A comprehensive guide to Amazon’s return policy

Making unhappy customers happy again
Seth Kniep
Dec 29, 2017
Grow your Amazon store
Mindset is a large part of success. Having the right mentality will get you a long way toward achieving your goals. But you also need the tactical steps to turn your hard work into cash for you and those you love.

Dealing with customer returns on Amazon is about 90% mindset. You have to remember that it’s not about the money; it’s about satisfying your customer. You can’t let your ego control you, even if you know the customer’s return is based on nonsense complaints. Winning one battle isn’t worth losing the war – and losing customers.

Now, outside of mindset, dealing with customer returns means understanding Amazon’s return policy. Let me take you through it piece-by-piece.

What can a customer return?

When a customer first requests a return, they’ll select the reason for their return from a drop-down menu. The reasons include: bought by mistake, better price available, product damaged, item arrived too late, missing parts or accessories, product and shipping box both damaged, wrong item sent, item defective or doesn’t work, received extra item, no longer needed, didn’t approve purchase, and inaccurate website description.

If the customer ordered a product from Amazon FBA, Amazon will almost always accept the return, unless it’s a specific non-returnable item (live insects, wine, personal hygiene, abominable snowman, etc.). If the product was damaged, they might ask for photos so they can reimburse the customer, rather than accepting a return on a damaged item.

If you’re not using FBA, and you’re selling FBM, you should still accept almost all returns. When it comes to your account, customer satisfaction should be your top priority. An unhealthy account will make it more difficult for you to start selling and ranking in new categories, and the biggest cause of an unhealthy account is handling returns unprofessionally.

Don’t take returns personally, and don’t be sloppy with them. Either check your Seller Central account twice a day, or get JOD Toolbox to automate all the boring, redundant tasks so you can focus on growing your business. Never let a return request go over 24 hours. If a customer is already upset, they won’t be too happy about waiting more than a day for a response. By checking twice a day, you’ll have no trouble staying on top of your account.

How many days should my return policy cover?

If you’re selling through FBA, the return policy is 30 days (with a few exceptions) but if you’re selling FBM, you can set your own policy. In Seller Central, go to “Settings,” then “Return Settings.”

There are a few things to keep in mind when deciding on your return window. For FBA returns, Amazon’s policy can sometimes change, especially during the holiday season, which is heavy on both sales and returns. Consider Amazon’s changing policies when setting your own.

In your return settings, you’ll also see an override option. This option will allow you to change the return window based on each individual SKU. So, you could have a generic 30-day return policy, but a 10-day policy for specific items. To set this up, all you have to do is click on “Download template,” fill out the spreadsheet, and upload it.

Other FBM Return Settings

There are a few other options to choose from in return settings, outside of setting your return window.

If you select “Email format,” you’ll get an email every time a customer submits a return request. Without this option selected, you won’t get an email, but you’ll still receive a message in Seller Central.

You can also select whether Amazon can automatically authorize return requests for you. If you want to accept or reject each request manually, just click, “I want to authorize each request.” If you want Amazon to handle the requests that fall within their policy, click “I want Amazon to automatically authorize all requests that meet Amazon policy.” You can also have Amazon automatically authorize all requests, regardless of policy, but that option leaves you vulnerable to sketchy customers and negative feedback.

Return Merchandise Authorization (RMA) number settings let you select who provides the RMA number – you or Amazon. Having Amazon do this automatically saves you time.

Another setting you can manage is whether to provide a pre-paid return label. I recommend paying for the return shipping, because your goal is to keep your customer satisfied. Saving $4 on shipping isn’t worth an unhappy customer.

Responding to Return Requests

In your return settings, you’ll also see a box for your return instructions, which will be the contents of the email automatically sent to a customer when you authorize a return. Keep the email simple, polite, and professional. Remember: customer satisfaction is your first priority.

What do you do if a customer requests a return for an item they bought FBA? Nothing. Amazon takes care of it for you. It’s awesome!

Now, what if someone requests a return for an item you shipped out FBM? The answer is simple: be kind; don’t get angry; don’t assume the customer is being dishonest or unfair. It’s okay to lose the battle, as long as you win the war – and the war is having happy, satisfied customers.

There are three ways I typically respond to return requests:

1. If the item was a dud or malfunctioning, there’s no point in dealing with the hassle of having the customer send the item back. That’s time wasted that could be better spent. So, I ship the customer a new item, and that usually makes them very happy and increases your chances of good feedback or a good review.

2. If the customer is returning the product because they don’t like it, but there’s nothing wrong with it, have them return it. There’s no point in sending the customer a new one. They don’t like the product! If they didn’t want one, they won’t want another. Pay for the shipping and reimburse the customer 100% once you confirm the product has returned in the same condition it was when you first shipped it.

3. If the customer is returning the product for any other reason, I’ll accept the return 99% of the time. I want to keep my customers satisfied and keep my account healthy.

What happens after I accept a return?

If you need to give your customer a refund, just follow a few simple steps. Hover over “Orders” in Seller Central, then click “Manage Orders,” then “Advanced Search.” 

Paste in the customer’s order number, and once the order is pulled up, click “Refund Order” on the right-hand side. 

You’ll see two options: partial refund and full refund. You’ll also need to select the reason for the refund.

If you want to pay for any shipping the customer already paid, you can enter that under “Return shipping concession.” Finally, you have the option to add a memo to the buyer before submitting the refund.

One question I get a lot is, “Will Amazon refund me if a customer returns an item?”

If Amazon determines the returned item is still sellable, they’ll refund the customer, and the item will go back to your sellable inventory. You’ll lose the money, but you’ll keep the product.

If the returned item is damaged, the customer will still be refunded, but Amazon will put the item into an “unfulfillable inventory” category. You’ll have to submit a removal order to get the item sent back to you. Once you have the item back, you can check for damage. In some cases, the customer will claim the item was sent damaged, so they don’t have to pay return shipping costs, even if the item is completely fine. If you want, you can take pictures to prove the lack of damage and request reimbursement from Amazon – but, in my opinion, it’s not worth the time it takes.

Amazon will reimburse you if you don’t get the returned item back. Amazon will also reimburse you if they don’t require the customer to return the item, but they still issue a refund (for example: health, beauty, hygiene items, and abominable snowmen). When this happens, it takes 45 days to get your reimbursement from Amazon, starting from the day Amazon refunded the customer.

What happens if a customer requests a return on an item Amazon doesn’t allow to be returned? In very rare cases, Amazon will request pictures to verify whether the item was damaged and will then reimburse the customer – but in most cases, the request is denied.

Remember: customer satisfaction is the most important thing. When you give service and value to your customers, your wealth will grow. Don’t waste time and energy arguing with a customer over a $5 return. Remember what matters and keep your customers happy and your account healthy.


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Seth Kniep

Married a pearl. Fathered 4 miracles. Fired his boss. Turned a single dime into $104,857. Today, a self-made millionaire, Seth and his team of 8 badass coaches teach entrepreneurs how to build passive income on Amazon.

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