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Monday, October 31, 2011

Sure I'll Take That Back ... But It's Gonna Cost You ...

A couple months ago, I implemented a 20% restocking fee on returns. I had several reasons for doing this:
  • Now that we are being charged Final Value Fees on our shipping, eBay wasn't going to refund that if we ended up refunding our buyer.
  • Returns cost me time. I have to go through the motions of refunding the buyer, requesting a transaction cancellation, relisting the item, and putting it back into storage. Hopefully I won't have to re-polish shoes, or re-wash clothes, or anything else like that.
  • Returns cost me money. As I just mentioned, I'm losing the Final Value Fee on the shipping. I also have to pay to relist the item. Yes, only a nickel, but nickels add up very quickly.
  • My hope was that the restocking fee would discourage buyer's remorse returns.
I've had to enforce it a few times, with mixed results. I had a buyer who admitted that she didn't read the listing, and wanted to know if I would charge the restocking fee if she returned the Care Bear. Of course I will. YOU didn't read the listing. Why would I not charge that fee? Of course that's not how I worded it. But it still ruffled her feathers. She was annoyed with me right from the start. I stood my ground though. I also blocked her. Not for returning the item, but for giving me a hard time about my return policy. She found out I blocked her, and she gave me a negative. So ... not a real good outcome.

I had another buyer who insisted the size tag was wrong on a shirt I sold her. It was new with tags. The card tag and the silk tag both said the same thing. She wasn't too thrilled and felt that it was "unfair to charge a restocking fee when the shirt obviously isn't a size 7." But again, I stood my ground. She returned it, I promptly refunded, she agreed to cancel the transaction, and never left me feedback.

I had a third buyer who wrote me to let me know that the shoes were great and that my description was accurate, but that the heels are too high for her comfort. I reminded her of the restocking fee. She apparently changed her mind, because I never got the shoes back and she left me positive feedback. That is exactly what I was hoping for when I implemented the restocking fee. I hoped that it would make people think twice about returning for silly reasons.

This week, Cheryl on eBay Underground discovered that eBay is in fact refunding our FVFs on shipping. I double-checked my invoice and sure enough - they are! So now I'm rethinking my restocking fee. Here's what I've decided to do:

I'm going to leave the restocking fee wording in my listings. This will hopefully continue to deter the silly returns. I will waive the restocking fee on most of my returns. If the buyer comes right out of the gate being nasty (hello Care Bear lady), then I'll charge it (as long as it wasn't my mistake, of course). On the other hand, manners go a long way in my book. For example, I sold a pair of pants this week that didn't fit the buyer. Yes, I included measurements in the listing, so I could certainly charge the restocking fee since it wasn't my fault. But she was very nice and apologetic when she contacted me, so I don't mind waiving that fee at all.

I'll just have to decide on a case-by-case basis. I'll leave the wording, so I'll always have the option of charging it if I'm grumpy :)  But more often than not, I suspect I won't be charging it. That will make the buyers feel special!

What do you think? As a buyer, would you buy from a seller with a restocking fee? As a seller, would you charge a restocking fee?


  1. I think you are right in all aspects regarding the restock fee.

  2. I am an ebay seller and buyer. I see your point about the restocking fee but I have to admit I have not bought from sellers in the past that have a restocking fee. Last year for Christmas I was buying some shoes as a present. Since they were a present a return is always possible. Multiple sellers had these shoes up (all NWT) for the same price so I went with one that didn't charge it. I don't charge restocking either because I like to think of myself as a store and if someone bought something from Lands End online or something similar there is no restocking fee. I am not giving you a hard time about yours because I do understand. You make some good points!

  3. I know you aren't giving me a hard time. I asked for opinions, and I was hoping to get several different perspectives. I'm still up in the air on whether I want to keep mine or not. Honestly, it's done me more harm than good. Thank you for an honest opinion :)

  4. I have mixed feelings about your restock policy, too. As an estate sale professional, when someone buys from the sale, I don't generally allow returns at all. However, if they are nice about it, I may give in. In the estate sale business, though, the customer has had the chance to closely inspect an item before buying. As a buyer on ebay, I might pass someone up that stated they will charge a restock fee for returns. I've never returned anything, but it just doesn't feel friendly. And yet, I completely understand your logic for charging the fee. My daughter, who has an online vintage clothing site, has had people try all sorts of shenanigans with their returns and have occasionally tried to cheat her. As a result, she stopped using eBay all together. So, I've probably not helped at all with your decision, but thanks for writing about your dilemma.

  5. I am 4 months new to the reselling biz (ebay, etsy) and don't allow returns and state this in my listings.
    I had a person, similar to yours, who said the shoe I sold her (some lovely Michael Kors prob never worn for $29) were not the size that was stated on the shoe! Can you believe these people?!! HA! I told her that I would make an exception, and she sounded really thankful in her email correspondence, then never sent them back. I never heard from her again and she never left feedback. Who knows what she decided to do?!
    As a buyer, if I am purchasing on Zappos for example, I wouldn't expect a restocking fee and would expect an easy return process. However, if I am buying on ebay, I understand that I am probably purchasing from a mom and pop type biz and I make darn sure I want it before I buy. If it is a clothing maker that I have never worn and I am unsure of my size, I probably just won't buy it.
    So, for me personally as a seller, I state no returns, then take on a case by case basis.

  6. As a newbie to your blog, I just wanted to chime in. Many retailers charge a restocking fee. So what you are doing is no different. Time is money and sellers of any kind should not have to lose money just because someone decides they want their money back for frivolous reasons. Many eBay buyers have no real inkling of how eBay works for Sellers or how much money it really does cost us (and don't get me started on the time). I think you should keep the restock fee in your auction and you can determine whether your returns warrants the fee or not.