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Understanding eBay’s New Returns Policies, Penalties, and Protections

eBay Returns Policies

eBay Returns PolicieseBay is pushing sellers to offer 30-day free returns, and its Vice President of Seller & Marketplace Operations Bob Kupbens made the case during a recent video presentation. He outlined a few steps eBay was taking to protect sellers who offered generous return policies – protections that may have gotten lost in the shuffle with all of the news coming out of this year’s spring and summer seller updates.

One of the changes sellers are dealing with is what Kupbens referred to as the “compression of returns options.” As eBay explains on its website, sellers may now only choose from among the following policies:

– No returns accepted
– 30-day buyer-paid returns
– 30-day free returns
– 60-day buyer-paid returns
– 60-day free returns

The following categories continue to have the option of 14-day returns: Collectibles & Art, Cameras & Photo and Medical, Mobility & Disability Equipment. Starting in August 2018, eBay will update any listings that sellers have not yet updated to one of the new returns policy options, including Good ‘Til Cancelled listings.

eBay will also introduce automation in the returns process: “Starting July 2018, we will automate two steps in the returns process for buyers and sellers,…You can continue to control the efficiency of your returns process by creating rules in your Return Preferences to automatically approve returns or send immediate refunds without requiring the buyer to send the item back.”

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While eBay wants sellers to offer more generous returns policies, it’s also making returns more costly – sellers can no longer charge restocking fees, and if they see an uptick in certain types of returns (SNADs), they could be charged a penalty fee equal to 4% of the selling price of their items (we discussed the new fee in last month’s editorial, and you can learn more on this eBay page).

eBay explained, “Starting in September 2018, if you have very high occurrences of these poor buyer experiences, you will be notified via email and may be subject to extended estimated delivery times and additional fees.”

eBay will measure sellers’ performance with new service metrics and peer benchmarks, which “will give you new competitive insights and greater visibility into after-sale requests that aren’t meeting buyers’ expectations.”

The metrics will show you:
– How often you receive return requests for “items not as described.”
– How often you receive buyer requests for “items not received.”
– Peer benchmarks—comparisons to sellers of similar items.
– Insights into why buyers are making after-sale requests, and tips to reduce requests.

While eBay says the policy is fair since it compares sellers of similar items, a reader had this to say about it:

“What is being overlooked is how the comparison is being made. The comparison is very broadly based in the primary categories, not sub categories. So for example if I sell Used Cell Phones I am being compared to other Consumer Electronics Sellers who might be selling a new calculator or a new cable end.”

Fewer Return-Policy Options on eBay
In explaining the reasoning behind the policy “compression,” Kupbens said eBay return policies were confusing to buyers because there were so many variations (there were 73 different returns options) and sometimes there would be conflicting policies in the same listing.

eBay wanted a standardized set of returns options, with an exception for certain categories.

“If you’re a retailer like eBay, and you want to go out to the market and go, “hey, we have free returns,” you can’t, unless you get some critical mass.”

Free 30 days is important – as you look at the retail landscape, he said, free 30-days is starting to be the basic expectation of buyers from all retailers.

Seller Protections
Kupbens then addressed some changes eBay is making to try and protect sellers from abusive buyers.

There are things we’re worried about with our seller population if they offer free and 30-day returns:

– One is that they’re going to get something returned that doesn’t have the same value as the thing they sent out – that happens a lot.

– The other is that people would game returns – we really haven’t seen that – the data doesn’t show that we’ve got a dramatic increase in returns. But we’ve done a few things.

– One is, if you offer 30-day free returns, we protect you by allowing you to offer a partial refund – up to 50%, if you get something back in a degraded condition. (That’s not “appealable” by the buyer; they can’t come back and force you to issue more of a refund (they have to take it up with eBay.)

– The other way we’re going to protect you is that we’ll remove any negative or neutral feedback if you offer 30-day free returns associated with those transactions.

– The third thing is behind the scenes we’re using machine learning and all of our technology to evaluate and look at buyers who have a “bad return behavior.” We’ll introduce friction into the process for those buyers when they transact with sellers offering free 30-day shipping.

Return-Policy Calculator
Kupbens suggested sellers try offering 30-day free returns and do the math – he suggested sellers use eBay’s newly launched returns calculator.

The premise of the returns calculator: raise your prices to compensate for the cost of higher returns.

Available on this page, it asks sellers to enter the number of transactions and number of returns they’ve had in the past 90 days, and then enter the “total cost of return shipping.” Sellers then select which policy they currently have, and which policy they will update to.

The calculator then provides sellers with the “Amount to add to item with free returns.”

Kupbens said, “Use some of your historical results and put them through that calculator. We believe there’s a very significant conversion increase associated with offering 30-day free returns.”

He wrapped up by stating, “We know there are some issues, we’ve tried to create seller protections in the form of partial refunds, some of the buyer abuse – checking them, as well as removal of negative and neutral feedback. We believe this is the future, we’re trying make sure that we give you the tools to get there with us.”

eBay introduced “Return Rate” metric in the Seller Dashboard in 2016, but at the time said it was only there to provide information helpful to sellers in managing their businesses.

Visit the Simplified Returns page in the Summer Seller Update section of the eBay website for more information.

Ina Steiner on EmailIna Steiner on LinkedinIna Steiner on Twitter
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.

22 thoughts on “Understanding eBay’s New Returns Policies, Penalties, and Protections”

  1. When Vice President of Seller & Marketplace Operations Bob Kupbens decides to offer FREE RETURNS on his listings then maybe I will consider it. But when the person that is standing there telling us what a great program this is, but refuses to participate in it personally, that tells me that everything he is saying is nothing but hot air. In fact he does not only NOT OFFER FREE RETURNS, he does not accept returns at all.

    I would lay odds that Ebay has even privately exempted his account from SNAD returns as one of his executive perks. So Bob Kupbens. when are you going to step up and add free returns to your listings on EBay. Remember good leaders lead by example and others such as Wenig (and so far yourself) continue to lead by do as I say not as I do, which appears to be Ebays management style.

    I do see why Carl Icahn stated that Ebay was the most mismanaged company he had ever dealt with. I am sure their were a few choice adjectives tossed in there also, but I will keep it clean for this round of postings.

  2. Clothing is a high return area because of the archaic method manufacturers use to size their stuff. Sizes vary not only from brand to brand but within brands. The only standard is feet and inches… or meters and centimeters.

    I thought my only hope was to explain the measurements game in my item description along with graphics.
    I find from the questions I get that buyers using a ‘smart phone’ rarely read my descriptions, likely because they are not visible unless you click on a tiny right arrow where it says ITEM DESCRIPTION.

    It seems to be eBay may be unaware of the high returns problem or how to solve it. Free shipping both ways, compliments of me, is not a solution I am interested in.

  3. A wardrobers dream world on the horizon.
    Sellers have to be confident that ebay will pick up on buyers abusing the system.
    Given privacy laws a new buying account is only a new hotmail address away.
    This of course will not provide compensation for sellers who have already been defrauded.

  4. ““If you’re a retailer like eBay, and you want…”
    EBAY is not a retailer.

    “Free 30 days is important – as you look at the retail landscape, he said, free 30-days is starting to be the basic expectation of buyers from all retailers”
    I went through a lot of my receipts from the stores, 14 DAYS is the normal.

    FUNNY that the eBay management doesn’t offer FREE RETURNS.

    Well, I guess since my sales have gone down to 1 or 2 sales, I don’t have much to worry about and will be concentrating on eCrater and eBid.

  5. I started offering free returns at the beginning of the year. It did nothing for sales but it did increase returns. What’s even worse, people have been trained to use Items not as Described to get free returns anyway. They aren’t going to look at your policy. They’ll hit the button that gives them a free label.

  6. Make no mistake about it, no matter what kind of returns you offer, or if you offer none at all, ebay is not going to protect you. If there is a chance that they can save/make a few cents, it is under the bus for you….and they will back up and run over you again and then pull forward again and run over you again.

    “One is that they’re going to get something returned that doesn’t have the same value as the thing they sent out – that happens a lot.” Yes, it does and once again, ebay will lie to you, defraud you and once again (see bus comment above). They will do NOTHING to discourage or correct this.

    “The other is that people would game returns – we really haven’t seen that (THAT’S BECAUSE YOU HAVE YOUR HEAD SOMEPLACE WHERE THE SUN DOESN’T SHINE) – the data doesn’t show that we’ve got a dramatic increase in returns. But we’ve done a few things.(VERY FEW)

    – One is, if you offer 30-day free returns, we protect you by allowing you to offer a partial refund – up to 50%, if you get something back in a degraded condition. (That’s not “appealable” by the buyer; they can’t come back and force you to issue more of a refund (they have to take it up with eBay.)”

    SO LET ME SEE IF I HAVE THIS RIGHT. I SELL A NEW PART TO A BUYER, HE RUINS IT AND SAYS IT’S DEFECTIVE, RETURNS A PIECE OF JUNK AND I GET TO EAT ONLY 50% OF THE LOSS, HOW THOUGHTFUL OF EBAY SINCE IT ISN’T THEIR MONEY THEY ARE GIVING AWAY. AND THEN, TO ADD INSULT TO INJURY, EBAY WILL RAISE YOU FVF BY 40%. THANKS PARD!!

    “We know there are some issues, we’ve tried to create seller protections in the form of partial refunds, some of the buyer abuse – checking them, as well as removal of negative and neutral feedback. We believe this is the future, we’re trying make sure that we give you the tools to get there with us.”

    WHAT A LOAD OF CRAP!!! HE SHOULD BE IN THE FERTILIZER BUSINESS. IF HE TALKS THAT WAY AT HOME, I AM GUESSING HIS HOUSE MUST STINK TO HIGH HEAVENS.

  7. This is disappointing. We had a a generous 14 day return policy. Since we sell clothes, we would attach a tyvec strip , like the ones you get when going to concert, to clothing. Our return policy would be null and void if they took it off. We didn’t want clothing renters.

  8. The most malicious part of all of this is that Ebay’s leadership like Devin Wenig, Fisher, Kupbens are failing at their jobs. But they continue to make always increasing amounts of money out of Ebay profits- the money that sellers make for them.

    Wenig=more than 14 million dollars a year, bonuses, stock options, corporate jets to go on vacation with.

    They are failing but the ones who pay the price are the SELLERS who now are going to be losing money and losing profits with this new returns thing at a time when costs keep going up

    The lies that Ebay leadersip tells is insane. Kupbens isn’t aware of buyers gaming returns? Well, other corporations are seeing that.

    LL Bean changed their return policy, Amazon admitted to just one case involving millions (think how many are going on, but their monopoly push is hiding a lot of that under the rug)

    Many other companies are tightening returns policy, instituting charges.

    But the combative attitude by Ebay leadership is that sellers exist for them to plunder, and lie to cover up the problems. The Wall Street-connected media lets them do it and doesn’t push past the lies.

    Sellers are now going to be paying dearly with their livelihoods. Sellers who buy groceries with their earnings, not multimillion dollar vacation homes in the Hamptons. All so Wenig and cronies can keep plundering.

    Then there are problems like the failure Ebay phone app, which hides descriptions and details but makes the sellers pay for its failure.

    Check the Ebay seller discussion boards, which few people can even find, and there is a flood of sellers with buyer returns-gaming problems. Fraudulent buyers with long histories who keep on doing it despite many complaints to Ebay. There is NO buyer fraud investigation being done by Ebay because the sellers pay. Kupbens, Wenig, and the rest do not.

    1. I guarantee you Kupbens sees the gaming and scamming that is going on by the buyers because all of his items state NO RETURNS. This is the big shot Ebay Executive who is touting all of these programs that the Sellers should just roll over and accept, yet he never follows any of his own advice.

      Another leader who believes in the Do as i say not as I do version of Leadership. No wonder Ebay is failing miserably at showing any growth.

  9. I’ve gone to multiple online retailers to see what type of return policy they offer & not one was so generous as ebay claims. Sure, a lot of them do offer 30 day or better returns, some even free – IF you pay an annual fee to the retailer, or IF you spend a minimum amount. Even then, the generous returns are still conditional & often limited to a select few items or categories.

    Seeing with my own eyes what many large online retailers really offer, I know ebay is full of crap. Return policies are getting tighter in some places too, due to buyer abuse of returns. From my perspective it appears ebay is actually on the opposite side of what’s happening in the “retail landscape”.

  10. Let’s get really stupid…does ebay return policy extend to ebay motors?
    Dude buys a $250.000 Maserati…puts on 10,000 miles in 29 days and wants to return for FULL REFUND.
    How does THAT work?

  11. eBay has numerous operational and procedural problems that make it progressively harder for American small business sellers to succeed. Rather than address these problems, management continues to roll out new marketing gimmicks and policies in an attempt to compete against Amazon.

    The solution to eBay’s problems is clear. New management is long past due. Devon Wenig and the entire C-level team should be replaced with outsiders. The problem is that the Board of Directors are unable (or refuse) to see that there is a serious management problem. Seller confidence in Wenig is at an all-time low.

    Sadly, it is going to take a substantial drop in share price before the Board takes action. At that point, it may be too late for eBay to recover.

  12. Knowing Wenig’s lack of morals, he probably spent EBay money to have each board member investigated and has something on each of them so that they will not touch him. He is so concerned with only how much can he pull out and get away with that nothing else matters and for the BOD to let him run the company into oblivion like he has, there has to be something on each of them ensuring their silence. If not, Ebay has the most incompetent BOD in the history of American companies to go along with the most incompetent CEO to ever grace the planet.

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