Point of No Returns?

If your returns policy is too restrictive, you may be losing return business.

by Miriam Otto
- Jan 19, 2011

As an eBay seller, my return policy is simple: Don't like it? Send it back! There are a few exceptions to this rule, but not many.

I accept returns two days, two weeks, even two months from the date of purchase. The interesting thing is, very few people ever return the products they order from me. About 2 percent of the products I sell are returned—not a big deal.

eBay requires that you state your return policy in every listing—whatever that policy may be. That doesn't mean you have to accept returns. However, I truly believe that offering a liberal return policy has helped my business. People often e-mail me to double-check on my policy before making purchases. Clearly, customers feel more comfortable buying from sellers who allow merchandise to be sent back.

Lately, I've noticed that quite a few eBay sellers still don't take returns. In fact, these people often spend a great deal of time making sure customers understand that all sales are final. I once ordered a pair of used women's shoes from a lady on the East Coast. When I received the shoes, I noticed she had stamped "No Returns" all over the outside of the box.

Buyers love knowing they can return merchandise that doesn't fit

Make the policy fit the item

Obviously, some sellers can't offer a liberal returns policy. Sellers of electronics, for example, might attract dishonest buyers who break products and send them back. But if you're selling items like clothing or collectibles, it's best to offer an unconditional return policy.

When it comes to clothing, sizes can vary from brand to brand. Buyers love knowing they can return merchandise that doesn't fit. Not too long ago, I saw a sweatshirt on eBay I really liked, but the seller stated in the listing that all sales were final. Because she didn't take returns, I didn't purchase her product. And she missed a sale.

Last year, I bought a pair of jeans that turned out to be too big. The seller wouldn't take them back, even though I e-mailed her immediately after receiving them and offered to pay for the return shipping. Needless to say, I will not buy from her again.

Protect your interest

In addition to selling shoes and clothing, I sell quite a few collectibles. I've had very few problems with products being sent back.

When selling collectibles, it's important to provide plenty of pictures and describe the items in detail. If a buyer claims that an item arrived defective or broken, ask them to send photos via e-mail so you can see the damage. If you are sending an expensive item, insure it. Taking these steps will help protect you against dishonest individuals.

Taking returns is not only sound business practice, it's a great way to build the trust and loyalty you want from your buyers! If you're an eBay seller who believes that all sales are final, you may be turning off customers and missing out on the opportunity to increase your sales.

About the Author

Miriam Otto is an eBay educator, based in Northern California. Miriam sells more than 500 items per month on eBay, and finds most of what she sells at yard sales and thrift shops. When not teaching eBay classes or running her business, she enjoys writing about her latest "scores" on The eBay Life blog. In addition to living "The eBay Life," Miriam works as an independent study teacher helping adults earn high school diplomas.

Opinions expressed here may not be shared by Auctiva Corp. and/or its principals.

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