Preparing For Returns

When working with any supplier, you should always know their policies, as every supplier is different.

Because the supplier is shipping directly to your customer, their policies are going to directly affect your policies.

What you need to know about their return policy:

  • How long they give you to return a product after the sale.
  • Whether the customer (or you) must pay return shipping fees.
  • Whether they accept returns on mistake orders (i.e. wrong product ordered)
  • How they handle the entire return process.

Use their policy as a framework.

Don’t go beyond their window of opportunity to make returns.

For example if they have a 28-day return window don’t give your customers 35 days.


When creating your policy, keep these points in mind:

If your supplier gives you a 30-day return window, you’ll want to give your customers 20-25.

If you have multiple suppliers, try to cover all of their policies within your policy.

For example, let’s say you have one supplier for dresses and they give you a 20-day return period.

You have another supplier for shoes, and they only give you a 14-day return period.

You can either specify the separate return policies for separate items, or you can give them a single policy of 10-12 days on both items.

Don’t provide a return address on your policy page.

Instruct the customer to contact you about the issue, then (depending on what the issue is) you can provide them with the appropriate address.


Handling the Return Process

Now that you’ve created a great return policy let’s look at how to handle the return process.

First I’ll give you some common return reasons and what to do for each one, then I’ll talk about the details of the entire process and run you through the steps.

Common Return Reasons

If you’ve just received a return request, it’s likely due to one of the following reasons:

They Ordered the Wrong Item (i.e. Wrong size)

This is to be expected as you obviously can’t try things on when shopping online.

When this happens, your supplier likely won’t cover the return.

In this situation, you should allow returns regardless of your supplier’s policy.


Because great customer service will get you customers for life.

Ask the customer to pay for return shipping, since the mistake wasn’t on your end.

The Item Didn’t Match the Description

This one is just a true pain.

It means one of two things:

Your product listing isn’t correct.

Your Suppliers product listing isn’t correct.

You should know which one of those reasons it is.

If you enter the listings manually, you probably made the mistake; if you used a data feed from your supplier, then they are the ones at fault.

When this happens, if you’re responsible, take responsibility.

If you’re not responsible, take responsibility anyway.

Your solution for the customer should be your priority.

If it’s your suppliers fault, hopefully they will issue you a refund or issue the customer a replacement.

If they won’t, you may want to start looking for a new supplier.

The Item is Damaged or Defective

This type of return should be incredibly rare if you have a good supplier.

However, they will still happen.

When it does happen, make sure you cover all costs to your customer.

Don’t make them pay return shipping.

Try to get them a return label via email.

Make it as easy and painless as possible.

Great customer service is a way to gain lifelong customers.


The Actual Return Process

In case this is your first time handling a return, you may not know how it goes. Typically, returns go like this:

The customer requests a return.

You should: Determine the reason for the return.

Then contact your supplier accordingly and open a dispute.

Be sure to apologise to the customer (regardless of whether it’s your fault or your supplier’s fault) and tell them what you’re going to do to make it right.

The supplier (hopefully) approves the return/refund.

You should: Give the customer the return address and the returns number (if they’re returning it directly to your supplier).

Remind them to purchase a tracking number, if they have to pay return shipping.

The package will arrive.

If sent to you, you should: Inspect the item for damages and take pictures to ensure the supplier’s honesty.

Then ship it to the supplier.

If sent to your supplier, you should: Keep in contact to know when the package arrives at the warehouse, then get your refund or have them send a replacement to the customer.

The customer will receive the new item, or you will receive a refund.

You should: Email the customer to ensure the package arrived OK if they wanted a replacement.

Otherwise, if they needed a refund, pass your refund on to them, then email them to ensure everything went well.