policies as long as they're clearly stated up front.

I pay a monthly store fee and therefore have a legal expectation to set my own policies which includes returns, the right to refuse any competitors ads in my listings, the right to accept any form of payment I want, and so on.

In other words, I'm paying for my own sandbox, house plants.

Perminate Link for Could These Tactics Decrease Your Returns?   Could These Tactics Decrease Your Returns?

by: Steevo This user has validated their user name.

Tue Dec 24 15:51:40 2013

Selling (or buying) clothing sight unseen is a waste of time.  

Except maybe in specific cases it makes no sense.  

I buy a certain shirt at JC Penney and there's no problem ordering them online since I know what I need, and JCP puts them on sale for $3 sometimes.

I vacillated for 6 months before I got up the nerve to order a pair of boots online. As I was afraid I couldn't use them, and it cost me $13 to ship them back.  $13 to try on a pair of shoes?  That was a complete waste of time.

It's a completely silly business model trying to sell clothing sight unseen.

Fortunately I sell IT equipment and I get almost no returns. The buyers are usually real solid citizens as well. Very few problems.

Perminate Link for Could These Tactics Decrease Your Returns?   Could These Tactics Decrease Your Returns?

This user has validated their user name. by: Puck

Tue Dec 24 17:24:59 2013

I'd rather be in he££ with a broken back than selling sized apparel on the Internet.

Perminate Link for Could These Tactics Decrease Your Returns?   Could These Tactics Decrease Your Returns?

This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Tue Dec 24 19:35:09 2013

Steevo says: "It's a completely silly business model trying to sell clothing sight unseen."

Seriously?  $26 billion dollars worth of clothing are sold online worldwide.  That is $26 BILLION.  Nothing to sneeze at.  

Perminate Link for Could These Tactics Decrease Your Returns?   Could These Tactics Decrease Your Returns?

by: Massachusets Howler This user has validated their user name.

Tue Dec 24 21:37:59 2013

I do used mes clothing and that is now very difficult on ebay.

Remember: the big retailers that sell new cloting rarely if ever give exact measurements like we original pre-owned sellers do, they always sell at fixed price and can afford the returns, and they teach the buyers that ALL OF US ACCEPT RETURNS even if we do not offer returns.

It is the end of the preowned clothing auction seller that has occurred.
Mass Howler
50% of my AUCTION BARGAIN ITEMS have been returned this year, and little sold.
Imagine you get a $295 shirt for $30 at AUCTION and then you return it- this IS the end.

Perminate Link for Could These Tactics Decrease Your Returns?   Could These Tactics Decrease Your Returns?

by: Massachusets Howler This user has validated their user name.

Tue Dec 24 21:38:51 2013

Ming,
I also have had next to zero returns in holidays past.

The marketplace is ruined.
MH

Perminate Link for Could These Tactics Decrease Your Returns?   Could These Tactics Decrease Your Returns?

by: FREDDY This user has validated their user name.

Wed Dec 25 06:24:52 2013

Part of the reason we left ebay. Too many returns. More and more were looking for a partial refund. Never- just ship back. That saves about 20% of the returns. I think ebay encourages purchases with no hassle returns-they want the FVF - period. We stopped clothes 3 years ago as it started then to be a rental business.
Amazon is not getting any better. The only bright side on Amazon is that we charge a restocking fee and recoup shipping on all buyers remorse. I get a chuckle out of Amazon when they inform you ways to prevent returns - they cover things like fast shipping, proper packaging, tracking etc. However they do not mention anything what to do when the buyer just changes his/her mind. Never a return on Etsy out of 198 sales.

Also no returns on Bonanza - but that is probably due to NO sales on that site. :-).

I personally will not buy any clothes including shoes online. Each manufacture is a little different in sizing. Why take a chance?? Returning an item can be expensive and time consuming. So going to the retail stores is the only way I buy such items.
Returns are a way of life on online selling or in a brick and mortar. Just work at keep it as low as possible.

Do hope and pray that 2014 will be a very  good year for Julia, Ina, David and all the other contributors and staff and also to all the followers.........  

Perminate Link for Could These Tactics Decrease Your Returns?   Could These Tactics Decrease Your Returns?

by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Wed Dec 25 09:35:09 2013

I have few returns (thankfully) and have a clear 14 day policy - that eBay seems to be OK with.

Making buyers pay return shipping WITH signature required (so that we both know I got the item back) seems to slow down returns to a trickle.

My issue is the unwarranted returns that eBay allows, tries to force me to take and then lets buyers neg me for.

Like .... product compatibility. Do your homework BEFORE buying something, ripping open its packagin, only to find out it wont worth with your obscure/uncommon cell phone, piece of equipment.

Its those things that create headaches for me - and those are the buyers that get OUTRIGHT NASTY when you explain that you only sell things not make them, or guarentee compatibility.

eBay of course pretends they know nothing about it - but thats what eBay does best ... nothing.

Perminate Link for Could These Tactics Decrease Your Returns?   Could These Tactics Decrease Your Returns?

by: Abernathy This user has validated their user name.

Thu Dec 26 02:51:44 2013

I don't hesitate to purchase clothing (including shoes) online if I know what to expect from the brand or there are enough measurements to be sure of fit. I've sold clothing online for several years and I always offer help with fit. In the past, customers on ebay and elsewhere frequently comment on the excellent fit. The new breed of ebay buyer, however, is unclear on the concept of the tape measure. Sizes are defined by the size the customer wants to wear. If they want to wear a small, and your sz S item doesn't fit them, obviously you lied. It doesn't matter how many measurements you include. My Etsy customers are far more likely to pick up a tape measure, and less likely to insist that the seller read their mind and size items accordingly.

Perminate Link for Could These Tactics Decrease Your Returns?   Could These Tactics Decrease Your Returns?

by: Moonwishes This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Thu Dec 26 11:43:51 2013

I finally broke down this year and ordered shoes on line since I was having NO success finding them at B&M and had no energy to do a shop till I drop looking for them. I was nervous about buying shoes on line because as another poster mentioned paying the return shipping is expensive. Fortunately since I am set up for shipping myself I never use a return label, but address, weigh and mail the package myself and save at least half of the return shipping cost.

anyhow I found some shoes in a larger width for women than I had ever seen. Bought 4 different pairs hoping one would fit. All four did! Since I had been wearing the same pair of shoes for 12 years that were pretty much worn out, It was wonderful to have this work out. Now I also know where to go back to get more shoes when and if needed.

I don't do refunds except for my error. Even on Amazon. I sell patterns with complete descriptions of them, so when someone says they got the wrong size, not my problem, nor is the excuse that it looks too hard to make, also not my problem since I described it thoroughly and a sewer would know what they can and can't do. Nor do I give refunds when someone orders a pattern, receives it and gets mad that it isn't the garment itself. Not my problem that you can't read. If I mail the wrong size or the wrong pattern, etc. they get to keep the pattern and I ship the correct one for free and depending on the circumstances offer them yet another pattern at no cost. Sewing patterns have historically NEVER EVER been returnable even in the B&M from long ago so why now that we sell them on line with full descriptions should people think they should get to return them, especially those that never email, just throw it back in the envelope with no note and send it back. I assume they want a refund, but until I hear from them I don't do a thing with it since it technically isn't mine to do anything with.

Perminate Link for Could These Tactics Decrease Your Returns?   Could These Tactics Decrease Your Returns?

This user has validated their user name. by: juliawww

Thu Dec 26 14:54:30 2013

Moonswishes...you have my sympathy on the hard-to-fine shoes; have yu tried Zappos which has free returns?

My husband has a heck of a time finding shoes that fit bec. he has very small feet for a man. ;) (In fact, I can fit into his shoes lol!). ;) :X

He orders them online a lot..I think thru Harry's shoes? He usually gets ones that fit but he does return them every so often.

Happy holidays all, and may you have no (or as few as possible) returns from your customers!

Perminate Link for Could These Tactics Decrease Your Returns?   Could These Tactics Decrease Your Returns?

by: Steevo This user has validated their user name.

Thu Dec 26 16:05:36 2013

Julia, Zappos returns are not free.

They sell at very high prices, I suspect you could buy what they sell for much less almost anywhere. Certainly on ebay!

So they don't charge you for returns, but if you could buy those same $79 shoes for $49 elsewhere, how much are the Zappos free returns costing you?  

Nothing is free. The buyer always has to pay for everything.

This is the catch 22 with ebay. Prices too cheap, no way to get anyone to pay enough to cover the cost of the 30% of items bought online that are returned.  

The seller *cannot* pay the business cost of those returns, he has to use his customer's money to pay for it.

It has to be in the original price, a restocking fee, or something.  If the seller cannot include an allowance for returns he will be out of business soon.

All businesses have costs and those costs are ultimately borne by the company's customers.  

Perminate Link for Could These Tactics Decrease Your Returns?   Could These Tactics Decrease Your Returns?

by: comet This user has validated their user name.

Thu Dec 26 23:08:53 2013

TANSTAAFL

There
Ain't
No
Such
Thing
As
A
F
ree
Lunch

OR
you could say---

TANSTAAFR
There ain't no such thing as a free RETURN.

So--Zappos does offer some things you have a hard time finding elsewhere.  But--for things you CAN get elsewhere---these are priced way too high.  And for what reason?  For EVERYONE to cover that "Free"  return shipping!!!!!!

I don't buy from Zappos but I have looked.  I need very specific shoes due to medical issues and I DO buy them on ebay--but I ALSO know what model and size I am looking for---and if I vary from this I accept that I might be re-listing them on ebay later!  (I have also made $$$ this way as some people seem unable to price things right and I get a bargain!)  

I also sell used clothing and I do hate being "penalized"  after posting specific measurements and any quirks==such as I know X brand runs small---when the big boys that ebay wants to suck up to get away with hardly a description at all.  

However when someone finds something they LOVE---such as a recent leather jacket found by a mom whose daughter lost her beloved one---and the mom writes to let me know that the daughter was THRILLED---this was why I got into ebay in the FIRST place.  Yes---to make money of course.  

But to give people what they---and as a buyer what I===wanted and needed.  

Too bad ebay has made it almost impossible to DO this these days. And so EASY to claim some "flaw"  or that the item was a different nuance of color or that a thread was crooked on an inside seam---no end to the complaints that ebay allows to trash sellers.  

INA---JULIA---DAVID---My Christmas Wish--Hannukah Hope---is that ECOMMERCE will FINALLY start their OWN auction site!!!!!      

Perminate Link for Could These Tactics Decrease Your Returns?   Could These Tactics Decrease Your Returns?

by: menco This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jan 2 12:18:27 2014

Is there no way to deter the unscrupulous buyer returns? I've had expensive medical/scientific electronics (with tamper-sealed case screws)returned with internal parts missing and been told by eBay support that it was the buyer's right to disassemble and return it. Out $650 on that adventure, plus negative feedback.

Now I'm wrestling with another scumbag - over a $32 cellphone, no less! This rat hit buy-it-now and paid for a BLACK Motorola phone, then sent eBay Message that he only wanted a RED phone. I managed to fill the order, but took time to photograph the front, screen, back and guts of the working phone just in case.  Naturally, I got another email complaining that the phone had not been unlocked (not part of the original deal) and claiming defective battery (dead or too expanded to fit into case). My response was standard - send it back as you received it and get a refund. Buyer emailed the phone was on the way back. Then I reported the buyer as a problem, emailed him and eBay the item photos and sat back to await the storm. The buyer responded that the case was broken and the screen scratched, too. The phone arrived last Friday. Tuesday
Dec 31 the buyer filed an item not as described case. Today (Jan 2) I'll open the box and decide what to do next. Obviously negative feedback is ahead regardless, but isn't it time eBay took some interest in overt buyer fraud?

BTW, I just read about glitter nailpolish as a telltale - the glitter pattern of individual polish drops produce photographs that are as distinctive as fingerprints and impossible (?) to duplicate.  I'll be trying that self-defense mechanism next.

Anyone else got a security tip?



Login is required to post comments.
To sign in to leave a comment using your AB Verify User Name, fill in the form below. If you have not yet signed up for AB Verify, or if you'd like more information, go to the Registration Page
.

Login for AB Verify
Be sure and use your email address and password to log in.

 
Email:
Password:
 
 Forgot Your Password?
 Even though you are signed in with the AuctionBytes Blog, you will have to sign in to the EcommerceBytes blog. But you can sign in with your existing AB Verify info.