3 Basic Tips for Managing Refunds and Open Cases

eBay returns
Getty Images

Requests for returns and other kinds of disputes are a necessary evil that sellers must deal with as part of an eBay business. A return or refund request can be a pain, but as long as sellers have a strategy for dealing with these issues, they can be painless and resolved quickly. The most important aspect of working with customers is quick action. When you receive a refund request, handle it quickly in a professional manner.

Tips For Managing Refunds and Open Requests

  • Act Quickly When a Customer Requests a Return. The clock starts ticking the moment the buyer lets eBay know they've had an issue or would like to make a return. A buyer that requests a return, for example, is given a date by which the seller should respond, or they're able to request that eBay step in and help to resolve the problem. Delaying your responses as a seller might feel like a way to avoid having to face a problem or a buyer for another day, but it's all too easy to get caught up in day-to-day business and forget. If you pass the given date without addressing the issue, eBay is likely to simply solve the problem directly with the buyer, without any input from you. This can result in eBay deciding in the buyer's favor for a full refund, no questions asked, possibly without even getting your item back in return.
  • Always Communicate Through the eBay Messaging System. Never communicate with the buyer via your private email or phone, simply because eBay will not have a record of it and cannot refer to it when evaluating the case.  If you have a disagreement with the buyer, supply your responses, conditions, and arguments in the actual resolution system, rather than by shooting a direct message off to the buyer and hoping for a lively debate or some sort of off-the-record agreement. Remember, whenever communicating with a buyer, assume that eBay will read those messages so craft your responses carefully to reflect yourself as a professional seller with an accommodating attitude.
  • Be Willing to Negotiate and Take a Loss. Online shoppers these days expect a much higher level of customer service that was true just a few years ago. eBay is no different. If you're rigid in your demands and conditions, or simply refuse to refund a purchase price, you may be frustrated to find that eBay will tend to side with the buyer. One strategy that not enough sellers adopt is to split the difference—offer a partial refund. For example, offer an exchange in lieu of a return, or maybe a partial refund and let the buyer keep the item. Remember that buyers are often just as stressed out about disputes as sellers, and want just as badly to put disputes to rest in ways that are acceptable to everyone. Many are relieved, not upset, to find a seller working just as hard as they are to arrive at an equitable solution—and will often take sellers up on these kinds of offers. The best way to start negotiations with a buyer is to send the following note:
    • "Hello, thank you for contacting us. We regret to hear that the item does not meet your satisfaction. Our goal is 100% satisfaction. How can we resolve this situation for you? We are happy to hear your suggestions."​

Allow the buyer to tell you what he wants. They may want much less than you offer right off the bat. When negotiating, always let the other party name their price first, and work from there; use the "Shut up and listen" technique.

eBay is a service business. Even though we as sellers have the most fun scavenging and finding items to sell, that is only the first step in the process. The transaction isn't over until the buyer is happy. Refer to Stew Leonard's famous quote:

Rule #1: The customer is always right.
Rule #2: If the customer is ever wrong, re-read rule #1.