Handling Returns on Ebay: That’s My Story and I’m Sticking To It

An Ebay fear that many sellers have is The Buyer That Wants a Refund.
The easy and obvious solution?  To sell all my items “As Is, No Returns”, of course!
Wait!… Not so fast.

A few months ago, we sold a pair of mud guards for a Toyota truck, free shipping, as is, no returns.  (Before we knew better.)  The buyer claimed that they didn’t fit his truck – which happened to be a very similar truck as the mud guards had been on previously.  (aka: Buyer’s Remorse.)

Because the buyer contacted us politely, we did what any good Ebay seller would do: We accepted the return, asked him to pay for return shipping, and refunded his money as soon as we received the mud guards and verified they had not been damaged. In the process, we lost our money on the original shipping cost as well as the Ebay fees, which are not refunded unless a case is opened.  But we preserved our stellar Ebay rating.

Then, following a suggestion from Scavenger Life, we promptly added the following phrase to all our listings:

14-day returns allowed with a 20% restocking fee. Shipping cost will not be refunded. Buyer pays shipping back. All items MUST be included in original condition and safely packed if package is returned.

This protects the Ebay seller in several ways:

  • 20% restocking fee discourages returns
  • restocking fee covers Ebay fees, packing materials and your time
  • Ebay upholds the seller’s right to charge a restocking fee
  • money for original shipping costs is not lost
  • return shipping is covered by buyer

Our new strategy was recently put to the test when we sold a part for an expensive label printer.  Maybe the very nice picture sold the item, but we specifically stated that this item had not been tested, and that we had no way of testing.  We also carefully chose the condition of the item as “For Parts or Not Working”.

Ebay 649

A few days after receiving the part, the buyer opened an “Item not as described” case on Ebay.  We immediately contacted Ebay and were assured that we had done everything right, and they would uphold our side in the dispute.  Following their instructions, we contacted the buyer to inform them that we would accept their return, and would refund their money “minus 20%” as specified on the listing.

This buyer was not happy.  After some debate, we waited a few days, during which the item was not returned per our instructions.  We selected the “Ask us to step in and help” option, and less than an hour later, received a resolution from Ebay in which the buyer was asked to return the item, at our expense, and we should give a full refund upon delivery of the item!  Ouch.

We called Ebay and they again confirmed that we had done everything right, and that once we received the item we could appeal the resolution.

When the part arrived, and we verified it was the same item, that it had not been damaged, etc, we again contacted Ebay.  This was a 3-hour ordeal.  First, we were told we should give a full refund immediately.  We explained that the item was listed “For Parts” and specifically described as untested.  We were left on hold for 20 minutes at a time and explained the situation to at least 5 different people.  But we stuck to our story, trying to be firm but polite.

At long, long last, after spending most of an afternoon on the phone, an Ebay representative finally acknowledged that it seemed like a case of buyer’s remorse.  Another 20 minutes on hold, and another Ebay representative acknowledged they had mistakenly decided the case in the buyer’s favor.  They would be refunding the buyer so that we would not have to!  This resolution would also protect us from receiving any negative feedback from this sale.

Lessons learned:

  • ALWAYS make sure your listings are accurate!
  • Don’t try to make an item sound nicer than it is just to get a sale
  • Don’t use terms like “good condition” or “looks great”.  What looks good to you might not look good to somebody else.  State the facts and keep it simple.
  • If you are confident that you have described your item accurately and still have problems, respect your own terms and conditions as you would with any business deal.
  • If you have problems, contact Ebay early on and keep them informed.
  • Always be polite and professional, in dealing with the buyer and with Ebay.  State the facts, leave the emotions aside.

Does selling on Ebay or Craigslist help you be location independent?  Do you have fears or concerns that hold you back from selling?  Let us know in the comments below!



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