Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Sun Dec 1 2019 20:12:02

eBay Sellers Debate Free Return Shipping Emails

By: Ina Steiner

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Sellers are debating the impact of emails eBay sends to shoppers that highlight free return shipping. The discussion began when a seller vented on an eBay discussion board about an email they received on Wednesday. 

"To send out mass emails asking buyers to return Items before they have even purchased them? I'm being bombarded by emails asking me to buy items simply so I can return them and not pay for them."

Not everyone agreed with that premise, however. "Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't see where buyers are being asked to return things," a seller replied. "It's a marketing message, nothing more. Free return shipping is a selling point for a lot of buyers. I don't know of anyone who buys something with the sole intent of returning it, but they do consider a seller's return policy before buying."

The original poster included a screenshot of the email they received - it featured a thumbnail picture of an item they had recently viewed with a link to "View Item" along with the message: "The seller offers free return shipping on this item."

A seller who also found the emails problematic wrote: "This email is encouraging free inspections of items to decide if they want the item. I have even had buyers tell me that they wear some of the jewelry to parties and then return it at my cost."

But another seller saw the value in encouraging shoppers who had viewed a seller's listing without buying: "That does not look like they sent a message to buyer suggesting they return their items. It looks like you viewed an item and did not purchase it. The message also looks like they are trying to get you to make a purchase by telling you if there is a problem the seller takes returns. So perhaps you might be persuaded to buy the item if you were on the fence about purchasing it. It is not like they said, hey buyer please send this item back so the seller can not keep the money. If they did that, they would lose the final value fees."

Knowing they can return an item may indeed get shoppers to hit the buy button - and what seller doesn't want more sales?

On the other hand, returns can present a hardship to sellers depending on the profit margin and the size and weight of the item being returned, especially as shipping costs continue to increase. But it's not just about the cost of return shipping. Sellers must worry about items not being returned in the same condition.

And now that PayPal no longer refunds payment processing fees for returns, it's becoming even more costly for sellers when finicky shoppers return goods. 

Do you think sellers should be allowed to make the decision on a case-by-case basis on whether eBay sends such emails to customers who have looked at their items but haven't purchased? What would you focus on in reminder notices to shoppers?



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by: BargainzBabylon This user has validated their user name.

Mon Dec 2 01:43:15 2019

eBay really needs to make those emails - reminders to leave FB, pushes for free returns, etc., up to the discretion of the seller with an opt in/opt out.  I don't really like eBay pestering my buyers to leave FB - if they want to, they will, and as it's voluntary it's not eBay's business. Some sellers may feel differently about it and prefer the emails sent. Too much spam as it is without these begging emails.  

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by: shesellsseashells This user has validated their user name.

Mon Dec 2 02:31:36 2019

Not sure what marketing message ebay would send on my behalf. I no longer offer free returns unless I have to because of an item being not as described or damaged in shipping. Too many buyers are testing items out at sellers expense. I'm not participating in that game.

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by: thriftyattireandstuff This user has validated their user name.

Mon Dec 2 02:44:22 2019

Nothing terribly unusual here. I'm bombarded by ads on TV all the time. Free shipping free returns. It's a current marketing trend. Returns are built into every major manufacturer/retailers forecasts as a % so they have nothing really to lose by enticing buyers with this logic. It really doesn't increase returns all that much. The small seller without the logistical advantages of big business often  can't afford this of course. I 100% agree with BargainzBabylon that marketing emails should be able to be opted out of, but then it's all or nothing. You can't expect to go picking and choosing the subtext. The email that does bother me moreso is the "X-Product is available from an experienced seller *****"" I get these after viewing my own listings to double-check them. It's like hold the fort, am I not an experienced seller?

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by: SellerGirl This user has validated their user name.

Mon Dec 2 03:01:03 2019

"Free returns" is nothing more than a wasteful trick to get people to spend money on things they don't really want and will probably be too lazy to return.

Seriously, if you don't want something enough to follow through on the purchase within a few days or don't know if you want it so you buy it with a free return promise, you probably don't need it or want it. Either way, your money is tied up for a week or so, the whole time eBay is reaping interest on money that you are PAYING interest on. It's a trick to convert your money to eBay's money.

Or worse, it's like those pubs where you order a beer and they bring you two beers and tell you not to open the second one if you don't want it. They are tempting you to buy something you may or may not ever want. How many people open that second beer simply because it's there rather than because they want it? It's a ridiculously consumeristic trap for both buyer and seller.

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by: hawk This user has validated their user name.

Mon Dec 2 03:50:32 2019

ebay has to mess around in everybody's business every day , but they have no one at all smart enough to stop trying to sell me my own items with their d**n spam mail every d**n day. where do they get these so called experts ??

oohhh yaaa- from under the stupid rock !!

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by: Chicago48 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Dec 2 05:03:57 2019

Basically what EB is encouraging is a "rental" service.  If that's the case, then they should open a Rental service....like Rent the Runway.  It is pushing buyers to buy and then return it.  No one else does that, but Ebay.

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by: Chicago48 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Dec 2 05:06:10 2019

Nothing terribly unusual here. I'm bombarded by ads on TV all the time. Free shipping free returns. It's a current marketing trend. Returns are built into every major manufacturer/retailers forecasts as a % so they have nothing really to lose by enticing buyers with this logic.
^^
Most retailers now have FREE shipping on items that cost more than $35.  At the least EB should set a floor limit on how much merchandise constitutes free shipping.  What EB is saying to buyers is - if you buy an item for $5 there's free shipping.  

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by: Snapped This user has validated their user name.

Mon Dec 2 06:42:40 2019

"Knowing they can return an item may indeed get shoppers to hit the buy button - and what seller doesn't want more sales?"

More sales that result in (increased liklihood of) loss? Because that's the factor if that's the 'fence' blocking action. And those resulting paper sales only carry enterprises that don't incur the costs related to shipping. (They know who they are).

For those actually writing the checks, this "marketing" seems illogical and moreover, unnecessarily intrusive if one might assume the terms were already 'featured' in the listing already viewed that triggered the nag in the first place.

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by: comments This user has validated their user name.

Mon Dec 2 07:06:48 2019

I am all for any changes ebay makes to earn more money that don't result from a fee increase.

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by: notfunanymore This user has validated their user name.

Mon Dec 2 07:25:50 2019

It’s just not possible for eBay to copy amazon any longer. Amazon doesn’t pay shipping like eBay sellers do. So when you return an item on amazon, doesn’t really affect amazon, once they get the return, they either RE-sell it in amazon warehouse deals, or it goes on pallets and resold to people in the returns business and some resell on eBay.. the eBay seller has to pay retail rates for shipping and return shipping. So yeah, it’s easy for eBay to say “free returns” Their model works on the backs of sellers who get screwed each and every day by these impossible demands.. good luck selling for the Christmas season..

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by: Just Plain Irritated This user has validated their user name.

Mon Dec 2 08:36:36 2019

An experienced eBay seller will factor in their return percentage and add more $s to the price of the item, in order to cover the potential "free" return.

That just raises the prices for all buyers, not just the person who shops "rental".  And the higher price on every item sold makes eBay more money in fees.

I've done enough research to realize those offering free returns have higher prices.

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by: maxmad This user has validated their user name.

Mon Dec 2 09:04:25 2019

ebay has done absolutely EVERYTHING to enhance, support, and promote China, and kill everyone else

-China ships for about $2, that same item can cost $50 to ship back, China just lets you keep the item, they would Never pat return shipping

-China uses fake tracking numbers so no worries, open an INR case and China or ebay will refund, if the item actually arrives just keep it


This is just another stab in the back for everyone else, who actually sell valuable items,

ebay is all setup for China to thrive, no one else will survive, including ebay

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This user has validated their user name. by: NoMoreEbay

Mon Dec 2 11:40:03 2019

ebay has contaminated seller's listings for over a decade with forced best offer, ads, redirection, hidden listings and manipulation. Why should this be any different.

I wonder if one of these days ebay is going to realize that they aren't Amazon and the majority of sellers are just average Joes just looking to make a fair buck. Average Joes who can't afford all of these trend-of-the-day marketing gimmicks like big business can. 22 years and counting and ebay still has no idea who they are.

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by: JohnGermaine This user has validated their user name.

Mon Dec 2 11:43:44 2019

I am so used to being advertised to that I no longer see nor do I read an ad in my emails. No impact on myself, and as for others, it's hard to guess what they think.

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

Mon Dec 2 13:49:18 2019

I once made a good living on Ebay. At the time we had no Free Shipping or Free Returns nor did the buyer expect to receive their item within a day or two. Then Wall Street, and CEOs without a clue on ecommerce, got involved. Ebay has been on a downhill slide ever since.
It is easy for the wealthy to holler, "It's FREE!" It is not their money or stock, and they all take advantage of anyone  they can. Those who run the big venues, Amazon, Ebay, Etsy, etc.,  all believe, and rightly so, sellers will dance to what ever tune they play, no matter how badly they are treated.  They do not care if they bankrupt a company or whether millions lose their jobs, and why should they? There are lots of corporations out there who will hire them no matter if they are losers. I won't name them, but the CEOs we are all familiar with are living proof of that.  

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by: Whatever This user has validated their user name.

Mon Dec 2 14:02:17 2019

I can 1up this - have any of you checked your BBL on ebay recently?  I did - guess what? ebay had completely wiped them all out (3 stores) - 20 years of listing deadbeat gone in an instant.  I called ebay for an explanation and got none. Must be a glitch - huh? well that's believable but I think it was intentional.  check yours

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by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Dec 2 15:21:33 2019

None of this is new - its standard eBay Modus Operandi - push everything on the seller - its all his/her fault.

He/she should kiss the ground we walk on because with out US, they would all be working at Wendys for min wage.

Returns should NEVER have been in eBays purview, they have nothing to do with it, and they ALWAYS have their thumb on the scale for the buyer (they believe that buyers not sellers are THEIR true customers).

With the magic of eBays "hounds of crap" aka eBays BOD lawyers, the TOS/UA was amended so that they can do as they please and your logging on is "a tacit agreement that you agree to the terms stated herein" aka you sign away your rights.

Its a shrinkwrap license blah blah blah .... no one seems to care. If eBay can steal other California cities taxes and no one cares, why would anyone care about some "poor old seller" ?

DW didnt, the new guy Shmeckle (or what ever his name is) doesnt, and Eliiot certainly doesnt.

As for the emails,its easier to just pump that message of Free Returns - because theres no money loss to eBay. If eBay payed out every time these things happen - eBay would change things in a hurry.

Try not paying eBay fes, try seaing something from them, try going to Walkers West and replacing the scotch with colored water and see what happens. Try doing to a seller and we tax (vig - you have to remember that eBay is the San Jose mafia) you an extra %5 - just because.

Smart people dont rely only on eBay - as no good comes of it, smart people dont waste time with eBayclosed - you go all the way out there to Vegas where its summer and 107 in the shade - and they cant even remove/fix all your issues (dsrs etc).(never mind they charge $300 or something).

Its a stupid dumb thing to do - but thats eBays MO ... at least I wont have to see them at NY Now or the Toy Fair ... they dont bother showing up (anymore) (they showed up once) and when they were there - everyone ignored them.

It shows no respect for sellers - but whats new about that?

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by: Mamak This user has validated their user name.

Mon Dec 2 15:39:45 2019

I'm always stunned when a buyer returns or cancelled something they found cheaper because eBay sent them an email about another similar listing to the one they just bought from me.  

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by: I Must be Crazy This user has validated their user name.

Mon Dec 2 17:27:37 2019

''He/she should kiss the ground we walk on because with out US, they would all be working at Wendys for min wage.''

Much as I hate to admit it, my net profit from eBay sales since September isn't all that far off. Somewhere along the way I lost roughly 11 percent of margin and for the life of me I cannot really find it. I think it's a couple points here, and another couple there that have eroded my profits to the point of not really worth it. Given the limits eBay throws on sales, and the multiple programming snafus, the top line number doesn't increase; leaving declining profits for the last 3 years.

I suspect many sellers are reaching the same conclusion.


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by: eBaySince2006 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Dec 2 18:27:56 2019

There are tons of metrics out there that show buyers want free shipping and free returns... Mostly thanks to Amazon Prime.

The solution is simple. Offer free shipping and free returns, calculate the cost and bake into your item prices. Advertise that you offer free shipping and free returns and you have an immediate advantage over the sellers who don't offer free shipping and free returns.  

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