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Unintended Consequences of Amazon Automated Returns

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Amazon logoAmazon made a change to its returns policy for apparel sellers, and according to one seller, it’s having an unintended consequence: she’s no longer offering exchanges as a result of the new system.

Zu Adams sells apparel on Amazon and explained in a recent blog post how the change to the returns process impacted her business, and why she has stopped offering the ability for customers to exchange products for a different size – a decision she doesn’t take lightly.

According to her post, a few months ago, Amazon.com made it mandatory for apparel sellers to participate in its automated returns process, which provides buyers with a pre-paid mailing label. “We were assured we could deduct the price of the label from a customer’s refund, so we viewed this as a positive change,” she wrote.

But Amazon gives sellers only 48 hours to issue a refund after receiving a return – otherwise, Amazon issues a full refund on the seller’s behalf.

Adams said given her volume of sales and the high rate of returns for apparel, that’s not enough time to process returns, assess their condition, and issue the appropriate refunds.

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What proves especially costly is when a buyer returns a single item from a multi-quantity order looking to exchange it for a different size. If she doesn’t process the return within 48 hours, Amazon refunds the entire amount to the buyer – including the cost of items the buyer had not returned.

Adams goes into greater detail about the problems sellers like her face with regard to the automated returns process in her post. Interestingly, she doesn’t believe the program should be scrapped – “Easy returns for customers means higher customer satisfaction and more sales,” she wrote. Instead, she provides a list of suggestions to Amazon on how to improve the process.

It’s unlikely Amazon intended for its procedure to result in sellers taking away the option for customers to make exchanges, and Adams doesn’t appear to be happy about it either.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
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.