Returning items on Amazon can seem daunting, but as an experienced Amazon seller and account manager, I‘m here to tell you that the process doesn‘t have to be difficult or complicated. In this detailed guide, I‘ll walk through the ins and outs of returning Amazon purchases step-by-step to help you complete the process smoothly.
Why Returns Happen
As an online seller, returns are simply inevitable – according to data from the National Retail Federation, around 10-20% of online orders end up being returned, compared to only 8% of in-store purchases.
There are many reasons why buyers may need to return an item:
- It arrived damaged or defective (around 15% of returns)
- The item didn‘t match the listing description or their expectations (35%)
- It didn‘t fit properly and they need a different size (20%)
- They realized after receiving it that they no longer need or want it (30%)
As you can see, returns don‘t necessarily mean there is anything wrong with your product – sometimes buyers simply change their mind. The key as a seller is accepting this reality while still providing excellent service.
Amazon‘s Return Policies
Amazon aims to make returns as easy as possible for buyers. Their standard policies include:
- 30 day return window – Most new, unused items are eligible for return up to 30 days after delivery.
- Free return shipping – Amazon provides pre-paid labels so returns are free for buyers. Sellers can enable Amazon‘s "Free Returns" option to include return shipping costs in the item price.
- Refunds – Once the returned item is received by Amazon, they will process a refund to the original payment method. This is usually completed within 3-5 business days.
- Replacements – Buyers can request a replacement item instead of a refund if the return is due to defects or damage.
- Restocking fees – Amazon does not charge restocking fees themselves. However, third-party sellers can elect to charge up to a 15% restocking fee on opened or used items.
This return-friendly policy makes customers feel confident shopping on Amazon. Later, I‘ll go over best practices for sellers to make returns smooth. But first, let‘s look at exactly how a buyer initiates a return.
Step-by-Step: How To Return an Item on Amazon
Returning items on Amazon as a buyer is simple. Just follow these steps:
1. Log into Your Amazon Account
- Go to Amazon.com and log into your account.
- Click on "Returns & Orders" located at the top of the screen.
2. Locate the Item You Want To Return
- Under "Manage Orders" you will see a list of your recent orders.
- Find the item you want to return and click "Return or Replace Items".
3. Select a Return Reason
- Choose the reason for the return from the drop-down menu:
- No longer needed
- Bought by mistake
- Better price available
- Incorrect item received
- Item defective or damaged
- Item does not match description
- Quality not as expected
4. Print the Prepaid Return Shipping Label
- Amazon will generate a return label you can print at home.
- Alternatively, select an Amazon Locker return location and you will receive a QR code on your phone.
5. Pack and Seal the Item
- For mail returns, pack the item with original packaging if possible, or use a sturdy box.
- Seal the package securely with the return label attached.
6. Drop Off the Package
- For mail returns, drop off the package at any UPS location or post office.
- For Amazon Locker returns, go to the Locker location and scan the QR code.
And that‘s it! Amazon will process your return once received and issue a refund. You can track status under Your Orders.
Return Options for Buyers
In addition to the standard mail method, Amazon offers several convenient ways for buyers to return items:
- Amazon Lockers – These self-service kiosks located in malls, grocery stores, etc. allow no-box/no-label returns. Simply bring the unpackaged item and scan the QR code. There are over 900 Locker locations in major US cities.
- UPS Stores – Many independently owned UPS Store locations now accept Amazon returns. Workers will print a shipping label onsite so no prep is required. There are over 4,600 participating locations.
- Kohl‘s – All Kohl‘s stores now accept Amazon returns with no packaging or labels needed. over 1,150 locations participate currently.
- Whole Foods – Select Whole Foods grocery stores have staffed customer service desks for Amazon returns. No packaging/labels required.
- Amazon Books -Amazon‘s physical bookstores accept returns on any items purchased on Amazon.com. There are 24 stores across the US.
- Amazon 4-star – These general merchandise stores operated by Amazon allow customers to return thousands of eligible items. There are currently over 30 locations.
- Scheduled Pickup – Through Amazon‘s Flexible Return program, buyers can schedule a free at-home pickup of return items so they don‘t have to leave the house.
How To Return Amazon Purchases from Third-Party Sellers
The process for returning third-party seller items is nearly the same, with a few small differences:
- Return shipping costs may not be prepaid – check the return policy listed on the item page. If return shipping is not prepaid, you will need to cover costs.
- The refund timing depends on the seller‘s policies. It typically takes longer than Amazon fulfillment.
- If the seller arranged shipping, you will need to return through their specified carrier, not Amazon.
- Restocking fees may apply for opened/used items if the seller charges them. Amazon does not.
- If you receive the wrong item, you‘ll need to work with the seller directly to arrange an exchange.
Despite these nuances, buyers can still initiate returns for third-party purchases through their Amazon account. And as a seller, accepting returns promptly is vital for keeping customers satisfied and your performance metrics healthy.
Should You Offer Free Returns?
As a seller, you can determine your own return policies – but providing free returns like Amazon is proven to increase sales. Here are some pros and cons to consider:
Pros of Free Returns
- Increased conversion rates and sales – buyers are more confident purchasing.
- Improved customer loyalty – buyers prefer shopping with sellers that remove perceived risk.
- Fewer inquiries about return costs – customers don‘t have to wonder.
- Your listings appear higher in search results and are tagged as "free returns".
Cons of Free Returns
- Reduced profit margins – return shipping and processing costs come out of your pocket.
- Potential for abuse if policies are too lenient.
- No opportunity to recoup costs through restocking fees.
On Amazon, customers expect free returns as standard. So unless you sell extremely high-priced items, free returns help boost sales and prevent return questions down the road.
Best Practices for Managing Amazon Returns
While returns are inevitable in ecommerce, as a seller you can take steps to make the process smooth for buyers:
- Accept return requests promptly – Approve all valid requests within 1-2 business days in Seller Central to prevent issues.
- Issue refunds quickly – Process refunds as soon as you receive the returned item to avoid negative "late refund" feedback.
- Use FBA – With Fulfillment by Amazon, Amazon handles receiving and inspecting returns for you making it much easier.
- Offer replacements – For defective/damaged items, give the option to receive a replacement immediately instead of refunds.
- Proactively contact buyers – If you receive an inquiry, reach out politely asking how you can resolve the issue through exchange, partial refund, etc.
- Analyze data – Look for return trends and ways to improve product quality, shipping protection, listing accuracy and other areas.
- Reply to feedback – If you receive negative feedback related to returns, politely reply explaining how you aim to improve.
Taking these steps helps minimize returns over the long-term while also enhancing the customer experience.
Mistakes to Avoid with Amazon Returns
While Amazon makes returns convenient, buyers should still be careful to avoid these common mistakes:
- Forgetting to include all original accessories, parts, manuals etc. This can result in refund denials since items must be returned complete. Double check everything is inside.
- Missing the 30-day return deadline. Regular items must be shipped back within 30 days in most cases or you lose eligibility.
- Returning the wrong item by mistake – confirm you have the correct order number and item ID before shipping.
- Using a regular shipping label instead of the specific Amazon-provided return label. Returns must use Amazon‘s prepaid labels.
- Failing to pack the item carefully and securely with enough padding. You want to prevent any damage during return transit.
- Dropping the package off at the wrong location like a regular Post Office instead of an Amazon designated return point.
Following Amazon‘s return instructions precisely is crucial to ensure your refund is processed promptly and correctly.
Can You Cancel an Amazon Return?
Made a return by mistake? Changed your mind after requesting a return? No problem – Amazon allows buyers to cancel a return:
- Go to Manage Returns and locate the pending return.
- Click on Cancel this return and confirm in the pop-up box.
- If an at-home pickup was already scheduled, contact the shipping carrier to intercept the package.
- The return will be cancelled and item shipped back to you.
Canceling quickly is best if the return shipment hasn‘t left yet to prevent transit back and forth.
The Bottom Line
Returning items on Amazon doesn‘t have to be complicated or stressful. As long as you carefully follow the proper steps, print the correct shipping labels, and drop off at designated locations, you can complete the process smoothly.
As a seller, accepting returns professionally and resolving issues promptly improves customer loyalty. And offering hassle-free returns with free shipping labels and a generous policy helps attract more buyers.
Using the guidance in this guide, you can handle Amazon returns like a pro! Let me know if you have any other questions.