Create a generous return policy

Offering a return policy won’t just increase both your sales and visibility on the eBay marketplace, a generous return policy can even decrease the number of returns you get overall.

Here’s what to do:

Set up your return policy on your eBay listings. You can revise the return policy on all your listings at once using the bulk edit tools. Make it as generous as you can both in terms of time and what you offer. I also recommend setting yourself up for eBay’s automated returns process. It makes things easier for both you and the buyer and also gives your items a boost in eBay search results.

eBay has made this process pretty painless; it’s only a couple of drop-down menus once you select the “All returns accepted” radio button. These are the choice you’ll need to make:

The first option is the return period. Your choices are 14, 30 or 60 days. There’s also an option to offer extended holiday returns. I’d recommend choosing both 60 days and the extension unless an item is particularly timely, seasonal or has an expiration date of some kind where you wouldn’t be able to resell it later. Neither option will result in more returns, but both will increase the number of sales.

  • Under “Refund will be given as,” your options are to only offer Money Back or to give the buyer a choice of Money Back with the additional option of exchange or replacement. What you choose here will depend on what you have to sell. If your inventory is lots of identical items in new condition, exchanges and replacements are a good option. For a collectible seller like myself, my inventory rotates so frequently it would be near impossible for me to offer an exchange or replacement, so I usually only offer money back.
  • Next, decide whether the buyer or seller will pay return shipping. Keep in mind that the seller will always have to pay the return shipping in the case of an item not as described as per eBay’s policy. Covering the cost of the return shipping will attract buyers, but that’s a cost out of pocket for you. For small items, it may be worth the small cost of covering the return shipping to save yourself from buyer complaints, but larger items are another story.
  • Lastly is the option to charge a restocking fee. Many sellers use this as a kind of penalty fee to discourage people for returning items, which, to me, undoes any of the good of offering a return policy in the first place. If, however, you have items that truly do require an additional cost to resell, this can be a good way to recoup some of those costs. Just understand that it’s a big buyer turn-off, so only use it when necessarily.

eBay doesn’t allow for additional comments in your return policy, though you are welcome to elaborate under the “Additional payment instructions” field on the listing form or in your listing text itself. The important thing to remember when crafting this text is that returns are a selling point–a feature that you’re offering your buyer. Some sellers fill their return policies with threats, accusations and other nastiness that undermines all the promotional benefit of offering a return policy in the first place. Your return policy is not a declaration of war against imagined criminals.

Why are we doing this?

As prevalent as it is, there’s still a lot of distrust and mystery to buying online. I’m looking at a picture of an item in your store, but it will always be different once it’s in my hands. There are enough shady sellers out there trying to pull off a scam that buyers are cautious with their purchases, and by offering a return policy, you’re showing them that you are one of the good guys.

Return policies are about two things–trust and freedom. The buyer wants to be able to trust that they can buy something and if it isn’t what they expected, they can get their money back. Buyers also want the freedom to purchase something without feeling stuck with it if they change their mind. Buyers are, at heart, commitment-phobes and are more likely to buy something when they know the option to back out is available in some form.

But here’s the really beautiful part about return policies that the eBay sellers who are upset about them completely miss. People are inherently very lazy. They seek out items that have a return policy, but then they only rarely follow through and return the item. The longer your return window, the longer they have to put it off, and the less likely they are to ever actually return it. Even when offering a very generous return policy, you’ll discover that you actually have to process very few returns. Moreover, you’ll get a boost in sales both from the increased exposure you’ll get both from eBay for using their return process and from buyers intentionally limiting their searches to sellers offering return policies. Ideally, your return policy is so generous that it seems like no risk to buy from you, greatly increasing the number of browsers you convert into impulse buyers.

If you’re still dead set against offering returns, let me lay some real talk on you. Checking off that “no returns” radio box is a placebo. All the buyer has to do is claim the item wasn’t as described within that same 60 days, and the Buyer Protection Policy will basically force you into accepting a refund anyway. Why force your customers to battle you to get their money back when you could make it easier on both of you and get the extra benefits of offering a posted return policy without the hassle and defect on your account? Besides, they have to give the item back to you in order to get the refund, so you’ll still have it to resell, so it’s never a total loss.