EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 3173 - October 14, 2013     1 of 4

eBay's Easy-Returns Pitch Rankles Sellers

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eBay is using the promise of easy returns to entice shoppers to its marketplace, but some sellers object to the strategy, saying eBay is encouraging buyer abuse.

eBay sent a marketing email to users over the weekend that stated hassle-free returns were the best reason to shop on eBay. But is eBay placing too much emphasis on returns? "eBay is telling buyers how happy they will be to screw dealers," wrote one of many sellers who forwarded the email to EcommerceBytes.

The email points to a page on eBay that shows buyers how to get a refund for a transaction they're not happy with:

1) Sellers want to maintain their reputations, so they're happy to resolve issues quickly. If your item hasn't arrived, or isn't as described, let the seller know.

2) If, after a few days, you're not happy with the seller's resolution, we're here to help. Just go to the Resolution Center and let us know.

3) You'll hear from us within 48 hours. If you haven't received your item, or the item is not as described, we'll refund your purchase price plus original shipping.

The email from eBay goes on to explain:

What if the seller doesn't offer returns?
If you received an item that is not as described, or didn't receive an item at all, eBay Buyer Protection always protects you - even if the seller does not offer returns.

If you received an item that was as described but you changed your mind and do not want it anymore, eBay Buyer Protection does not apply.

On eBay, sellers have always set their own returns policy. But over the years, eBay has placed increasing restrictions on the types of returns policies sellers could offer in their listings. In May 2012, eBay banned 3-day and 7-day return windows and said sellers who do accept returns would have to offer a minimum 14-day return policy. It also retired "Merchandise credit" and "Exchange" refund options.

At the same time, eBay introduced a program for sellers called Managed Returns. It offers some benefits to sellers, but also some disadvantages: sellers who opt in to Managed Returns must allow buyers to return orders for any reason, including buyers remorse.

Some sellers believe eBay is already in effect allowing buyers to return orders for any reason no matter what the seller's return policy. This month, eBay purged some sellers by indefinitely suspending their accounts, and some believe one of the factors eBay considered was a seller's failure to refund buyers despite the seller's own return policy.

Others believe eBay will soon force all sellers into its Managed Returns program, especially following "glitches" that appeared to do so in February and August, and the new provision in eBay's user agreement in which it grants itself permission to automatically apply the eBay returns process to listings where returns are accepted. "Initially this change will only apply when a new seller account is opened."

Steven Cox, eBay Head of Global Reverse Logistics, explained to EcommerceBytes last year one of the reasons why the company launched the returns process: eBay research has shown that one-third of buyers look at sellers' return policies before making a purchasing decision, and another one-third look at the return policies after making a purchase decision, he said, while about half of buyers look for lenient or easy-to-understand policies when making their decision.

But another seller who forwarded this weekend's email to EcommerceBytes wrote, "As a seller, it's pretty much a slap in the face. They're basically saying no matter what the seller says on his/her listing, we will give you a refund. Aren't they just a venue?"

Let us know what you think, comment on the EcommerceBytes Blog.


About the author:

Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.


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