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Guest blog: Top tips for turning errors into great buying experiences

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Danna Crawford

Oops. Shipped an item to the wrong person. Never a good scenario, but we are all human and it can happen. If you happen to find yourself in a situation like below, here are my tips for making things right with your buyer.

So I recently sold a Limoges plate for $71.00 to an eBay buyer from Texas. On shipping day I was in a hurry, and had about twelve other items lined up to ship as well. I remember grabbing a bowl from my stock shelf and wrapping it up in bubble wrap. Only paying attention to item photo of my listing (the plate had painted roses, same as this bowl), I assumed it was the correct item. As I packed the item, I reviewed my listing title, and noted it said ‘plate’, not ‘bowl’. Thinking I could have written a better listing title, I completed packing and shipped the item.

Now, the inconsistency between my title and the item I’d packed should’ve been a red flag and caused me to double-check the item. Alas, I did not, and three days later I received a message through the eBay system from the buyer, saying “We have a problem. You sent me the wrong item.”

When something like this happens, your first reaction as a seller should be ‘how can I fix this quickly for my buyer and keep them happy?’ To do so, follow my top tips:

Communicate ASAP. You can make a phone call or send a message via eBay, but in my book, a phone call has a much more powerful effect.  If you wish to go that route, click on VIEW ITEM DETAILS, as many eBay buyers include their phone numbers below the mailing address. You can also put in a request through the eBay system to receive your buyer’s contact information, which is emailed to you directly from eBay, and normally only takes a few minutes.  

Once you have a phone number, call the customer ASAP and let them know how awful you feel about your mistake.  Sincerely and genuinely acknowledge the situation and their feelings, let them know how much you care about their item, and that you’ll do everything possible to fix the situation, at absolutely no cost to them.

If making a phone call isn’t an option, send a short, sincere note through the eBay system, letting them know that you’ve read your message, feel terrible about this mistake, and will get the correct item out ASAP, again at no cost to them.

Understand your buyer before taking the next step. After you’ve communicated sincerely with your buyer, put some thought into the next step, based on that buyer’s situation. In the instance of the bowl, the buyer had no experience as a seller—she’d never shipped an item—so I included a return shipping label along with the correct item so the buyer could simply pack the bowl in the box I sent the plate in, affix the label, and get it on its way. 

Another example: in the scope of 2 days, I sold both a pair of golf shoes and a pair of skateboard shoes, but shipped the incorrect shoes to each buyer. After calling each buyer, the best (and quickest) fix was to have them ship to each other, using shipping labels I’d created and emailed out as PDF files. I also sent them each a $10.00 refund via PayPal for the bother and inconvenience my error had caused them. Although my profit margin dropped, they both left me great feedback, and most importantly I felt it was the right thing to do. 

The bottom line is—as sellers—we must fix the issue in a positive manner without our customers having a bad buying experience. After all, we do want repeat business, we do want them to tell a friend and share our future listings, and we do want them to follow us on eBay and add us as a favorite seller. I will always try to turn a bad situation into a good situation as fast and painlessly as possible, and most importantly, learn from my mistakes because they do happen.  When situations arise, just try to fix it as fast as possible, keep the customer happy, and know there is more money to be made on the next item!

Danna Crawford

CEO and President,