How to Return an eBay Item to the Seller Part 1 – Am I Eligible?

28 Jul

You may also be interested in these guides: How to Return an eBay Item Part 2 – Contact The Seller and Return Shipping and When to Buy Shipping Insurance Part One – The Buyer’s Perspective

A guide on returning an eBay item might seem a bit mundane.  Unfortunately, returning an item and actually receiving a refund can be a complicated process that often leaves the buyer without the item they purchased and without their money back.  My third favorite eBay “joke” is, “I accept returns, but don’t offer refunds.”  If you were to ask around about people’s experiences on eBay, you’ll find that many (probably all) people will report being “ripped off” at some point.  The most common rip off tactic on eBay is sellers who receive returns but never process a refund.  This is a relatively easy scam for sellers to pull off because Paypal requires proof that the buyer returned the item and the seller received it.  If the buyer does not have this proof, in the form of a verifiable online Delivery Confirmation or equivalent tracking number, the seller is not obligated to refund the buyer.  This is because the buyer has no proof that they returned the item.  This guide will explain how to return an eBay item and actually receive a full refund.  Many times buyers can also receive a refund for their return shipping as well.

Return and Refund Eligibility as Stated in eBay Listing

It is now required that all sellers include a “return policy” in their listing.  This can be found by clicking the “Shipping and payments” button on the item page and scrolling down to the bottom.

eBay Return Policy

Make sure to read this policy prior to purchase as it obviously varies from seller to seller and even item to item from the same seller.  The good news is that even if the seller says they don’t accept returns it is still possible to force a return by opening a “Item Not as Described” Paypal dispute.  I will cover that process in part three of this series.

Is Returning the Item Worth It?

Consider the amount paid for the item and whether or not it will be worth the potential hassle of returning it.  It is official eBay/Paypal policy that the buyer is always responsible for return shipping unless an agreement can be reached for the seller to reimburse the buyer for the cost of shipping.  Shipping two pounds Priority Mail across country with Delivery Confirmation is around $9.  I’ll explain techniques that will help convince sellers to reimburse shipping costs in part two of this series.  Depending on the issue with the item, the seller may also deduct the original shipping cost from the refund.  If the item included “free shipping,” the seller may deduct the actual cost of shipping from the refund.  Returning an item can quickly add up to $20 or more ($10 original shipping and $10 return shipping for example) and the buyer will have nothing to show for it.

In addition to shipping costs, some sellers charge a “restocking fee.”  Many stores, like Best Buy and Target, charge restocking fees for open merchandise or electronics in an attempt to minimize returns.  Restocking fees aren’t prevalent on eBay, but some sellers do advertise and charge them.  It is actually against eBay policy to charge a restocking fee as a percentage of the price of the item.  For example, sellers are not allowed to charge a 15% or 20% restocking fee.  This doesn’t stop sellers from continuing to charge restocking fees in this manner.  In fact, several of the top sellers in the United States continue to try to charge restocking fees as a percentage of the sale.  Sellers are allowed to charge a set restocking fee, like $5 per item for example.  Take this into consideration when deciding if a return is worthwhile.

I Shouldn’t Tell You This

I get into a lot of trouble for recommending buyers open Paypal disputes.  It isn’t in my best interest to tell anyone this, but since we’re friends and no one really reads this “auction blog” anyway, I might as well.  No matter what a seller’s terms are, a buyer can always receive a full refund including the original shipping charge by opening and winning a Paypal dispute.  Even if the seller’s return policy states “no returns,” lists a restocking fee, or the seller otherwise tries to deny the return, a correctly filed Paypal dispute will always result in a full refund of the entire payment.   Once a Paypal dispute is initiated, Paypal will most likely hold the entire payment until the dispute is closed.  Paypal does this so the seller is unable to withdraw the funds and disappear.  In addition, in order to file a credit card chargeback, Paypal requires the buyer to go through Paypal Dispute Resolution first.  I’ll be going over the various kinds of Paypal disputes in depth in part three of this series.

In part two of this (riveting) series, I will explain how to contact the seller to organize a return and go over the  shipping requirements necessary to guarantee a refund will take place.

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