Packages that are returned to you from orders on your Etsy shop or website for no obvious reason can be annoying, but it does happen. You send a package out to a customer, only to have it returned to you unexpectedly.
If this happens, you can handle it in a few ways, but the way that I do it is to make the entire situation less complicated by taking a few simple steps.
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Table of Contents
- The first step: Refund the purchase price.
- Contact the customer after refunding.
- Clarify the reason for the return.
- Offer reordering options.
- Handling a non-responsive customer.
- Dealing with a customer response.
Before I get started, let me clarify that I’m talking about situations when the post office returns a package and you haven’t heard from the customer at all.
This can happen for a few reasons, including an incomplete address or the mail carrier just not delivering the package to the right place. Sometimes there’s a reason written on the package, but sometimes there’s no reason that you can figure out.
You might have a no-return policy, but this wouldn’t be an actual return, it’s the post office doing something weird, so that does make a difference in the situation.
The first step: Refund the purchase price.
The first step when a package unexpectedly returns to you is to refund the cost of the item. Don’t refund the cost of the original shipping if the customer paid for shipping unless you want to totally cancel the order and start fresh.
If you offered free shipping, just refund the entire amount. This is the quickest way to put one piece of the puzzle behind you.
If you have a no-return policy you’ll have to decide whether you want to handle it this way, but if the post office returned the package and the customer didn’t, this isn’t really a return.
People will argue with me about this, but if you have the original item you can resell it unless it’s customized, and even then, you can still use it for something.
You should also make sure that there aren’t laws in your country that say that you have to refund the entire amount including shipping, because you might be required to refund the entire amount.
Refunding takes away the hassle of hunting a customer down and asking what they want to do. After you issue the refund you can go ahead and contact the customer to move to the next step.
Contact the customer after refunding.
Send the customer a message saying that you’ve refunded and why.
Some sellers advise reaching out to the customer before issuing a refund, but I find it more efficient to refund first because it simplifies the process.
Send them a message explaining the situation. Let them know you refunded the item because it was returned to you.
Etsy will also send them a message, so between the two, they should get back to you.
Tell them how much you refunded if it was less than the entire amount so that they’ll know about the charges they’ll end up with.
Clarify the reason for the return.
Be sure to tell the customer about the reason for the return, including any messages that were written on the box by the post office.
It’s essential to be clear about what the post office message on the package says. Whether it’s “Refused,” “Return to Sender,” or “No Such Address,” relay this message to your customer.
This can help to clarify the reason that the package didn’t get to them, and it will also take some of the “blame” off of you. Some customers will be angry about the return, so you need to make sure that they have as much information as possible to help understand what happened.
Offer reordering options.
Your next step should be to provide the customer with options to reorder the listing.
If you’ve refunded minus the original cost of shipping, inform them about this. Then, suggest that they can reorder the item with the correct address.
Make it crystal clear that using the same listing is possible, but that they need to verify the address if that had anything to do with the return.
If you want to offer a discount if that’s available, it’s a nice courtesy for the customer, but you don’t have to feel like it’s something that you need to do.
I tend to offer a discount to cushion the blow of the customer having to pay for shipping again, but it’s never more than the 20% that I offer my mailing list subscribers.
Handling a non-responsive customer.
If your customer doesn’t get back to you, don’t worry. You’ve already refunded the order, and you have the product back in your inventory.
The returned item shouldn’t be damaged or unsellable if it was returned to you without the box being opened, so consider it a part of the cost of doing business.
If you had to refund the shipping cost, that’s alright, it’s a refund you can account for in your taxes as an expense.
If the item was customized and the customer doesn’t respond to you, you can still use the item as a photo or video prop.
That makes it a business expense too, so you can write it off at the end of the year.
Dealing with a customer response.
On the off chance that the customer contacts you, expressing they don’t know what went wrong with the address, you can offer some advice.
Suggest that they have you send the package with signature required, or to be held at the post office for them.
Some people won’t want to do this, and they’ll say that there’s no reason that the post office shouldn’t deliver to their address.
This is perfectly true, things happen, and they might have put the right address on the order but something just got messed up on the delivery end.
If they really want you to reship to the same address that’s fine, but make sure that they guarantee that it’s actually right!
You can also ask if they want to provide an alternative address like a workplace.
Sometimes you might hear from them, then they’ll just never write back. If that happens, just chalk it up to a business loss and use the product for props like I mentioned above.
In the world of online selling, unexpected hiccups like a returned package are par for the course.
The key is to handle them efficiently and with a clear process in mind. Remember, a straightforward approach, as outlined above, can save you time and help maintain your sanity.
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