In order to keep up with Amazon’s return policy, sellers will need to understand how to manage Amazon merchant fulfilled returns.
Part of the Amazon experience that buyers love is not only the convenience of finding any and everything they need in one marketplace, but also its buyer-favored return policy.
Buying on Amazon gives buyers the peace of mind to purchase something with the assurance that they can send it back if it doesn’t live up to their expectations.
Typically, returns are automatically taken care of by Amazon for products enrolled in the FBA program (fulfilled by amazon) but with the recent COVID-19 changes, many sellers are opting to fulfill their own orders with FBM (fulfilled by merchant) meaning returns fall under their responsibility as a Seller.
Making the switch to FBM is a viable option for combatting holds on non-essential items, but with this change, sellers will have more responsibility. With online traffic at an all-time high, sellers fulfilling their own orders need to prepare to manage their returns.
We know it can be overwhelming to process returns and manage everything else in your workload. So if you’re new to FBM, struggling, or just need some guidance, you’re in the right place. We’re here to help.
This is the guide to managing returns on merchant fulfilled orders. We summarized the essential steps and provided links to help with any further queries that may come up.
Reasons Why People Return Items
As a seller who fulfills your own orders, you are required to accept returns and you are responsible for processing them.
Due to the inevitability of returns, it’s in your best interest to familiarize yourself with the policies and procedures for returns on merchant fulfilled orders.
Let’s start by addressing the main reasons for returns:
- Delivery issues: the buyer didn’t receive an item on time or didn’t receive it at all
- Fulfillment issues: you didn’t have the item in stock or sent the wrong item (color, size, or SKU)
- Buyer changed their mind
Although these aren’t the only reasons for returns, they are a good foundation for what to expect. In any case, one of the main questions that come up when dealing with returns is simply: what do I do when a buyer wants to return something?
Merchant-Fulfilled Return Policy
Knowing and understanding the return policy will save you from making unnecessary errors when you do start to receive return requests.
Amazon’s return policy for third-party sellers outlines the following:
- Purchases made to a Third Party Seller will be returned to the seller (you)
- Return Policies for individual sellers and products may vary but must adhere to Amazon’s 30-day return window and minimum guidelines
- Sellers are responsible for providing buyers with methods to return products
To learn more about Amazon’s return policies for different services and products, including info on extended return information click here.
Keep in mind: Buyers are encouraged to insure shipments for items that value above $100 and ship those products with signature shipping service. Items that value $35 or above should be returned with a trackable shipping service. For items below $35, Amazon suggests USPS delivery confirmation service.
If buyers don’t adhere to these suggestions, Amazon’s A-to-Z Guarantee may not back them.
For Amazon’s full Return, Refund, and Cancellation Policy and guidelines, minimum policy requirements, cancellation and refund processes, and customer disputes click this link.
It’s important to note that for most items there is a 30-day return window from the date of purchase.
Buyers can return items for almost any reason within that 30-day window. Whether it’s your fault or not, Amazon, at the very least, requires you to meet their return policy but they even encourage third-party sellers to exceed it.
We know this can be a bit of a burden and even have a negative financial impact, but in the end, dealing with returns is just a part of selling on Amazon. Prepare to deal with returns using the following information & steps to save you any frustration moving forward.
Managing Amazon Return Requests
Individual sellers who choose to manually authorize requests, and professional sellers who receive requests that fall out of Amazon’s policy, have the option to manually review return requests.
To guarantee the best experience, work with the buyer to arrange the return. If you can determine that the request is a direct result of your handling, try to compensate the buyer. This is helpful to avoid any negative associations with your business and seller account.
Keep in mind: When buyers make a return just because they didn’t want the product, you don’t have to reimburse any shipping charges for return shipping. You may even be able to charge restocking fees to help make up for any production and fulfillment losses.
Generally, when a buyer places an order from you and opts to return it, the return will be sent back to you.
As a seller who processes their own orders and returns, you will need to provide the customer with any of the following:
- A valid return address within the U.S.
- A proper pre-paid return label
- A full refund without requesting for the product to be returned
If you fail to offer any of these, the buyer can file an A-to-Z Guarantee Claim to seek Amazon’s assistance with the return, which can negatively impact your account health.
Steps in the Returns Process
Amazon provides you with four options of action to take when processing a return request, these include:
- Contact the buyer
- Authorize the request
- Close the request
- Issue a refund
You will need to choose one of the options. Though you won’t always need to issue a refund or contact a buyer, you will need to authorize or close requests.
Contacting the Buyer
If you think you can resolve the issue with a direct conversation, contacting the buyer is your best option.
You can send an email to a buyer at any time after a return request is made. Contact the buyer to address and attempt to resolve issues before proceeding with the return procedure.
In situations that don’t require a refund or a return, where you can come to an agreement and provide a buyer with the customer service they need, you can skip the entire return process.
If you can’t come to an agreement by direct contact, follow the steps provided below.
Unless it’s an extremely unreasonable return request, it’s best to accommodate the customer when choosing to authorize a request.
Step 1: Log in to seller central, click: Orders > Manage returns
Step 2: To authorize single-return requests: select the request that you want to review
Step 3: Once you select a request, you will be prompted to use the RMA (Return Merchandise Authorization number, if this is not generated by Amazon, you will have to enter a custom number)
Note: You can use an unpaid return label (generated by Amazon), or upload your own prepaid return label. If the label is Amazon-generated, your return address will be automatically generated.
Step 4: To authorize return requests together, choose the requests. Then, from the Manage Returns Page – choose: Authorize all selected returns from the dropdown menu
To set up your account to receive return request emails with a working link that allows you to close, reply, or authorize, you can easily select the option in Return Settings
You can close a request immediately under two conditions:
- If you plan to provide a refund without asking for the item’s return
- If you decide not to accept the return
Closing a request might be your best option in situations when the product is unavailable to offer a replacement for the buyer or if accepting the return request is unreasonable.
You will need to provide a closure reason and an explanation in the message upon closing out a request. Once the return request is closed, Amazon sends the customer the message along with the closure reason.
Note: Buyers also have the option to close a return request, in which case you will get an email notification.
Issuing a Refund
You can issue a refund either after the item has been returned or if you are letting the buyer keep your product. Issue a refund for all customers whose returns align with Amazon’s policy.
When you receive requests for items that fall outside of the return policy, it’s best to judge them on a case by case basis and issue refunds accordingly.
- After authorizing returns, wait until you receive the item before issuing a refund
- Alternatively, you can choose to let the buyer keep or discard the item, and proceed with processing the refund
- Upon receipt of returned items, inspect for any damages or difference in the condition from when you sent it
- If there are any damages, you can choose to issue a partial refund to the buyer. Amazon recommends you ALWAYS provide an explanation to the buyer in advance to avoid possible A-to-z Guarantee Claims.
- Once you get your product back, process the refund within 48 hours. (Amazon can refund the amount to the buyer and charge it to your seller account if you don’t process the refund 0n time)
After you issue a refund, it’s a good idea to monitor it actively. Make sure buyers receive refunds on time to avoid a negative experience for either of you.
Details About the Prepaid Return Label Program
Amazon’s return policy for MFN (Merchant Fulfilled Network) sellers mentions that they will automatically authorize returns and buyers will be able to print prepaid return shipping labels.
This statement is in accordance with the Amazon Prepaid Return Label Program. If you are a professional seller, Amazon will automatically enroll you in the program, but individual sellers have the option to enroll as well.
With this program, you still have the ability to do all of the steps above. However, you are not required to review and accept every return request and you don’t have to worry about providing buyers with labels.
The program automatically authorizes U.S. returns that align with the Amazon return policy. Amazon, then, provides customers with prepaid shipping labels on your behalf. (Amazon charges Fees to your seller account).
If the return doesn’t fall within Amazon’s policy, you will get an email from Amazon. This email includes the reason for the return and information about the buyer’s request in regard to return policies.
Take away: When using this program, the only requests you deal with are the ones that are exempt or fall outside of Amazon’s return policy.
If you have any further questions or want to learn more about the program for prepaid returns, including policy requirements, FAQs, and more click here.
Best practices For Prepaid Returns:
- Respond to all return requests within 24 hours
- You must issue refunds within 2 business days of receipt of return
Following these guidelines will come in handy when managing returns, but before you go, take a minute to learn about how to avoid scammers and improve your overall performance as an Amazon seller below.
Tips to Improve Performance & Avoid Getting Scammed
As an Amazon Seller, you should absolutely be wary of buyers who try to take advantage of you. While this isn’t every buyer’s intention, it does happen, and increased returns/issues with your products can hinder your performance.
It is helpful to monitor each step of your seller journey to protect yourself from scammers and improve your performance.
Although returns are inevitable, these are tips to ensure that things run smoothly on your end. If you are following them, you can rest assured that you are doing everything right.
Consider these tips to improve your overall performance, avoid scammers, and keep up your reputation in the long run.
- Always make sure claims made in your listings are fair. Don’t guarantee that your products are capable of something if they aren’t. For example, if you are selling a temporary use product don’t promote its durability.
- Be as accurate as possible when presenting your items in thumbnails and descriptions. You don’t want to have to deal with tons of returns because you aren’t displaying your products accurately.
- Take pictures or videos of the condition of your products, packaging steps, and serial numbers. When you receive returns, compare the product’s condition and serial number to verify they match with what you sent out.
- Use tracked delivery, require a signature on all packages, and get insurance on packages containing high-cost items. This will help you avoid buyers who claim they never received your package.
It’s extremely difficult to get ahead of or stop buyers whose sole mission is to rip you off. However, following these tips can help, and dealing with general Amazon returns will be much easier if you are proactive.
Now you’re ready to manage your returns like a pro! You can start taking action on return requests in the Manage Seller Fulfilled Returns tool right now.