“The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
― George Bernard Shaw
I believe online shopping should be a pleasant, friendly and fun experience. I consider myself to be a “lenient” shop owner, allowing my customers just a little extra time to pay, sending out the item the day the check arrives instead of after it clears (so far I haven’t been burned), and allowing returns with no re-stocking fee. I believe in answering customer questions, offers and purchase orders quickly and purchased a smart phone just for that purpose. I like my communication to be warm, friendly and personal. I provide lots of information about our shop and our policies on each listing and in each package so that customers hopefully have their questions answered before they even ask which is why a recent transaction took me by surprise and made me re-think my communication regarding returns.
Ruby Lane has a site wide customer friendly return policy that is one of the advantages of shopping on Ruby Lane. The policy is as easy as the number 3: If you aren’t pleased with your purchase, contact the shop owner within 3 days of delivery; the shop owner is required to respond within 3 days and then you have 3 days to mail the item back. The shop owner has 3 days to refund the purchase price once the item is received. I have only had a few returns in 5 years on Ruby Lane and if asked, I would say that I would not be a stickler for the 3 day rule, and Ruby Lane allows that.
Three weeks after a recent a transaction, long after the delivery confirmation, after the item had been removed from the shop, after the funds had been transferred from my Amazon account, I got an email from a customer—a one line email that she had shipped an item back to me that day. There was no description of the item, no explanation, no request to return the item, no pleasantries exchanged. Well enquiring minds want to know, and after searching through my completed transactions and emailing back it took a few days to get a reply that told me that there was no problem at all she had just decided she didn’t want it. She made no response to my reference to the 3 day notification other than to say she had already mailed the item.
So if I may, let me interject a few suggestions. If you are a buyer, know the return policies before you purchase an item. If you do wish to return an item, notify the shop owner immediately. Your email should include your full name (all I had was an email address), a description of the item, the date you purchased the item and the reason you wish to return the item. You should not return the item until you hear back from the shop-owner with instructions. Cowboy Rick and I often travel in our RV on buying trips for months at a time and may want a return shipped to a different address than the one on our label.
Always, and especially if you are outside of the normal policy boundaries, your email should be courteous and friendly. And sellers, as frustrating as returns may seem, your emails should also be professional and courteous. Be sure to give clear instructions and explain any restocking fees so the customer can make an informed decision about their return. Ruby Lane customer service leaves it up to the individual shop owner whether they choose to be more lenient than the site wide policy, but they have no control over what payment sites do in response to customers. Keeping communication friendly goes a long way in avoiding customer complaints and charge back claims.
A few days later a large envelope arrived with a jewelry item wrapped in a piece of newspaper. We ship in gift boxes, well packaged in tissue, shipped in bubble envelopes. With fear and trepidation I unrolled the paper to find an item that I had never had listed in my shop! Another email to the customer and a short reply back explained that she must have gotten confused identifying to which Ruby Lane shop this item belonged—now I was really confused! Was my item even being returned? I offered to forward the item to the correct shop owner, which I did. Another email and yes, she said my item was still going to be coming back to me–now 4 weeks since purchase.
Once the shop owner has approved your return you should return the item in the same packaging it was received, by the same carrier (unless otherwise directed). For your own security you should use delivery confirmation and insurance. The seller will usually refund only your purchase price. Shipping the item to you was already accomplished and the seller had to pay that amount—that is a part of the purchase that you used even if you return the item. The shipping cost back to the seller is also your responsibility. Some sellers also charge a re-stocking fee. This is posted in the shop information and varies by shop.
Whatever your policy, seller, give the refund promptly. Be sure to send an email to the customer, separate from the refund transaction, explaining the refund in detail including any deductions you have taken. Please note that none of these suggestions apply to items damaged in shipping—that is an entirely separate subject with different instructions.
This transaction has caused me to make some changes. Our 100% Satisfaction Guarantee both–on our listings and in the packages—now states that you must contact us within 3 days of receipt just to make our expectations clear. I have added return instructions to our shop information. Most customers follow up when they receive their items, but from now on when I don’t hear from them, I will be checking in once I see that the item has been delivered and before it is removed from the shop. So much of this bewildering circumstance could have been avoided with good communication—it’s something I will continue to pursue and I encourage all buyers and sellers to do the same. But I may not be as lenient.
Cindy Brown of Cinsababe’s on Ruby Lane