Who Pays For The Return Shipping On Etsy Orders?


If you want to return something that you bought on Etsy, you’ll need to check with the seller to see if they accept returns.

If they do, you might assume that they’ll pay for the return shipping, but that isn’t usually the case.

This begs the question…Who usually pays for the return shipping on Etsy?

As a general rule, the customer is responsible for paying to ship a package back if they decide to return an Etsy purchase. Etsy’s return policy template states this, and most sellers require that the customer pays to ship back any items that they want to return. Sellers set their own shop policies, but it’s safe to assume that the customer will be responsible for the cost of shipping something back.

You’ll also need to know about the other conditions for returns, so read on to find out about those.

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Do any Etsy sellers pay for return shipping?

Most Etsy sellers will require that the customer who wants to return things pays for the shipping, but there are some exceptions. Since each seller sets their own shop policies, there might be some sellers who will pay to have a return shipped back, but it will vary by shop.

I did a survey of 210 Etsy sellers, and of those 95.3%, or 200 respondents, said that under normal circumstances, the customer would be the one to pay for return shipping.

That means that there are 4.7% of sellers who will pay for the postage under normal circumstances.

Survey results of who pays for return shipping.
Survey results of who pays for return shipping.

This would be for normal situations where the customer just wants to return the item for no specific reason.

In cases where there’s something about the item that’s wrong, the seller should make an exception and pay for the return cost if they want the item back.

Always check to see if the seller has an FAQ section that explains conditions for this, but if there’s nothing specific, the policy is that buyers pay to return things.

Etsy's default policy for customers paying for return shipping.
Etsy’s default policy for return shipping.

Something else to remember is that the items need to be returned in good condition or the seller doesn’t have to refund the full amount! And some sellers don’t take returns at all.

For an article about the pros and cons of shopping on Etsy, click here.

Do all Etsy sellers accept returns?

Not all items on Etsy are returnable, and not all sellers accept returns. Customers should always check each shop’s policies to see if they accept returns at all, and what conditions have to be met to accept a return.

For example, in my shop I sell things that are meant to be used as cake decorations, so I don’t accept returns on anything edible that’s been opened.

Etsy also has some stock policies that say that certain items can’t be returned, including intimate items, perishable items, digital items, and custom items.

Etsy policies about things that can't be returned.
Etsy policies about things that can’t be returned.

Etsy sellers can also set a return policy for each individual listing, so there might be situations where you can return some things but not others.

The return policy for the listing is shown on the listing page itself, and on the seller’s policy page.

You can check to see if the item is returnable on the listing page by scrolling down (on desktop,) or by opening the Shipping section on the listing page if you’re using the Etsy app.

In addition, depending on what country you’re in, there might be laws about returns and refunds that include shipping costs for items that are faulty.

Why do Etsy sellers expect customers to pay for return postage?

Etsy sellers are all individual small businesses, and the honest truth is that we can’t afford to pay for return shipping, especially for international orders. We’ve also seen all kinds of bad behavior on the part of people who buy things, then try to return them in used condition, so that ends up being a total loss for us.

Amazon has trained people to think that they can buy as many things as they want, then just return things at no cost to them. That cost is passed on to the seller in the form of fees and chargebacks, though, so it’s not penalty-free for the seller.

Since Etsy sellers set our own policies, most of us just make the decision that we’re not going to pay for return postage, it’s just too expensive.

To make it more complicated, a lot of things on Etsy are personalized or custom-made, and if those are returned we can’t sell them to someone else. The rule for custom items is usually that they can’t be returned at all because of this.

This is a situation where “free shipping” is unmasked as not being free, so if you’re going to buy something on Etsy, make sure to read the description and be sure that you want it!

How to get free return shipping.

The only way to return an order at no cost to yourself is to refuse the delivery and have it returned to the seller. This may not work in all countries, but in the US if you write “refused, return to sender” on the package and put it back in the mail without opening the package, the post office will return it to the sender at no cost.

You can’t open the package and return it that way, it has to be UNOPENED. If you open the box, you’ll have to pay for the return shipping.

If you do this, the seller will probably only refund when the package is returned in unused condition, so you won’t get a refund until they get it back. (Click here for another article about getting refunds on Etsy)

You should also check with the seller before trying to return a package this way, since they have to approve the return. If you send a package back without approval, it’s considered a “forced return,” and the seller doesn’t have to accept it.

Will Etsy sellers make exceptions to the shipping policy?

Some Etsy sellers do pay for return shipping, and even if they don’t under normal circumstances, they might, depending on the situation. In general, though, if a seller says that they don’t accept returns, or that the customer needs to pay for postage, it’s a good policy to assume that there won’t be exceptions.

I would say that if the seller did something wrong and needs the item back, they should be the one to pay for the shipping.

However, each seller sets their own individual policies, so other people might handle it differently.

A lot of the time, shipping decisions are going to be based on the individual situation, because there are a lot of things that can come up that would change the situation. But that’s just how I handle things, and again, all Etsy sellers set their own policies.

It’s always a good choice to assume that the policies that are stated in the shop are the policies that you’ll need to follow if you choose to buy something from that shop.

Don’t think that a seller will make an exception for you, because that’s not going to happen all the time!

The best policy is to make sure that you want the items you’re purchasing, and to check the shop policies before you purchase.

That will eliminate the need to return things to begin with, and then if something goes wrong and a return is needed, you can work with the seller to figure out how to handle that on a case-by-case basis.


Kara Buntin

Kara Buntin has run a profitable home-based business since 1999, and has a background in art, theater design, and cake decorating. She's a top Etsy seller with over 51,000 sales on Etsy and her own website, and helps other home-based business owners with their business goals and SEO. She founded the Artisan Shopping Directory website to promote the artisans who are members of her EShop Success marketing program.

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