Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Wed Apr 16 2014 11:28:17

The Case of the Reappearing Package: What Would You Do?

By: Ina Steiner

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A lot of things can go wrong after a seller puts a package in the mail to a customer, and that gap of uncertainty before the package shows up on the buyer's doorstep can be very uncomfortable.

When packages do go astray in the mail, it can lead to costly consequences for sellers who must appease their anxious customer and defend themselves to their marketplace masters. Usually it means sending a replacement or a refund and possibly swallowing a negative feedback rating. Tough luck, but chalk it up to the cost of doing business.

But what happens when the package eventually makes its appearance safe and sound into the hands of the buyer who has already been made whole? That's when a buyer's conscience may prick as she struggles with what to do, as was the case of an online buyer who reported such an incident in an online discussion board last month.

"Over 3 months after it was postmarked I get my order for which I was already reimbursed since I never got it," she wrote. "So now I have my money refunded and I have the product."

Her options include: do nothing; return the money to the seller; or send the item back. She noted that she no longer needs the item, so option 2 is not good for her; and she said option 3 would mean she would be out the shipping costs.

What would you advise this buyer to do?

In this case, it appears she did not leave negative feedback - but what if she had? Should she revise her feedbackfor the seller since it was the shipping carrier's fault?

Would you do if this happened to you? And would it make a difference to you if it was a big chain store versus a small seller - should that make a difference?




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by: FeelingFroggy This user has validated their user name.

Wed Apr 16 11:37:12 2014

Contact the seller and offer to send it back providing she pays for it. If seller doesn't want it...Enjoy it.

After 3 months its to late to change the feedback.. Live with it as the seller has probably already moved on,

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by: papergoy This user has validated their user name.

Wed Apr 16 12:01:03 2014

Had such a case as a buyer.  First, I won't leave negative feedback if I am made whole, as why would I?  I sell and realize things happen so hope all buyers are as understanding as I am.  I got refunded and a few weeks later, the item showed up.  I contacted the seller to let them know that I would pay them for the item as I now had it.  Now had they not responded, I might try a 2nd time, and after that I would keep the item and sleep well at night knowing I tried.

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by: RCL This user has validated their user name.

Wed Apr 16 14:29:26 2014

It has happened to me several times over the years. I always repay the seller as soon as I get the item. Once it was MONTHS. I don't think people I repaid ever even noticed!

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by: TomH This user has validated their user name.

Wed Apr 16 15:23:27 2014

Only the ethically challenged have difficulty with this type of situation.

Size of seller has no bearing.  

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This user has validated their user name. by: Basset

Wed Apr 16 17:42:57 2014

If it is something I want to keep - repay the seller.  
If it is something I no longer need, contact the seller to see what they want and where to send it if they want it back.

If expensive to ship - I would ask seller to foot the cost.
If inexpensive, I don't mind footing the cost.



All is dependent on having access to the sellers contact information and a response.

I wouldn't leave negative FB for anything like this.  

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This user has validated their user name. by: juliawww

Wed Apr 16 19:59:14 2014

If it were me, I'd sure like to think I'd contact the seller and say oh gee, look what arrived..and pay them back! If you no longer need it, you should send it back to them.

And I definitely think she should revise her neg if she left one because of the shipping time!

Hm..I'm wondering if the seller would actually finally get delivery confirmation, assuming it was part of the shipping service bought?  

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by: Joanbet This user has validated their user name.

Wed Apr 16 22:57:56 2014

Simple.  I would not open the package, mark it "refused, return to sender", and contact the seller to let them know.  I would not have left poor feedback unless the seller had been a jerk about it, so that would not be an issue for me.

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by: comet This user has validated their user name.

Wed Apr 16 23:03:19 2014

Sorry zombie invasion of lap top apparently!

As a BUYER I have gotten odd deliverys where I have gotten too many or too few of whatever I have ordered---I have ALWAYS offered to return and have without exception been told to keep the items.  Usually from a larger seller tho.

Some times I never get a response and am not interested in returning without knowing if the seller wants the item or where to send it.  

I would never leave Neg FB for something like this UNLESS it was clear that the seller was at fault.  And even then.  

You can read thru sellers FB and get a "feel"  for this sort of thing some times.  Just know the risk if they have a rep on this.  

I have also gotten odd packages from large B&M stores---that I did NOT order---and the stores did not want the items back when notified.  I guess they "write off"  these and send a new item to the proper buyer.  
Cost of doing business.  My mother got a delivery of a very spendy set of china from Neiman Marcus that she never ordered and they refused to take it back!  

Course if you get something the seller doesn't want back you can always feel free to re-sell it.  

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by: DonC This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Wed Apr 16 23:06:55 2014

I've been on both sides. If shipping was just a few bucks I simply sent it back. If not I asked the seller to pay the shipping.

As a seller I tell them to keep it if it is an inexpensive item. If not I pay the shipping to have it returned.

 

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by: Joanbet This user has validated their user name.

Wed Apr 16 23:08:47 2014

I, too, have had this happen as a seller and when it does I ask the buyer not to open the package when it arrives but, rather, mark it refused and let me know.  They always do.  

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by: margo This user has validated their user name.

Wed Apr 16 23:14:38 2014

This happened to me I never received my package and the seller refunded me my money. A few weeks later I received it. I contacted her offering to return her money as I wanted the product. She told me to keep it and just add her as a favorite seller.

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by: Abernathy This user has validated their user name.

Wed Apr 16 23:19:59 2014

When I refund payments for items that have disappeared en route, I always tell the buyer either to 1) refuse the package if it ever shows up, or 2) to consider the item theirs to keep if it should appear on their doorstep. Two of my shipments mysteriously appeared 4 and 6 weeks after the mail date, long after the payments had been refunded, and in both of those cases, the customers contacted me and paid for the item again. That was back when eBay believed that people were basically good.

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by: bloated This user has validated their user name.

Wed Apr 16 23:39:18 2014

It's free to return as long as you don't open it. Just mark "Refused, return to sender." That's the correct course.

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by: Moonwishes This user has validated their user name.

Wed Apr 16 23:48:54 2014

I had a buyer in the UK that started complaining at day 7 that her order hadn't arrived since a package I had sent 12 hours prior had showed up. Weird thing though is the addresses were totally different and she claimed it didn't make a difference. Ended up having to collect the insurance on the package, had a buyer thoroughly mad at me especially since she insisted the tracking should be showing up in some UK parcel service I had never heard of. That was the problem the whole way, she "knew" everything and basically accused me of lying. Well 5 months from the day I shipped she wrote to say that it had arrived and then complained about the duty owed. I reminded her that she needed to repay the insurance company and she went through the roof! It all came down to, I believe, her improper address and it having to hang around waiting for her to pay the duty and she did that because she found out I would get the package back with her refusal of the package.

Pain the neck. I'm an honest seller so when someone clear on the other side of the world starts complaining that they haven't received something that would be within normal limits for US delivery it is painful. She was in attack mode from the get go. She accused me of all sorts of things to the point we wouldn't communicate with her any more.

I've also received back a package that never supposedly arrived at its PO in Spain. The buyer stated that he had checked constantly at the PO. So yet again the insurance had to pay out. I eventually get the package back and can tell by the Spanish notes written on the package and it showed it had sat unclaimed for three weeks.

I've received packages that weren't mine and I let the sender know immediately. Usually told to keep them, but honesty is always the best policy as far as I'm concerned. The weirdest is I bought a scale once and received two packages each holding a scale. Good thing as they must have known that the one scale was DOA! A customer's weirdest thing was he didn't receive a book i sent him. Later he wrote again telling me he had gotten a piece of the address label in the mail from the PO. Apparently the PO semi carrying the mail had been in an accident and caught on fire and the driver died. That little bit of the label was all that was left of his package. Thankfully he was the good sort that realized life happens. Amazing how buyers can be so different and with varying honesty levels.  

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

Thu Apr 17 00:16:36 2014

This happened to me for 2 items during Christmas season a couple of years back. One for an item from U.K. and one for an item from back East. Both packages came in the same day 4 and 5 months late. I went to Paypal and looked up sellers and notified them I had the package and then sent them the money. Both were surprised, but as a seller I could not treat them any differently than I would like to be treated. Unfortunately, my experience with online buyers for over 17 years is that half or more buyers are just like Politicians, they move on without any qualms over who lost money as long as it was not out of their pocket. Ethics and honesty set on the back burner in today's world and is one of the reasons we all including the half just mentioned, struggle all the harder to make a living.  

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

Thu Apr 17 03:34:52 2014

@Abernathy

"That was back when eBay believed that people were basically good."

Ebay still believes that people are basically good.

Buyers are people and sellers are not.

It's that simple.

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by: KathleenJohnson This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Thu Apr 17 08:16:09 2014

This scenario is probably the one thing left that eBay does not have a "specific" rule for. But, then, either way - it does not impact eBay in anyway. *G*

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by: JohnGermaine This user has validated their user name.

Thu Apr 17 09:35:11 2014

Moonwishes story about her package to the UK reminds me of the Italian scam. In the Italian version, package arrives and Customs sends them a notice that they owe duty. They leave the package in customs for a long time, about a week and a half, and then they claim it didn't arrive. So the busy seller refunds and gets on with things, and as soon as the payment hits their PayPal in Italy, they beat feet to Customs, pay the duty, and get their item for just the duty. I don't ship to Italy any more. Though my Registered Package could be seen in Customs by a representative at USPS. I sent all my documents to PayPal and they found in my favor. I finally received a letter in the mail that showed that the package had been delivered over there. I have no time for cheats and no time for games so NO MORE Italy.

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by: Toledo Maude This user has validated their user name.

Thu Apr 17 10:04:42 2014

Several years ago, a package sent to a far corner of the country did not arrive within several weeks.  The buyer cursed me in many rantings and ravings.  I refunded her money at 30 days.

She did not leave negative feedback, but her behavior was a nasty unpleasant experience.  

Time went by, she received a rumpled package but thanks to being well packed the glass item was in perfect condition.  She did pay and sweetly asked to buy more items from me.  She continues to this day to be near the top of on my poop list.  

More recently, an retired buyer purchased a collectable item that showed being delivered on time but was not received.  The Post Office was not the carrier.  

I refunded her money including shipping and filed for a refund from the carrier.  Surely an act of futility as they showed it delivered.

In short order, the carrier refunded the sales price plus shipping.

Out of the blue in my mail box later was a check from the buyer.  Buyer explained that the package showed up a few weeks later.  Buyer was happy, and I was paid the refund and buyer’s second check.  Happy Ending!

After 14 years of selling on eBay with at one time a robust international business, I fortunately have but few unhappy stories of packages going lost.  

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by: Gina This user has validated their user name.

Thu Apr 17 10:51:01 2014

Simple, the customer keeps BOTH the package and the refund.  They expect no less!  eBay has raised a generation of consumer who EXPECTS FREEBIES & FUTURE DISCOUNTS on top of a full refund for any mistake that occurs in their buying experience, even when they are the cause of the service interruption!!  After fighting 3 months with the customer, giving them a refund only to see the package eventually delivered and the they ignore my emails telling them that the item no longer belongs to them....well they know we can DO ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO FORCE THEM TO PAY, SO THEY KEEP IT!
Then they demand discounts for "next time", to which I declare, "Why would I want you as a customer again? You eere nasty during the dispute and have already stolen my property...why allow you to do the same thing in the future?"
If the dispute is handled through PayPal, you can dispute it once the delivery has been  proven.... you might win your funds back.  I've been hit with Non Delivery challenges in PayPal ONE WEEK after purchase when the customer KNOWS that 6 weeks is the delivery time.  PayPal does not look at your delivery time, only at the tracking (which isn't entered immediately in some countries).  If the tracking isn't "active", the customer is given the full refund.  But when you can prove delivery has taken place you will likely get your money back.  If you gave them a refund....you are screwed!  Just like eBay planned!

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