Amazon’s New Returns Policy Could Hurt Small Businesses
Amazon.com sellers are very concerned about a new returns policy from the retail giant that will make it easier for consumers to send back items at the merchant’s expense. According to CNBC, marketplace sellers who ship products from their home, garage or warehouse — rather than using Fulfillment by Amazon — were told that starting Oct. 2, items they sell will be "automatically authorized" for return. That means a buyer will no longer need to contact the seller before sending an item back, and the merchant won't have the opportunity to communicate with the customer. If a customer is returning an electronic device because it's difficult to use, for example, the seller won't be able to offer help before being forced to pay a refund.
"Customers will be able to print a pre-paid return shipping label via the Online Return Center instantly," the email from Amazon read. Additionally, Amazon said that it's introducing "returnless refunds," a feature that the online retailer said is "highly requested by sellers." The change enables sellers to offer a refund without taking back an item that may be expensive to ship and hard to resell.
Total Retail’s Take: Amazon has always had a customer-first approach, and the latest policy change is part of its mandate, since it will push merchants to use its fulfillment services, thereby allowing customers to have the same experience regardless of from who they buy their products. However, this change is alienating Amazon's third-party merchants, which are a key revenue driver for the company. Amazon's marketplace has already begun losing out to Wal-Mart and other platforms with more seller-friendly policies and less competition, and Amazon’s online forums for sellers have exploded in response to the move.
One angry seller writes, “In other words, customers get things from us for free! Is this a joke?” Another notes that “Amazon is going to assume that a buyer would NEVER lie about the reason for the return so they don’t have to pay for it.” Amazon responded via email: “These new features allow sellers to reduce time and costs associated with returns while providing customers with an easy and efficient return experience.” The statement also said that sellers can "receive exemptions to have specific inventory excluded" and that the returnless service is optional.