Amazon has been working hard to make the entire purchase cycle – from browsing to paying – a simple one for customers all over the world. For the most part, it’s also benefited sellers looking for a seamless process to deliver excellent service. Their latest policy change concerns merchandise returns, however, and many Amazon third-party sellers aren’t happy about it.
According to the recent policy announcement, all sellers (even those who do their own shipping) will be subject to the same generous return policies. What does the policy involve? While the exact details will depend on the type of item sold, the new rules allow customers to mark their orders for return with the click of a few buttons. They don’t have to contact the seller and wait for a reply, assistance with troubleshooting, or offer of replacement. The move is touted by Amazon as a way to get customers the faster service they deserve, but sellers were quick to question the move as one that will cost them.
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The new policy takes place October 2nd, far in advance of the busy holiday shopping season. Customers can click on past orders from within their order history within the acceptable 30-day return window and mark eligible items for return. They will immediately be allowed to print a return label or arrange for a carrier to pick up their item – often at the cost of the seller. Sellers will then have two days to process a return, or Amazon will do it for them (and recoup the loss from the merchant directly.) No input or approval is required from the seller for these returns to be completed.
While this quick fix for an unhappy customer has been available for Amazon-shipped items for some time, smaller sellers are concerned the system may be exploited. While sellers have options to limit the inventory subject to the new rules, the “no questions asked” policy may encourage fraud. Amazon does track returns, however; those found abusing the system could face an Amazon ban (although the exact nature of what could trigger a ban is not publicly known.)
An additional policy change includes the addition of a new “returnless refund.” This optional way of handling customer refunds doesn’t require the item to be physically shipped back to the store. When might this be good for the seller? If an item is too expensive or unwieldy to ship, this choice reduces unnecessary freight costs and hassle for both parties. Amazon stores don’t have to offer it, and many are predicting it could be another way to abuse Amazon’s already generous return policies.
For now, concerned sellers can file an appeal with Amazon for items they don’t think should have been refunded. A seller might do this in an instance where an item was returned in an obviously used or poor condition, or if the reason for return was incorrect. Since a customer might start the return process but never go through with it, an appeal cannot be filed until the item is in transit.
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