If you are selling on Amazon and fulfilling your own shipments, you may have already received an email stating that effective October 2, Amazon is changing the way returns will be processed.
Until now, most sellers on Amazon using their warehouse (not Amazon FBA) had an opportunity to discuss with the buyer any issues before a return was authorized.
Often on technical items, this resulted in better customer care and avoided a return as the seller was able to walk buyers through use or installation mistakes.
However, this is changing starting in October as buyers will use an automated process that includes printing a prepaid return label.
WHY IS AMAZON CHANGING THE POLICY?
With over 300 million shoppers, Amazon has a large customer base that expects a standardized return system. Often, newer buyers wouldn’t know the difference between buying from Amazon directly or from a Marketplace seller.
By requiring a return scheme that resembles how Amazon handles returns for products sold by Amazon or FBA sold products, buyers will now receive a unified return experience.
WHAT ABOUT LOW-COST ITEMS? IT CAN COST MORE TO RETURN THEM THEIR VALUE
Amazon is also introducing an option that allows sellers to just refund the buyer without actually receiving the product. This feature is an option to the new policy, and you have full control over the use of it.
If you feel that customers may abuse returnless refunds, you can opt out or change the rule so they may only apply to a few items.
WHAT HAPPENS IF THE RETURN ARRIVES DAMAGED?
Amazon does give sellers an option to appeal returns. Of course, one can assume that Amazon is holding sellers to a very high standard on an appeal.
It is very likely you will be better served to adjust returns to include a restock fee to account for some damaged returns or some returns with missing parts or damaged retail boxes.
Amazon did state that customers are responsible for the return shipping. So if the item is lost in shipping or has shipping damage, customers must file a claim with the shipping carrier.
CAN I EXEMPT ITEMS FROM THIS NEW POLICY?
Yes, Amazon does allow you to exempt up to 50,000 SKUs from the automated return policy. That number is high enough for most seller to exempt their entire catalog.
If you are skittish about this policy, you can implement it slowly exempting most of your catalog and then adding one by one to the new return policy. This process will require a lot of work, but the option exists.
I ACTUALLY WANT THIS FEATURE NOW
When reading online forums from Amazon third party sellers, most seem very appalled by this new policy. But, with Amazon’s power to drive sales, it is likely that most sellers do see the value in a streamlined return process.
If you received the email about the new policy, there is a link to a survey that you can complete by August 11 and request inclusion in the program before October 2.
ACT NOW BEFORE YOU HAVE TO SCRAMBLE
Unlike many times when Amazon gives only a few days on policy changes, in this case they actually gave sellers two months.
With the holiday season coming up, this is a good time to address how to implement this new policy. Even if you dislike the new policy, it is a reality, and you will need to adjust your sales strategy.
Specifically, you should double check that the return address on file with Amazon is the correct return address. The last thing you want to happen is that returns go to the wrong address and Amazon auto-refunds the customer.
Upon delivery, Amazon provides two days for sellers to refund the buyer. Otherwise, they will issue a full refund.
If you have items that by law cannot be returned, you need to create that exemption list now. Also, the same applies to products that may require special handling.
Amazon created a page that explains most of the details of the new policy here. Don’t wait until days before the policy goes live to deal with the changes.
NOTE: It appears this policy is for U.S. sellers. We have not heard if this will impact international marketplace sellers as well.