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Ecommerce Forum

Unannounced Returns

 5:43 pm on Jul 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

Just curious what people think about this... We very rarely get returned merchandise, but yesterday UPS tried to deliver something that appears to be a return. We weren't in so they left a notice. I looked through the shipments for the last few weeks and found one to the same town that this package is coming from. We sell products that are utilized outdoors and they basically have to be considered 'used' as soon as they're installed. If we take these products back, they have to be completely refurbished if we are to be able to resell them at full price, if at all. What I'm wondering is... How do people feel about returns customers make that are unannounced? We've had a couple returns that people told us they were going to do, and I was OK with that. But I find it annoying that someone sends something back without so much as an email telling us why and just assumes they'll get their money back. I'm half debating not accepting it when they bring it back. This is a fairly expensive item. I purchased something myself the other day from online and the product turned out to be terrible. They grilled me on the phone for 15 minutes and had a list of about 7 things I had to do before they would take the merchandise back. If I had not done all the things required, they wouldn't have accepted the package and sent it back at my expense. And this was a very large company.



 6:13 pm on Jul 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

Do you have a clearly stated return policy on the site? Ours clearly states no returns without a return authorization code clearly marked on the outside of the package. We also state this on the invoice. We do refuse returns. If nothing else it starts the dialogue.


 8:07 pm on Jul 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

Unfortunately I never really addressed that particular situation in our policy. I've changed it since. We've never had anyone return something unannounced, so it never crossed my mind.


 10:08 pm on Jul 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

Used to get this all of the time. Then I started mentioning an authorization number is required (on the invoice) and they pretty much stopped.

About a month ago a guy returned a fairly large item back unannounced, I knew what it was after looking him up and wrote Return to Sender on it.
He did a chargeback and got his money back. Nevermind the fact that I had a tracking number confirming his receipt.

Only had that happen about twice since I've been operating online. But it seems as though those who do this don't think they need to play by the rules - it always turns out messy with people who don't take the time to get the return authorization.

I personally find it disrespectful. Especially when they got everything they initially ordered and are returning something because they "didn't like it" or "changed my mind".


 12:50 am on Jul 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

This situation is difficult. In my experience returned items usually do not get returned in new condition. If the courier leaves the item at your location and you do not have a chance to refuse it and you do not feel that a full refund can be issued, or no refund should be issued, there is a problem getting the package back to the customer without paying to have it shipped back.

Many customers would do a chargeback in this situation rather then issue a damage claim with the carrier, or have it shipped back COD etc.

You can take pictures of a damaged item and submit these with your chargeback defense which has worked in the past, but it is a long drawn out nasty fight and not worth it unless the item is of considerable value.

I also believe that some customers will purposefully slightly damage an item they don't want and then return it claiming it is defective in order to avoid the restocking fee. When a customer claims an item is defective but does not want a replacement this is sometimes the case.


 1:33 am on Jul 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

Yeah, it's a bad situation that's pretty much no win. If I accept it, it could be destroyed for all I know, with no evidence that it was done in shipping due to the fact that he sent it back by a different service. If it was just returned, I would at least know it's OK. But if I refuse it, he most likely will just do a charge-back. Unfortunately it went through paypal too, which loves to favor the buyer, no matter how wrong they are. I sent him an email saying that if it's his order that they attempted to deliver, he needs to tell me what the situation is, or I'm not going to accept it.


 3:04 pm on Jul 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

Depending on your industry, I would include a statement in your TOS about a restocking fee. I set mine at 30% for items returned w/o a Returns Goods Authorization (RGA). I've found that it works as a good deterrent for customers who may attempt to take advantage of me -- and people tend to notice that it may cost them extra to return goods unannounced. I almost never apply this for customers who call in and let me know why they wish to return an item; plus it gives me a warm feeling to stick it to people who cause me trouble!


 3:16 pm on Jul 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

If you are in the UK, the buyer has an automatic right to return any product without having to give a reason, under the Distance Selling Regulations.


 8:15 pm on Jul 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

The problem with refusing the shipment is that the customer is just going to then file a chargeback. Clearly he just wants his money back and doesn't really care much for the "rules".

We get this from time to time, and we just eat the costs.


 12:39 pm on Jul 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

Bottom line is, no matter what your terms of service is. If the customer sends it back and you dont refund, then they will do a chargeback and win. Eat the cost and avoid the chargeback.


 8:47 pm on Jul 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

Say you have a return authorization requirement and you deduct that from their refund. Can't they just do a chargeback for the fee you've taken off, and win?


 9:55 pm on Jul 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

It's only come up once, but we've won a chargeback claim for restocking fees with American Express. The return policy is on our site and on our receipt.


 10:12 pm on Jul 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

We win chargebacks here all the time. If you cant win there is either something wrong with your business model or you are fearful (perhaps wisely) of taking on the customer.


 8:29 am on Jul 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

ispy, are you selling high ticket items and have tracking documentation for everything? I sell rather lightweight and cheap items, so it is costly to affix tracking and/or express services to this type of stuff. Visa requires "proof" you ship, but doesn't require "proof" the buyer is actually telling the truth about not receiving those items..

Regardless of what's on my invoice, I tend to lose 99% of chargebacks. In PayPal's complaint system though, I win the majority of those, unless the customer doesn't give me a chance to explain the details of the purchase/shipping and goes straight ahead to let PayPal decide the outcome. (A seller cannot defend themselves if they have no room to explain! Often times, a chargeback results in miscommunication or impossible expectations [by the buyer])

Forcing the customer to communicate is a step in the right direction for PayPal. I wish Visa and Mastercard would follow suit!


 5:33 pm on Jul 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

We win chargebacks too, but only when we dispute the chargeback and the customer gives up. For the customers that dispute our dispute, we always lose. Basically on the first dispute we prove what we need and it is returned in our favor. If the customer then goes back to their bank and yells louder it gets messy. We have had great documentation and proof that would hold up in court but yet we still lose in the end. Our merchant provider told us basically that when the customers bank gets involved at a higher level it is next to impossible to win, and we have found that out.

In my opinion it is a gamble. First, if a customer does a chargeback you get charged the chargeback fee, that is not refunded even if you win. Second, you certainly can win a reversal but if they dispute it again I feel you will lose. For us, the time and money involved in the entire dispute process isnt worth it and eventually chargebacks will raise your merchant rates. We eat the cost on unannounced returns and so far it has worked out great.


 6:46 pm on Jul 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

While I agree to a large extent with many of these posts, at least in practice, I believe there is a greater principle at stake...
If you bother to formulate policies and terms, adherence is a necessity not an option. Why should you trust me and my oganization/company if I don't hold myself to our agreements? How can I reasonably expect you to act any different? If you say, "No unannounced returns!" stick to your guns. If I, as a consumer, don't bother to pay attention to the rules, that's my fault -- as long as these rules are spelled out and accessible. Waffling on your own policies is a disservice to you and the customers whom obey the policies.

But...all hail the mighty dollar! In the end, I'd do some math and determine what is most cost effective for your particular situation. I am able to assess a restocking fee and have never encountered a problem, besides complaining. Then again, my customers are usually one-time shoppers and I do have some widgets which beg for "rental" type usage. So, I put my restocking fee prohibitively high (30%) with a note about restocking fees being assessed on an individual order basis. I use my loophole as a negotiating tactic...if you're a reasonable person 30% changes to 10% instantly. Most people are satisfied with a lower restocking fee on announced returns and don't bother to do a chargeback once they feel they have gotten some sort of reparation.


 7:11 pm on Jul 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

If you are in the UK, the buyer has an automatic right to return any product without having to give a reason, under the Distance Selling Regulations.

...unless it is for the purposes of their business or profession.


 6:44 am on Jul 11, 2008 (gmt 0)

From the 'don't always assume the worst' department... In the end the guy ordered the wrong thing somehow and was trying to exchange it for something else. And believe it or not he even admitted it was his fault. Why he didn't warn me it was coming, I don't know. He had a small refund coming from the price difference, which I don't even think he was expecting. But I gave it to him for being a good guy. I didn't think sticking him with a restock was cool at that point, even though we did have to refurbish the original product to 'new'. Which brings up another question... How the heck do you stick something in a box, with the item in plastic and surrounded by paper, and the product still comes out looking like it's been through a war. Sometimes it's interesting getting stuff back just to see what it goes through in shipping.


 2:05 am on Jul 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

Sometimes it's interesting getting stuff back just to see what it goes through in shipping.

The UPS shot putting team is going to the Olympics this year! All that training on my packages has paid off <end sarcasm>


 3:58 pm on Jul 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

The UPS shot putting team is going to the Olympics this year! All that training on my packages has paid off <end sarcasm>

At a meeting with our UPS rep recently, one of our execs had some fun:

Exec: When can I come visit your distribution center in Addison, IL?

UPS Rep: Oh, we would love to have you out there. What times would work for you?

Exec: I just really want to come out and see the giant hand.

UPS Rep: What do you mean? What giant hand?

Exec: You know, the giant hand that sits at the end of a conveyor belt and smacks the everloving BLEEP out of every package we give you.

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