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10 Tips to Help You Prepare for Post-Holiday Returns

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Verified Blogger
Verified Blogger
Last Edited 12:52:39 PM

As an experienced seller, you know that offering returns during the holiday shopping season is good for business. In fact, offering a forgiving returns policy can increase the number of items purchased—just another reason to get your returns policy finalized for the holidays.* But have you thought about what you’ll do when return requests start coming in?

 

While dealing with return requests may be the last thing you want to do, it’s by far one of the most important parts of being a seller. Keep to your clear returns strategy, from beginning to end, can help grow your business immensely.

returns blog 2_886.jpgThere are easy ways to prepare for the possibilities of more returns post-holiday. Before we dive into the tips, there are three big-picture concepts you should take to heart:

 

Your returns strategy is yours.

What works for your business may not work for another. Take care when designing your returns strategy because it affects the seller feedback you get from buyers. Ultimately, it’s up to the seller to set their returns policy.   

 

Always keep buyer feedback in mind.

eBay encourages sellers to consider 30-day returns. Accepting returns is the standard retail practice across other ecommerce businesses, and eBay encourages sellers to implement this strategy.

returns blog 1_886.pngCommunicate with your customers.

It’s not about just accepting returned items—it’s about retaining customers. Returns are an opportunity to provide your customers great support. The way you choose to handle when something goes wrong can either bring a customer back—or not.

 

Many sellers tell us issuing returns can feel overwhelming, especially during the holiday season! Returns don’t have to be nerve-racking. We’re sharing our seven best practices to help you manage post-holiday return requests like a pro:

 

1. Be prepared to respond quickly.

Respond promptly, courteously, and honestly. If you do end up issuing a refund, do so within two days of receiving the returned item. It shows good customer service when you carry a sense of urgency with returns.  

 

2. Accept 60-day returns for the holidays.

Offering free or 60-day returns encourages instant buyer confidence and loyalty. This is especially true during the holiday shopping season. This type of policy can give your shoppers the buying confidence they need to make the purchase.

 

3. Be crystal-clear about return shipping.

Transparency is essential when it comes to your return shipping details. Your buyer should be able to easily understand where they stand in terms of who pays for what if they choose to return an item. This can save you time (and stress) when faced with a buyer question regarding the process.     

 

4. Automate some returns.

Accelerate your return process by customizing or automating some or all of your listing’s return requests in your Return Preferences. For example, you can auto-accept returns request for items priced $10-50, and choose to review returns requests for items priced $50 or more. Sellers who accept returns, can automatically accept buyer's remorse returns.

 

5. Document all item details.

Always check an item that is returned back to you before issuing a refund. Recent seller updates account for the possibility of items being returned damaged, incomplete, or otherwise not in the same condition when you sent it. We suggest keeping detailed documentation on all your products in case a return happens, helping you easily conclude that an item has been returned in worse condition.

 

6. Plan for various scenarios.

Think about the types of returns you have received, and the potential reasons you might receive returns on the items you sell. It may be impossible to prepare for every scenario, but if you have a few internal policies in place, you can automate your process—or at least, take some of the stress out of making game-time decisions as each return comes in.

 

7. Create an returns operations plan.

Set your business up for success by categorizing returned items as soon as they arrive back to you. Separate items by what is resellable, what requires repair, and what can be listed as a markdown or end-of-year clearance. The point is to get items back up in your inventory, if possible.    

 

Have you experienced some of these scenarios firsthand? Here are a few common seller situations and how to handle them:

 

Set it and forget it

A return is requested because the item doesn’t fit. There is a way to simplify this reimbursement process. Automate refunds for this type of return, and save yourself time and energy. Adjust your returns preferences to make this change.

returns blog 3_886.jpg

 

Broken deliveries

 An item you sold is broken in the shipping process. You’re left with a broken item that you can’t resell, and return shipping costs, too. Consider customizing your refund strategy to automatically refund the buyer, while also instructing them to keep the item they received. Expedite the refund for your buyer and save your business the shipping fees for the broken item.

 

Think outside the box

Let’s say you receive a return in an opened box that you can no longer sell as “new in box.” What’s a seller to do? This is where restocking fees are appropriate. Make sure you clearly state the restocking charge in your product listing, so the buyer is fully aware of the charge from the get-go. That way, your fees to restock the item are covered. Your restocking fee will be automatically deducted from the refund when the buyer chooses the return reasons.

 

 

Replacing a return

When a buyer sends back an item they’re unsatisfied with, you can replace the product with a satisfactory one. If the customer fails to return the original item, after you’ve sent the replacement, you are entitled to charge them for the original and the replacement item. If you can’t replace the item for the buyer (if you’re out of stock), give the buyer a full refund.

 

The holidays are a busy time for everyone—especially sellers! Make things easier on yourself, and get a post-holiday returns plan in place. Responding promptly to requests, and automating processes where you can can make your buyer very happy. It’s difficult to imagine all the possible return-scenarios a seller may encounter, thinking ahead can save you stress during this busy time of year.

 

*2016 Journal of Retailing

 

 

6 Comments

10 Tips to Help You Prepare for Post-Holiday eBay Onslaught of Returns

 

1. Be prepared to respond quickly.

Respond promptly, courteously, and honestly because if you DONT we will penalize you and put your account in jepoardy. If you do end up issuing a refund (though you will since we force you to) , do so within two days of receiving the returned item (or we will punish you). 

 

2. DON'T Accept 60-day returns for the holidays.

Offering free or 60-day returns encourages buyer theft, not loyalty. This is especially true during the holiday shopping season. This type of policy can give your shoppers the bullying power they need to return what they want, when they want to do it. As a seller "its your jo to play Santa", so if grandma didnt really find out what little Jimmy wanted for the holidays - it shold be YOUR fault - right?

 

3. Be crystal-clear about return shipping.

 

On any NORMAL ecommerce site, this would be the normal situation, but not here on eBay. Here on eBay we want YOU the seller to eat returns and their associated costs (thats why we push 60 day free returns) and we let buyers lie and say "SNAD ME!" . Then it becomes YOUR problem - not ours - we just collect money.  

 

4. Automate some returns.

 

Nothing says "partner" like asking you to automatically eat returns., so on eBay we do just that!  Just because they cause you losses, doesnt mean WE have to care, and we dont. To help accelerate the return process, just customize or automate some or all of your listing’s return requests in your returns preferences. Then, you can auto-accept returns requests, and not have to make buyers actually "bother themselves" contacting you for that return.

 

5. Document all item details.

 

On any NORMAL platform, as the seller you would always check an item that is returned back to you before issuing a refund. Here on eBay though - it doesnt matter and its really just a big joke (on you!). Sure we have help pages with "Conditions of items for returns" but we DONT REALLY MEAN IT! We tell you when you call us, that we have NO IDEA what you sent not what the buyer sent you back - so tough luck ...!  Recent seller "Downdates" account for the possibility of items being returned damaged, incomplete, or otherwise not in the same condition when you sent it, but when push comes to shove - we just ignore you the seller. We normally would suggest keeping detailed documentation on all your products in case a return happens, but since no "PROOF" matters when a returns happens (you could open the return in front of GOD and we wouldnt take his word) it doesnt really matter.

 

I could go on and on but why bother? Its all fluff thats not true - and eBay knows it. Instead of encouraging sales, eBay encourages returns - copying Amazon etc ... "how nice" that your "partner" is looking out for you!

by annadryl · Guide
annadryl
Guide

None of this really touches on the real-world scenarios that sellers bump into frequently. Yes, all fluff and a carbon copy of past tutorials and how-to's.

 

This is actually for buyers and how to continue to use this service for "loaners" and what the parameters and timelines are. Should be posted in community>bidding&buying>loopholes.

by ampsurg · Adventurer
ampsurg
Adventurer

I have been a member of ebay for 14 years. I started selling a year or two after I joined but then stopped selling for several years due to other work/family obligations. About 2 years ago, I decided it was time to start selling again. I was and am still shocked at how lax ebay has become with buyers...no negative feedback for buyers, buyers cancelling bids right and left, buyers having remorse and easily returning items and getting their money back. And no ebay support for sellers. Plus ebay used to be a great place for bargains....no more. I only buy things on ebay I absolutely cannot find elsewhere. 

by vintige · Rockstar
vintige
Rockstar

2. Accept 60-day returns for the holidays.

Offering free or 60-day returns encourages instant buyer confidence and loyalty. This is especially true during the holiday shopping season. This type of policy can give your shoppers the buying confidence they need to make the purchase.

 

I don't really agree with the above...I don't know why a buyer would wait 60 days or even 30 days to return something? If they give something as a gift for Christmas, why would they wait 60 days (that's 2 months, btw) to send it back? Sure, I offer 60 day returns so I can be a TRS, but I don't really think that it makes a difference.

 

Broken deliveries

An item you sold is broken in the shipping process. You’re left with a broken item that you

can’t resell, and return shipping costs, too. Consider customizing your refund strategy to

automatically refund the buyer, while also instructing them to keep the item they received. 

Expedite the refund for your buyer and save your business the shipping fees for the broken item.

 

From my experience, most items that break are bigger items that have to go Priority Mail (ie. glass/pottery or big electronics). If you have insurance on your package (you get it free up to $50 when you ship thru eBay labels and use PM), you can go and file an online claim on the post office website. I think that's something that you should have mentioned.

 

I do think that accepting returns is definitely good for business and helps gain the trust of buyers. I know that I feel more comfortable when buying from somebody who accepts returns, especially free returns. It seems like they feel very confident about what they are selling and that you (the buyer) will be happy with it.

-Vint

@vintige - Appreciate the additional note about shipping insurance and how to manage claims. Good call out. Thank you! 

by vintige · Rockstar
vintige
Rockstar

You're welcome @scene.of.the.crop.