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Refunds and Exhcanges for eBay Purchases (cont'd)

Expectations and procedures for buyers


The first and most important truth for buyers interested in refunds or exchanges is that you can’t reasonably expect more than is provided for in the auction listing terms. If your item listing says no refunds under any conditions, you are unlikely to get anything for your trouble but additional headache and frustration. If your item listing says that you must pay for return shipping on all returns, you’re unlikely to get a seller to budge—after all, these terms are in the listing, and you should have known (and accepted) them before you bid.

With that said, there are some basic courtesies and steps that can make the process go much more smoothly and help to ensure that you are satisfied with the seller and the return process in the end:

  • Decide whether you’re keeping the item immediately. When you take receipt of the item shipment, carefully examine, test, and exercise the item immediately in whatever way is necessary to make a determination on whether or not you’d like to keep it. There is nothing that creates tension and dissatisfaction between buyer and seller more than long-delayed refund or exchange requests weeks after the item was delivered, once it’s had time to depreciate and/or fall out of the condition in which it was delivered.

  • Contact your seller ASAP if you want to return. Don’t just package the item up and send it back; sellers often have busy mailrooms and have trouble keeping track of unexpected packages that turn up with no explanation. Even if no RMA is required, it is generally good form to contact your seller and let them know that you expect to return the item.

  • Pack properly and ship promptly. Once your seller has acknowledged your return and provided any additional instructions he or she may have, package the item quickly for return (if the item is to be returned) and ship immediately so that the seller can draw the connection between your request for a return and the package that eventually arrives. Whenever possible, include a printout of the auction listing in question along with a note on why you’re making the return—item is defective, wrong size, wasn’t what was expected, etc.

  • Be patient. Between return shipping and time for the seller to receive and identify the item as having come from you, it can take from days to even a week or two for the seller to begin the refund or reshipment process. If a refund is in the works, the process of crediting funds back to you or mailing a check can add another several days or even a week to the process. If you are worried about the status of your return, contact your seller again, but be polite and patient, rather than assuming that something has gone wrong.

  • Don’t get off on the wrong foot. Don’t make the mistake of beginning your refund, return, or exchange request with threats. Consider a message like this one:

    “I am totally unsatisfied with this item and I demand my money back immediately. I have filed an eBay dispute and will dispute this with my credit card issuer tomorrow. I expect a refund ASAP.”

    When a seller receives a message like this, it is less likely to help you. First of all, they’re not inclined to communicate with you at all, since they can see that it likely won’t be a pleasant experience. More to the point, they have every reason to believe that you have begun dispute proceedings with eBay and a credit card issuer. In either case, it means that they absolutely won’t issue you a refund in case you have actually filed disputes, to avoid an accidental double refund that could otherwise occur. Instead, try something more along these lines:

    “Dear seller, Thanks for shipping the item promptly. I’ve received it and have unfortunately decided that I’m unsatisfied with the purchase and intend to return it for a refund. Please provide instructions by which I can accomplish this. Thanks again, Buyer.”

    The point is this: once the purchase has been made, as a buyer you’re to some extent at the seller’s mercy—and having the seller’s good will goes a long way toward getting them to give you what you want, much moreso than making them want to hide from you.

Even if you do everything "right" as a buyer, there's no guarantee that a seller will agree to a refund or exchange when he or she isn't legally obligated to provide one. If you feel as though you're caught between a rock and a hard place, it might be time to think about compromises that you can make with your seller. Read on to find out more.

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