Most people believe that shopping online is easy and convenient. But most also agree that the one of the biggest issues in online shopping is the inability to touch and feel the product. As a result, items “not as expected” cause online return percentages to be high. And everyone knows that returning items bought online can range from inconvenient, to confusing, to downright scary.
Once again, Amazon has come to the rescue with its recently announced policy of “automatically authorized returns.” This new policy applies to Amazon’s Marketplace sellers and aligns the return policies of these third-party sellers to the current return policy of Amazon-fulfilled product.
Under the new policy, consumers can ship back third-party-fulfilled merchandise to Amazon without contacting the vendor first to work out concerns with the transaction or product prior to a refund being issued. Amazon has also instituted a “returnless refund” policy designed to save sellers time and expense: if an item is small and inexpensive, Amazon will issue a refund—and the seller is forced to just “let the item go” and not get it back.
There has been confusion on the part of the sellers who now think Amazon will force them to simply give away items for free. Many sellers are highly upset and have been very vocal about their dissatisfaction regarding the new policy. Amazon is quick to defend the policy, noting that participation is optional for the seller and actually came about due to numerous requests by vendors. Amazon emphasizes that sellers will enjoy reduced time and cost (if they agree to participate) while making the consumer return experience for many products easier and less complicated.
Many sellers are not convinced. Some have gone so far as to proclaim that Amazon’s new policy will “crush small businesses that fulfill their own orders.” They believe that scammers will take full advantage of the new policy. Time will tell.
As an alternative, sellers always have the option of using Amazon’s in-house fulfillment arm. The new policy goes into effect in October.
This new policy is just another step by Amazon to make online shopping easier for the consumer. Their existing return policy, as outlined below, has always been one of the most customer friendly:
- The consumer has 30 days from the date of purchase to return items for a full refund.
- Return labels can be instantly printed using Amazon’s online return center.
- Amazon pays the return shipping on all domestic orders.
- It doesn’t matter if the item has been open or used.
Clearly, their policy is very liberal, but Amazon does have some safeguards built in to identify and track abusers. If a customer has extensive returns, their account may be flagged to prevent further returns. But, in typical Amazon fashion, they will send the potential abuser a nice email to let them know before taking any action.
As we have said before, ecommerce will never totally eclipse brick and mortar shopping. But Amazon continues to do everything they can to make it easier and easier for consumers to shop online. And it’s working!