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returning damaged goods

This isn't a beware, more of a question I've been thinking about and I wanted to get some input on.

I make plastic replica animal skulls. Recently I shipped one internationally and it arrived broken. I have no problem replacing it, I am happy to do so. My question is, is it rude to ask a customer to ship something damaged back to you? I wouldn't for small things, but this particular one was one of my $55 skulls, and I could easily fix the damage here and resell it for cheap so I don't lose money replacing it.

A company sent me the wrong thing once, and asked me to send it back when they sent the replacement. It was something valued at $11, and they didn't offer to pay for return shipping. I was annoyed that they expected me to take extra steps to fix something they screwed up, and pay for it.

So since I've been on both sides of the situation, I'm kind of on the fence about it. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

EDIT - sorry, I should have been more clear. cost isn't really the issue, I wouldn't think of asking a customer to pay return shipping for damage that wasn't their fault. Considering that shipping can be a major hassle for people, I was just wondering if it's rude to ask someone to ship a damaged thing back.

Thanks for all the responses! I'll edit my policies/TOS, and insure more things from now on :)

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( 60 comments — Leave a comment )
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Feb. 21st, 2011 03:56 pm (UTC)
maybe you can give something to them to compensate? it's really not fair that a customer has to suffer for someone else's "mistake" well in this situation no one is at fault per say(shit happens) but I think you get where I am coming from.
Feb. 21st, 2011 04:07 pm (UTC)
Was their insurance on the item? Just curious, I've never filed a shipping claim and I was wondering if that would play into it somehow.

I would say it's not rude if you pay for shipping it back.

I know some may disagree, but I think sellers ought to pay for any shipping damages unless the buyer insisted on something wonky and voided their guarantees. The seller is the one who ships a lot and has most or all the control in packaging, timing, and method of shipping. So even if it's not the seller's "fault" if something breaks, it's even less so the buyer. Seems to me the occasional shipping damage ought to be factored into business expenses, not burdening the unlucky buyer.

I also imagine you'll have more happy customers that way, FWIW.

Another thought, in my TOS I say I need any unsatisfying or damaged item returned, mostly to avoid scamming - ie, people purposefully breaking an item, demanding a replacement, then fixing the damaged one and doing something with it, etc etc.
I don't think that's a huge problem or anything, just kind of CYA.
Feb. 21st, 2011 05:40 pm (UTC)
no insurance, though I will get it when I send out a replacement

yes that's a good rule I think to avoid scamming... I may add it to my policies. what does CYA mean?
(no subject) - spiffystuff - Feb. 21st, 2011 05:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - breakspire - Feb. 21st, 2011 05:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - nambroth - Feb. 21st, 2011 06:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kayla_la - Feb. 21st, 2011 07:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - nambroth - Feb. 21st, 2011 07:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kayla_la - Feb. 21st, 2011 07:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - fenris_lorsrai - Feb. 21st, 2011 08:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - nambroth - Feb. 22nd, 2011 01:16 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - skanrashke - Feb. 21st, 2011 08:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 21st, 2011 04:08 pm (UTC)
It's perfectly acceptable to require return of the defective product prior to shipment of the replacement. To ease the burden on the commissioner, you can send them a prepaid shipping label (and/or have the shipping company send a box to the comm for return of the broken item)
Feb. 21st, 2011 04:13 pm (UTC)
I've never gotten something broken that didn't require returning the item damaged. Nearly always, I've had to foot the shipping bill.

IMO, unless the shipping is crazy expensive, they should pay it. If it's really a lot and a huge hassle, you could maybe offer to pay half the shipping and have them pay the other half?
Feb. 21st, 2011 04:34 pm (UTC)
I've never gotten something broken/wrong that DID require return. I had some weighing scales that broke almost immediately, the company just sent a second set. Also had some fabric that wasn't what I'd ordered, they just sent the right stuff no questions asked and let me keep the original (wrong) piece
Feb. 21st, 2011 04:33 pm (UTC)
If it's an international order, the money spent returning it to you is likely to be more than you'll get for a damaged skull, or if not more then take a big chunk out of it.

As long as you have strong evidence of the damage (ask for a photo etc) you shouldn't require returning it on their dime. If you pay for the shipping then fine, but they haven't done anything wrong and don't deserve to be out of pocket.

Do remember that for some people, shipping something back can be quite an inconvenience. Most post offices are only open during work hours and if they don't have one near their work they can't go on a lunch break. Depending on their situation it might require a special trip into town on a Saturday, which is gonna be really annoying for something that wasn't even their fault.
Feb. 21st, 2011 04:46 pm (UTC)
I'm going to generally agree with this comment.
(no subject) - breakspire - Feb. 21st, 2011 05:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 21st, 2011 04:41 pm (UTC)
Having a customer pay for return shipping is a big nono, especially when they are not at fault.

I agree with fatkraken, ask the customer for a photo. If there is damage present then ship another to them.
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 21st, 2011 04:50 pm (UTC)
See... and I've always was under the " customer pays for returns" ... mostly because if they are looking for money, or another product... then yeah... that's on the customer's end too.

Case in point- getting soiled feathers from someone on ebay that listed them as 'new', with no mention of there being feathers covered in crap.

This was also an international order. I paid for the return shipping- and they gave me my refund. Pain in the ass? yes... because of the time frame and the fact that it wasn't right in the first place. It worked out in the end.

But I also never ship -anything- out without insurance if the value is over $40. I've had one too many close calls even after taking precautions with putting everything in rubbermaids and shipping it THAT way. I've seen rubbermaids arrive with the corners crushed in. I pack it all with peanuts and bubble wrap... and it might be extreme .. but lately mail service has really blown when it's come to dealing with delicate things... I dunno, might be my luck of the draw here.

Good luck though! I'm very curious to see what happens here.
Feb. 21st, 2011 05:48 pm (UTC)
$40 seems like a good value to start insurance at. I insure pricey things or at people request, but I should probably start using it for more things. And I go through crazy amounts of bubble wrap :P
Feb. 21st, 2011 04:51 pm (UTC)
I have had to return broken items to get a replacement. But you could ask them to take photos of the broken items and point out where they we're broken. I'd also have them photograph the box it arrived in so you can see how it arrived. Depending since you plan on reselling it maybe offer to cover half the shipping or give them a discount on a future purchase to offset them having to pay the return fee maybe?
Feb. 21st, 2011 05:50 pm (UTC)
It's okay to ask for the item to be returned, but ME personally, I would eat the cost of the return shipping instead of expecting them to pay it. True, many businesses force the customer to pay for return shipping, but I don't think it's a good practice and it's a good way to garner some bad PR, as you're then essentially making someone pay more money than they agreed to just to get what they're owed. I would reconsider doing business with someone with that policy in the future, and I'm sure I wouldn't be the only one, and I'd rather have repeat business over shipping money.

That said, it might be really impractical for international shipping. I would probably just ship them a new one and leave it be, stuff happens sometimes.
Feb. 21st, 2011 06:01 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I would always pay for return shipping if it's not the customers fault, they shouldn't have to pay for me being dumb and not getting insurance :>
Feb. 21st, 2011 05:51 pm (UTC)

Personally as a customer if I was dealing with a small time seller, I would ship back if there was an issue and pay for it myself unless it was exorbitantly expensive then I'd certainly talk it over with the seller and work out a fair deal for both of us but then I regularly go to the post office to ship myself during my selling season.

Most people however would not be happy to pay for shipping back a broken item. Many companies that insist on returns also pay for the shipping or send the customer prepaid shipping bags or such.

As an artist and seller, I offer free replacements for items that do not arrive/show up damaged if there is documentation to show that something went wrong, I also will repair or replace any item that breaks due to defective materials within three months of receipt ( six months if it used experimental techniques/materials sometimes I experiment with new materials so that covers any possible defects caused by that). I'd rather swallow the cost than upset a customer.
Feb. 21st, 2011 05:57 pm (UTC)
I think this goes without question. If you went to the store and bought an appliance, opened the box and found it broken, you'd get it exchanged right? You wouldn't get to keep the broken one and get a new one for free, you'd have to exchange it.

With shipping, I think that the shipper should be the one to pay, unless the shipee offers to do so (even then I think I'd pay the shipping anyway). It should be a business expense as someone above said. Just definitely do not send a new one until you receive the broken one.
Feb. 21st, 2011 06:15 pm (UTC)
The way I'm looking at this is that there's one person not responsible for the damage in this case and that's the customer. I don't know if it was a problem with the packing, a small flaw in the product making it prone to breaking, or the post office decided to play hackysack with it, but in any of those cases, it's not the customer's fault. Because it's not their fault, I don't think they should have to pay. Ideally, it would be the post office paying, but without insurance (was it offered?) it kind of comes down to you. :/ If it's worth it to you, then I'd pay to have her ship it back. If no insurance was offered, then I feel like it's the seller's risk because they have the power over how it's shipped.

That also gets rid of the issue of having a vested interest. As a customer, I'd be miffed if I had to pay $25 to ship back a broken item so you could sell it for $25 to someone else. That just doesn't look good.

In the future, I'd clarify the policy. Figure out what you insure on/offer insurance on, whether it can be waived, and what your replacement policy would be. I'd figure that if it's insured, or below the insurance level, you'd send out the replacement (afterall, you'll get the $ from the post office, and if you don't offer insurance, you're taking that on as a risk), but if the customer says no insurance then it's on them if it breaks in transit.

Of course that's just my 2¢.
Feb. 21st, 2011 08:33 pm (UTC)
I think I should have clarified my post... it's not about the money, I would happily pay return shipping. I just wanted to know if it was rude to ask a customer to send something back, since shipping can be hard for some people.
(no subject) - kayla_la - Feb. 21st, 2011 09:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - celarania - Feb. 21st, 2011 10:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 21st, 2011 06:33 pm (UTC)
I had to do something similar with some armor pieces my S.O. got. They website had a great live chat customer service, and they were willing to pay for shipping out to them to repair the damage item.

They were also willing to pay for the return shipping, including extra rivets so we could do month-month repair of the armor (yes it gets used and abused). All this for free.

However I needed it for an event and things were taking a little over long, so I opted to pay for next day Shipping. I felt since they were so nice and helpful, that the extra request of mine I could foot instead of expecting them to do so.

Now you'll find people that /expect/ that kind of service they are out there.

So my thought is write up a policy and post it very obviously. Maybe have a price limit on what you ship "for free" for repairs/replacement. This way it's a win-win scenario for most things.

Also look into different ways to more carefully package things, and offer "free shipping" on expensive items IF the customer has paid for say maybe insurance? *shrugs* Just a few thoughts to toss around.

This is a VERY good question. Thanks for bringing it up.
Feb. 21st, 2011 07:22 pm (UTC)
If you are sending them a replacement for free I don't see why they couldn't foot the bill to send the damaged one back.
Feb. 21st, 2011 08:05 pm (UTC)
because they paid $55 plus (international) shipping to have a plastic skull. Paying $55 plus shipping plus shipping AGAIN to have what they paid for in the first place? That's not getting a replacement for free, that's getting what they paid for only when they foot the bill for MORE. Honestly I think the seller has to eat the costs on this one.
(no subject) - spiffystuff - Feb. 21st, 2011 08:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - shukivengeance - Feb. 21st, 2011 08:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kayla_la - Feb. 21st, 2011 08:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - fatkraken - Feb. 21st, 2011 09:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kayla_la - Feb. 21st, 2011 09:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
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