Wild threats, manic changes of mind, outright lies and childish acts of spite. It’s just another day at the office for online sellers.
If you ask a marketplace seller what infuriates them, a few things might come up. For example, trying to contact Amazon’s internal teams, anti-competitive behavior from their rivals, or making sure they comply with the ever-changing rules. But none of these can touch the level of annoyance, frustration and anger caused by bad buyers.
The majority of buyers are genuine. They order from you, pay promptly, and receive their goods with no fuss. But when bad buyers come along, they leave a trail of stress in their wake. Whether they’ve threatened you with negative feedback, made a false “item not as described” claim or cancelled their order after you’ve shipped it, the end results are usually the same – time, money and stock going to waste.
Thank you to Web Retailer members for your frank and insightful blog comments and forum posts.
1. Threatening to leave negative feedback
Leaving negative feedback for sellers can have a big impact. On Amazon, not only does negative feedback dissuade customers from buying your products, it can also affect your chances of winning the Buy Box, as feedback plays a part in the algorithm. On eBay, buyers are used to checking feedback, and negative comments stick out like a sore thumb.
Unfortunately, buyers know this and use it to their advantage. They start threatening sellers with bad feedback if their demands aren’t met – essentially holding sellers to ransom. They’ll try and get a discount, or free shipping, or make the seller accept returns outside of their usual policy.
One overseas buyer… brazenly demanded free shipping by FedEx Priority and threatened negative feedback if the complete shipping and handling was not refunded within an hour – all this was via eBay member-to-member communication. — Online etailer
A further source of exasperation is when buyers take their grievances straight to the feedback page, and don’t communicate with the seller at all. It’s a familiar scenario for sellers, when they think everything has run smoothly, and then “Blam!”, negative feedback appears out of the blue.
Very often it’s a trivial issue that could have been dealt with quickly, had the buyer messaged the seller. But alas, they didn’t, and now the seller has to convince the marketplace to remove the feedback, appease the buyer so they’ll hopefully alter it, or ignore the situation and risk suffering the adverse effects of negative feedback.
2. Making impulse purchases then cancelling
“Bing!” You’ve got a notification – Joe Bloggs bought your product and made payment! Hooray!
“Bing!” You’ve got a notification – Joe Bloggs wishes to cancel their order! Ahhhhhhhh!
If they had taken just a couple more minutes to consider the purchase, they’d have decided they didn’t want to buy the item, without affecting the seller’s metrics or wasting their time issuing refunds.
Amazon has a thing where if an order is cancelled, the buyer can leave zero stars, in all kinds of areas that don’t even apply to the transaction. A single disgruntled and very rude individual can easily ruin decades of impeccable selling on Amazon. — Stuart
Immediate cancellations are annoying, but it’s even worse when they take a few hours to change their mind. By that point you’ve picked, you’ve packed, you’ve labeled and then… the buyer cancels the order, demanding a full refund.
Now you’ve got to intercept the package before it goes out the door, unpack it, return the item to stock, process a refund and so on. What’s even worse, is if the item was unique or the last one in stock, you could lose out on a potential sale whilst the listing is down. It’s all one wasted part of your life you’ll never get back.
Possibly the worst excuse for cancelling an order is blaming a toddler who has got their sticky little hands on the customer’s phone, tablet or computer. Online etailer has had a lot of cancellations along those lines:
Ironically, several of these cancellation requests are for variation item listings that require selecting up to four variables before the correct item can be selected. Since the BIN button comes on the next screen, these buyers seem petty and lame with their excuses about account abuse.
All you child geniuses out there, watch out, as there are some seriously tech-savvy toddlers about!
3. Falsely claiming the item never arrived
When sellers have shipped their item and received confirmation that it has been delivered, they still can’t relax. Why? Because all too often, an “item not received” claim soon arrives from the buyer.
These claims really are infuriating because, very often, the tracking shows the order delivered to the shipping address the buyer gave, and the GPS from the courier backs this up. But, the buyer still claims they never received the item and the marketplace believes them!
The audacity of some buyers extends even further. Bigian13 explained how one buyer’s greedy ways helped them catch them out.
On each of our paper invoices we used to have a channel-specific web address to guide people to our website. That way we could track the direct traffic better. This invoice had a customer-specific discount code for their first order from the website.
The customer claimed they had not received their order from eBay, which was around £60 worth of products, and then ordered several items from our website using their unique code. Bit of a tell tale sign!
This is another costly scam, because not only are sellers often forced to give the buyer a full refund, they also lose the stock and their metrics suffer.
4. Making false “item not as described” claims
When a buyer makes an “item not as described” claim, it can leave sellers scratching their heads. They check the original order, check their inventory management system and perhaps even review pictures of the product that they took before shipping it. Guess what? The item ordered and the item shipped are the same, and unless it majestically shapeshifted in the mail, it will still be the same when it arrives at the buyer’s house.
“So why are they claiming it’s different?” I hear you cry! Because buyers know that by making an “item not as described” claim they can try and get the item for free.
One buyer purchased a black color bag and opened an INAD claim. She claimed she had an identical bag and the bag she received from us was counterfeit. We asked her to provide a picture of the bag she was comparing to the item received from us. She provided a picture of a bag in a completely different color – pink! — Online etailer
The marketplace will often side with the buyer, asking them to destroy the counterfeit item but also granting a full refund. The item was actually genuine and, of course, the buyer does not throw it away!
5. Returning a completely different item
Often, when a seller is reluctant to accept a return, or is forced to accept a return by the marketplace, they are already suspicious of the buyer. These suspicions can sometimes be vindicated when the buyer returns a completely different item to the one that was shipped.
I sold an item on Amazon and after two days the client asked for a full refund. The lady said that her son got her credit card and purchased the item. I said that I will make the refund if she sends the product back to me and covers the expenses. She said that she would do it, but when I got the package it was full of papers and other useless things. — L. Thorne
This scam is frustrating not only because the seller loses money and stock, but because often they have solid proof that the buyer is being dishonest, which is ignored by the marketplace.
6. Demanding discounts on fixed price items
On eBay, fixed price listings are the most common. They allow buyers to purchase your product straight away, at the price you’ve set, and don’t allow buyers to make bids. Put simply, buyers either purchase the product at that price, or they don’t buy it at all.
But this doesn’t stop buyers trying to negotiate. They make offers, demand free shipping, and even ask for discounts. The reasons buyers give for discounts range from the desperate to the downright absurd. One of the strangest we’ve seen was included in a blog comment by Online etailer:
One buyer had just purchased a $300 pair of shades and $480 handbag using the same eBay account (details were available on her feedback page) but wanted items from our store at cost allegedly for an orphanage in Asia.
Buyers who demand discounts annoy sellers for a number of reasons. Firstly, sellers haven’t spent time conducting market research and finding optimum prices for their products, simply to give them away at 25% less because a buyer says they should.
Secondly, sellers have families to feed too, so they need to make some margin on their products in order to survive. By the time they’ve deducted the cost price of their product, eBay fees and PayPal fees, offering you a discount could be the difference between them making money or losing money on that order.
7. Giving the wrong reason for a return
People don’t only use “item not as described” (INAD) to try and get free products, they also use it when they’ve got a genuine reason for returning an item, but feel it would be in their favor to make an INAD claim instead.
This might be the case when a buyer receives their order and realizes that they selected the wrong product. If they message the seller at this point, most would be more than happy to exchange the product for the one the buyer actually meant to order. But buyers don’t want to admit fault, and would rather pass the blame onto the seller.
Another common cause of unjust INAD claims, is when clothing doesn’t fit and the buyer could simply ask the seller for an exchange, or return. But they don’t, because it can be a little better for their wallets:
We stopped doing clothing due to the number of INADs. People either do not measure themselves properly or believe that ordering something 2 inches smaller than their size will make them look slimmer. They choose ‘not as described’ on eBay so they don’t have to pay the return postage cost rather than any other reason. — Bigian13
This is a really harsh action to take without a valid reason, as it can also affect the seller’s Order Defect Rate and if this becomes too high, they could lose their selling privileges. It’s frustrating for sellers who have worked hard to build a good reputation, and have it tarnished by customers who are abusing eBay’s buyer protection policy.
8. Making outlandish return requests
The majority of online sellers will have some form of returns policy, that range in generosity, dependent on the types of products they sell or how many buyers have tried to take advantage of their policy in the past!
But some of the return requests we’ve seen are beyond the reach of almost every returns policy in the land, and must make sellers simply want to give up. Here’s a small collection of some of the most outlandish.
We once had a customer return an eye patch because the kids thought they were being invaded by pirates and got scared! — Easiliving
‘I bought this for £14.99 a few weeks ago but now they are on sale for £14.87.’ — Bigian 13
We sold an iPod to a customer and they sent it back because ‘It didn’t have a remote’. — Dave-UnderstandingE
‘Your listing says these candles should burn for 16 hours this one burned for 15 and a half so I am returning for a full refund.’ — Bigian13
These are perhaps initially amusing for sellers, but they then have to pull themselves together and somehow draft a sensible response. Sellers have to be careful how they deal with return requests, as all too often buyers decide to make an “item not as described” claim instead, which means the sellers is duty bound to accept the return, at their own cost!
9. Blaming the seller for items they damaged themselves
If a buyer damages a product after it’s been delivered, you would think that the options were clear, you either have to replace the item at your own cost (unless it was insured) or make do with a damaged one.
If you thought this, you’d be wrong, as there is a third option: blame the seller. Yes, despite the fact that the buyer has damaged the item themselves, they are still eager to pass the blame onto the seller, usually in the hope of exchanging the item for one they haven’t wrecked.
‘Package contents cut by a knife’ was the reason for the return. When asked if the item had been delivered in that state we were informed, ‘No but we tried to open it with a Stanley knife and cut too deep’. The item was supplied in a mailing bag, they should have tried ripping it! — Bigian13
We’ve also heard of buyers blaming sellers for damaged caused by a third party, for example when buyers who live overseas get their orders shipped to parcel forwarders. The seller is not responsible for any damage caused to the order after it’s been delivered to the shipping address, but this doesn’t stop buyers trying to blame them!
Often buyers open cases claiming “damage” when their freight forwarder damages their item when shipping from the US port to their overseas address. One buyer even demanded a full refund when the freight forwarder that they had selected, closed their business operation and disappeared with the buyer’s item. — Online etailer
10. Getting nasty when you are onto them
You’ve turned detective and have nearly nailed your suspect, and then they turn nasty.
The buyer, all too aware that their attempts to scam you have failed, will now deploy a few classic tricks. They might threaten you with negative feedback, try making a different type of claim, or, if all else fails, they’ll play, “If I can’t have it then no-one can”:
I had a buyer who bought two pair of shorts in size 0. Neither fit. She opened a INAD return request. She waited a month and then returned them doused with gasoline. — notjustme
This sort of aggressive behavior can leave sellers torn – they don’t want to set themselves up as a target for a disgruntled buyer, but at the same time they don’t want to be left out of pocket. One of our members offered his advice:
Buyer’s are empowered by what they perceive to be the safety in committing crimes online. Receiving a phone call from a seller is usually the end game. We have gotten back literally tens of thousands of dollars simply by laying out [the legal consequences of] what’s about to happen to the buyer. — Peter
If you’re now sat at home, arms crossed, frowning, saying: “I’m never going to deal with buyers ever again”, take a moment.
Yes, all of this does make you never want to deal with buyers again, but the sad reality is that without these people, who can sometimes be very annoying, you wouldn’t have a business.
Essentially, it all comes down to mindset, and the ability to move on. There is absolutely no doubt that what these buyers are doing is wrong, and in some cases illegal. But you need to be able to stay calm, report these buyers to the marketplace or the police, present your evidence and then move onto your next order.
Hopefully, your next customer will be hassle-free, and remind you that bad buyers are the exception, not the norm.