Over the last few months I have seen a few posts within various reselling groups about dealing with returns and potential scams and how best to navigate these often unique situations.
I’ll admit in the early days when I was first getting started hitting my first return was a little stressful. Initially I didn’t even offer returns as an option. Fast forward a year and I’m happy to say I get very few, I make it a point to try and take quality photos and add quality descriptions to every listing.
As I have written about before I can quickly and easily do this with my Auto Hot Key hotstrings. You can read more about that here.
Even so with all my extra details I still have had a couple of curly ones including a buyer who claimed I had sent him a fake book and who threatened to cross the Nullarbor to bash me. This particular case I defended with honour (as the book was not fake) and the result was a small financial loss on the postage but in my own opinion a colossal waste of time. You can read about that saga buyers book remorse here.
Then there was the time I found an RM Williams Jacket at a Salvos and later sold it for over $100 plus postage. I remember receiving the offer on a Saturday morning and it was a great start to the weekend. Later however I received a negative feedback just before the 30 day return window and had that successfully removed. Cold hard logic and again correctly describing the item helped. This was actually easier to deal with than the fake book as I didn’t have to deal with the buyer. You can read about how I got that negative feedback removed here.
So with a little context given I now provide my own view which will likely be polarising and even piss a few people off but stick with me, you might have an epiphany or at least something to mull over when future requests arrive.
I’ll use an example of my own.
I had a Sims game I sold for about $10 I think it was, it specifically stated in the listing title PC only (as the original game would have had the MAC code also). When I initially picked this up sourcing I had missed that the MAC code was gone so sold it as just the PC version (after all it could still be used).
Anyway I received an offer, took it and sent it. Some time later the dreaded return request appeared on my eBay app after I had arrived home from work with the usual accompanying stupid message.
I’m pretty sure the buyer thought it had the Mac code… It’s funny how often the stupid returns correlate with lower value item sales…
Now what would you do here? Here’s what I did:
I took less than a minute to be done with it. I instantly refunded, wrote this item off as a loss and got on with my evening spending time with my family. No further thoughts required.
Total loss? $4.5 most of which is still tax deductible including the cost of the item, fees and shipping.
Total time spent: The 1 minute to deal with the issue.
Is Your Ego Owning You?
It seems many people would rather give up their time (which is a finite resource) to fight with a buyer often for a measly few dollars.
But it’s the principle of it many say! Oh the calamity!
I was wronged and I must wage war at great personal cost just to win, just to prove a point, just to say ha, I told you so, I was right.
If you need to be right your Ego is owning you at the cost of your very own time.
This is madness. This isn’t life or death or some other cause even remotely worthy of martyrdom.
Are you really that selfless you fight to protect others from scams or bad buyers?
Perhaps motivation stems from a fear of loss (financial)
But consider again is it: I AM RIGHT!
Check your ego.
If you could win every time you would be trading stocks surely. Even the best stock traders on the planet lose regularly, it’s part of the process.
There’s even scams and shams in this world too, penny stock pump and dumps, insider trading, bot trading, shell companies. All part of the game. Navigating this world is extremely convoluted and infinitely more complicated that a reselling return request.
Losses by successful traders are indeed planned for with effective risk and money management and the same principle can be applied to reselling as a business.
Returns and dodgy buyers part of the cost of doing business, incorporate it into your modelling, you can write the loss off.
Choose which battles to fight. Don’t waste your time fighting for trivial amounts. Your time comparatively is almost always better spent on a resource generating activity vs debt recovery. With reference to my own example, not that I actually thought about like this (as I knew it would be a waste of time) there needs to be a calculation of its worth spending time on to go through the whole returns process including the inspection and relisting.
Assuming I can make on average a conservative $50 per hour (approx 83c per minute) from my reselling activities by actually listing current inventory on hand, how much time can I allocate to this return before it becomes ROI negative?
At $10 sold I am already in for $4.5 including shipping and fees (which doesn’t factor in time listing either). I have $5.50 profit to play with leaving approximately 9 minutes to deal with this before it becomes counter productive Vs listing other items on hand.
When thought about in this manner the decision is easy and the emotion / ego can be removed.
Obviously a higher value item allows more time to deal with an issue without becoming a negative return. However, consider that the resolution time value is always an unknown variable also. As an example my own experience with the fake book buyer, I spent time :
- Replying to this buyers messages on several occasions, including having to deal with physical threats.
- Multiple chat queries with eBay representatives for direction / confirmations / and protecting my account.
- The return when it finally arrived to visually record the opening of the item (Scam Protection).
I probably spent more than 3 hours in actual time with fighting this, the equivalent of a loss of $150 against a $50 sale.
Some of you reading may be thinking but somebody’s got to fight the good fight, keep people honest, after all these same buyers will continue do do this to sellers right?
That’s exactly what I chose to do in the fake book scenario but my motivation stemmed from protecting my account against the claim I had sold a fake item. Would I do that again in the same situation?
Hell No. I should have just refunded and moved on. I would have still had to contact eBay to protect my account but I would have saved a huge amount of time and angst.
I arrive at this conclusion because there’s another element which is not talked about at all, it’s a concept extremely difficult to quantify and value eroding.
Mental Bandwidth The Ghost In The Return
There’s measurable time itself spent dealing with a return as per the example above, replying to multiple messages, consulting with eBay, waiting for eBay, physically checking returns, relisting, etc…
However a truly sinister villain exists hidden within the mental bandwidth chewed up by thinking about the return itself.
Mentally sifting through a myriad of different scenarios, possibilities, outcomes all to determine the best course of action. The problem is in my opinion there are often too many variables to consider involving the buyer and eBay and while the brain is engaged with the management of the return it is not being used for other productive endeavours such as creation of value.
The lying awake in bed thinking about it, how is the best way to reply to this message whilst still remaining professional should eBay read these messages (which they will). What happens if old mate did try something physical, he had my return address after all (whereby I soon transitioned to a PO Box), was my family potentially in danger? Probably not but thoughts were required to assess this and potential responses.
This hidden cost also has a value but again hard to accurately quantify. With the fake book example I know I spent a lot of time thinking about all of the above.
I estimate that there would have been likely another 3 hours of thoughts processed during this saga at varying times that spanned multiple days. There’s another $150 loss vs listing. That’s a $300 theoretical loss so far.
Lastly, all of this mental bandwidth is processed with a negative overtone which of course bleeds into the rest of the day(s) like an infectious disease subconsciously impacting the day to day life of you and the people around you.