Last January, I learned how easy it is to return an item back to Amazon. It was the barcode scanner that my mom bought me for Christmas. I was unhappy with the scanner because it kept disconnecting from my iPhone during my retail arbitrage trips and I had to continually stop and reconnect it. So I decided to return it and buy a different barcode scanner.
Amazon’s return process is very easy. All I did was go to their website, fill out a short form and print a shipping label. Then, I boxed up the product and dropped it off at my local UPS store. It was a very simple and hassle-free process.
Amazon’s return policy is very nice for Buyers but not so nice for Amazon Sellers when they have to deal with lost sales revenue, paying extra FBA fees and maybe even receiving a damaged item that can’t be resold and losing their buy cost.
As I’m writing this post, I’m going through my 10th return since joining Amazon’s FBA program one year ago. At some point, each of you will get a return, so it’s good to read up on Amazon’s Return Policy.
In this post, I’ll go over how to find your returns and share with you a few of mine.
Finding Out What was Returned
For me, it always starts with the email. Each time I get a “Refund initiated for order xxx-xxxxxxx-xxxxxxx” email, I head over to Seller Central and go to my Payments->Transactions View Page to see what was returned and how much was refunded. Then, I go to the Returns Page to see why the customer returned it and get the current status. Here’s how to get the Returns Report:
- Login to Seller Central
- Select Reports -> Fulfillment
- Select Customer Concessions -> Returns (from the left sidebar)
- Select Your Event Date and Press Generate Report
Tracking Your Returns
If you read Amazon’s Return Policy for Sellers, you’ll see there are different scenarios on what can happen next and different deadlines to keep track of. I recommend checking the status of your returns and taking any required action on your part so you don’t miss out on a potential reimbursement by Amazon or so you don’t have a bunch of unsellable inventory sitting in your account.
My tracking system is pretty relaxed because I have never had more than one return to worry about at a time. I know in my head that I have one and then I just run the Returns Report once every couple of weeks to check the status of the return so I know what action (if any) needs to be done by me.
If you want a more formal tracking system, you might track your in-process and completed returns in your email account, Excel, Evernote or whichever software that works best for you. Or even just make a point of checking the report once a week on Mondays.
Now on to a few of my returns based on different scenarios that I encountered:
Customer Returns Product in Sellable Condition
This is an easy type of return because there is no further action required by you. In each of my returns, the customer returned the product within 30 days, Amazon determined that it was still in sellable condition and returned it to my inventory as an active listing. I later sold each item again and here’s a financial breakdown of two of them:
Notice that I lost money with my fees – Amazon charged me $6.35 when the product sold, but only reimbursed me $2.39 when the product was returned. Luckily, I was able to resell the cherry pitter for a second time and still make a $5.30 profit. Losing a few dollars in FBA fees is normal with returns.
This return scared me because there was a big chance that I couldn’t resell this product and I would have been out $75.99 plus fees. Luckily, the customer returned it and Amazon determined it was still in sellable condition. I resold it and made a teeny profit of $3.89. I’ll think twice next time I get caught up with buying one of the “Hot Toys” of the season when the buy cost is high and the net profit is low.
Customer Returns Product, but Amazon Says It’s Unsellable
If Amazon takes responsibility for causing the unit to be unsellable, then they will reimburse you. But if Amazon doesn’t take responsibility, your options are to either have the product returned back to you or disposed of.
At the time of this blog post, the current fees are:
- Returned Item Fee: $0.50 for standard sized units, $0.60 for oversized units
- Disposal Fee: $0.15 for standard sized units, $0.30 for oversized units
With my unsellable returns that Amazon did not take responsibility for, I chose to have Amazon send the products back to me. Here are two such items:
The returned GOGO pillow was still in great condition but the box that it came in was torn. Because the packaging was damaged, I could no longer sell it in “new” condition. I could have tried selling it as “used” but didn’t want to take the trouble to do so. So, I asked my co-workers if any of them wanted it and one offered to buy it for $5.00. I took him up on the offer, made a smaller loss and moved on. Remember, returns are a cost of doing business.
With this return, the customer bought two valences and returned both. When I received them, I found that one was still in brand new condition and the other was also brand new with torn packaging. I sent the 100% new one back and resold it at a lower price. I still have the other one at home waiting to be donated because I can not resell it on Amazon. It’s listed in the Baby Category and only new conditions are allowed. I lost money with the valences but my ROI was low to begin with.
Customer Does Not Return the Product to Amazon
Customers can return most new, unopened items sold and fulfilled by Amazon within 30 days. But the seller compensation doesn’t kick in until 45 days have past without the customer returning the product.
Twice my products haven’t been returned on time so I opened a case with Amazon. This is the main body of my letters to Amazon:
I had a customer return on MM/DD/YY and it’s listed as unfulfillable. However, I can’t seem to create a removable order to have it sent back to me. Can you help me with this?
Each time, Amazon responded to my inquiry and reimbursed me in less than 24 hours. Here are my two items that I received reimbursements on:
Since the acne medication is in the Beauty category, I would not have been able to resell it if it was used. So in this case, I’m happy that the customer didn’t return it and Amazon reimbursed me. I was still able to make a $10.87 profit off of this one.
I hate to admit that this return scared me away from electronics. The customer stated “defective” as the reason for the return. If the unit was really defective and I received it back, I would have been stuck with a non-working unit as my return period with the store that I bought it from was over. I’m happy that the customer didn’t return the unit back to Amazon and I got reimbursed.
Also, please note that Amazon reimbursed me $37.56 which is the same amount I made after fees when I sold it.
Since I have always opened a case, I don’t know if Amazon will reimburse you automatically for products that weren’t returned.
Other than the lost fees and sales revenue, I haven’t had any negative experiences with my returns. But I have seen quite a few Sellers in the Amazon FBA Facebook Groups say that even though they sold a new item, that they received an obviously old, used or damaged item back. Some of these same Sellers said that they took pictures of the item and opened a case with Amazon and received reimbursement.
Typically Amazon doesn’t reimburse Sellers for customer damaged items, but it sounds like that in some cases they will. It doesn’t hurt to try.
Please let me know about your experiences with returns. Were they good or bad? Do you have a situation that I didn’t mention in this post? I always love to hear from you and you can leave any comments or questions in the comment form below or on my Facebook Page.