Amazon sellers may be forced to pay UPS rates for returns this holiday season. It's another example of how little control sellers have over policies they extend to customers when selling on online marketplaces.
Amazon is running a month-long "experiment" of the policy in order to understand buyer behavior. From September 5 through October 2, 2022, Amazon will provide buyers with the option to select UPS when they send their seller-fulfilled returns - it already provides the option of selecting USPS for returns.
The items that will be part of the test are returns made through the Prepaid Return Label program that are below 15 oz in weight and 130 inches in girth.
Amazon sold the new test as a way to boost sales: "Providing buyers with multiple shipping options will give buyers the convenience to drop off their return at the nearest UPS store, and encourage them to buy more from sellers," it wrote.
"This has to be so negligible that I feel like Amazon thinks we're stupid by just implying this will be good for us," responded a seller.
During the test, sellers can claim a refund for the difference between the UPS and USPS shipping costs. However, if Amazon makes it a permanent policy change, it's not clear it would continue to pick up the tab for difference when customers use a higher UPS rate.
One seller wondered how they would know the difference between the UPS rate charged and what the cost would have been if returned via USPS.
Another seller said Amazon should automate the process rather than expecting sellers to do the calculation and request a refund: "If Amazon knows this will be the case, why isn't it automated? Charge us the USPS rate for every return where we are actually responsible, and work out the internal accounting, Amazon."
Another seller pointed out that UPS charges steep surcharges and asked, "we use small mailers, and sometimes we receive the return item in large boxes...why should the seller pay for it?"
The seller also pointed out that shipping by UPS might cost more than the value of the product - "Is there a hidden agenda to promote refunds without returns," they asked.
An additional concern the seller raised: UPS can tack on adjustments weeks later.