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Returning eBay Purchases

Things to keep in mind as you make returns

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Sooner or later you'll probably make an eBay purchase that you'd like to return. Whether you bought it for yourself or as a gift, you'll decide that it didn't quite work out and you need to send it back.

When that happens, there are a few things to keep in mind as you go about making your return:

  • Check terms and notify your seller. Whatever you do, don't just box an item up, ship it back, and expect a seller to automatically issue you a refund. Double-check the terms of the auction listing to be sure that refunds or exchanges are allowed, then contact your seller and let them know that you'd like to return the item. Proceed according to their instructions.

  • Package the item carefully for return shipment. Even if the item arrived in a defective or damaged state, it's still very important to ensure that it arrives at the seller's location without further damage. The usual packing rules apply—bubble wrap, packing "peanuts," and a nice, strong box and tape are all in order.

  • Mark the box with your information. Most importantly, be sure that your eBay member ID appears somewhere, i.e. "Return from eBayjoe1234," so that if the seller has multiple returns of the same item arriving, he or she will know to credit yours.

  • Get a tracking number and insurance. Even if the item is damaged, it is still important to purchase return shipping that includes insurance and a tracking number. Though you may not have any use for the item, the seller will need to receive it in one piece in order to issue you a refund or to offer an exchange.

  • Be patient and courteous. Even if the transaction didn't work out in the way that you'd hoped, it's important to be both courteous and patient as your return or exchange is processed; remember, you are depending on the goodwill of the seller to avoid having to take further, more burdensome steps to rectify the situation. A little patience and understanding goes a long way in this regard, especially since most eBay sellers are individuals or small businesses and don't necessarily have the large customer service staffs of larger chain stores or corporations.

Through the entire process, it's important to remember that most sellers do honestly want to ensure that you're satisfied with a transaction, and also that eBay isn't your local department store—the very nature of the process of shipping across the country or around the world ensures that returns and exchanges on eBay are going to be a clumsy, time-consuming affair. Those are the tradeoffs involved in having access to the great deals and selection that eBay has to offer.

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