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Survey Shows Return Rates Vary on eBay vs Amazon vs Etsy

Etsy wins when it comes to product returns, according to a survey of online sellers conducted by EcommerceBytes, beating out its larger rivals. On August 3rd, we asked readers to indicate their rate of returns on Amazon, eBay, and Etsy to see if return rates vary by online marketplace.

Amazon had the highest return rate of the three marketplaces with a return rate of 3%. That compared to 2.3% for eBay and 1.2% for Etsy.

We didn’t ask what type of goods sellers sold, but when we isolated the results by respondents who sold on both Amazon and eBay – regardless of whether they sold on Etsy – we found similar return rates: Amazon: 2.9, eBay 2.2.

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We also asked respondents to leave comments about each of the venues on which they sell to learn what they thought about returns on eBay, Amazon and Etsy.

Comments Regarding Amazon Returns 
Some respondents said they were hamstrung by Amazon because they couldn’t provide details about their items in product descriptions, or were not allowed to fix errors in existing descriptions.

“Inability to adequately describe item due to Amazon listing restrictions on item descriptions, and, selling on listings created by other Amazon sellers where listing description is inadequate,… This causes buyer error. It is not an exaggeration for me to say that my Amazon returns are about 20 times greater than my eBay returns. I attribute this to my being too restricted on Amazon, by their rules for describing items.”

Some respondents said Amazon not only makes it easy for customers to return goods, but encourages the practice. “They not only make it easy (and almost cost-free) for customers to return items, they actually ENCOURAGE it,” wrote one seller. Another wrote, “Amazon suggests returns way too much.”

Adding to the burden of returns on Amazon: buyers may blame sellers for defective goods so they won’t have to pay for return shipping. “Some customers abuse returns claiming defective to avoid return shipping but product is in perfect shape not even opened,” one seller wrote, adding, “It is a real problem on Amazon since they track defective claims.”

Comments Regarding eBay Returns 
One respondent blamed other sellers on eBay for not standing firm against returns abuse. “eBay buyers are more likely to blackmail you into a partial refund and eBay encourages this by not punishing it on the buyer side. Then there are the wimps who give in to every extortion attempt. They encourage bad buyers to try try again.”

While sellers are frustrated with a lack of control over listing descriptions on Amazon, one respondent pointed out that they didn’t have that problem on eBay. “eBay customers return far less but we believe it is because we are in control of the description and not constantly trying to get Amazon to make changes in their item descriptions.”

One respondent was somewhat philosophical about returns on eBay – “I sell designer shoes so obviously there will be a certain amount of things that don’t fit.”

And one seller blamed Amazon for influencing returns on eBay: “I used to get ZERO returns through eBay, but it has increased over the last few years, due to the AMAZON EFFECT (buy everything, return most of it).”

Comments Regarding Etsy Returns 
There were not many complaints about return rates or customers on Etsy. “The buyers are much easier to please on this site than on the other 2,” a seller wrote. “They have not (thankfully) been taught to steal from sellers and aren’t spoiled babies. A higher class of buyers here. Most returns have to do with the customer not reading the listing details.”

One respondent praised Etsy, writing, “I love Etsy and their treatment of sellers. I have not paid the return shipping on any returns, nor have I refunded original shipping.”

“I’ve been selling on Etsy for about 4 or 5 years. I don’t think I’ve ever had a return,” another respondent wrote.

And one Etsy seller was also philosophical about returns: “I offer a no-questions-asked return policy. Though I too dislike returns, I found that I end up with much happier customers in the long run.”

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Ina Steiner

Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. Send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.


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