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Amazon Warns Shoppers of Frequently Returned Items – But What about Warnings for Sellers?

Amazon Warns Shoppers of Frequently Returned Items

Amazon is adding a warning on certain product pages alerting shoppers they are “frequently returned” items. The Information broke the news on Monday, reporting that Amazon started issuing the warning in recent months in an effort to reduce returns.

The Verge included screenshots after picking up the story on Tuesday, including one of a listing showing a warning that read: “Frequently returned item. Check the product details and customer reviews to learn more about this item.”

Presumably a merchant or brand would know if they have an item that has a high return rate – but does Amazon warn them in advance of putting the warning on their listings? Does Amazon provides sellers with adequate information about product return rates?

One question that immediately came to mind was whether Amazon puts the brakes on buyers who frequently return goods and either prevent them from returning goods after they reach a certain rate, or prevent them from buying altogether.

What if Amazon warned sellers of buyers with high return rates and gave them the option of cancelling an order from such a customer? While the probability of that is close to zero, sellers may well think turnabout is fair play given the problem of fraudulent returns. Refund Retriever lists the kinds of returns abuse sellers endure in a recent blog post, such as the return of an empty box or a different product, or a buyer lying about the reason for the return (indicating “not as described” places the liability on the seller. “This allows consumers to circumvent paying the return postage and creates another fraudulent return,” according to the post).

Another issue some sellers are concerned about is the problem of rival sellers purchasing items and leaving poor reviews and returning the items in an attempt to downgrade competitors and raise their own visibility.

In reacting to the Information’s scoop about Amazon’s new “frequently returned” warning, Reuters reporter Greg Bensinger tweeted, “If the products are faulty, poor quality, etc, why doesn’t Amazon pull them from the site? The answer is it prioritizes selection over consistent quality.”

In a retweet, the Information founder Jessica Lessin wondered if Amazon would get accused of “tipping the scales” as a result of adding the warning to merchants’ listings. Presumably she was referring to regulators who have been scrutinizing how Amazon treats its own listings versus those of third-party merchants.

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). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.

8 thoughts on “Amazon Warns Shoppers of Frequently Returned Items – But What about Warnings for Sellers?”

  1. These selling sites should warn sellers about the buyers who habitually return their purchases, often times for frivolous reasons. How about that?

  2. Shared product pages. Merchants over there deal with piggybackers that will sell looks like on the same listing. Would hope amzn slapped it on those accounts instead of the product page themselves, that would be more meaningful to me when I shop. Then I could select a different company. Ina can you tell Amazon that. I think that would be very pro shopper

  3. I have returned a lot of items. Mostly due to defective and improper product description. I have called Amazon about being tired of being sent defective product and becoming a Seller’s QA Dept. Amazon needs to clamp down on these Sellers but they won’t. Who is losing in the transaction. Not Amazon. I don’t see them changing the program. Follow the money. Amazon wins, Seller looses.

  4. As a buyer, I have often bought 2 sizes of a product because I want to see which one best fits me. It can be clothing, it can be a storage bin, etc. And I will return one of them. I’m a prime member so I wonder if this applies to me also? Because it’s possible that AMZ will stop buyers from buying, or will put a pause on their buying.
    But women do that type of buying a lot. They buy two sizes, try on, and return one.

  5. It’s the Age of Inconsistent and Incoherent Merchant Policies. What is a reasonable projection of the market chaos and turmoil created when the entire world is invited to shop ‘risk free’ on line with a ‘free returns’ policy? It’s simply a pipe dream to believe that a merchant can advertise and promote any outlandish policy it can dream up and then not reap the consequences of the practice that developed when millions of consumers responded.

    We’ve seen with our own eyes what buyers are returning to Amazon via Whole Foods & Kohls. On the other end, we visited 3 separate brick & mortar merchant sites reselling Amazon Returns. We didn’t expect to see new tires, big screen TVs, etc.being resold for $8 – but the sheer volume of buyer rejects is sad and a threat to any public landfill operation. The fact is that Amazon does not want to carry the financial burden of transporting, warehousing, and disposing of truckloads of what are now Second Hand Goods.

    As a sample – there were tables with mounds of cell phone cases that didn’t quite fit the cell phone named on the package; some partially covered the flash; others slightly shielded one or more camera lens; others made it difficult or impossible to successfully press external buttons. It’s useless trash.

    My point is that no ‘generous return policy’ can justify predatory merchant policies on the back end aimed at shifting its own merchant responsibilities onto naive customers and client sellers. No amount of detailed specifics, videos, or expanded view stock listing pics can overcome dodgy products shipped in plastic bags. And just in case they forgot: I did not order any of these things in the hopes that I’d have a successful damage claim and can re-order 60 days down the line. No thanks!

  6. As a Prime member who purchases a lot of items on Amazon, one of my pet peeves is that neither Amazon nor the seller SPECIFIES when an item is NOT RETURNABLE. Now, I can’t tell if sellers referred to in this item are simply getting returns–or if they are being notified by Amazon that an item deemed not returnable by the seller is being returned at the buyer’s request.

    BUT…you have to say that many MANY sellers on Amazon are simply purchasing products they have NEVER seen and hoping enough “shrapnel” with returns is acceptable. (There are a lot of folks who don’t bother with a return.) Or if they READ the comments from people returning items & do some analysis. (If I were selling, I would be concerned that either items are below a standard quality or if the way Amazon is shipping them, the items are being damaged.)

    In other words, many layers to this subject.

  7. @Chicago48- so as a seller yourself, you cant figure that SOMEONE is paying those extra shipping charges for the unwanted item. certain items are best bought offline, at the brick and mortar.

    @fruitylovesyou- GREAT point, why dont YOU contact Amazon and tell them that?

    @CVsharkey- one of the MANY reasons i do 99.5+% of my online shopping, NOT with Amazon
    (ebay explicitly mentions if returnable and WHO pays for the shipping)

    from my recent issue with a RETURN on Amazon, it is now MANDATORY to accept returns AND pay for the return shipping (as a seller), although they say ‘you can deduct an amount’, that choice is not given, other than hot air. This applies to any lame excuse.
    you CAN apply for an EXEMPTION for specific SKUs, but good luck getting that….and many of us have 100+ SKUs

  8. Well for one she’s the reporter I’m not. Since when does an individual ever get a call back from someone other than customer care. Lol

    I bought a plant on amz, 1 of many. DOA And no returns. They didnt give me my money back but sent a replacement instead.

    That one went bye bye too. I am an overwaterer

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