Accuracy of Item Representation

When a customer purchases an item from an online seller, the item they receive should be exactly as it is described in the item listing. If the description states the item was made in 1960 or it is made of bronze, then it should be. If the item is damaged, then this should also be noted. Because a customer cannot hold an item in their hand and examine it carefully prior to making an online purchase, they must rely on the site owner to scrutinize important features, research it properly and report pertinent information accurately in the description.

Misrepresenting an item or failing to provide important information may ultimately result in the customer initiating a return request. Not only will the experience erode the buyers’ confidence when purchasing items from a specific online merchant but also it may result in the buyer foregoing making online purchases in the future.

Taking proactive steps to prevent an item from being returned because of a faulty description will go a long way in assuring the e-commerce experience is pleasant for both the buyer and the seller. Customers who feel they have been deliberately deceived are not happy customers, in fact, they are usually angry. Even if the omission of pertinent information is unintentional, the fault lies squarely with the seller, whom should be willing to correct the situation immediately.

What can you, as an online seller, do to help prevent buyer dissatisfaction?

Know What You’re Selling
If you are unsure of what the item is, do not suggest it ‘is’ something just because you hope it is. Using the ‘best guess’ technique is not a substitute for thorough research. If you cannot date an item accurately, then don’t. Double-check your 'facts'. Don't blindly accept what the person who sold it to you may have claimed. Check and verify. Ideally this is done at the time you make the purchase, but if not, you should certainly take this step before offering the item for sale.

Photographs and Plenty of Them
Offering good, clear photographs of an item, from different angles and illustrating special attributes, will assist the customer in making a decision to purchase, and will also help insure the customer will be satisfied with their purchase once it is received. Up close photos of unusual item features, including damaged areas can also stop a customer from attempting to make a fraudulent return. Although a rare occurrence, it does happen. Unscrupulous buyers have been known to return an item claiming it is damaged or not exactly what they wanted, but the item they are returning is not the one the online seller originally sent to them, instead the buyer substitutes a similar item they currently own, one that may look like the original but it is either damaged or is a reproduction. If the seller does not have good photo documentation online of the item they sent, then it is difficult to dispute the item returned is not the original item sent to the customer, and the seller is then out the money and the item.

It is a good idea to keep online item listings available for review, including the description and the photos, until the item is delivered to the customer and you are confident the customer is satisfied with their purchase. Likewise, if a return is requested, you should consider retaining the listing online until the item comes back to you. With the original listing photos available for reference, accurate comparisons can be made, and you can quickly determine the item is in fact the original item shipped.

Describe All Damage, No Matter How Small
Are there skips in the glaze, surface scratches, tears, any crazing, missing pieces, stains, chips or cracks? Collectors have a mantra, and it is, "Condition, condition, condition." If you think a small chip or scratch doesn't amount to much and isn't worth mentioning, there are item returns in your future. Don't just show a picture of an area of damage; mention it in the text of the description. Consider measuring it and offering those measurements. Not mentioning obvious damage can be viewed as item misrepresentation, especially if the damage is obvious.

Dimensions
It is nearly impossible to guess the actual dimensions of an item by simply viewing a photo of the item on a computer screen. To the customer, your four-inch plate may look like a ten-inch plate. Always give the item dimensions for any item listed in your online shop. If you don't, you may end up with the item being returned because size mattered to the customer.

Finally, expecting a customer to ask all questions before making a purchase rather than anticipating their questions and answering them in advance in the items description is a major contributing factor to slow sales. Expecting a customer to be happy with an item that is misrepresented, especially with regards to authenticity or condition is unrealistic. Clearly, if you have described something incorrectly the customer shouldn't be expected to pay anything for your mistake and should be offered a hassle free return option, including free shipping.

Since a return for gross misrepresentation may end up costing you money, as well as time, your best defense against the boomerang purchase is to make every effort to fully and accurately inform the customer about an item, in advance.


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