Amazon announced that it will be extending the standard returns window for shoppers over the holidays (again), to the dismay of many third-party sellers who deal with high fraudulent return rates during the holiday shopping season.
Returns Window Extended to January of Next Year
According to Amazon’s announcement in Seller Central, the standard returns window will be temporarily extended in anticipation of customers shopping early for the holiday season. The 2022 Extended Holiday Returns policy requires that most items purchased between October 7, 2022 and December 31, 2022 are returnable until January 31 2023.
The new policy drop covers orders that are shipped by third-party sellers themselves and those that are shipped by Amazon. The ecommerce giant also added that while the returns window is extended, returns eligibility for all orders remains the same.
Related Reading: The Seller’s Complete Guide to Amazon Returns
This generous (at least to customers) returns window extension, that is, from October-December, has been running for two years now, although most sellers had assumed that the previous extensions were because of the pandemic and that Amazon would revert the returns window back to starting in November this year.
Returns Fraud Is a Big Problem for Sellers
Just like in the past two years, sellers are generally unhappy with the roughly-four-month return window for shoppers.
A common occurrence is when customers order Halloween costumes online, knowing that they can return them until January of the following year for a full refund—months after the festivities. Since costumes usually fall under Fashion/Clothing, chances are shoppers get to return these items for free.
Sellers offering seasonal products also deal with buyers who, according to a commenter “use this opportunity for free rent”. These shoppers usually buy holiday-themed items, make use of them for a few months, and return them by January marked as “Not satisfied” or “No longer needed.” It doesn’t help that sellers won’t be able to sell these returned seasonal items during any other time of the year.
High Selling Volume = High Return Rates During Holidays
Q4, which covers holidays like Halloween, Black Friday-Cyber Monday, and Christmas, has historically resulted in high profits for many sellers, but it’s also when return rates and the rate of customer fraud can get obscenely high.
Online shopping activity and, consequently, return rates from customers, are expected to be higher this particular year, with Amazon’s inaugural Prime Early Access Sale to take place on October 11-12 designed to entice shoppers to start their holiday shopping much earlier than usual. For sellers who participate in the event, this is effectively Prime Day 2.0.
For some, there are ways to make Amazon’s extended returns window less ridiculous and prejudicial to third-party sellers.
Some suggest that this extended period should only be offered on FBA and Prime purchases, which means that sellers who fulfill orders themselves will not have to deal with that much customer returns fraud during the period. Others offer up the idea of presenting extended holiday returns as an option to buyers, which involves adding conditions to items purchased outside of Amazon’s standard return policy, such as having them pay a restocking fee for the returned items or agreeing to pay for return shipping.
Related Reading: The Ultimate Guide to Being Merchant Fulfilled on Amazon
For customers, a much longer window to return items for free sounds like a sweet insurance mechanism when shopping for the holidays, and this boost in shopper confidence could translate to significantly higher shopping activity for Amazon. On the flip side, however, a return period of four full months is prejudicial to third-party sellers, and it will be hard for Amazon to remove a customer benefit that it has been offering for two straight years.