Returns best practices

Attract more buyers by making your return policy as clear, and generous, as it can be

Manage returns, hassle-free

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It’s no secret that shoppers are more likely to buy an item when they’re confident they can return it if they need to. That’s why offering a generous return policy just makes good business sense. To make managing returns as efficient as possible, be proactive about the way you list your item—and respond to buyer questions quickly and clearly.

For the easiest, most cost-effective way to track and manage returns, make sure you’re using hassle-free returns. With hassle-free returns, the entire returns process is virtually automated for you, your final value fees are automatically credited once you issue a refund—and you can even relist returned items for free. And remember, even when you’re opted in, it’s always up to you whether to offer returns on your listings.

To capture even more attention—and close more sales—during the holiday season, be sure to offer extended holiday returns on all your eligible listings. It’s a great way to reassure shoppers that the gifts they’re buying for loved ones can be returned after the holidays—and they’re more likely to buy from sellers who guarantee it.

Get the most out of your return policy with these best practices

A clear and generous return policy is more than just a great way to attract buyers—it tells them you’re a seller they can trust. Here’s how to get the best results:

  • Set a return policy that’s competitive—and make sure you can support it
  • Be as detailed as possible in your item description, condition, and photos
  • Clearly state who pays for return shipping, you or your buyer
  • Accept returns for any reason, so buyers know you stand behind your listings
  • Keep a valid return address on file—and remember, with hassle-free returns you can choose from multiple addresses for returned items
  • Consider free returns to boost sales—and buyer confidence—even further
  • Offer an extra-generous return window—30 days or longer is most attractive to buyers
  • Opt in to extended holiday returns, letting shoppers know they can buy with confidence throughout November and December
  • Wait until items are returned to you—and check them carefully—before issuing a refund
  • Issue refunds within 2 days of receiving a returned item
  • Ask eBay to step in and help if you can’t resolve an issue with your buyer
  • Don’t charge restocking fees—as they can make shoppers less likely to buy

Below is an abbreviated list of frequently asked questions about returns. Find out more about how returns and replacements work on eBay.

7 simple ways to reduce returns:

  1. Describe your item and its condition clearly, with details that set the right expectations

  2. Make your description easy to read, using headlines, bulleted lists, and other visual elements

  3. Use great pictures to show off your item, and be sure to highlight any flaws, especially on collectible and vintage items

  4. Reiterate key information like brand, model, capacity, features, dimensions, and condition

  5. Include exact measurements of all aspects of your item—you can never have too many.

  6. Point out imperfections, including scratches, stains, chips, parts missing, and other flaws

  7. Respond quickly to buyer questions, before and after a sale

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Returns frequently asked questions

  • Why should I offer returns?

    We encourage you to offer returns to help you attract more buyers to your listings, increase sales, and provide great customer service. It’s really as simple as that.

  • Do I have to offer returns?

    You always have a choice whether or not to accept returns, but you must specify your choice in your return policy. If you do choose to accept returns, you’re required to accept returns for any reason, including when buyers change their minds.

  • How do I specify a return policy in my new listings?

    The next time you list an item, choose "Returns accepted" or "Returns not accepted" directly in your listing—specify whether you accept returns and if so, under what condition.

    Return Policy

  • What elements of my return policy do I need to specify?

    When you choose to accept returns, you'll specify the time period in which the item may be returned, how you'll give the refund, who pays for return shipping, and any other details you may want to provide.

  • Am I required to pay for return shipping?

    When you create your return policy, you can decide whether you or the buyer will pay for return shipping. Be sure to clearly explain any related return service charges, such as restocking fees, in your listing. As announced in the 2014 Fall Seller Update, all sellers are responsible for return shipping charges when the buyer requests a return because the item was not as described.

  • What happens if I decide not to accept returns?

    You may decide not to accept returns by setting your policy to “No returns accepted”. If you don’t offer returns and the buyer requests to return the item for a reason that’s not related to the item being not as described, you can decline the request. However, if the request to return an item is made within the eBay Money Back Guarantee window for an item that was not as described, eBay may refund the buyer and require you to reimburse us for the refund. In this case, it will count as a defect and towards your percentage of cases closed without seller resolution—unless you ask eBay to step in and help and eBay resolves the case in your favor or the case is found to be not the fault of buyer or seller.

    Remember, you can avoid returns for items not as described by providing lots of detailed photos and following eBay’s listing best practices.

  • What if a buyer requests a return outside of my specified return window?

    As always, buyers will be able to request a return even after your return window has passed, and you can decline that request if the buyer simply no longer wants the item.

    However, if the request to return an item is made within the eBay Money Back Guarantee  window for an item that was not as described, eBay may refund the buyer and require you to reimburse us for the refund. In this case, it will count as a defect and toward your percentage of cases closed without seller resolution—unless you ask eBay to step in and help and eBay resolves the case in your favor or the case is found to be not the fault of buyer or seller.

  • Can I charge a restocking fee?

    Yes, you have the option to charge a restocking fee. But, keep in mind that restocking fees tend to discourage buyers from purchasing your item and can result in lower feedback. If you do charge a restocking fee, we recommend making it a reasonable amount and including specifics in your return policy details.

  • If a buyer wants to return an item, can I ask them to send it back before issuing a refund?

    Yes. In fact, it’s a best practice to wait until items are returned to you and inspect them carefully before issuing a refund. Once the item is shipped back to you, you’ll have six business days to refund the seller or ask eBay to step in and help if there is a problem.

  • How do return requests impact my seller performance standards?

    If a buyer requests to return an item for an item that was not as described, it will count as a defect and toward your percentage of cases closed without seller resolution—unless you ask eBay to step in and help and eBay resolves the case in your favor or the case is found to be not the fault of buyer or seller.

    Return requests made for other reasons will not count as defects or toward your percentage of cases closed without seller resolution.

  • What do I do if a buyer isn’t following my return policy?

    No matter what your return policy, it’s always a good idea to try and work out a solution with your buyer. However, if the buyer requests a return and you’re unable to reach a resolution, you can ask eBay to step in and help. We will review the situation and if we determine that the buyer hasn’t complied with your return policy or the conditions outlined in the eBay return policy, it won’t count toward your defect rate or percentage of cases closed without seller resolution.

  • What should I do if there is a problem with the item condition after the buyer sends it back? Will attaching photos help resolve issues?

    Remember, you’re protected through the item condition policy—providing the condition you shipped it in (e.g. “New with tags”) matches how it was received by the buyer. If your buyer requests a return and you’d like to communicate with the buyer about an issue, contact the buyer immediately and ask them to go to their “purchased items” page and upload photos detailing the item’s condition. All buyers and sellers can each upload up to 10 images to the return (PNG, JPEG, BMP or GIF, up to a maximum file size of 5MB) which can help facilitate conversation and resolve the issue—sometimes preventing a return from being processed. You can add photos until the return is closed, where they will permanently remain with the file, visible to the buyer, seller, and eBay Customer Service. If you can't resolve a returns issue yourself, you can ask eBay for help by clicking on the link in My eBay. Customer Service will review the issue, including the buyer's return history. If we determine a buyer has abused the managed returns process or eBay Money Back Guarantee, the buyer may be subject to a range of actions, including limits on buying and selling privileges and account suspension.

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