Recent changes to eBay return policy requirements rocked some sellers, who worried the updates would encourage more returns.
eBay insists the changes were necessary to make shoppers feel confident when buying on the site, and to encourage more sales. It began rolling out the changes—including longer return windows and tougher rules for Top-rated Sellers—in May.
By now, merchants have had time to digest the eBay return policy updates and make any adjustments. Considering the initial uproar over eBay return policy changes, we wondered if people did, in fact, update their return policies, and what the impact has been. Here, we take a closer look.
What changed with eBay’s return policy?
The first change eBay made to its return policy this year was retiring the three- and seven-day return windows in May. Now, merchants who accept returns must choose between 14-, 30- or 60-day return policies. They also have to offer either money back, or a choice of money back or exchange, since eBay ended the merchandise credit and exchanges options on May 2.“Providing buyers with a consistent, convenient way to initiate returns helps build their confidence in eBay”
eBay then introduced its new returns center, which is meant to streamline the returns process and prevent a lot of back and forth between buyers and sellers.
Top-rated Sellers who opted in to the returns center gained access to it in September. Though it’s currently available only to these sellers, eBay reports the return center will eventually be “the long-term solution for all transactions on eBay.”
Using the eBay return center, buyers can initiate returns right from their My eBay Summary pages. They can say why they’re returning a product and print return-shipping labels and packing slips. eBay will notify sellers when returns are on their way.
“Providing buyers with a consistent, convenient way to initiate returns helps build their confidence in eBay—it will also help reduce the number of eBay Buyer Protection cases that are opened,” eBay states in its FAQs about the center.
Finally, the marketplace reminded Top-rated Sellers that, in order to continue earning the 20-percent discount they’d previously received on final value fees, they must now offer a 14-day-or-longer eBay return policy with the money back option. Only those sellers who comply with this new requirement will have the Top Rated Plus emblem displayed on their listings. In November, the existing Top-rated Seller badge will be retired.
Sellers push back
The changes to return policies are controversial, to say the least. Clothing and jewelry sellers worry longer return windows may encourage people to use products and return them.
“I sell costume jewelry… and I already have people ‘renting’ my stuff,” one seller told us when changes were first announced. Another worried the changes might encourage more returns, in general, and that products would likely not be returned well packed.“eBay just isn’t what it used to be. It’s getting harder to make a decent return on investment these days”
“With the few items I have accepted back, the items are never packed the same way I packed them,” that seller reported. “The stuff is literally thrown in a box. Where is all the bubble wrap I used? Buyers don’t think, or care, that how can I resell this item when you have removed things or the item comes back damaged?”
Have sellers changed their return policies?
To find out how people are taking the changes to eBay return policy requirements now, we posted a simple question on The Online Seller’s Facebook page: Have you changed your return policies because of eBay policy changes?
Ana Paula Pereira replies she has, and that, with the changes she’s made, buyers are now returning items she can’t resell. “I am losing money,” she writes.
“Same here,” adds Leslie Urbine, who sells lingerie. She says 90 percent of her items should not be returned but, since she started accepting returns in July, buyers are returning products. “I have definitely lost money,” she adds, noting that she feels she was forced to accept returns in order to maintain her good standing and visibility on eBay.
Pete Staniforth put it simply: “eBay just isn’t what it used to be. It’s getting harder to make a decent return [on investment] these days,” after factoring in the seller fees.
We also polled our fans on Facebook to see if they had changed their policies and, if so, how that affected their sales. Forty percent said they had changed their policies, and that it had not affected their sales, at all.
Another 40 percent said they had changed their policies, and that it had affected their sales in a bad way. Twenty percent said they had not changed their policies, and that it had not affected their sales.
Is it working?
It’s hard to say whether the new eBay return policy has been a boon for the marketplace. eBay is continually making changes aimed at improving the shopping experience, and making the marketplace more accessible—and appealing—to mobile users. Just this month, the company introduced a more contemporary site design, and it has a Pinterest-style curation feature up its sleeve that it hopes will get buyers to spend more time on the site.
eBay’s financial results don’t tell us much, yet. Marketplace revenue has continued to grow steadily—around 10 percent to 15 percent, quarterly—and so have gross merchandise volume and active registered accounts.
Will the new eBay return policy finally bring buyers rushing to eBay? Maybe we’ll know more after the coming holiday season.
Returns are not for everyone
What can we conclude from all of this? Simply that returns are not for everyone, and the changes are affecting some, but not all, sellers. Some merchants have adjusted their return policies in hopes of getting the Top-rated Seller discount. Others believe it’s too much hassle, and are sticking with return policies that have worked for them, come what may.
“I think it provides a level of comfort to know that you aren’t going to be stuck with something that doesn’t fit well”
If you’re wondering how you should act, think it through carefully. We know that losing out on a fee discount is a bummer, but your business may be better off in the long run when you take into account your cost of returns, including restocking, repacking and the possibility of not being able to resell items.
With that said, accepting returns and conforming to eBay return policy requirements can and does work well for some. Merchants who accept returns don’t necessarily see a big jump in returns. In fact, some report they get a boost in sales as a result—and they may end up getting that much-wanted discount and that shiny new emblem, which could help to attract more buyers.
For Mandy and Kris Moody, the owners of Italian Suit Warehouse, taking returns has worked well. They “absolutely accept returns” on everything, for any reason, they tell us. The couple has sold close to 40,000 designer items on eBay in the 11 years they’ve been selling on the venue.
“I think, especially with suits and sport jackets, it provides a level of comfort to know that you aren’t going to be stuck with something that doesn’t fit well. I’m sure this does put sellers of these types of goods who do not allow returns at a disadvantage,” Kris adds.
Have you made changes to your eBay return policy because of the new requirements? How has it affected your sales? Tell us in the comments below.