As an Amazon seller, one of your top concerns is likely – does Amazon actually check the returns they receive? You want to ensure returns are thoroughly inspected before refunds are issued, to prevent fraud and abuse.
The good news is that Amazon does check returns, although how rigorously depends on the item category, value, and condition. Read on for a detailed seller‘s perspective on Amazon‘s return practices in 2023.
How Closely Does Amazon Inspect Returns From Sellers?
Amazon has return processing centers in Kentucky and Nevada that inspect items sent back by customers. Employees verify serial numbers, check for damage, and test functionality on more expensive returns like laptops.
However, interviews with Amazon warehouse workers reveal not all returns get checked thoroughly. In a 2021 CNBC article, employees reported only high-dollar items like game consoles and TVs get inspected closely. Cheaper returns fly through more quickly.
That said, Amazon loses an estimated $1 billion a year to return fraud, so they have recently stepped up efforts across the board. Scannable product labels help identify serial returners, and stricter bans have been enacted. This should mean more diligent inspection, even for inexpensive returns.
As a seller though, you can‘t rely on Amazon catching every instance of return abuse. Take steps on your end to minimize fraud, such as:
- Carefully vet buyers with a history of returns
- Report suspicious return requests to Amazon
- Consider not selling high fraud-risk items
You can also check returned orders and appealrefunds if inspection was clearly inadequate. While Amazon could do better, things are improving.
What Is the Process Like for Checking Amazon Returns?
When an Amazon return arrives at a processing center, it goes through the following basic steps:
Label Scanned – The scannable label is checked to pull up order details and flag suspicious returns.
Serial Number Verified – Expensive items have their serial numbers checked against the original order.
Condition Inspected – Used/open box items are inspected for damage and tested if electrical.
Categorized – Returns are sorted as sellable, salvageable, donate, or trash.
Refund Issued – Once processed, the refund is automatically issued to the buyer.
Dedicated departments at the centers deal with specialty items like jewelry, luggage, and hazmat products requiring extra inspection.
But what about checking returns versus just inspecting? Here are examples of how Amazon thoroughly validates return eligibility:
Electronics – Powers on, functions tested, looks for physical/liquid damage
Toys – Checked for missing pieces and playability
CDs/DVDs – Discs scanned in computer to verify files
Books – Flipped through to check for writing/highlighting
Clothing – Inspected for stains, tags, signs of wear
So for more expensive/sensitive items, Amazon does go beyond a basic inspection to ensure returns meet policy criteria. This benefits sellers by preventing invalid refunds.
What Does Return Checking Cost Amazon?
As you can imagine, thoroughly checking returns requires significant time, labor, and equipment. Some estimates on what return processing costs Amazon:
$200-300 to process each large item like a porch grill
$10-15 to handle and inspect smaller returns
$5 million annually just on return center wages
$200 million invested in return processing equipment
When items require cleaning, refurbishing, or repackaging to be resold, those costs are added on too.
No wonder Amazon is constantly working to optimize their returns process – it‘s a huge expense! But necessary to keep customers happy while minimizing seller abuse.
How Can Amazon‘s Return Checking Benefit Sellers?
As a seller, Amazon thoroughly checking returns provides you with several key benefits:
Reduces invalid refunds – Stops returns abuse and fraud in its tracks.
Increases usable inventory – Items can be resold instead of trashed.
Provides data insights – Return reasons help inform production.
Improves customer service – Issues identified prevent repeat returns.
Catches counterfeits – Fake items detected are kept out of circulation.
Limits restocking fees – Verified damaged/used condition means fewer unfair fees.
Builds trust – Sellers can be confident Amazon has their back on returns.
So while return checking costs Amazon a lot, it ultimately protects sellers against many losses. The more thorough their inspection, the better for your bottom line.
What Steps Can Sellers Take Related to Amazon Return Checking?
To further protect your business from fraudulent or careless returns, here are some best practices to follow:
Closely review each returned order for anything suspicious – appeal refunds if the return seems invalid.
Compare serial numbers on returned items to your records. Report any mismatches.
If selling replenishable inventory, register UPC codes with Amazon Brand Registry. This allows checking against your product catalog.
Contact buyers for photos/video of damaged items to back up return claims before refunding.
Appeal refunds issued for buyers who exceeded the return limit if Amazon missed it.
If appealing a refund denial, provide as much evidence as possible such as invoices, testing records, etc.
Submit test buy returns yourself periodically to check Amazon‘s inspection process.
The more familiar you become with Amazon‘s returns system, the better you can work with it as a seller.
Amazon has an extensive, costly return processing operation to try detecting fraudulent/invalid returns while also maximizing resale value. The scope of checking varies based on product type, value, and condition.
Sellers benefit when Amazon thoroughly validates returns, but should still take their own precautions against abuse. As Amazon faces growing losses from returns, their inspection processes will likely continue improving.
But now you know exactly what happens behind the scenes. I hope this inside look eases your concerns about whether Amazon checks returns. Let me know if you have any other seller-related questions!