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Dealing with FBA Customer Returns

August 22, 2023
Dealing with FBA and FBM customer Returns

Does this sound familiar?

Customers are returning items with return reasons that mean they have clearly opened and used the product but Amazon are putting them back in my inventory. Now I’m getting feedback from my customers stating the product was clearly used. Any ideas if that is something I can edit my store policies for FBA customer returns?

Does Amazon Inspect FBA Customer Returns?

By default, when a customer returns an item, Amazon’s priority is to process the return as quickly as possible to get the item back in stock and available for sale. This implies a quality control process that inspects items to ensure that they are in the same condition as listed. To do this, Amazon employees should conduct a visual inspection of all packaging and signs of wear and tear. As sellers, we are beholden to the whims and inspection abilities of Amazon warehouse employees who decide if a product should go back into inventory.

To make matters more challenging, customers can typically return items within 30 days of receipt, and that time can even be extended during the holiday season!

Not only is that process far from perfect, but sellers often report that customers are getting used products that have been returned and resold. That’s where the problem arises. If the “second” (or third) customer receives an item and complains that it does not match the listing specifications – you, the “seller” could be penalized. And it’s not your fault!

Some Common Customer Return “Scams” that Abuse this Policy

  • Bait and switch:  When a customer purchases an item but sends back a different product.
  • Used Product Returns: When a customer has clearly “used” a product (worn shoes, clothing with stains, open food packets)
Is This Preventable?

One option: Returnless refunds.  

In returnless refunds, you issue the refund, and let the buyer keep the product. The benefit? Customers don’t have to step out of their homes to make the return. This may be a strategic way to prevent used inventory from being resold. (This is particularly relevant to sellers on FBA. For FBM sellers, you may want to review your return policies to maximize the customer experience.

Here’s how you can set it up:

  1. In settings: click “Account Info”
  2. Go to: Shipping and Returns Information:  click “Returns Address”
  3. Click “Returnless Refund”
  4. Click “Add New Rule” (you can enter the price range and choose product categories and reasons for return)
  5. Save all changes

NB: You can add or remove a returnless refund rule at any time.

Although this option may be more costly, it may make more fiscal sense – especially for items that are heavy, or expensive to return.

There’s Good News on the Horizon

Instead of relying on Amazon employees to judge and discern the condition of each return, you will soon be able to opt out of this completely! Although currently in BETA, you will be able to disable the evaluation of returns. Then, you can choose if you’d like the items destroyed or sent your way.

While we wait for this invitation, what are some additional packaging strategies that ensure that Amazon employees RECOGNIZED USED items, and prevent them from being returned to your inventory? Tamper-evident seals on caps? Safety seals on boxes? Let us know!

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