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EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 2885 - September 05, 2012 - ISSN 1539-5065    1 of 2

eBay's Steven Cox Explains New Managed Returns Process

By Ina Steiner
September 05, 2012

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eBay created a new way for sellers to manage returns that lets buyers initiate returns directly from their My eBay account pages, bringing eBay itself into the returns process. The new program is only available for items purchased on eBay and paid for with PayPal and is available only to Top Rated Sellers (for now). The new program will likely appeal only to certain sellers depending on their margins and what types of items they sell.

Once a seller has opted into the new managed returns process, buyers will be permitted to return an item for any reason - including if they change their mind.

Steven Cox, eBay Head of Global Reverse Logistics, said under the current process, every seller is own their own when it comes to dealing with buyer abuse of return policies. With the new program, eBay can understand what individual buyers are doing and can put thresholds in place to look identify and prevent abuse.

If sellers receive an empty box instead of their item, they can file a "misuse of return" case and won't have to issue a refund until eBay has investigated the case.

Cox said eBay research shows 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. About half of buyers look for lenient or easy-to-understand policies when making their decision.

While one reason for offering returns is to increase sales, Cox said there will be no badges or logos inserted into listings. This is because the program is in the early stages and because sellers who offer returns already get a boost in search, he said.

How It Works
Customers wishing to return an item for any reason can click on a "Return this item" option in My eBay, specify a reason for a return, and print a shipping label and packing slip. Depending on who is responsible for return-shipping charges, eBay then charges the buyer for the return shipping or adds it to the seller's next invoice.

Sellers issue a refund "with a click of a button" once they've received the returned item, and eBay automatically credits Final Value Fees on the seller's next invoice.

The new process also allows sellers to integrate their own RMA numbers or track returns via unique ID numbers assigned by eBay. Sellers can receive returns at multiple addresses.

Eventually the managed returns product will be available to all sellers, but right now, only Top Rated Sellers can participate.

eBay is using USPS for shipping packages back to sellers. The actual USPS service will be decided automatically by the eBay program based on weight and dimensions, and all returned shipments will be sent via a trackable method. Items that are ineligible for USPS shipping will have to be handled differently, and Cox said other carriers may be added to the program in the future.

One concern of sellers was whether they would have to pay for the shipping label even if the buyer printed one but never used it. Cox said sellers who choose to pay for return shipping will not be billed until the package enters the mail system.

Reasons for Returns
Buyers can return an item for any reason, but they must select a "remorse reason."

According to Cox, the first thing a buyer has to do after starting the returns process is to select a reason why they are returning the item, choosing one from a drop-down menu.

Improvements and Seller Incentives
Cox said that the buyer experience is fully built out, but acknowledged some seller-side features were not yet ready. For example, the program cannot handle partial refunds at this time

eBay will waive listing fees for sellers who choose to relist returned items. In addition, eBay is offering sellers a 5% discount on Final Value Fees for all listings that qualify for the new managed returns process, through the end of September.

eBay's new return-management process lets sellers keep their return policies, including the return timeframe, refund method, restocking fee, and which party pays return shipping - the buyer or the seller.

However, sellers must adhere to eBay's return policy requirements, which were recently changed. Now the minimum return period is 14 days - if sellers don't want to accept returns after 13 days, they must advertise "no returns accepted." eBay also requires a money-back refund option for all returns.

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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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