How to Handle eBay Return and Refund Requests

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As an eBay seller, return requests come with the territory. An item may not be just what the buyer wanted, or it might be the wrong size. Whatever the reason, there are ways to approach the situation to ensure both parties are satisfied.

Assess the Situation

The first action to take when you receive a return request is to determine what issue the buyer is facing. Sellers cannot help buyers unless they know why the buyer is unhappy. It could be an easy fix. If the customer sends a message by email (without actually opening a return request), respond professionally and be accommodating. Find out what the exact problem is and how you can help. Here are some sample responses when a buyer contacts you about a return:

  • We regret to hear that you are unhappy with the item. How can we help?
  • Our goal is 100% customer satisfaction. We are happy to work with you to resolve this issue.
  • Please let us know what we can do to make this right.

Then, wait and see what the buyer wants. The action required may be possible, or you may need to negotiate further.

Offer Partial Refunds

It is preferable to let the buyer keep the item and offer a partial refund than to initiate a long drawn-out process of a return and relisting the item. Always try to avoid a return. One way to do this is to offer the buyer a partial refund. Try the following response:

"Perhaps you would like to keep the item and receive a partial refund. If so, what amount would you consider fair?"

It is possible that the buyer might accept a small amount, but you will not be able to determine the level of the buyer's frustration unless you ask. Remember, as a seller, your goal is to make the buyer happy, so the question is more than legitimate.

Accept the Return and Move On

eBay's money-back guarantee may mean that a return is unavoidable. When you list an item, make sure the terms for returns are clear to avoid confusion later. Some factors to consider are the following:

  • Does the buyer pay for return shipping?
  • Does a restocking fee apply?
  • What is the period for a return: 14 days, 30 days, or longer? 
  • Will you offer an exchange or money back?
  • Is there a restocking fee?

Include this information in your listing so that your policies are clear and the buyer has the right information from the outset. Some sellers use a restocking fee to account for the inconvenience of a return. If the dispute is based on INAD (item not as described), the seller will always pay return shipping and the restocking fee does not apply. Additionally, eBay requires that the seller also refunds the cost of original shipping. INADs are costly and should be avoided.

Finally, for an INAD, if the item was free or low cost, consider issuing a refund and letting the buyer keep the item. If there really is something wrong with the item, you cannot resell it. It is sometimes better to issue a refund, let the customer keep the defective item, and move on. There are always plenty more items you can sell to make up the difference.