Amazon has announced an extension to its month-long experiment of enabling customers to use UPS to send back seller-fulfilled returns, and sellers aren’t exactly happy.
Amazon’s “Short-Term” Experiment Extended
Back in September, the ecommerce giant announced a four-week “experiment” that would introduce UPS as a return shipping option for seller-fulfilled returns, covering items below 15 ounces and 130 inches in girth. This would enable customers to drop off their returns either at a UPS or at a standard USPS location.
This new method specifically applies to items covered by Amazon’s Prepaid Returns Label (APRL) Program, under which Amazon sends customers a prepaid return shipping label on the seller’s behalf if a customer requests a return within an allowable period. Sellers who fulfill their own Amazon orders, rather than using the company’s own fulfillment services, are automatically enrolled in this program.
According to its most recent announcement this week, the feature, which was supposed to be available only from September 5 to October 2, will be extended all the way until November 1, 2022.
The idea was originally sold as a way to better understand buyer behavior, while this extension is being pitched as a way to better understand the convenience of sales of seller-fulfilled returns.
Such extension also somewhat oddly underscores the strong ties between Amazon and UPS, despite the latter having reduced volume and revenue share for Amazon over the past year—Amazon has brought in a smaller share of UPS’s revenue since it aggressively expanded its proprietary shipping and logistics infrastructure during the pandemic.
UPS Returns Might Prejudice Sellers
Offering UPS as a means for customers to return seller-fulfilled items at no cost potentially prejudices sellers, as they have to cover the shipping costs of returns via UPS, which can be higher than the usual USPS method.
When the August announcement came, sellers worried about how they would know the difference between the UPS rate charged and the would-be cost had the customer opted for the usual USPS option.
Irregularities and outright fraud in returns continue to plague Amazon sellers. It is not uncommon for sellers to ship orders using low-cost packaging only to have to pay for return shipping in large boxes—worse, to have to shoulder returns that cost much higher than the item originally ordered. To boot, some sellers note that nothing about UPS returns has been better for sellers.
Fortunately, Amazon has committed to continue to reimburse the cost difference between the UPS and USPS shipping labels. According to the announcement, the company will automatically reimburse all eligible returns by December 1, 2022, whether or not you’ve already submitted a claim. Nevertheless it’s never a bad idea to file a claim and follow up with Amazon, considering that historically, Amazon support has not exactly been prompt in processing reimbursements to third-party marketplace sellers.
A bigger fear among sellers is that Amazon might soon find UPS returns necessary and will no longer reimburse sellers for the cost difference between UPS and USPS returns.