Is Amazon actually looking out for sellers?!
If you are an amazon merchant then you have probably felt that the big company in Seattle did not have your back on many different occasions. With their extremely liberal return policies, their ability to lower your prices for you (unless you toggle that setting off which most of us learn the hard way), or them selling their own products for less than yours, you’ve probably felt like you were fighting a losing battle. While Amazon has allowed a lot of small and medium sized businesses to reach audiences that they never thought possible and helped them sell a lot of products, it still always has felt like we were all just there to let the customer take advantage of the seller.
Amazon has continued to loosen its return policy in recent years by auto accepting returns and automatically sending the customer prepaid return labels at the seller’s expense, without any input from the seller. At first this seemed like an aggressive overreach on their part that made me feel completely helpless in wanting to have a fighting chance of blocking an illegitimate return. Initially I continued to be annoyed by this process but overtime, I realized that this change within Amazon’s policies actually helped me and my business. Yes, customers could still open returns whenever they wanted, but I noticed the frustrating task of having to review the return, responding by a certain time, creating a return label on my own and then making sure I uploaded it as the proper file type, etc. etc… These annoying steps were gone from my day to day. I started to realize how surprisingly gratefulI was that Amazon took this off my plate.
Now the issue of the illegitimate returns was still right there in front of me. Items show up in perfect condition even though the customer claimed that “Item was defective” or a customer opens a return request 29 days into the purchase stating “No longer needed”. When running a medium sized brick and mortar, these return request emails can instantly put anxiety on your mind. All you think about is shipping losses to and from the customer, the potential of the item being damaged in return shipping, and the customer getting their money back before the item even arrived to you, or maybe you are even thinking about the loss of margin you will be taking when you resell this item in used condition. While at first glance, it seemed like Amazon was just allowing customers to run all over sellers whether they were being honest or not. However, Amazon allowing the sellers to file a Safe-T claim changes everything and gives the seller some control over all of these issues! Yes, if a customer returns an item for a legitimate reason, there is a good chance that you will take a loss on your shipping and run the risk of the product not coming back to you in the proper condition. But I have noticed more and more that amazon buyers continue to use incorrect return codes, which feels like they are trying to work the system…but due to Safe-T claims, you can appeal this claim and actually get your money back! For just about every return that was sent with an incorrect return code, I have been able to upload proper evidence (image of return packaging/label, image of product and packing slip, and a screenshot of the order) to prove that we fulfilled the order as Amazon expected. Very quickly after filing this claim, we usually receive notice from Amazon stating that we have been refunded any initial shipping charges and the return shipping…and this refund is debited from the buyer. Having this control over our shipping losses from customer returns has drastically changed our view of selling on amazon. On top of Safe-T claims (which can be opened if a buyer has already been refunded before you receive the item), you can also charge hefty restocking fees to customers when they open a return based on buyers remorse/no longer needed. Plenty of times your products will come back with torn packaging or items in used condition or damaged and when this happens, this restocking fee can allow you to get some of your money back or even make you whole on the return!
Amazon offers a lot of benefits to buyers with access to almost everything, quick shipping, and low prices but historically, it has been at the seller’s expense. By learning your rights within your Amazon Seller account, you can finally take some control over returns and quit taking a hit on your margin! While we are all grateful to have customers from all over the globe via Amazon, there is no denying that some of these customers attempt to abuse the system, which hurts small and medium shops like ourselves. Having some control over your sales and returns and being able to defend yourself from taking a loss sure does look like a step in the right direction. To wrap it up…I highly recommend selling on amazon (if you can’t beat em, join em) but be ready to change your ways a little but know that there millions of sellers out there just like you and with a loud voice and some hard work, things can improve for the better, allowing your business to grow and thrive!