Ebay Offers Money-Back Guarantee and Opens Can of Worms in Process

This morning I noticed something new on Ebay: money-back guarantees backed up by Ebay, on practically all items. On the surface this is a good thing. But I'll point out why this could ruin the business of many small business online sellers.

First, here's the take by Ebay on the question of:

"What if the seller doesn’t offer returns?"

Ebay's response:
If you receive an item that is not as described, or didn’t receive an item at all, you’re always covered by the eBay Money Back Guarantee—even if the seller doesn’t offer returns.
However, if you received an item that was as described, but you changed your mind and just don’t want it anymore, the eBay Money Back Guarantee doesn’t apply.

Again, on the surface this looks great. But re-read the final paragraph. "If you changed for mind" we won't give you your money back.

So, any enterprising Ebay buyer will now just say: "The seller didn't describe this correctly." And they get a refund. For the item. And for the original shipping. And the packing, handling, delivery to UPS or the USPS, and the administrative chores.

So the seller (and I've been one frequently in the past) who shipped heavy media items and didn't want to have the customer read the book and request a refund, now has to contend with buyers who have an out: they don't have to tell the truth that they changed their mind; they can just criticize the ways I've described old books or magazines which I sell in book lots.

"This wasn't what I thought it would be," will be the complaint. Not, "I've read it and want my money back." And, Ebay apparently will do just that.

As to why Ebay has stepped in to offer such a generous return policy, I can only speculate that Amazon has eaten their lunch, and Amazon's 'no-questions-asked' policy on product returns appears to be a policy Ebay would like to replicate so as to bolster customer satisfaction.

But why would they interfere with MY return policy?

I know many will say, "Because it's their sandbox and they make the rules."

Yet, me playing in their sandbox -- with millions of small business sellers playing in their sandbox -- is exactly who helps Ebay generate hefty fees. They earn money on listings, extra listing features, on final value fees, on PayPal fees. And, to top it off, they make money on the cost of shipping. Yes, they earn about 10% on what I charge for shipping. So now I have to hike the price of an item to cover these ever-increasing fees.

Without a level playing field for the sellers, is it time to reconsider even selling on Ebay any longer?

There is an argument for changing my policy, doing a 180-degree turn, and now offer a money-back guarantee. Offer to bow down and bend over to any buyer who is notionable and flaky and prone to abuse honest sellers.  See, I've made mistakes and overlooked defects in items I've sold. I've done this plenty of times, and I always step up to refund money if this is pointed out to me. It's only fair. But to have the All Powerful Ebay -- with their magic PayPal wand at the ready to extract funds from or freeze payments in my PayPal account -- gladly stepping in to sooth the fears of potential new buyers, maybe now is the time for existing old sellers like me to step out.

Could this affect my ability to sell book lots on Ebay?

Yes, it could.

Will it crush my online business?

No, it won't.

I'm afraid Ebay has forgotten who their real customers are -- the customers that need some service and satisfaction to remain in the game. Ebay's customers are the independent sellers. Ebay needs to rethink this policy before they lose more customers and give up more ground to Amazon.