As an Amazon seller, providing great customer service often means accepting returns. But return too many items, and you may receive a dreaded warning email or even a ban from selling!
So how can you avoid account issues as a seller while still keeping your customers happy?
In this 3200+ word guide, I‘ll break down Amazon‘s approach to returns in 2022 from a seller‘s perspective. You‘ll learn:
- What Return Rate Triggers Amazon Warnings for Sellers
- Why Amazon Cracks Down on Seller Return Rates
- How Many Returns Are Too Many as a Seller?
- Can You Get Banned as a Seller for High Returns?
- Does Amazon Check Items Returned to Sellers?
- How Sellers Can Avoid Return Warnings
- What to Do If You Receive an Amazon Warning
- Appealing an Amazon Seller Suspension or Ban
- Managing Customer Inquiries About Returns
As the owner of a successful Amazon store for over 10 years, I’ve dealt with my share of returns. By following Amazon’s guidelines, you can minimize risk and keep selling without interruptions. Let’s dive in!
What Return Rate Triggers Amazon Warnings for Sellers?
Amazon keeps a close eye on seller return rates as one signal of potential issues. But what amount of returns should really get your attention?
According to Amazon’s return policies and my experience, they start scrutinizing once returns make up 15% or more of your total sales.
Some other return behaviors that can flag you more quickly:
Spikes in return rate – from 5% to 15%+ in a short period
Returns with vague or questionable reasons from buyers
Significantly higher return $ amount vs items kept $ amount
Selling in risky categories like electronics, clothing, or shoes
Basically, anything that seems out of the ordinary for your business can put returns on Amazon’s radar. Keep reading for ways to manage return rates and avoid problems.
Why Amazon Cracks Down on Seller Return Rates
Amazon allows customers to return most items effortlessly. As sellers, we need to accept some returns as part of doing business.
But behind the scenes, Amazon closely monitors seller return rates to:
- Identify sellers shipping defective, poor quality, or inaccurate products
- Catch sellers possibly gaming the reviews system by sending only top products out to reviewers and returning the rest
- Reduce losses from sellers who artificially inflate sales numbers and then have almost everything returned
- Identify sellers not adhering to Amazon’s stated return policies and guidelines
High return rates can indicate issues with the seller rather than the buyer. By keeping an eye on return percentages, Amazon tries to remove problem sellers from the marketplace.
As the chart below illustrates, the risk of account warnings and scrutiny rises significantly once returns pass 15% of sales based on real cases:
|% of Orders Returned||Risk Level||Likely Outcome|
|10-15%||Moderate||Monitor for changes|
Now that we‘ve seen examples of dangerous return rates, let‘s talk about positive steps you can take.
How Many Returns Are Too Many as a Seller?
While Amazon does not reveal an exact cut-off for action against sellers, I recommend trying to stay under 15% returns to avoid headaches.
To put it in perspective, here are some scenarios based on real seller data:
Lower risk: You sell 500 items a month and get 45 returns – 9% return rate
Moderate risk: You sell 1000 items a month and get 120 returns – 12% return rate
High risk: You sell 1500 items a month and get 225 returns – 15% return rate
Danger zone: You sell 2000 items a month and get 400 returns – 20% return rate
As you can see, the 15% threshold based on my experience aligns closely with reports from other sellers.
Let‘s move on to when return rates can become more than just a warning sign.
Can You Get Banned as a Seller for High Returns?
For most sellers, the first sign of trouble is an email from Amazon about your return percentage. This gives you a chance to make changes.
But if your return rate remains very elevated or keeps growing higher, Amazon may take action like:
- Lowering your search ranking so fewer customers see your listings
- Removing the "Prime" tag from your products so you lose out on Prime shoppers
- Blocking inventory shipments to Amazon warehouses until the issue is addressed
- Suspending the ability to sell new products until return rate improves
- Banning you entirely from selling on Amazon if problems continue
So when does Amazon move to bans or suspensions?
- Ignoring warnings and allowing return rates of 20%+ repeatedly
- Extremely high return $ amounts compared to sales $ amounts
- Evidence of return abuse or fraud by the seller
- Failure to provide legitimate business reasons for high returns
The risk of a ban goes up if you already have multiple warnings and previous issues flagged on your seller account. Don‘t let it get to that point!
Does Amazon Check Items Returned to Sellers?
With millions of packages, Amazon uses technology more than manual checks to oversee returns. But as a seller, be aware of these potential checks:
Weight and dimensions – Amazon may weigh return boxes to catch extra heavy or light packages with swapped items.
Visual inspections – Spot checks of return boxes could identify repackaged or damaged products.
Photographic evidence – Buyers submitting photos showing incorrect or broken items helps Amazon determine valid vs fraudulent returns.
Purchase patterns – Technology tracks customers who habitually return high-ticket items and labels them as risks.
Seller history – Amazon might physically inspect returns more often for sellers with a history of issues.
So while most returns aren‘t opened and evaluated, Amazon does utilize data to look for red flags. Make sure your returns don‘t raise any suspicions.
How Sellers Can Avoid Return Warnings
As an experienced seller, here are my top tips to keep returns under control:
Offer free returns to reduce customer friction – Amazon rewards sellers who make returns easy.
Improve quality control so fewer items are truly defective or wrongly shipped.
Update listings frequently to match product photos/details so customers get what they expect.
Analyze return reasons so you can correct issues and explain trends to Amazon if needed.
Highlight guarantees and your great support so buyers contact you for help before immediately returning items.
Automate tracking of return rate each month to stay below 15% well before Amazon notices.
Appeal approvals if you feel Amazon wrongly accepted a fraudulent return – provide evidence.
Throttle promotions that spike sales but also lead to a jump in returns you can‘t sustain.
Follow this advice starting today to reduce return-related risks!
What to Do If You Receive an Amazon Warning
Finding an email from Amazon about your seller account is alarming. But fear not – here are tips if you get a return rate-related warning:
Carefully review the email and understand exactly where Amazon sees problems. They should cite specific return metrics.
Respond quickly to let Amazon know the message was received and you‘re addressing the problems. Radio silence makes it worse.
Reply politely, even if you feel Amazon‘s conclusions are unfair. Anger and excuses won‘t help the situation.
Gather context like seasonal factors, item categories, or buyer demographics that may explain higher returns.
Propose improvements you‘ll make to lower return rates and improve processes going forward.
Follow up if you need any clarification on the expectations and return thresholds Amazon has laid out.
Implement changes swiftly like stricter quality checks, better photos, etc. to show Amazon you‘re responding.
Monitor progress over the next 3-6 months to make sure return rates normalize and no further action is taken on your account.
With clear communication and visible improvement, a single warning should not lead to dire consequences. Now let‘s look at salvaging an account that has faced more serious action from Amazon.
Appealing an Amazon Seller Suspension or Ban
If Amazon hands down a suspension, ban, or other account limitation, you still have options to try and reverse the decision:
Email support and politely explain the context around your return rate and the steps you‘ve taken to rectify the situation. Provide compliance documentation.
Reference past performance – if your account was in good standing for years, point that track record out to show this is a temporary issue.
Request a direct call to discuss the suspension in depth with an Amazon support rep and answer any outstanding questions.
Share what competitors don‘t – demonstrate how you still bring unique value to Amazon‘s catalog compared to other sellers they might work with.
Wait out the suspension period if given and reapply with evidence the problems are fixed.
Consult Amazon seller legal assistance if you have extensive documentation that the suspension was unwarranted.
Start a new selling account only if completely necessary once you‘ve addressed root causes.
Find alternative sales channels so you‘re not fully dependent on Amazon if they will not reinstate your account.
With persistence and demonstrating you’ve improved your business, many sellers successfully regain access after a suspension.
Managing Customer Inquiries About Returns
As much as sellers need to please Amazon, taking care of customers is still priority #1. Use these tips to handle buyer return requests and inquiries:
Empathize with their concerns and offer return assistance – don‘t accuse buyers of fraud without evidence.
Suggest troubleshooting to identify if the problem can be easily resolved before a return.
Provide return instructions and give buyers a prepaid shipping label whenever possible – even if not required.
Send a replacement (if cost effective) before asking for a return to show your willingness to make it right.
Follow up after the return is completed to ensure the buyer is now satisfied.
Monitor reviews to identify product/listing improvements needed based on buyer feedback around returns.
Automate messaging when possible to promptly provide the return authorization and details buyers expect.
Building goodwill with customers this way actually reduces returns long-term as buyers perceive you as an accommodating seller focused on service.