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Refund dilemma

Customer returns goods which have clearly been worn



9:59 am on Oct 5, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

On the whole my customers seem to be a pretty honest bunch, and the odd one who chances their arm I usually just let slip. However, this morning I received a returned order from a customer (2 items worth well over 100) which have clearly been worn, and one item has been removed from its sealed hygiene packet (earrings). My terms and conditions VERY clearly state that we do not accept returns of any items which have been worn or earrings which have been removed from their sealed hygiene packets. I obviously can't resell these items.

What would you do? Send the items back pointing out that they are not eligible for a refund, or just go with the "no quibbles" thing and let it slide? I usually go with the "no quibbles" argument, but this one is just such brazen, bare-faced cheek that I'm not sure I should let her get away with it.

I believe I am within my rights to refuse to give her a refund. The original order was placed on 9 September, so it is well outside the UK "cooling off" period etc. Anyone any thoughts?


11:27 am on Oct 5, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member topr8 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

i thought that in the uk, you had to give a refund on any mail order product if it is returned within 28 days - could be wrong though.

i think you should refund, sometimes people do silly things when they are angry and it could cost you more in the long term not to.


12:26 pm on Oct 5, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Thanks Topr8. Distance Selling Regulation is 7 days, and the earrings aren't affected by that law anyway because they have been unsealed. I'm currently thinking of refunding her the necklace but not the earrings. It would be almost impossible to prove she had been wearing the necklace before returning it, short of someone providing me with photographic evidence! But the health and safety considerations concerning the earrings are really quite clear and I'm sure she knows she's pushing the envelope on that one. I'll wait a while until I calm down...

[edited by: Rubylily at 12:34 pm (utc) on Oct. 5, 2004]


12:32 pm on Oct 5, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

That is a very difficult problem.
If you can afford it, do the refund. Bad word of mouth can kill a business.
We put a little notice on our site about a "restocking charge" of 20%. We rarely apply a restocking charge but it gives us some leverage in situations like yours. Sometimes if we suspect that a customer is not truthful on the phone when they are trying to do a return, we mention the restocking charge and very often they will change their mind and keep the product.
In most cases we just tell people that if the product is resaleable, we will refund for full credit, minus the shipping.


12:40 pm on Oct 5, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I would disinfect the earrings and necklace, give her the refund. This type of customer loves to lie and cheat, and is self centered, and is looking for conflict. Don't waste your time and refund her the money, and inform her that you will not be accepting any orders from her again.


12:44 pm on Oct 5, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tigger is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

if on your terms of business it states that if goods are opened or tried on no refunds will be given then thats the end of the story, I have some similar products that have a hygiene issue should they be used and I clearly state no refunds are made


1:02 pm on Oct 5, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

If you are
A) outside of the time period established by law,
B) Sure that the goods are fully as described, and
C) she is in contravention of your T&C,

I would write to the customer, fully explaining the situation, and refuse to reimburse her. If she continues to complain try offering her a "good will" gesture of a 10% or 20% discount on a future purchase, but ignoring anything else.

After all, if she has clearly used the goods (thus rendering them unsaleable, as in this case), and did not bother to return them within the legal period, then your T&C apply.


3:56 pm on Oct 5, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I would not refund such a customer, pointing out the TOS (hopefully they are clearly placed on the site).

We provide the TOS in html, word document and PDF format, and again on paper with every invoice by mail.

Over the last few years people have been getting more and more audacious and unfair when it comes to ordering online.

Thankfully its not too rampant, but we've had people boasting via e-mail about how they can "simply dispute charges", implying that we are powerless against their whims.

There is without a doubt a category of online shopper that thrives on creating difficulty and goes out, knowlingly or not, to victimize merchants.

There needs to be more accountability and regulation of customers using credit cards.

Enforcing a clear, suitable and fair TOS is one way of keeping things clean.


6:50 pm on Oct 5, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I would write to the customer explaining that your T&C state that earrings cannot be exchanged or refunded if they have been removed from the sealed wrapper.

BUT I would also say that in this particular case, you are willing to refund her the full cost as a gesture of goodwill (or whatever)...

You've got your stuff back and she's got her refund. You can disinfect the earrings and sell them on. Everyone's happy. You just have to 'get over' the fact that you THINK she's trying it on. Jewellery's hard to sell on the web cos people like to touch it and hold it up against them. Don't penalise her for that.

I'm not sure why you mentioned in your msg how much the earrings and necklace have cost. Surely the way you treat your customers should be the same regardless of if they've returned a 2.00 pair of earrings or a 200 pair?


9:28 am on Oct 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Let me just reiterate that these items are NOT in resaleable condition, they show clear signs of wear and tear, quite apart from the hygiene issue with the earrings. I don't care whether my customers spend 2 or 200 they will always get the same quality customer care from me, that has been my policy since day one. 99.9% of jewellery retailers will not allow any returns on pierced earrings, full stop. I offer the sealed hygiene packet option as a gesture of goodwill, precisely because I believe in offering a superior service.

Simply disinfecting the earrings and reselling them to some other unsuspecting punter who believes, quite rightly so, that they are purchasing new, unused goods, is not an option I would even consider.

I know there's a matter of principle at stake here, which is why I'm annoyed about this, but at the end of the day I am a sucker for goodwill and quality service because I genuinely believe it pays in the long run. I suspect I will indeed relent and give her a refund, along with a letter explaining that she has breached our T&C but that the refund is a gesture of goodwill this time around.

Thank you all so much for taking the time to respond, it has been very helpful. :)


9:38 am on Oct 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

One thing about TOS.

It is all very well to have TOS on the web site, forms etc..

What you must have is a little check box on a booking or payment form that says "I have read and agree to Widget Co. terms and conditions" or something to that effect. The customer must check the box to make the purchase. By checking the box they agree to the conditions. Without this, no matter how prominent your conditions may be, a customer can still say they did not see or read them.


9:57 am on Oct 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I quite agree Monkscuba.

In this case my T&C regarding returns are also printed in big bold letters on the returns slip she had to fill in to send the items back. She couldn't possibly have failed to see them, they really couldn't be any clearer.


10:57 am on Oct 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member fathom is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

In this case my T&C regarding returns are also printed in big bold letters on the returns slip she had to fill in to send the items back. She couldn't possibly have failed to see them, they really couldn't be any clearer.

IMHO none of your issues matter... and to be clear - you are in business of making sales and each customer (satisfied or dissatisfied) has a circle of influence that can be greatly affected... with consequences.

"If they" are in the habit of wear and returning they are also likely in the habit of public displays that will negatively affect your business and possibly indefinitely.

The customer's trust, state of mind, what they know or don't know is highly suggestive and not the issue.

I highly recommend you issue the refund, use the goods for promotional purposes (which do not have the "new" stigma attached), and put the customer on a watch list for no future sales.


11:27 am on Oct 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

When this happens to me, I contact the customer and ask if they are amenable to a 50% refund, or some other amount to cover my costs, pointing out that according to the Distant Selling Regulations, by which you abide, you re not obliged to give them any refund and what a jolly good chap you are for offering anything at all and how lucky they are to be dealing with such fair and reasonable people ... well you get the idea.
I actually have the 50% thing in my T&C's regarding used goods, so that way I cover myself.


12:43 am on Oct 8, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Issue them a refund. You protect your merchant account from charge backs. Too many chargebacks and you risk losing your account all together. Not worth it.


8:46 pm on Oct 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I agree 100% with brandyace. Your business plan should allow for a certain percentage of product loss, as long as you are under that you are OK and still profitable. Take the used, unsellable stuff and use ebay to either piece it out or bulk sell it.


4:00 am on Oct 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I agree with the general consensus. Keep the merchandise, ebay it as "almost new" if you are worried about the loss. Refund the customer, even though she doesnt deserve it, and be as kind about it however be firm and mention that this against your policy and you will not be doing it for her again.

I recently had a customer that was simply impossible to deal with in customer support. They never even purchased a product. I eventually got tired of them wasting my time and told them very kindly to take their business elsewhere. They proceeded to find every forum that mentioned my company and write badmouthing lies about me and my company in the reply to that forum, as well as add comments to numerous other websites internet wide. While I do not deserve the abuse, there is nothing I can do to stop it. I learned a valuable lesson though, one angry consumer can cost a huge headache.


7:45 am on Oct 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I found this post really interesting as its something that we have to deal with all the time. I thought I'd add my 2 cents..

We always issue a refund if the purchase was made in the last 60 days. The reasons have already been mentioned, firstly customer service is paramount, and we want to keep all our customers happy - even if they are unreasonable.

Secondly its easier to give a refund and forget about it leaving you free to deal with more important issues - its just not worth wasting time on arguing about a refund.

It does feel like merchants get the bum deal some of the time though.


7:19 pm on Oct 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I usually refund Items to be honest, but surely you've got to put your foot down some time.

If the item is oput of the packaging then I wouldn't refund for that Item. like you say 99.9% of the other online jewelers wouldn't and 99.9% of high street jewellers wouldn't.

If you're not firm, she'll just tell her mates that she knows of a place where she can get expensive earrings for a 'use-once' night out and get a refund.

That's just my opinion though. Refund the necklace, and maybe offer a credit note or voucher for your site, so you don't lose 100%.


7:56 pm on Oct 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member topr8 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

>>>99.9% of high street jewellers wouldn't.

wrong. high street retailers will nearly always give a refund for any reason ... why? ... because if you are standing at the counter complaining, it costs lost sales and puts other customers off. (a store might say no at first but if a customer stands there complaining loudly then it gets sorted pretty quick)

if you are going to be in retail you have to accept losses whatever they may be, shoplifting, damage, returns etc etc, just build it into the price, ultimately the customer always pays


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