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A Quick Guide to Amazon Seller Return Policy

Published at Oct 06, 2015.

Amazon seller return policy seems convoluted at first. They have different policies for just about every category, and keeping everything straight can feel impossible. This quick guide will help you understand when and why you will need to process an Amazon return as a seller—plus how you can avoid that situation in the first place.

Not a seller? Read our guide to the general Amazon return policy instead.

Last updated 8/13/2018.

3 Reasons Why a Buyer Can Return an Item

1. They No Longer Want Their Purchase

An Unwanted Gift

There’s nothing at all wrong with the product. They just don’t want it anymore.

Maybe they found one on sale while they were out shopping, or maybe their dad bought them one on the way home from work. Perhaps most commonly, they bought it as a gift only to find the recipient didn’t like it.

You don’t have to refund the shipping costs if this happens. However, you do have to accept the return and refund the buyer within two days of getting your item back.

2. The Item Is “Materially Different” from the Listing

This is the worst-case scenario. If the item the customer receives does not match the description on the listing, the images, and any notes you might have added, then it might be considered "materially different."

If a customer claims that something is not as described, your best bet is to accept a return immediately and provide a full refund. Why? Because “materially different” claims are covered under the Amazon A-to-z Guarantee. If a customer resorts to using one of these, it can cause catastrophic damage to your Amazon seller rating.

3. Their Purchase Is Damaged

An Amazon Return in the Making

Everyone has a story of ordering something fragile and finding it completely destroyed when it arrived at their doorstep. This is bad enough when you’re the customer. But when you’re the seller, you’re looking at completely losing your investment if you provide a full refund.

Amazon understands this and allows sellers to offer partial refunds for damaged items if the damage isn't your fault. Just remember that the customer might get mad about a partial refund and give you negative feedback. Sometimes, it’s worthwhile to take the hit and give all their money back.

But there's a catch.

If the item arrives damaged, it qualifies for a full refund under the A-to-z Guarantee. This creates a grey area for items damaged by the carrier. You may be able to provide a partial refund, and the buyer may then be able to make an A-to-z claim to try to get the full refund.

Consider providing a full refund if the carrier causes the damage. You can always offer a partial refund if the damage is the buyer's fault.

For details on refunds, read our guide to Amazon refund policy.

When a Buyer Can Initiate an Amazon Return

Buyers typically have 30 days to get a return in the mail and on its way back to you. They usually must also report the item as unsatisfactory within the first two weeks of receiving it.

There are occasional exceptions to this rule. For example, if you’re using Fulfillment by Amazon and someone places your item in an Amazon wedding registry, they may still be allowed to return the item half a year later.

Further Details

Many categories have specific rules and exceptions. Be sure to read up on your category’s return policies so you don’t get blindsided.

At the same time, don’t get caught up trying to understand all the categories you don’t plan to sell in. Stay focused on what you’re doing now to avoid getting everything confused.

For more ways to prepare for the unexpected, see "Dealing with Unusual Amazon Buyer Requests."

How to Avoid Getting Amazon Return Requests

There’s nothing you can do if a customer decides they just don’t want an item. However, the other causes are generally avoidable.

Firstly, package all items carefully. Use a trustworthy courier to make sure that they arrive at their destination safely and in a timely manner.

Secondly, make sure that all listings and images are completely accurate. Don’t be the used car salesman trying to talk away major defects as negligible issues. Be honest and detailed and you should have no trouble with “materially different” claims.

Summary

Amazon seller return policy is quite fair and offers protection to both sellers and buyers. You can make it your friend rather than your enemy. Just take the time to understand it and combine your knowledge with exceptional customer service, and the few return requests you get will only strengthen your reputation for dealing honestly with your customers.

Having a tough time getting started on the world’s largest online marketplace? Read our beginner’s guide to selling on Amazon. Or if your support tickets and return requests are getting out of hand, learn how we can make Amazon customer service easier.

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