Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Fri June 8 2012 08:35:26

Do Lenient Return Policies Turn Marketplaces into Rental Stores?

By: Ina Steiner

Sponsored Link

What do you do when your buyers return new items in used condition? Brick-and-mortar retailers and online merchants must deal with returns - but can do so on their own terms. When you sell on eBay, Amazon.com, Etsy, and other marketplaces, you must abide by their return policies, and there are many tales of marketplace buyers returning items to sellers in worn, dirty or even disgusting condition.

A recent post on the AppEagle blog points out that sellers using Amazon FBA fulfillment service find it time-consuming to manage returns because, according to merchants, Amazon.com doesn't necessarily check the condition of returned items before refunding buyers.

"While there are still many merits to using FBA, this thread shows how using FBA can result in sellers needing to spend more time as a result of FBA seller rules. Many of these sellers needed to spend considerable amounts of time creating reimbursement tickets with Amazon. Sometimes these tickets needed to be opened several times and presented from various angles in order for the sellers to receive reimbursements. In some cases Amazon required images when sellers pointed out that products had been returned missing pieces. Each seller had a different experience to share about the amount of time they needed to spend straightening out these returns."

A seller commenting on the post wrote, "We sell items worn on the body, and they come back to us from FBA used, covered in hair, and even sweat stains! We have had to throw a few items away they were so destroyed. In 8 years of business we have never had even one item from any other channel we sell on returned in this condition. Amazon will take anything back and refund a buyers money."

Sellers of books and other media and of clothing and accessories talk about the problem of buyers who view marketplaces as "lending libraries" and "rental outlets."

Julia raised the issue of returns on eBay in her blog post on Wednesday - she asked, "Have you ever deviated from your stated return policy and taken a return in order to head off a perceived threat to your feedback rating?" One seller commented, "If I had annual sales of over a billion dollars, I would gladly have a more generous return policy :) "

How can marketplaces like Amazon and eBay could do a better job of handling - and minimizing - returns. One idea is to have exceptions to broader return policies for certain categories that lend themselves to the "sold as is" concept.




Comments (27) | Leave Comment | Permalink

Readers Comments

Perminate Link for Do Lenient Return Policies Turn Marketplaces into Rental Stores?   Do Lenient Return Policies Turn Marketplaces into Rental Stores?

This user has validated their user name. by: KiOui Apps
Web Site

Fri Jun 8 12:06:05 2012

renters only rent once from me then they get blocked. they can go rent from China after that !

Perminate Link for Do Lenient Return Policies Turn Marketplaces into Rental Stores?   Do Lenient Return Policies Turn Marketplaces into Rental Stores?

This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Fri Jun 8 14:36:41 2012

Of course lenient return policies turn sellers' businesses into unprofitable rental stores.

The term "rental" implies that the buyer ended up paying something. In the case of ebay, just the opposite is true -- the seller takes the biggest hit especially if the item must be thrown out after it's returned.

Three days is an adequate amount of time for a buyer to decide whether they're keeping an item or not and notifying the seller of the return.

The purpose of lenient return policies is to make money for the marketplace at the seller's expense by giving buyers a longer window to leave negative feedback and low DSRs. Ebay hopes sellers won't file for FVF refunds fearing retaliatory feedback/DSRs from the buyer.

It's time ebay start making buyers accountable for the many forms of buyer fraud instead of enabling it.

Many retail store have substantially tightened up their return policies becuase of the fraud.

Ebay, stop catering to buyers with the emotional maturity of an 8 year-old. We don't need these kind of buyers. Let Amazon have them!

Perminate Link for Do Lenient Return Policies Turn Marketplaces into Rental Stores?   Do Lenient Return Policies Turn Marketplaces into Rental Stores?

by: 10 year seller This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jun 8 14:58:42 2012

@ ming

''Many retail store have substantially tightened up their return policies because of the fraud.''
Costco is one of them.
And yes sellers don't ask for FVF'S out of fear of negative feedback!
I am guilty of that! Or was, I should say. I sell mostly on other venues now.

Perminate Link for Do Lenient Return Policies Turn Marketplaces into Rental Stores?   Do Lenient Return Policies Turn Marketplaces into Rental Stores?

by: JustTheFacts This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jun 8 15:16:04 2012

Online merchants should NEVER be expected to have a return policy like that of a B&M because at a B&M they can actually SEE the product BEFORE accepting the return.  They know right then the CONDITION and if any parts are missing.

With online stores ALL returns cost money to ship back no matter who it is, Amazon, wal-mart Sears, a mom and pop etc, and SOMEONE has to pay for it, so buyers WILL pay MORE either on the item price or in shipping charges. There is NO way around it.  The bigger the store the cheaper shippig may be but there is still a COST and they WILL pass that cost back onto the buyer in some form.  They HAVE to in order to stay profitable and in business.

Wal-Mart is NOT your "friend" they are MERCHANTS who want to sell you their goods.  They do not send you invitations to corporate ball games and parties, NO, they send you weekly and sometimes DAILY ADVERTISMENTS to BUY their goods!

Perminate Link for Do Lenient Return Policies Turn Marketplaces into Rental Stores?   Do Lenient Return Policies Turn Marketplaces into Rental Stores?

This user has validated their user name. by: basset

Fri Jun 8 16:46:26 2012

What Ming said.

Although I have a ''No returns'' policy, My buyers get 3 days to let me know if the purchase has any problems. That is PLENTY of time for soft goods, clothing, accessories, most household items. Electrics & such may need a bit longer time frame, like a week or 2 of use. And the truth is that eBay can always circumvent your policy no matter what it says.  

Perminate Link for Do Lenient Return Policies Turn Marketplaces into Rental Stores?   Do Lenient Return Policies Turn Marketplaces into Rental Stores?

This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Fri Jun 8 18:24:55 2012

It has gotten to be ridiculous.  Just had an item returned that the buyer had just shy of one month.  I had to return the outbound postage AND the inbound postage.  To not do so almost ensures negative feedback.  I have had fewer sales and more returns in the last 30 days that ever.  It doesn't come out of Ebay's pocket,s so what do they care.  The seem to love "sticken" it to the smaller sellers.

Perminate Link for Do Lenient Return Policies Turn Marketplaces into Rental Stores?   Do Lenient Return Policies Turn Marketplaces into Rental Stores?

This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Fri Jun 8 18:53:13 2012

One thing to keep uppermost in your mind when analyzing any and all ebay changes is to follow the money.

Ebay changes are ALWAYS about money -- they want more and more of our money while giving us less and less in return and making selling there a dangerous, often unpleasant mine field.

Instead of earning their money by constantly recruiting GOOD, new buyers, these amazingly lazy spoiled brat MBAs want to steal more and more of our money so they don't actually have to do any real thinking or work except conjure up more ways to scam sellers.

There's a special place in hell reserved for these parasites.

Perminate Link for Do Lenient Return Policies Turn Marketplaces into Rental Stores?   Do Lenient Return Policies Turn Marketplaces into Rental Stores?

by: Ron This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jun 8 21:52:35 2012

We used to have a very good vintage clothing business on eBay but no longer sell that type of merchandise there, having moved all of our inventory to other websites.

There were two reasons for that - poor auction results since eBay became inundated with new fashion and competition from sellers offering bad used clothing presented as "vintage".  But a primary consideration is the return policy.  We belong to an online community of vintage sellers and the horror stories abound - items returned with obvious signs of use such as deodorant odours, hair, stains etc.

It's just another case of eBay's mindset - trying to impose rules meant for B&M retailers on small online sellers, kind of like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.  I guess that Donahoe probably learned about returns from some textbook or heard about it from a customer service guru and didn't consider the implications in what is a different situation.

Anyways, what does eBay care?  It's not their product and there's no financial downside for them.  Oh, except that eventually they'll lose their traditional seller market completely, something that they may want, but will regret deeply.

Perminate Link for Do Lenient Return Policies Turn Marketplaces into Rental Stores?   Do Lenient Return Policies Turn Marketplaces into Rental Stores?

by: JackieBlue This user has validated their user name.

Sat Jun 9 00:42:42 2012

We have a 60 day no hassle return policy and have had it for years. We have few returns as a percentage of sales and it gives customers assurance when buying site unseen.  The returns we do accept that are damaged or I suspect are an issue is just the cost of doing business that we must account for.

Perminate Link for Do Lenient Return Policies Turn Marketplaces into Rental Stores?   Do Lenient Return Policies Turn Marketplaces into Rental Stores?

This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Sun Jun 10 08:29:23 2012

JackieBlue, I'm curious.  Are you selling brand new items or used items?  Please let us know.  I would love to know, as far as returns go, are used items likely to be returned more often or are new items likely to be returned more often.  Wish eBay would publish some statistics regarding that.  We sell new and used items and publishing this information just might change the percentage of new to used that we sell.  

Perminate Link for Do Lenient Return Policies Turn Marketplaces into Rental Stores?   Do Lenient Return Policies Turn Marketplaces into Rental Stores?

This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Sun Jun 10 08:30:52 2012

Per JackieBlue's comment "just the cost of doing business"---it seems that eBay policies ensure that the cost of doing business on their site will be a lot higher than doing business on other sites.

Perminate Link for Do Lenient Return Policies Turn Marketplaces into Rental Stores?   Do Lenient Return Policies Turn Marketplaces into Rental Stores?

by: JackieBlue This user has validated their user name.

Sun Jun 10 12:38:57 2012

@Rexford - All we sell brand new items, other than some returned items which we auction.  Yes, it does cost a little more.  However, even though their fees are high, their fees are still less than Amazon and Buy.com.  They also don't own and sell mdse the way Amazon does.  Also, we can charge (if we choose to) a higher price on ebay than our website or Amazon.  Amazon and Buy.com do not allow this in their user agreement.

Perminate Link for Do Lenient Return Policies Turn Marketplaces into Rental Stores?   Do Lenient Return Policies Turn Marketplaces into Rental Stores?

by: JackieBlue This user has validated their user name.

Sun Jun 10 12:40:14 2012

To other people's concerns, I do think some items lend themselves to being more return prone- specialty clothing seems really prone to that.

Perminate Link for Do Lenient Return Policies Turn Marketplaces into Rental Stores?   Do Lenient Return Policies Turn Marketplaces into Rental Stores?

by: Patricia This user has validated their user name.

Sun Jun 10 14:37:37 2012

I don't know why Ebay doesn't just bite the bullet and have an auction side and a retail side instead of coming out with all these policies that almost impossible for small sellers to adhere to.  They can't go on having their cake and eat it too!  Some concessions need to be made.  I seldom sell there anymore and I'm sure I'm not alone...its just too much hassle and too much stress to simply sell your wares there.

Perminate Link for Do Lenient Return Policies Turn Marketplaces into Rental Stores?   Do Lenient Return Policies Turn Marketplaces into Rental Stores?

by: Sunflower This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jun 11 01:04:15 2012

I have a lot of mixed thoughts on this new return policy.

First off, for what I sell, I am not accepting returns. I sell cosmetics, and when phoning eBay I was told that I ''had'' to accept a return for ''any'' reason. I then questioned if the item had been returned used  and was told that eBay ''might'' credit me a few dollars if that were to happen. Upon further explaining, I stated that if I sold a face powder for say $125.00. Buyer receives, tries it on, doesn't like it for what ever reason and returns. I am then stuck with an item I can no longer sell and ''maybe'' a few dollars credit from eBay. eBay stated that this was correct. I made my decision right then and there and posted this in my listings- that I forfeited my discount as I could not accept returns on beauty products and by doing so I could guarantee that my items were brand new, never opened, and never used. I don't care if eBay likes it or not. In choosing to do this, I researched just how many retailers actually did take back cosmetics (used or not) and only found 1-Sephora. I am not Sephora and cannot afford the losses.

I believe that where as sellers are paying for a service to sell on eBay-returns should be left to the seller and NOT forced upon us by eBay. It is our items that we sell, and we should be able to choose our own return policies. I guess we can, but by doing so, those that have chosen to not follow eBay's policy will have to forfeit the discount along with the other punishments eBay has decided to impose.

I believe that eBay will be overwhelmed with buyers returning items in the next few months and I think the holidays will be a nightmare. Funny how before I never thought of purchases on eBay as purchases from a retailer, but that is what eBay wants. I never thought of returning an item on Amazon either. I purchase from retail stores if I am not sure of a size or an item as I then know that I can return it, but never did I think of this for eBay or Amazon.

Last, I would like to say that yes eBay does have the highest traffic for items that I personally sell, but I honestly do think that it is time that all sellers made decisions for themselves and took back their stores and merchandise and sell it the way that you want to sell it and stop letting eBay force you to do something you do not want to do. I believe that if enough sellers did this, eBay may have to rethink their idiotic policies.


 

Perminate Link for Do Lenient Return Policies Turn Marketplaces into Rental Stores?   Do Lenient Return Policies Turn Marketplaces into Rental Stores?

by: Tiffee Jasso This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jun 11 01:26:17 2012

I have repeatedly asked for a seller's option to automatically block buyers who have returned more than 2 items in one year. Just like I can with buyers who don't pay. In 15 years on Ebay, beginning last Fall, we have had more returns than we ever did in the previous 14 years. Just had to toss one prom gown in the trash for wear & tear. Went out new, came back frazzled. The buyer notified me the day after she got it, complaining it didn't fit. I told her to send it back. She did 32 days later. My last return, was a woman who bought a boy's jacket and complained when she got it, there were no pants. There was no pants stated or offered in the ad. I told her to send it back. After she got all her money back, the truth came out. The return had nothing to do with pants. She stated that due to my 14 day return policy, she went ahead and bought the jacket, so she could see if it would fit her child. Measurements were in the ad, but obviously, she can't read.
What I don't understand is I lost $10 in postage costs, Ebay lost their fee because she did agree to cancel the sale (only because I gave her return postage back) and Paypal lost their fees because the money was refunded to buyer. Buyer goes merrily on her way to rip off God knows how many sellers with her I just wanted to look at it attitude. As for me, I blocked her and so did all my friends. We want no part of her business. But if Ebay had the option of bowing out of selling to Return Queens, it wouldn't have happened in the first place. The entire mess is Ebay's fault!  

Perminate Link for Do Lenient Return Policies Turn Marketplaces into Rental Stores?   Do Lenient Return Policies Turn Marketplaces into Rental Stores?

This user has validated their user name. by: TheCheapSkirt

Mon Jun 11 01:35:36 2012

In my ugly sweater store, I do not take returns for precisely this reason--my first holiday season I had that store open, a number of people wore holiday sweaters to a party and then returned them in a much less pristine condition than they were sent out.  However, I also refuse to sell those on eBay.

For the "normal" clothing I sell both on eBay and on other venues, I do take returns, because even though I list garment measurements, I understand it can be difficult to purchase clothing you cannot try on first.

Most buyers in my 12 years of selling clothing have been very good about returning things promptly and in good condition. Aside from the ugly sweater "renters".  

Perminate Link for Do Lenient Return Policies Turn Marketplaces into Rental Stores?   Do Lenient Return Policies Turn Marketplaces into Rental Stores?

by: blaumann This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jun 11 04:55:36 2012

I do not take returns. I offer to help any buyer that is unhappy. People return boxes of rocks and paper and Ebay gives them their money back. Why should someone have 2 weeks to copy my photo, read or copy from my magazine, decide they just don't want the item? I am not Neiman Marcus, I can't have a Walmart type return policy. Feedback was supposed to give buyers the hint you were ethical or not.  

Perminate Link for Do Lenient Return Policies Turn Marketplaces into Rental Stores?   Do Lenient Return Policies Turn Marketplaces into Rental Stores?

by: RAOTFLMAO This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jun 11 07:59:07 2012

I used to offer 3 day returns, no questions asked but have gone to no returns.  14 days is a long time for a buyer to have to get buyers remorse.  My 3 day return policy was to return unopened and unused.  

Perminate Link for Do Lenient Return Policies Turn Marketplaces into Rental Stores?   Do Lenient Return Policies Turn Marketplaces into Rental Stores?

by: Dazzle This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jun 11 08:42:26 2012

Wow this is an easy one to answer:

Yes

No need to further compound the response

Wake up sellers - until you do something ebay will continue to scam the seller

Click to view more comments
1 2  [Next Page]


Login is required to post comments.
To sign in to leave a comment using your AB Verify User Name, fill in the form below. If you have not yet signed up for AB Verify, or if you'd like more information, go to the Registration Page
.

Login for AB Verify
Be sure and use your email address and password to log in.

 
Email:
Password:
 
 Forgot Your Password?
 Even though you are signed in with the AuctionBytes Blog, you will have to sign in to the EcommerceBytes blog. But you can sign in with your existing AB Verify info.