The new eBay return policy changes hurt Trading Assistants the most

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by Hillary "The Whine Seller" DePiano

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I stand by the my earlier sentiments, namely that everyone should have a return policy and that the length of time eBay requires you to accept returns for doesn’t actually matter. But I wanted to take a quick moment to talk about something I meant to include in the pirate code post but forgot.

The people most hurt by the new eBay return policy requirements are eBay Trading Assistants. Let me explain. 

When you work as an Trading Assistant, you can’t pay the owner of the items what they’re owed until the items have sold and you are certain the sale is final. For example, back when I had a 7 day return policy, if someone bought an item from me that was actually a Trading Assistant item the timeline went like this:

  • buyer buys item
  • item arrives after a shipping time of anywhere from two days to two months depending on method of shipping (hello, international)
  • buyer has 7 days from date of arrival to decide if they want to return it or not
  • only once that week is up was the sale considered final so I could pay the owner

So, depending on where the item was shipping to, it could be up to two months and a week from the day the buyer actually bought the item to when I could actually pay the owner for their items. Every additional week eBay forces into the return policy delays this by yet another week.

If you’ve never worked as a Trading Assistant, you may not realize why this is a problem. See, when eBay markets the TA program, they aggressively advertise the fact that it’s a way to get money fast. There is nothing fast about that timeline I just outlined above so the TA is already fighting against client expectations. I’ve had clients complain that I didn’t have a check for them as I was picking up their items for the first time. Every week longer the owner has to wait for their money, the more difficult the TA’s job becomes.

For TA’s, here’s a few ways to deal with this:

  • Clearly define your timetable upfront to manage expectations
  • If possible, give your clients a partial payment for items where the sales are final while you wait for other slower sales such as international
  • Consider a sale final once the buyer leaves feedback. This is something I developed years ago so I could pay my clients faster. No matter how long my return policy is for, if a buyer leaves feedback or emails me indicating that he/she is happy with the item, I consider that sale final even if the return policy isn’t actually up yet. TA items are actually the only listings I bother to send feedback reminders for for this very reason.
  • Whenever possible, offer partial refunds over returns. Every time an item is returned, that adds more time onto the clock and delays the client’s payment even more because the clock effectively starts all over again. If a buyer is unhappy with an item you’re selling as a TA, always try to smooth the situation over with a partial refund first because it will save you time and face with your other customer… the TA client.

How do you think the new return policy requirements will effect your TA business?

Author: Hillary DePiano

Selling online since 1997, Hillary is the author of several books and eBooks about ecommerce and publishing including eBay Marketing Makeover, Beyond Amazon, eBay, and Etsy and Sell Their Stuff. She also writes fiction and is a bestselling playwright when you aren't looking. For a complete list of books, plays and projects, visit

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  • Ed

    I’m not sure this will impact me at all. First, I generally only pay my clients after I have sold the majority of their items, and I make that very clear up front. Additionally, in the event I have paid a client and then an item is returned, I consider it ethical at that point to resell the item and keep whatever I get. If an item is returned because I did not describe it well enough, that is my responsibility, not my client. Thoughts?

    • Hillary

      There have been times when I sold a client’s items, paid them, and then the buyer returned it so long after I paid the client that I too have just resold it and kept whatever it sold for. Also, when it is because of my own fault, I always foot the bill, though that’s rarely the cause of returns.

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