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February 29, 2016

What a 14-Day Return Policy Means on eBay Sometimes

Filed under: Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:14 am

Many people are reluctant to shop at eBay because unlike buying from a retail store, many items are sold by individuals and don’t come with any return privileges. When you are purchasing antiques, for example, it is often hard to tell just from the pictures what the actual condition of the item is, what the flaws are, and even what the true colors are.

So, it certainly can relieve some of that anxiety when you see that an individual seller has a decent return policy. Take for example this one, that offers a 14-day money back guarantee.

eBay returns

When clicking that “details” link, the truth is revealed.


14 day return policy

I accept returns only on items in which I have made a mistake in the listing. It is the buyer’s responsibility to ask any and all pertinant questions about an item prior to bidding. I require immediate notification, (within 24 hours of receipt of the item), of intent to return by the buyer. I do not accept returns for buyer’s remorse or for items that the buyer assumed could be purchased on approval. If you want your friend’s “expert” opinion on a piece, you need to have them view the listing and read the item description prior to bidding. You do not get to do this after receiving the item because this constitutes “buying on approval”. The returned item must be received by me in the same condition it was in when inititally shipped to the buyer.

Basically, what this seller is really saying is that you have no regular return rights, including 14 days to try out the item. You only have a right of return for a misrepresentation and YOU have to pay the return shipping!

That certainly is far different from what the average consumer would understand “14 days money back” to mean. So as with everything we write about in Mouse Print*, you have to read the fine print or you could get snookered.

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  1. I actually completely agree with the seller here. This is Ebay, not a regular store. As a seller there myself you have no idea how many people buy something from you then they decide they don’t want it or they try to make up a reason why it isn’t right then they want to not only return it but have you pay for the shipping back.

    If this seller puts up accurate pictures and an accurate description then it is your fault if you buy something that is not what you want or thought it was. You don’t take items back to a garage sale, do you?

    Comment by Lisa — February 29, 2016 @ 7:24 am
  2. As an occasional eBay seller, I’ve been burnt by people who bought a new item in sealed box, opened it, didn’t like it, then expected me to pay a full refund for what went from New In Box to Used. So that I don’t get snookered again by Buyers, I have a similar return policy.

    What eBay should do is to put above the line an improved categorical message about returns, i.e. “14 Days Money Back, not including Buyer’s Remorse” or “14 Days Money Back for damage or errors only”.

    Comment by Marc — February 29, 2016 @ 7:34 am
  3. The seller’s return policy isn’t the issue–it should not be described as a “14 day return” policy.

    Comment by Alana — February 29, 2016 @ 8:18 am
  4. My friend sells on etsy. She has a no return policy. She sold a black bakelite bracelet. The customer was unhappy. She had the customer return the item. What she got back was a completely different bracelet than the one she sold!

    Comment by nancy sing — February 29, 2016 @ 8:26 am
  5. I have been a seller on eBay since 1999 and now run two stores on eBay. I agreed that there are dishonest buyers who take advantage of and know how to work the system on eBay to both use the item and then get their money back, often by attempting to keep the item as well as extract a refund from the seller.

    However, these buyers are few overall. Most buyers keep their items. I do believe that given that they cannot visually inspect or hold the item and are at the mercy of a seller giving a good and honest description, they should be allowed to return any item.

    I offer an unconditional 30 day money back guarantee, with zero drama, zero hassle. All a buyer has to do is let me know that the item is being returned, and I refund their money in full upon its return. I believe in customer satisfaction. It is the cornerstone of every successful retail business.

    Have I been scammed? Yes, twice. Have I had some returns? Yes, maybe about a dozen out of thousands of sales over many years. No retailer can satisfy 100% of their customers 100% of the time. How they deal with their buyers say a lot about their ethics and their success.

    Comment by Nancy — February 29, 2016 @ 9:00 am
  6. The fact that ebay allows sellers to sell things without a return privilege is ludicrous. It has been my experience that ebay sellers of antiques are sometimes deceptive or they have no idea what they’re selling. For example, they will identify an item as being made by the Shakers when it isn’t even close to being Shaker. And the pictures sellers provide often don’t show flaws and/or the flaws are not noted in the narrative.

    Comment by CMH — February 29, 2016 @ 9:27 am
  7. You don’t need a return policy to deal with errors in the listing. If there is a substantial misrepresentation in the listing, intentional or not, you _have_ to accept a return within a reasonable period. (I suppose one could instead refund the buyer’s money without a return, but I’m guessing that’s less palatable.) If you don’t, you’re committing mail fraud. If you don’t make it right in that case, I would celebrate criminal charges. So just delete the return policy and spare everyone the confusion.

    Comment by Alan — February 29, 2016 @ 10:16 am
  8. eBay has policies and procedures for dealing with misrepresented or damaged items. Offering a return policy is just an extra service the seller may offer. Those that get burned by offering returns but still want to offer the service will add disclaimers such as this. I personally don’t offer returns on items because I’m not running a store, just selling one-off items, and believe that eBay policies protect me as both a buyer and seller from shenanigans.

    Comment by Shawn — February 29, 2016 @ 10:42 am
  9. Shawn writes: “I personally don’t offer returns on items because I’m not running a store . . . .” Shawn, the fact that you don’t have a store is irrelevant. You are running a retail business. It is unreasonable not to offer returns when people are buying things without seeing them in person.

    Comment by CMH — February 29, 2016 @ 12:09 pm
  10. eBay’s Money Back Guarantee (just below the Returns section in the graphic) trumps anything a seller specifies in the Returns section including “No Returns”. If a buyer wishes to return an item eBay will force a seller to accept that return via the Money Back Guarantee. Most times the seller will pay return shipping along with a full refund of the purchase price and original shipping price.

    As a seller it’s important to keep up with eBay’s always changing TOS. The system overly favors buyers and dealing with eBay customer service can be a nightmare. Read the eBay Community Selling board to see the almost daily complaints and you’ll see that there is no such policy as “No Returns”.

    Comment by Thomas — February 29, 2016 @ 1:41 pm
  11. Even if eBay terms can trump the seller’s terms, it’s troubling that eBay would permit the return policy boilerplate (that is likely selected) without ensuring it is compatible with the seller’s policy. Of course, I imagine it is very difficult to police every seller’s listings to ensure that. Unfortunately, not all buyers may be aware of eBay’s protections if the seller initially refuses a return.

    Comment by Derlin — February 29, 2016 @ 3:09 pm
  12. Thomas, ebay’s money back guarantee only covers situations in which an item was not received or it doesn’t match the description. If, for example, you buy a lamp on ebay, but it doesn’t look good where you want to put it, the ebay guarantee does not cover its return.

    Comment by CMH — February 29, 2016 @ 3:37 pm
  13. To me, this article looks like you were scrambling for content. It is a non-issue. The detailed information was right there in that link right next to the terms for the buyer to scrutinize before making the purchase. Let the buyer beware. Photos don’t show, or description doesn’t go into, enough detail to make an informed purchase? Don’t buy it, simple as that! I would personally prefer to skip over such an item rather than have to deal with it at my end if it is not right.

    Comment by PC — February 29, 2016 @ 5:55 pm
  14. This article is so misleading on so many levels. I have been an eBay seller (NOT RETAILER) for 17 years. As others have indicated, the seller may not promise a satisfaction guarantee, but eBay does. If a buyer wants to return an item, all they have to do is ask and if the seller doesn’t agree, eBay forces them to do so. If you don’t comply, the buyer gets a full refund (from the seller’s Paypal account which is owned by eBay)and they get to keep the item, as well, or the seller pays again to get their item back. More and more buyers are taking advantage of this and it is forcing the small time seller of used items out of the marketplace. It’s one thing to force a seller to give a refund after a seller uses it or changes their mind, but making us pay to get it back is ridiculous!! If I want to return an item to the retailer, I am responsible for returning it to the store!! When Walmart starts paying for my gas to return an unwanted item, I may feel differently. But expecting sellers to pay to get their item back is the craziest rule eBay has implemented! Please go the eBay message boards and educate yourself before misleading consumers. The only ones getting “snookered” are sellers who are being forced into being a rental company of free items for unscrupulous people!!

    Comment by Mary D. — February 29, 2016 @ 6:39 pm
  15. Online commerce is rife with scandalous behavior, so I can understand retailers and sellers decreasing return policies to 14 days. The way the return policy is listed on Ebay is misleading, but I think it still holds up as long as Ebay themselves honor the 14 days.

    If I were a seller I would only want to sell used items so that everything would be as is as long as the description was accurate.

    Comment by Wayne R — February 29, 2016 @ 10:03 pm
  16. An ebay antique dealer from whom I buy has the following return policy.

    “We give a 100% Unconditional Money Back Guarantee on every auction. Please contact us within 7 days of receiving your
    item if you have a problem or concern. We will gladly accept an item back for a full refund, plus shipping both ways if we made a mistake. Alternately, if there is a problem we missed but you would like to keep the item, we can also issue a partial refund that we keep you 100% satisfied. Feel free to call with questions [at phone number].

    He has a 99.8 percent positive feedback rating and has sold 44,496 antiques on ebay. He starts all his auctions at 99 cents and there is no reserve.

    His consumer-friendly polices have made him the most successful antique dealer on ebay.

    Comment by CMH — March 1, 2016 @ 2:15 pm
  17. Comparing a huge antique dealer with 45,000 sales to the average small time seller, is like comparing apples and oranges. Someone who has a business and not just selling stuff they no longer want or need is not the same thing and expecting both to have the same return policy is unfair. Because they are a business, postage and freight are all tax deductible/right offs as part of their business (along with their office, store front, and all costs of doing business.)

    In regards to Wayne R’s comment about eBay standing behind their return policy, let’s get one thing clear. Ebay does not stand behind anything, although they would like you to believe that. If a seller does not give a refund, eBay takes the refund out of the seller’s paypal account. I am currently dealing with a buyer who bought several items nearly 4 months ago, and is insisting on me replacing or refunding them because he claims they don’t work. It took 4 months to realize that? I have sold nearly 1000 of these with all happy bidders. They were sold “as is”, which basically means nothing, but it put on my auctions in an effort to discourage buyers wanting to use an item and return it.

    Comment by Mary D. — March 2, 2016 @ 9:52 pm
  18. Mary, the dealer I cited started out as a very small operation, as you appear to be. But he gradually realized that the best way to grow his business is to be consumer-friendly. In his mind, the customer is always right.

    No matter what you’re selling –be it a a fine antique Tiffany lamp or a used blender — in my mind it is unreasonable not to offer returns when people are buying things without seeing them in person.

    Comment by CMH — March 3, 2016 @ 10:37 am
  19. CMH, not everyone wants to be a business owner and either you aren’t a seller or you would like to eliminate competition. Competition and variety is what made eBay great. It wasn’t business owners, but the little guy wanting to sell some stuff and not become a business owner. Accurate descriptions and lots of pictures should be adequate for most items. Obviously if a seller misrepresents or misses something than they should be responsible, but when a buyer admits they didn’t read the description and look at all the photos and a seller must pay to ship their item back is a great way to eliminate competition of the little guy. It shouldn’t take more than 24-48 hours for a buyer to receive an item and find it defective. Most of my buyers are great, but for those that aren’t, they go on my ever growing list of blocked bidders and it is shared with others who do not want to get ripped off. It may not help much, but at least they won’t be ripping me off again unless they buy under another account.

    Comment by Mary D. — March 3, 2016 @ 11:52 am
  20. Mary and others, perhaps the following little bit of history may be instructive.

    “In 1911, an avid outdoorsman named Leon Leonwood (‘L.L.’) Bean returned from a hunting trip with cold, damp feet and a revolutionary idea. L.L. enlisted a local cobbler to stitch leather uppers to workmen’s rubber boots, creating a comfortable, functional boot for exploring the Maine woods. This innovative boot – the Maine Hunting Shoe® – changed outdoor footwear forever and began one of the most successful family-run businesses in the country. . . .

    “One hundred orders came in for his new product. However, L.L. did not meet with immediate success. The rubber bottoms separated from the leather tops and 90 of those first 100 pairs were returned. Although it nearly put him out of business, L.L. kept his word and refunded the purchase price. He borrowed more money, corrected the problem and, with undiminished confidence, mailed more brochures. L.L. had learned the value of personally testing his products, of honest advertising based on firm convictions and of keeping the customer satisfied at any cost.”

    Comment by CMH — March 3, 2016 @ 12:42 pm
  21. Wow, this edition of Mouse Print sure garnered a lot of responses, but I can see why. I’m also an Ebay seller…low volume, but nevertheless I enjoy the selling and buying process on Ebay. I buy more than I sell, and thankfully I’ve never needed to return anything.

    Thanks to CMH for all his comments. I kinda disagree with the one wherein he states, “in my mind it is unreasonable not to offer returns when people are buying things without seeing them in person.” I’ll provide my favorite reply to CMH: it depends. I never offer returns on electronic components. For example, a buyer can install it, fry it, and then attempt to return it because it didn’t work. Try and return an opened or previously installed electrical component to an auto parts store. Or another reader gave a good example of selling a brand new item that’s sealed/shrink wrapped, only to have the buyer return it for reasons other than broken or not meeting the seller’s description. You’re now stuck with a used (or “new: other”) item. I recently sold a new circuit board, and there’s no way I’d offer a return policy. As others have mentioned, the buyer is covered anyway, if there’s been any example of misrepresentation, incorrect description, wrong specs, broken/non-functioning, and so on.

    Comment by Dan Kap, Whittier, CA — March 6, 2016 @ 11:30 am
  22. I have a friend who owns a power equip shop.
    A customer came in and special ordered a mower putting it on his cc.

    Once my friend ordered the mower there was no returning it to the wholesaler.

    The customer came got the mower used it a couple of times, got “buyers remorse” And wanted his money back.

    There was nothing my friend could do as the cust special,ordered it and used it so,he refused to,take it back.

    The customer went to the credit card co and said the mower was not the one he ordered.
    My friend showed the cc company the signed order slip from the customer and the slip from the wholesaler. All matching, same make, same model number
    The cc co did not care and took the $6500. Right out of his bank acct.

    So my friend was stuck with a used mower he finally ended up selling for less than his cost.

    So in my mind the right not to accept returns unless it different than what customer ordered or described improperly by the seller is a fair policy. Why should someone else suffer because a customer had buyers remorse or worse returned the item broken.

    Also i am a landscaper and I had a customer want brown cedar mulch so i got and installed it only to have the customer decide later they meant pine bark and refuse to pay. The customer is important as we would not be here without them but there are many people who want something for nothing and know how to get it…sadly at the expense of honest people.

    Comment by Tb — March 6, 2016 @ 6:06 pm
  23. I sell on ebay on a regular basis. Sold for years with only a handful of returns. Since Ebay has changed their policy, I have had 4 returns in one month.

    The new return policy states if the item is “damaged in shipping” or “not as described” the seller pays for shipping both ways. All of my customer remorse items are not as described or damaged in shipping.

    so.. I sold broken ps3 Systems, only to have them be returned for “not as described”
    how can you list something as broken, for parts only be not as described? needless to say, the broken items were returned stripped of all usable parts.

    Two New Dvd sets, one with 11 discs, one with 6 disc. were returned for “defective, do not work” of course, they had to open an watch every dvd before they decided that one disc did not work.

    Got a message from a buyer that a system arrived damaged. No problem, there is insurance on the item, here are the steps you need to follow so I can file the claim. Buyer, no I dont want to do that, just refund me and i’ll throw out the damaged system. Eventually this one just went away.

    have gotten a box of rocks, box of used paper, empty boxes, old phones, old systems, beat up game discs and dvd…

    Just ranting, sorry, but we shall see how the new return policy holds up over time. hopefully ebay will clean up the scam buyers, if not, time to move on

    happy selling

    Comment by MARY — March 14, 2016 @ 2:00 pm

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