Amazon FBA Returns Advice: How to Handle When the Buyer is at Fault

published on 08 November 2020

If you are an Amazon seller, you probably know the pain of dealing with an Amazon FBA return (or Amazon MFN return). Maybe you (or Amazon) shipped the wrong item or displayed an item that "slightly" varied from what the buyer thought she was purchasing, such as their preferred size or color.

Other reasons for an Amazon FBA return may include:

  • Item is out of stock in your inventory.
  • Failure of Amazon customer support to respond.
  • Buyer changed their mind.
  • Amazon delivered the shipment late
  • Buyer did not receive the item they ordered due to delivery problems.

While an Amazon FBA return is often the buyers' fault, Amazon simply does not care  (ughhh I know!).

After a buyer purchases a product on Amazon, they usually have up to 30 days from the date they ordered to request a return (and sometimes given a generous extension from Amazon customer support).

Am I allowed to refuse a buyer’s return?

Unfortunately, you are not. Anyone who sells on Amazon is required to accept a buyer’s return if they request it. This is part of Amazon’s terms and conditions concerning refunds and returns.

What can I do if a buyer returns an item past 30 days of purchase?

You may be in luck! According to Amazon's policy, if the product is not sent back within 45 days of the purchase, the seller is entitled to a reimbursement.  In some cases, you may even receive a reimbursement for returns past 30 days.

You may want to check your FBA account to see if this has occurred or let AMZReimburse do all the difficult work for you. AMZReimburse is a service for Amazon Sellers that automatically find instances where a seller may be owed money from Amazon, such as lost/damaged inventory, refunds, inbound shipments, and much more.

How should I handle an Amazon FBA return request?

If it is an Amazon FBA return request, have them contact Amazon seller support or point them to the return option located on their order page.

If it is an Amazon MFN return request, give the buyer your return address and any other instructions they need for sending the item back to you. Decide whether you want to pay for the shipping costs on the return. That can be discussed between the two of you.

When you receive the item back, you can either give the buyer a partial refund or a full refund. Before you start, though, you should review the return guidelines on Amazon so that you have a better idea of how to handle your particular return situation.

There is always going to be some risk when selling on Amazon. But if you are advertising your products honestly and provide quality to your buyers, then you should be okay most of the time.

Buyers Who Change Their Minds

Buyers can change their minds about wanting an Amazon item they purchased from you. As a seller, this can cause a lot of stress and monetary loss. You might be wondering if you can do anything to avoid a return in this case.

According to the Amazon Product Return Policy, you must refund the full item cost to the buyer if they change their mind and return the item.

Therefore, you don’t have to worry about paying the shipping costs in these cases. Sometimes you can even charge the buyer a restocking fee too. Of course, these seller benefits don’t apply if you shipped a defective item to the buyer.

Amazon Return: FBA Sellers & MFN Sellers

Amazon MFN sellers are merchant-fulfilled sellers. These are third-party sellers who ship items directly to the buyer.

If you are an Amazon MFN seller and a buyer needs to return the item you sold them, they need to ship that item straight back to you. You can also choose to give them a prepaid shipping label to return the item with or just issue them a full refund instead of receiving the item back.

As for FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) sellers, the buyer will return the item directly to Amazon. The reason is that Amazon stores the items for sellers in their warehouse. Amazon also ships the items on behalf of the seller.

Unfortunately, the new return policy on Amazon makes life harder for MFN sellers. Now when a buyer requests a return, it will automatically be approved by the system. They will even get to print a return shipping label that is pre-paid at the expense of the MFN seller. This has many MFN sellers upset and afraid that mischievous buyers will take advantage of the new policy by requesting refunds and keeping the items without returning them.

Steps to Take Prior to Giving a Refund

When a buyer wants to return an item and be issued a refund, here is what you do first. You can request that the buyer send the item back to you immediately.

If you receive the item and it is in worse condition than it was when you sent it, you can issue a partial refund to the buyer. It is better to talk with them first before doing this. Otherwise, they might complain to Amazon about you.

If the buyer simply changed their mind and don’t want the item anymore, you can give them a full refund after they return the item to you. The buyer will pay the return shipping costs.

Malicious Amazon Buyers

There are always going to be some buyers on Amazon with bad intentions. Scammers usually aim to get free items or simply use your items and then return them worn. This is often what happens with clothes. The scamming buyer will wear the clothes for a short while and then return the clothes for a refund.

If you complain to Amazon about it, they will usually favor the buyer. The only way to protect yourself as a seller is to take precautions every step of the way, starting from when you list your item to when you ship it.

Take photographs of the serial numbers of your products before shipping them to the buyer or sending them to the Amazon FBA warehouse. That way, you will know on a return if the buyer is shipping you back the same item you sent them. Sometimes buyers will return defective items they got somewhere else and keep the good items you sent them.

Another thing that buyers can easily do is claim they never received the item (if sold through Amazon MFN). If you have a tracking number to provide, the buyer might just claim you sent them an empty box or a different item. To protect yourself against this claim, take a video recording of yourself packing the box and taping it up before shipping it out. You can use this video as proof that you shipped the actual item that you advertised.

This may increase your workload, but it is better to be safe than sorry. This extra work can save you money and frustration in case you deal with a scammer.

Things to Remember:

  • Always use tracking on your packages.
  • Ship packages with a signature required.
  • If you ship a valuable item, purchase insurance for the shipment.

Below are some of Amazon’s tips for sellers who deal with bad buyers:

  • Communicate regularly with the buyer through email and try to work something out where you both can be happy.
  • Refund the buyer before they file a claim against you.
  • Make sure all the pictures and descriptions in your listings are accurate.
  • Package your items well and use shipping that provides a tracking number and a signature from the recipient.
  • Keep the buyer updated on the status of the shipment. Answer their questions if they have them.
  • If someone ordered an item that is out-of-stock in your inventory, then cancel that order immediately. Email the buyer and let them know why you canceled the order.

If you follow all this advice beforehand, it will be easier to deal with Amazon returns when they arise.

Breakdown: Amazon FBA Return

If you are an FBA seller, you need to pay attention to all the returns on your account. When Amazon receives these returns from buyers, they might declare some of them to be “unfulfillable.” This will end up costing you some money because they will remain in your inventory and not go anywhere.

Here are the basics of customer returns of FBA items:

- If Amazon receives a returned item and it is still deemed sellable, it is set to “fulfillable” and gets added back to your FBA inventory. You may also get back FBA credits for the Variable Closing Fee and Referral Fee.

- If the item is damaged and Amazon decides that they are responsible for it not being sellable anymore, then they will refund you the full sales price of the item as well as applicable sales taxes and fees.

- If the item is damaged and Amazon decides they are not responsible for it not being sellable anymore, then it is deemed “unfulfillable.” However, it still gets added back to your inventory. At this point, you can request to have the item sent back to you or you can have Amazon dispose of the item. You may have to pay an FBA removal order fee for this. On the upside, you’ll eliminate the monthly inventory fees.

The Removal Fees:

Every time you remove an item, you are charged a removal fee. A removal order can take up to 14 business days to be completed. Sometimes it can take longer to process a removal order, depending on how active the removal period is. Some processing times take as long as 30 days.

The Return fee is $0.50 for a standard size item and $0.60 for an oversized item.

The Disposal fee is $0.15 for a standard size item and $0.30 for an oversized item.

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