How to Save Time with Returns on eBay

As much as eBay sellers would prefer all sales to be completed successfully, buyer returns are an inevitable part of doing business on the online marketplace.

There are, of course, numerous ways a seller can lose money while dealing with a return. Some examples include:

  • Lost money on returning shipping if applicable
  • Wasted time spent processing the return (communication with buyer, shipping, restocking etc)
  • Lost potential for repeat sales with a buyer if return is not handled well
  • Wasted time spent disputing and appealing return, if necessary
  • Lost money if dispute/appeal is found in favor of buyer

The easiest way to reduce the negative impact that returns have on a business is to make the returns process more efficient. This not only saves time and effort, but also money in the long run.

This article will examine what sellers can do to streamline the returns process, including reducing return rates.

New return policies

New sellers or recent returnees may not know that eBay’s return policies have been through some substantial changes recently.

Since 2018, sellers have had the choice of these return policies for most listings:

  • No returns accepted
  • 30-day buyer-paid returns
  • 30-day free returns
  • 60-day buyer-paid returns
  • 60-day free returns

Prior to this change, there were dozens of different return options on The reduction of available return policies does restrict choice for sellers, but it also simplifies the process.

With only five options, sellers have a much more straightforward decision to make. There is no doubt that this streamlined returns system has been a time saver for sellers.

Choosing a flexible return policy

eBay recommends, and encourages, sellers to adopt a 30 day free returns policy. Indeed, Top Rated Sellers who do are eligible to use Top Rated Plus listings and receive a discount on Final Value Fees. 

Adopting a flexible return policy such as this could save time for sellers as it reduces the need for unnecessary communication with buyers and reduces the risk of dispute.

While many sellers may prefer to adopt a ‘no returns accepted’ policy, it is imperative to always consider the Money Back Guarantee. It entitles buyers to return an item if it does not match the original description.

For this reason, some sellers choose to be more lenient with their return policy, knowing that unhappy buyers are likely to push a return through the Money Back Guarantee avenue instead.

As mentioned above, being lenient with returns can be a time saver in some respects as it reduces the length of the returns process.

Return automation

Another change implemented in 2018 was the increase of return automation. Since then, sellers have been able to:

While both have the potential to save sellers time and effort, it is the latter has the most customization options. An example of a rule that could be created would be to provide different return addresses for different categories of items.

If a seller accepts returns regardless of the reason (including remorse), it will automatically be accepted and a shipping label will be sent direct to the buyer. In the situation where the seller has chosen ‘buyer paid returns,’ eBay will notify with a link to purchase a shipping label.

eBay may also immediately accept return requests at its own discretion.

This level of return automation has huge time saving potential for power sellers with thousands of listings. Even for smaller seller, having eBay complete some of the tedious but necessary steps of the returns process automatically can help.

Reducing return rates

eBay sellers looking to make the biggest time savings with returns should concentrate on reducing return rates overall. Here are some tips for doing so:

  • Try to avoid selling items that have a high return rate (designer handbags, formal wear) and/or desirable, high value items commonly targeted for scams (cell phones, laptops)
  • Authenticate designer items. It costs extra money but can help to avoid a potential return later (or worse). Remember that selling counterfeit goods is illegal as well as being against eBay’s terms
  • Ensure that the item works before creating the listing
  • Be careful to keep all parts of the item closely together. Consider creating a checklist of parts to include when shipping the item to the buyer
  • Write detailed yet easy to read listing descriptions. Mention any damage or defects. Meeting the buyer’s expectations for the item is the key to removing the need for a return
  • Include accurate measurements in the listing description for all items, not just for clothing
  • Take photos as if there there is no description in a listing. Include 8-12 high quality photos showing different angles and perspectives of the item. Be sure to take photos of any damage or defects
  • When packing the item, use a box or container with plenty of room around the item to fill with cushioning material (bubble wrap, peanuts, foam etc).

Veteran eBay sellers, how do you save time dealing with eBay returns?

Gemma is our all things eBay expert. Originally from the UK, she now lives in Canada and travels extensively. You can read about her travels at her blog Off Track Travel.

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