The Return Policy for Handmade Craft


I am interested to open an online shop for selling handmade craft ( something like those displayed on etsy ), but I afraid that there is a tendency for buyers to return and refund goods at will just because they are buying things online ( typical third world mentality). So I need to have a set of good refund policies, that would protect my interest and at the same time, protect the buyers.

Any pointers/ reference and thoughts on this?

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asked Jan 11 '10 at 19:27
871 points
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3 Answers


I am currently in the process of writing a return policy for my business as well. Mainly because it is a requirement to obtain my Internet merchant account.

My Research on Return Policy

Investment, Marketing Tool, & Insurance

I have determined that a lenient and simple return policy is actually an investment that can increase sales. It is also a marketing tool that builds trust with potential buyers and increases perceived value of your product or service. A business claiming to take back their product if the customer is not satisfied shows real commitment to the customer and confidence in their product. This combo inherently instills confidence in the buyer regarding their purchase decision.

On the contrary, a strict return policy could cost you dearly. An unfair or complex return policy can invite chargebacks from unsatisfied customers. Chargebacks may be more expensive than a return. Worse yet, Merchant Account Providers will typically terminate your account if chargebacks exceed 0.5% to 2% of total order volume. This would devastate any online business! You also get placed on VISA and Mastercard's TMF blacklist for 5 years. Therefore, your return process must have a lower barrier for customers than a chargeback process. A simple and fair return policy is insurance against chargebacks.

Determine Risk

The conditions of your return policy should be based on many factors, including your business model, product or service sold, and legal considerations. For example, if you sell packaged software or food items, you must be careful. Software can be copied and then sent back for full refund. Returned food can be contaminated, which cannot be resold. Both of these examples represent a total loss for every return.

On the other hand, my business sells heavy-duty welded steel target stands. Not much damage can be inflicted on our stands. So if a customer is not satisfied, no problem. I'll take our stands back no questions asked. It is not a big risk. We can then resell them for full price or slightly less than full price if they are scratched. We incur very little loss per return.

Let the Math Build the Policy

I believe your return policy should be based on a calculation. Always remember to never leave money on the table. Initially, employ a gracious return policy, including free return shipping. If the policy gets abused, tighten it up; cut off free return shipping. If it continues to get abused, be more stringent on eligible returns or charge a restocking fee. The most important thing here is the "calculated decision." You MUST measure this entire process to make sure it is not costing you or better yet, making you money.

For example, let's say you have a 2% return rate and each return costs you $24.50. The math indicates you must add $0.50 to every order somehow (increase price, add handling charge, etc.) to cover the cost of doing returns.

What is paramount is that your lax return policy will likely get you business that was previously off limits and may possibly increase sales 10% to 30% or more. Never stop testing, measuring, and calculating.

What Customers Say About Return Policies

Zappos and Nordstrom are great businesses with extremely lenient return policies. The following links are interesting customer conversations and testimonials about these two businesses' return policies:

Still Wanting More?

answered Jan 12 '10 at 20:28
695 points


A few random thoughts:

  • Returns are partly just a cost of being in this business of shipping physical product. (Not sure where local mindset comes into it?) To an extent, plan, implement, and budget for it rather than viewing it as an annoyance.
  • Considering the above, maybe turn it to your competitive advantage by offering free two-way shipping and increasing your prices to cover this? (Sounds crazy, but this worked for blogosphere darling Zappos who built a huge business selling shoes online with this policy.)
  • Produce great images and information on your website, giving people all of the information before they purchase and therefore less reason to return.
  • Have a very CLEAR return policy, e.g. explaining that the customer is responsible for return postage of the product which must be in mint condition.

Getting this right is likely to be a key variable if you are in the business of shipping physical product.

answered Jan 12 '10 at 03:06
Benjamin Wootton
1,667 points


It may depend on your products. Clothing and home furnishing can get returned because they don't fit or the color doesn't match the way the customer thought. This happens when people buy in person as well. Rugs are notorious for getting returned.

What is the risk of damage during shipping?

Benjamin mentioned quality pictures so they are getting what they thought they saw. You may need dimensions and photos with other items for scale. Mention materials used and the techniques for creation. Any chance you can give some insight to the creators? Are these independent artisans (have a profile) or a bunch of people on an assembly line?

You'll gain customer's trust by giving yours first.

answered Jun 16 '10 at 00:43
Jeff O
6,169 points

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