How Common are Scammers on eBay?

My Experience with Scammers

Before I started selling on eBay I heard horror stories about people being scammed out of their items and losing money. The story that I heard usually went like this: the seller would ship the item after the purchase, the tracking number would say the item arrived to the buyer, but the buyer would contact eBay and claim they never received the item. 95% eBay sides with the buyer (as do all selling platforms) so the seller would be forced to refund the buyer and in doing so the seller would lose their profit as well as their item.

When I first started selling on eBay I was scared of this happening to me. I heard that new sellers are even more vulnerable to scammers, so I was hyper-aware and researched this topic for hours.

Over the last year I’ve sold 1200 things. So how many times have I been scammed this year? Only once. Although I don’t have cold hard evidence that the buyer was a scammer I have my reasons to think so. The buyer bought an old school Bing and Olufsen record player turntable from me that my father had given me to sell. It for around $150 plus shipping. Before the purchase the buyer had asked me about the needle and asked if I would sell just the needle without the rest of the turntable.I replied that I wasn’t going to separate the needle, so the guy bought the whole turntable.

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My exact number of sales this year

A few days after I shipped it the guy messaged me saying the turntable had arrived to him broken and that the needle was missing. I was skeptical, but had to accept the return. Once it got back to me I looked it over and saw that the cracks in the plastic of the turntable perfectly resembled two human hands that had snapped it in half. The needle was indeed missing. I think the buyer kept the needle and then broke the turntable so I would have to accept the return and refund him. It really sucked to go from a $150 profit to having to refund the buyer and ending with a net loss of $25 because of the return shipping.

How to Handle Returns

Returns suck, but they’re part of life as a reseller. I sell almost exclusively used clothing which is the product with the highest returns. I bet you’ve returned a piece of clothing to a retail store in the past year. And you probably tried this piece of clothing on in the store. Now imagine buying the piece of clothing online where you can’t try it on and only see it when it comes in the mail! In this article from CNBC it’s said:

The holiday shopping season is often a peak for retailers’ sales. But the flipside to that boom is it leads to peak returns season — costing retailers billions to handle unwanted, used or damaged goods each year.

The surge in digital shopping is only compounding the pain, as record online sales means record online returns. It’s not uncommon to see return rates of 30 percent or more for merchandise that’s bought online. Clothing returns can be closer to 40 percent.

Granted this article was written in December of 2016, so it’s a bit dated, but I can’t imagine that the return rate of online goods has dropped in the past two years.

If I received 40% returns my business would fail, I wouldn’t have an income, and I would have to move back in with my parents.

So what’s my return rate.. Out of the 1400 or so items I’ve sold how many have been returned back to me?

My return rate is 2.42% which is even less than 1/10 of the 40% the article talks about!

I was surprised when I saw how low my return rate is. And over 1,000 of these sales were used clothing which usually has the highest returns!

I hear a lot of people claim they don’t sell on eBay because of the scammers and returns. As a full-time eBay seller I’ve learned that these concerns are usually just excuses to not take action.

But returns, however infrequent they may be, are a reality in e-commerce. So how should we handle them? The one word answer is respectfully. If we refuse to accept the customer’s return then they will most likely contact eBay and we’ll be forced to accept the return since the buyer is always right. You can save yourself a ton of time and headaches by always being respectful and courteous when dealing with customers and returns.

Here’s a best case scenario of a return that actually happened to me a couple of hours ago (which inspired me to write this post):

The buyer bought this from me:

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I sent him this by accident:

An honest mistake as this sweatshirt looks almost identical to the jersey 

When the buyer first messaged me I thought they were crazy since I was convinced the buyer got the right item. He had to point out to me that he had bought a Bruins jersey, but I sent him a Bruins sweatshirt. Here’s the message I sent to him after he told me that:

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My exact message

And here’s what he replied:

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Not only is the customer keeping the sweatshirt that I accidentally sent him (and I’m keeping the profits) but also he wants to buy the original jersey! Talk about a 180 degree turn from my initial expectations!

90% of the time the reason for a return is my fault. Either the buyer finds a stain that I overlooked, or there’s a rip I didn’t notice or I labeled the piece of clothing men’s when it was really a women’s piece.

If you’re respectful and understanding to the buyer then they will be respectful and understanding toward you. And even if the buyer is a jerk you never have to talk to them again once you refund them.

How I Avoid Returns

Avoiding returns is simple. Carefully inspecting, testing (for electronics) and measuring (for clothing) your items is really all you need to do to avoid most returns. Also taking quality pictures, and pointing out any flaws in your description is important.

Trying to hide flaws or defects is a waste of time since the buyer will notice them once they get the item in the mail. And defects or flaws doesn’t mean your item won’t sell! It may affect the selling price, but I’ve sold shirts with huge stains, ties with small holes, electronics that didn’t work, and video games that were untested- I’ve just been careful to include the flaws in my pictures and point out all of these things in my description.

Avoiding returns by carefully testing electronics, measuring clothing, and inspecting items may take a little extra time, but it pays for itself 10 fold by not having to spend time dealing with returns that could have been avoided.

Action Steps

I hope you learned something from this post.

Drop a comment telling your experience with scammers online. Have you ever been scammed on eBay, Craigslist, Amazon or another platform? Also tell how you handle the inevitable returns!

Carefully take pictures, inspect your items, measure things when needed, and be overly kind in your messages with customers. Follow these simple steps and watch your return rates drop through the floor. Until next time.



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