Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Mon June 3 2019 14:42:55

eBay Sellers Find When Smoke Clears, SNADs Are SNADs

By: Ina Steiner

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eBay CEO Devin Wenig told shareholders on Thursday that sellers should expect to hear more about enhanced protection as the year progresses. But many sellers say that in practice, eBay continues to move toward enforcing policies more favorably to buyers than to sellers. Some say that stinks - literally.

A major challenge facing sellers is returns abuse. If customers suffer from a case of buyer's remorse, eBay policy states sellers shouldn't be forced to accept the return or pay for return shipping. But eBay buyers know that if they file a "SNAD" claim (Significantly Not as Described - or INAD, Item Not as Described), then they will automatically be able to return the item - at no cost. And sellers say eBay has made winning against SNAD claims nearly impossible.

During a recent weekly chat session, eBay sellers raised the issue using a classic example: when a buyer files a SNAD claim alleging the item smells of smoke or other foul scents.

In one of the response to sellers' questions about eBay's policies and practices around smells, an eBay moderator stated in part: "It may help you to see the return reason and the messages from the buyer as "and" statements the buyer has made; what this means is that the buyer has said "Item not as described" AND "Has a strong smoke smell". While the smoke smell by itself may be considered remorse depending on the situation, the return reason is not considered remorse. These are not contradictory statements, nor does the smoke smell concern invalidate the not as described concern."

And, he went on to say, "The return reason is the primary source of information when deciding what to do in a request. While a buyer can also let you know that the item was not described accurately through messages, and you would need to address their concerns appropriately based on those messages, if the return reason is a not as described reason and there is no evidence of abuse or fraud on your buyer's account, you will need to accept the return, provide return shipping compensation, and issue a full refund."

The issue is especially confusing given the response from an eBay moderator last year:

"Smells would only be a valid return reason if a) the listing states the item comes from a smoke free home b) the listing states it comes from a pet free home c) the smell is an integral part of the item ie. a vanilla scented candle or d) the smell reported poses a health risk, such as the smell of chemicals. In these instances, we would cover a smell. If the seller has no disclaimer about smoke or pets, then the buyer's concerns regarding odors related to these factors would not be covered. We do not cover "musty" or "perfume" smells (unless of course the item is perfume and the concern is that it does not smell like the specific odor it is meant to smell like)."

The bottom line is that when the smoke clears, SNADs are SNADs, even if buyers complain of odors and don't come up smelling like roses.



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by: Jack This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jun 3 15:21:45 2019

This policy is a total money grab. Once you are on the naughty list it really appears to be impossible and you are stuck paying the extra 4% final fees... That is a 50% penalty for your SNAD ration compared to your "Peers".. The Peers percentage is not verifiable. You are supposed to just "Trust" eBay that they are telling the truth regarding this. It is the only fee that you are charged that you can not verify and it is very significant. eBay used to be a good partner in business. We will most likely have to stop selling on the platform this year if things to not improve in a hurry.  

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This user has validated their user name. by: iheartjacksparrow

Mon Jun 3 15:37:52 2019

It's easy for a buyer to claim an item smells of smoke or perfume or cat pee or whatever, even if the item in question doesn't have any smell at all just to get their money back. While I was still selling on eBay, a buyer (obviously remorseful at having spent so much on the particular item) claimed it was covered in cat hair, which would be a good trick since I don't have cats, never had cats, and am highly allergic to them. Since eBay practically begs buyers to return the items they purchased, thus triggering the higher fees for sellers, it's to eBay's benefit to keep those SNAD claims coming.

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by: sellerchick This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jun 3 16:20:47 2019

Buyers are smart. Only about 1 in 5 of my returns are "changed mind" where buyer pays for the return shipping. The rest use "not as described"., I am not that inept at describing items, because I have dozens of other successful transactions for the same items.

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This user has validated their user name. by: NoMoreEbay

Mon Jun 3 16:29:03 2019

Rules and opinions coming out of moderators mouths change almost as often as that from the Philippines.

The ONLY consistent things on ebay are glitches, abuse, money grabs and empty buzz word lies from it's associated ilk.

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by: mcposty This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jun 3 16:31:57 2019

Ebay wants you to have snads so you get that 4% more fees. they are criminals and need to be investigated very closely. Ebay loves buyers who lie, cheat and steal, they are a store who hates honest buyers and only wants the bad buyers.

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by: comments This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jun 3 17:01:42 2019

I still don't understand the policy regarding SNAD returns. When a buyer buys something from me they are welcome to return it for any reason or no reason. I don't see how it is helpful to the ebay community to encourage finger pointing. I have a return policy, I honor it without question, and done.

Buyers are trained to "explain" themselves to justify a return when we should be retraining them to show them that a safe ecommerce community allows buyers to return items they want to return just because they want to make the return. If given the chance I am quite confident buyers do NOT want to have to explain themselves.

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This user has validated their user name. by: NoMoreEbay

Mon Jun 3 18:07:28 2019

@comments
"When a buyer buys something from me they are welcome to return it for any reason or no reason."...."I have a return policy, I honor it without question..."

So a buyer who breaks an item or steals parts from it and decides to return it is good with you. No questions asked. No questions even needed.

Dang. That is a very generous policy. Takes putting entitled buyers and scammers on a pedestal to a whole new level. Heck, even beats ebay.

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by: Snapped This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jun 3 19:25:23 2019

''...a safe ecommerce community allows buyers to return items they want to return just because they want to make the return.''

That's not an exclusive pair of safety shoes you've chosen.  And what if they simply don't fit?  As in, can't take a step in them.

There are many business models besides 'retail', and the point has always been - one size does not fit all.  Take clothing for example.  How long can one stay in business if every customer buys 5 items to 'try on' and returns 4 on your dime - and then the 5th after wearing it, staining it, and then 'claiming' it was misdescribed?  All with no consequence.  Oh, you don't sell clothing?  Imagine that.

That's just one of thousands of examples that folks have been choking to eCom death on with this platform's ignorant embrace and compulsory (self-serving) policies in their desperate desire to play 'retailer' though.  And each one with unique demographics, unique (platform) user expectations, unique marketplace expectations, all trying to cram into the same shoe size.

And - they prefer 'it' be offered at discount store prices, no less.  But it's not their item.  They didn't 'source it', have no investment in it, no concern for YOUR ROI.  That's the problem.

In the retail model, the cost of absorbing everything possible to mollify even the most unreasonable can be built in so to be both still competitive, and still profitable.  

eBay built a model based on discount cost though.  It had to be, so the item can be shipped (um - it's not really 'free'), and still be attractive and profitable - with reasonable fees.  Alternately, it worked because the 'item' wasn't available via retail.  It bore no MSRP.  Or barcode for that matter.  

But that means less 'consumer perks' - less handholding - less tolerance for indecisiveness and abuse.  That means - if you want the frosting, pay for it elsewhere.  That's what discount is, in that context.  

That doesn't mean a lack of CS though.  By all means, eat the cost of mistakes, faults, and yes, even true SNADS, promptly and efficiently.  
But they need to be proven, not just 'alleged' and by that, automatically judged so, with no due process.  That too, is the problem.

So you think a no questions one size fits all 'free' return policy will make a 'safer' platform?  For who?  And you think all those 'perks' which can NOT be fiscally 'absorbed', yet are no less compelled for it, are beneficial to the buyer?  How so, if the only way to afford to be able to OFFER 'it' is to RAISE the price of it?  To more than traditional B&M prices.  And that doesn't even count fees (and now taxes).

Just so SNADs that are not SNADs can be avoided.  Just so the COST of denying those unproven isn't incurred by the 'we promise...someday' self proclaimed 'public service' platform can remain solvent.

Because, ironically, more and more sellers are discovering how SNAD eBay actually is.  And how eBay hypocritically treats THEM when they don't capitulate.  



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This user has validated their user name. by: Lightning

Tue Jun 4 03:18:56 2019

@comments
Spoken like a seller who must dwell in a category that has little return activity, so EVERYONE must have similar experiences.  How naive.  When a whole lot of people are complaining about the same thing, there's a good chance it is a legitimate complaint.  If you have 10 of an item, and 2 of them get returned, it's possible that the costs involved negate any profit you may have made on the whole 10.  After FV fees, punitive 5% fees, shipping twice, shipping 10% fees, packing time, unpacking time, receiving unsaleable items back, computer time dealing with the emails, PayPal fees, relisting time, etc., there is not a lot to work with.

I am fortunate enough to only have MAYBE one return every couple of years, but I know that other sellers are struggling with fraudulent returns - broken items, swapped out electronics, rocks in the return box, etc.  It happens every day because the buyer doesn't have to look the seller in the eye as he tells him the item is SNAD.  Just put a check mark in a box on the form.  Someone can return shoes because they claim they give them earaches.  

And you are concerned that the poor buyer has to explain himself???  That's the least they could do for screwing up the transaction - all the effort put in by the seller, the shipper, the carrier, etc to get them something THEY wanted.  And all on the seller's dime, door to door and back again.  You can't be a frivolous buyer and just request a do-over, for free.  You have to have SOME integrity, that thing called honesty.  If you broke it, stained it, stepped on it, let your kid play with it, lost it, forgot that you gained 30 lbs. and now it doesn't fit, take some responsibility for yourself instead of blaming and charging someone else for YOUR screw-up.  

No one has any problems with returns that are as intended - sizes running small or large, DOA electronics, part missing, etc.  And if a seller is getting a lot of legitimate returns, he or she has to rethink their operations.  But the way people today think everyone owes them something, has to cater to their every whim, has to give them the world for the cheapest price possible, it's pushing the boundaries of what is possible to do and still stay in business, and then some.  That's not even counting the people who just flat purchased it to STEAL it.  Yes, there are people who do that.  They're called crooks.  There are 2 kinds - real life crooks and online crooks.  It's not a big %, but enough to screw things up for everyone.

I think you should have some empathy for those who are getting a conga line of fraudulent, questionable, or frivolous returns, and maybe count your blessings that you are not one of them.

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by: Freeeeeeeee This user has validated their user name.

Tue Jun 4 06:40:26 2019

I bought 3 products from 3 eBay sellers recently.  One was not as described.  One broke the moment it was touched.  That's 2 out of 3 products that weren't worth paying for.  And it's par for the course.  Regardless of the whining that takes place in these comments Ebay seller NEED TO LIFT THEIR GAME.

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by: GreenEye This user has validated their user name.

Tue Jun 4 07:38:18 2019

On the reverse issue, when a buyer returns your item that now smells HORRIBLE. Last week I had a bridesmaid gown returned after 28 days for does not fit mailed back wrapped in a scented garbage bag. Thankfully I attach tyvek tags so I know the dress was not worn but the smell is just nasty, like cheap gas station air freshener.

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by: P719 This user has validated their user name.

Tue Jun 4 13:53:59 2019

“When a buyer buys something from me they are welcome to return it for any reason or no reason. I don't see how it is helpful to the ebay community to encourage finger pointing. I have a return policy, I honor it without question, and done. “

Most standard stores I buy from online I have to pay return shipping regardless of reason plus they have the right to charge me if there is an issue with the return. Most of us are only asking that eBay align with the rest of the industry. 90% of buyers are great but that 10% can cause quite a headache. I’ve had several that claim INAD or SNAD in the drop down but their comments are clearly remorse. Why should I be forced to take a return ding and pay shipping again? I’ve had buyers intentionally target my higher ticket item then weeks later claim SNAD and send me back a used or broken item. Or try to get a dramatic discount with the threat of a SNAD. eBay can make reasonable accommodations to thwart scammers and still protect buyers from those not so great sellers. And if they do I will return, so far life elsewhere is great. Adios eBay.  

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by: thievesBay This user has validated their user name.

Tue Jun 4 14:04:51 2019

eBay WANTS returns, they WANT SNADs, they want and promote conflict between sellers and buyers. Reason of course being that eBay profits from it and sellers eventually get penalty fees because of eBay's fraudulent undisclosed metrics. One would think that purposely causing problems and using hidden metrics for profit would be illegal. But surely the lawyers that run eBay have something in their terms of use about that.  

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by: djdaniel2025 This user has validated their user name.

Tue Jun 4 21:09:13 2019

While I get sellers grievances when it comes to snad returns, there's two sides to every story. I'm both a buyer and seller on ebay, and I've had plenty of bad sellers try and rip me off over the years. If ebay just accepted every sellers word for it, I would've been ripped off multiple times myself.

The issue I see with snads isn't even the snads themselves, its the punishment ebay gives sellers for having them. It counts as a defect, and in many cases ebay then uses it as an excuse to charge sellers more fees.

While I would agree that buyers should have the right to refuse a product that is not as described, ebay is clearly in the wrong for punishing sellers with no proof other than the buyers word.

Just because a buyer complains doesn't mean they're honest, and many lie about the reasons for their returns.  

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This user has validated their user name. by: Lightning

Tue Jun 4 21:54:24 2019

@Freeeeeeeee
Totally agree.  There are sellers who seemingly have no idea how to pack, ship, photograph, describe, communicate, accept responsibility for mistakes, or otherwise run an online business.  There's no doubt there are bad sellers out there, and probably an equal amount of bad buyers.  That's why there is a lot of finger pointing.

If the seller screws up, the return freight should be on the seller.  If the buyer fades on a purchase, it should be borne by the buyer.  The problem is deciphering which it is.  Sometimes it's obvious who is causing the problem, other times less so.

===================
General Comment

In the early years of eBay, before it was a ''marketplace'', it really was just an enabler.  There were buyers and sellers using it to connect, people who otherwise would never had made contact to create a transaction.  eBay was the ''agent'', a catalyst..  Rules evolved as a reaction to bad behavior on both sides.  At the time, the biggest complaint was the ''non-paying bidder''.  Now it's returns.  

Back then, the buyer and the seller were both considered ''trading partners'', and given equal weight.  Now it's heavily slanted toward the buyer.  And I say that from a neutral standpoint.  I buy probably a bit more than I sell, like 55/45.  

I am a seller who gets no returns, fortunately.  It's mostly due to the type of product I sell and the maturity of the buyers involved, but I like to think it's also because I do things very, very carefully, double-checking EVERYTHING, maybe triple-checking now and then.  I know a lot of other sellers are seeing big upticks in returns.  The VERY FIRST thing you have to do is scrutinize your operations and practices.  Are you doing everything you can to prevent an SNAD situation?  

We've all seen the bad side of buying.  The damage that was conveniently dodged during the photos (if there is more than 1 pathetic photo).  No closeups of problem areas.  The all-encompassing ''please refer to the photo for condition'' where the photo or photos are blurry, a mile away, big flash in the middle, deceptive cropping, etc.  

The descriptions are even more vague.  Usually lacking some key points, can't just directly say ''and here's what is wrong with it'', like we're not going to see it when it shows up.  

Then there's the Amazon style packing, version 1 or version 2.  Version 1 is where  you take a huge box and put the item in, almost zero packing, maybe 1 air pillow that will deflate within moments of leaving the site, so the item sloshes around the box getting all banged up, or the box gets crushed because it is 90% EMPTY!  Maybe, if it's heavy, the item bursts right OUT of the box, re-taped by USPS.  Had that show up a lot.  

Version 2 is the opposite, a thin skin of protection, if any.  Electronics like cameras in bubble packs, books in poly bags, padded envelopes, or mailers that are easily crushed in the system, no padding AT ALL.  What were they thinking??  When it comes in damaged, the seller says, ''Gee, I haven't had a problem before''.  Well, you got one now, and thanks for that.  All due to incompetence.

Then comes the time-sucking process of emailing, repackaging, maybe having to drag it to the post office.  Probably sending it back packaged BETTER than it came.  And now you have to start all over finding a replacement for something that you thought was a done deal.  

There's plenty of blame on both sides.  Sometimes greed or a general lack of caring makes the mistakes or bad behavior look acceptable to some, at the expense of others.

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by: Paul W This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jun 5 00:22:23 2019

The idea that eBay WANTS returns is just silly since eBay refunds FVFs on returns, which in most cases must be more than anything eBay makes on return shipping.  Sellers who have so many returns to be hit with the penalty fees might look into making some changes in procedures or products.  This is not to blame sellers for return problems but to suggest that in categories that tend to have high returns sellers may need to work harder to avoid them.

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by: Lois This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jun 5 00:50:29 2019

Let me give you an example from the flip side - the "whatever you do will be the wrong thing" side.

This is so beyond belief you might think I made it up. but I didn't.

Woman bought beads from me. They were bright bright bright orange. Said so in the title. Said so in the Listing. Showed the picture as bright orange.

I sent them the next day. She got them. She said she wanted to return them because they were "too orange." She stated that a) she didn't look at the description or title at all, and b) just thought I took a lousy picture and they really weren't that orange at all.

Okay. My policy - whether other sellers like it or not, is that if you you don't like the item and send it back, I'll refund the amount it cost you to return it me - my reasoning is I think that's fair, and my items are small enough that shipping is insignificant..

Okay. She sent the beads back. I refunded the money she paid for the return shipping.

......... And then I get a nasty note from her. She was going to report me for refunding the shipping cost to her. How dare I think she was so poor she couldn't afford to pay the postage.

And I still keep wondering: if she did follow through and report me, what would the site have done?

I sort of feel like Yul Brunner in The King and I, scratching his head, and saying, ""Tis a puzzlement!"
She refused to accept the money and said she was going to report me.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Marie

Wed Jun 5 01:59:53 2019

It is just a way to spin what a buyer might say in the SNAD to support what I call Ebay's no fault claims system.  It just doesn't matter what the buyer says, Ebay will spin it to mean there was something wrong with the transaction in one way shape or form.  

Even if you can prove through stuff that the buyer has stated that they are going to return something to you that they never purchased from you or nothing at all, Ebay will require that the seller refunds the buyer when the package, empty or not, some other item than what you sold them in the package or not.  

After the fact we can report the buyer for abuse of the process and hope that Ebay will do something.  But what is that something and how long will it take them to review the situation.  

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by: val2525 This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jun 5 02:21:31 2019

What is especially galling is when a seller offers free shipping AND free return shipping and eBay still allows a buyer to file a SNAD. When the seller is willing to make the buyer whole, no questions asked, from the very beginning of the sales cycle, the buyer should NOT be presented with SNAD as an option.  Or if eBay insists it's to weed out the bad sellers, a "good" seller should not be penalized by the false SNAD.

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by: BargainzBabylon This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jun 5 04:07:23 2019

"an eBay moderator stated in part: "It may help you to see the return reason and the messages from the buyer as "and" statements the buyer has made; what this means is that the buyer has said "Item not as described" AND "Has a strong smoke smell". While the smoke smell by itself may be considered remorse depending on the situation, the return reason is not considered remorse. These are not contradictory statements, nor does the smoke smell concern invalidate the not as described concern."

Tortured Jesuitical reasoning.  

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