Three Basic Tips for Managing Refunds and Open Cases

Approach refund requests and cases with seriousness and flexibility

Don't treat your customers like the enemy or something to be avoided, even if they're upset with you.. Scott Griessel / Dreamstime

Requests for returns and other kinds of disputes can give sellers heartburn. Seeing one or several requests for returns—particularly of expensive items—can really put a crimp in a seller's day.

So the inclination to drag your feet a little bit in responding to such requests is understandable. But despite the discomfort, you should do your best to respond and process these requests as quickly as possible.

Here are some tips for handling cases and requests opened by buyers.

  • Don't wait to respond to open cases. The clock starts ticking the moment the buyer lets eBay know they've had an issue or would like to make a return. A buyer that requests a return, for example, is given a date by which the seller should respond, or they're able to request that eBay "step in" and help to resolve the problem. Putting off your responses as a seller might feel like a way to avoid having to face a problem or a buyer for another day, but it's all to easy to get caught up in day-to-day business and forget—and if you pass the given date without addressing the issue, eBay is likely to simply solve the problem directly with the buyer, without any input from you, often meaning that you'll be providing a full refund, no questions asked, possibly without even getting your item back in return.

  • Use the resolution system, not email or messages, to respond. If you have a disagreement with the buyer's case, supply your responses, conditions, and arguments in the actual resolution system, rather than by shooting a direct message off to the buyer and hoping for a lively debate or some sort of off-the-record agreement. Whatever you say outside of the resolution system is effectively invisible to eBay, so if you send a plethora of well-reasoned points to a buyer, but do so by direct message, eBay won't be able to take any of what you've said into account. If all of your responses are sent by direct message, they may not even realize that you've responded, and may simply rule in the buyer's favor.

  • Be willing to split the difference. Online shoppers these days expect a much higher level of customer service than was true just a few years ago, and eBay is all too aware of this fact—and of the necessity of keeping buyers happy if they're going to keep them shopping on eBay. If you're rigid in your demands and conditions, or simply refuse to refund a purchase price, you may be frustrated to find that eBay will tend to side with the buyer, all things being equal, for the reasons outlined above. One strategy that all too few sellers adopt is to split the difference—offer a partial refund, for example, or an exchange in lieu of a return, and so on. Remember that buyers are often just as stressed out about disputes as sellers, and want just as badly to put disputes to rest in ways that are acceptable to everyone. Many are relieved, not upset, to find a seller working just as hard as they are to arrive at and equitable solution—and will often take sellers up on these kinds of offers.

    Whatever you do in each case, strenuously avoid the "this transaction is done and I'm not revisiting it" mentality. Ignoring basic customer service in that way is a surefire path to offering full many refunds without having any input into the process, and to an increasing defect rate and declining feedback score and ratings—none of which are going to do anything positive for your selling business, or your heartburn.

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