Fulfillment by Amazon Returns
If you talk to anyone who resells products then they will tell you how much returns hurt. In a perfect world people would purchase a product and keep it. Unfortunately that isn’t the case. My heart sinks in my chest every time I get an email from amazon that says, “Refund initiated for order”.
Of course all refunds aren’t created equal. Some of them (the best kind) involve a product that was never opened. While you do pay Amazon a small fee for every return, being able to get that product back into inventory and sold is a huge positive. Of course most returns aren’t still sealed and thus have to be recalled and dealt with.
Types of Returns
Among the opened products that come back there are four categories in my mind:
- Items marked as defective that work properly. People say they are defective to save on return shipping. (Tip: If an item is returned as defective, but works then let Amazon know so they can flag the customer’s account.)
- Actually defective items.
- Items that are perfectly fine and are resellable as open box.
- Damaged goods.
That last one is a killer. Yes, people actually take a product, damage it and then send it back in. For example, I received a Chromebook back a few weeks ago that the person kept exactly 30 days. They then sent it back in and said they changed their mind. What they didn’t say is that they had cracked a corner of the screen. They must be proud of themself.
This actually happens quite often with returns, but can really hurt when it comes to a high value item. For example, last week I received a return of an Apple iPad Pro. As I was inspecting it to send back out to be re-sold as open box, I noticed a small crack on the right side of the glass. Here is a picture:
Getting It Fixed
I have had some success disputing these items with Amazon before, but wasn’t getting anywhere this time, so we decided to visit an Apple Store to see how much a repair would be. Unfortunately Apple charges a truly ridiculous amount of $599 to repair a screen on an iPad Pro. (Yes I know local places will do it much cheaper, but we were in the area and decided to find out.)
Fortunately, we wouldn’t have to pay $599, because the agent noticed something that I hadn’t. If you look at the picture, this iPad wasn’t dropped at all. There is no scratch or point of impact. Instead, the crack is caused by a known factory defect. Apparently Apple is aware of this and agreed to give us a new (open box) iPad Pro. At least we can sell it as “Like New” since it is in plastic and never used.
Dealing with Amazon on Damaged Items
Amazon doesn’t take responsibility for an item that was damaged by the customer. They just don’t. With that said, they do take responsibility if the item was damaged while being shipped back to you. For this reason it is important to inspect the shipping box and make sure your items weren’t actually damaged during the shipping process. If that happens Amazon will normally give you some sort of a credit. Be prepared to send them photos of the box, damaged item and the packing slip.
Tips for Dealing with Returns
If you are reselling then you simply must factor in returns. I should hopefully be able to sell this iPad Pro for a small enough loss that I won’t lose any sleep. As my reselling has ramped up though, I also get many more returns. The challenge now becomes learning how to process them and figure out what is the easiest way to get as much of my money back as possible. Easier said than done.
Here are some ways to get money back for returns:
- Sell on Amazon as open box or damaged if that is the case.
- Sell on eBay as the same or better yet sell locally on Craigslist or OfferUp to save on fees.
- Return the item to where you purchased it if it is defective or send it to the manufacturer for repairs under the warranty. Then it can be sold.
- Use credit card or other insurance to make a damage claim.
- Make a claim with Amazon for items damaged during shipping or items marked as defective that are not.
- If all else fails, justify to yourself why you wouldn’t mind keeping it for yourself. 🙂
One of the reasons that reselling isn’t a good form of manufactured spend (it really isn’t MS) is because it is too much work not to make a profit. You must have a nice healthy profit margin to absorb returns and the occasional item that you simply need to write off. Thus it is a business. In this case I am happy that Apple came to the rescue, but my cracked Chromebook is a reminder that there isn’t always a happy ending.