How to deal with customer returns

By Sharon Fussell, April 21, 2016

One of the more contentious issues when selling online is customer returns and refunds.


None of us ever want to give refunds for products we have sent in good faith to a customer, but one of the main reasons for refunds is for items lost in the post.

Annoying though it is, customers should receive a full refund or replacement for items that don’t arrive.

You, as a seller, not only lose your original postage costs sending out the package, plus the actual product sent out, and if you send out a replacement, you will have to pay postage again too. This can be a very expensive and disheartening process.

Another popular reason for refunds is condition. If a buyer claims an item is in poor condition or not in the condition described, you will have to give a complete refund, including return postage costs.

When selling goods online, the customer cannot handle the item prior to buying, and may have different expectations of a product once received.

The condition of a used item is subjective: your idea of very good condition may not be the same as the buyer’s expectations, however, if a buyer requests to return an item, they do hold all the cards and have full consumer rights.

In fact, in online consumer law, buyers can return items for no reason at all: if a buyer purchases an item online, they can return it within seven days for a full refund, including return costs. There are exceptions, such as intimate underwear if removed from the packaging.

In actuality, I think few buyers know this, and will usually pay to return items, even if it’s not their fault for the return.

I note often on eBay that sellers state they do not accept returns: they are registered as private sellers, but nevertheless, they do have to accept returns.

I recently purchased an item of clothing described as new, but it had a cigarette burn on the item. I pointed this out to the seller, and sent photographs; she apologised but said she did not accept returns as per her listing. I, of course, informed eBay and they issued a refund without any quibble.

Refunds are part and parcel of online selling: we may grumble about it, but it’s all part of the game.  

Like it or lump it, issuing refunds is expected of all online sellers: both Amazon and eBay will take steps to ensure customers are refunded, even if you disagree with the customer. When it comes to returns and refunds, the customer is king!
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