Amazon bans buyers who make too many returns

By Dan Wilson May 23, 2018 - 11:56 am

A piece in the American press has confirmed what we’ve really known for some time: if a buyer makes too many returns on Amazon, they will in what seems to be relatively rare occasions, suspend a buyer. The piece in the Wall Street Journal (for which you’ll need a subscription to to read) reports not just on the practice but various complaints from buyers who have been inconvenienced by the practice.

For instance, in one incident a customer had their shopping account suspended but still had a considerable chunk of voucher credit associated with it that was essentially rendered invalid.

But crucially Amazon has made a comment on what it does and why. As was reported in the WSJ piece:

We want everyone to be able to use Amazon, but there are rare occasions where someone abuses our service over an extended period of time. We never take these decisions lightly, but with over 300 million customers around the world, we take action when appropriate to protect the experience for all our customers.
– Amazon spokesperson

There is still plenty that we still don’t know. The exact criteria and situations that Amazon will ban under are unknown, for instance. How many many returns over what time does it deem as unacceptable? Or are the criteria more nuanced than that? One speculation is that Amazon is particularly suspicious of returns made where the reason given is different from the majority of other similar returns. And it would also be interesting to know the number of suspensions they make overall. We’d suspect it’s a relatively small number but there’s no information there.

From a merchant perspective though, it’s quite easy to be supportive of this policy and approach because you’ll be no stranger to problem buyers. And Amazon has visibility of the whole constituency of shoppers so is well placed to make accurate judgments. Are you in favour of Amazon’s actions?

  • james
    2 years ago

    wholeheartedly in favour of amazon’s decision here.

    before the internet, if you went into a B&M store, stole from them, and got caught, you’d get banned. simple as. no other outcome would ever be expected.
    enter ebay and the age of the digital shoplifter, impervious to bans, with an unlimited number of stores to rob, and not a security guard in sight.
    you get caught, nothing happens!
    in fact ebay will take the shoplifters side, punish the person who was stolen from, and even encourage further theft, all the while profiting from your crimes.

    frankly i think amazon should ban more people. the prevalence of online theft isn’t as rare as being banned for it is, even in amazon’s own words “rare occasions where someone abuses our service over an extended period of time.”
    – you shoplift once in the old world and you got a lifetime ban, here you need to do it repeatedly and consistently for extended periods.

    I’d like to think amazon are more nuanced than “40% return rate = instaban”, though anyone with a 40% return rate over a decent number of purchases probably wants looking into.

    Amazon actually sell product, and understand the detrimental effects of shoplifters and thieves on business. ebay actually profts from the thieves, and have little or no interest in removing them.

  • Ross
    2 years ago

    Reading the comment above I was reminded of someone who was banned from a major supermarket for too many returns.
    I won’t name the supermarket as it was over 15 years ago. She told anyone who would listen about it, most of them sided with the supermarket, including her husband!

    I’ve heard of it happening in the UK with Amazon but it’s very extreme. It’s hardly something they’d want to get a reputation for.

  • northumbrian
    2 years ago

    rather than every buyer having100% feedback rating as some of the dozy sods remind us of,
    why not have a percentage based on returns or transaction failure
    then we could at least know what to expect

    • 2 years ago

      Totally agree with this, we do not chase feedback from buyers.

      On amazon we have a feedback rate of just 3%, on eBay we have a feedback of about 30%.

      The problem with Amazon, is people who are unhappy will complain, so you get 100% complaints, bad feedback. To compare this to such a low positive feedback is wrong.

      Lucky for us we do not have too many problems and when we do we get them sorted without hassle for the customer, as long as we feel they are not trying to cheat us.

      The ratings should take into account the amount of sales you have done without having an issue, especially when you have customers repeat buy from you but never leave feedback.

    • Alan Paterson
      2 years ago

      @ northumbrian – excellent idea.

      @ tyler – brilliant – couldnt have put it better.

      unfortunately Amazon are unlikely to introduce any metric that may deter buyers.

    • 2 years ago


      I believe the above calculation would give sellers a better rating and instill more confidence in buyers.

  • 2 years ago

    the returns that I hate on amazon are: no longer needed or bought by mistake, in the past 6 months I have had around 40 returns, 90% are like this and in most cases I had to pay return costs because I listed the items in “foreign” marketplaces

  • 2 years ago

    How many is too many?

  • SAM
    2 years ago

    Seen a young girl the other day, she was returning about 10 Amazon packages at once. All try before you buy mentality.
    It is one of the main reasons we dumped Amazon this year, was not the returns so much (as long as they went back into stock), it was the amount of misuse of returns, stock that had CLEARLY been used used and it is to easy to claim faulty, then we pay for the pleasure of getting it all back, some of it was coming back actually pristine (why it was not going back into stock I do not know), some of it was destroyed

    Just Not worth it.

  • Toby
    2 years ago

    Sounds good to me. Much better that Ebay’s policy where they ban the sellers for obviously not meeting customer expectations!

    • Alan Paterson
      2 years ago

      You need to be doing pretty extreme and consistent stuff to get ban from ebay as a seller. They are always very fair in this department .

    • 2 years ago

      eBay can be a nightmare, as can any market place or having to deal with a corporate company like Royal mail when things go wrong.

      How do you rate a business? On how well it serves you or how it deals with things when you have a problem?

      Vodafone: Absolute nightmare
      Royal Mail: Nightmare
      eBay: seems to resolve issues but defies logic in its ways.

      Yesterday I took a delivery of stock, when I tried to update eBay listings I was denied. my account was restricted due to VAT regulations. No warning, no email, nothing…

      Spoke to Ireland and they could see what the problem was but had to put me through to some “international” speaking security department.

      My Limited company of 20 years is registered at my work address but my VAT number was registered to my home office, my business name does not tie up to my company name either, but I trade as 3+ business names under the same company.

      My name, as director, on companies house tied up to my home address, but they still said they could not verify the company VAT registration as it was registered to a different address.

      To remove the restriction, with their agreement, I changed my eBay address to my home address, to match the VAT info, even though the company is clearly VAT registered. They changed my trading name to business name T/.A business name, rather than the LTD company name T/A business name, so in truth the whole thing is still a mess and I do not see how it is even correct, but they were happy to do it that way. Don’t fight them just agree.

      I have now changed my VAT registration to my work unit, so will need to change the address as soon as that goes live.

      Anyway, this was all done with a 20 minute phone call at 8.30pm in the evening. Not bad customer service…

      And all this was because HMRC are on their case, I am sure others will run into the same sort of issues but I doubt it will cut down on VAT fraud.

  • Toby
    2 years ago

    Alan…. A friend of mine was given a lifetime ban for being ill. He had to have emergency surgery and his other half contacted ebay and explained that they had to cancel and refund alot of orders that had come in. Each had been contacted with a personal message to explain. They even offered to send in a copy of the hospital admittance form etc etc as proof that the guy was completely and without warning incapacitated. The result? Ebay still gave him a life time ban for poor ratings as they had cancelled too many sales. Went to appeal, told that a life time ban was not reversible regardless of extreme circumstances. Before that he had a perfect record, never one single negative and over 8k feedback.
    Even we had to fight hard when royal mail lost a few bags of our mail one day. We suddenly got hit by INR and INR we spoke to ebay and royal mail and Royal mail agreed that due to the volume of missing mail all sent at same time it was likely that the sacks had gone awol. We sent this proof to ebay…. who said there was nothing they could do as it was the ‘buyers experience that counted’ not our troubles with royal mail. We were literally due to loose our account due to the effect. I spent ages trying to get them to see that we had done our bit, the customers had all had full refunds or replacement items and it was just RM that was still unsure where our mail had gone ( all with ppi details on and sacks labelled!).
    It was literally only after many many hours of speaking to various people that they decided to remove the defects, had they not we would have received a life time ban and that’s being platnium powerseller of 11 years selling with top rated status and over 35k feedback.
    Nope you are wrong…. sometimes Ebays rigid system revolving around customer is always king, does punish the good guys.

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