I want to be a good online seller. How casually should I give a refund?
March 23, 2012 6:45 PM   Subscribe

What's my responsibility to a buyer who I shipped to in good faith, but he claims he didn't receive his item?

I sold a book on Amazon and shipped it with all due speed and care. The buyer claims the book never arrived, but instead he received a damaged package with a "WE CARE" sticker on it from the USPS and a case number; supposedly the package was damaged in shipping sufficiently to cause the book to escape, and another book was in its place.

I am certain I shipped the correct book, and furthermore the book he is claiming to have received -- with my packing slip enclosed -- is a book I never heard of, much less owned.

What's my obligation here? It's only 15 bucks so I could probably just eat it, but I'm wary of being scammed.

Mea Culpa Filter: I didn't ship the book insured. If I had, this would all have been a non issue, right? Does that qualify as sufficient negligence for me to simply eat the 15 bucks?

Regardless, if I'd bought the book, I wouldn't be coming after the seller in this instance. And my buyer is certainly being cool about it -- when it happened over 4 weeks ago, he sent a buyer communication that was politely worded informing me of the situation, and just now he started a "where's my stuff" query with Amazon.

(I responded politely and non-defensively except insofar as to say I know I shipped the right stuff, to his initial inquiry and gave my phone number with encouragement for the case worker at the USPS to call. I haven't heard from the buyer or the USPS case worker.)

Is this a known scam type behavior? Should I just give this guy a refund and hope something nice will happen to me later on down the road? Should I just let Amazon justice take its course and go along with whatever they decide?
posted by Infinity_8 to Shopping (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I just realized I'm being a clueless dick about this. Resolved, I'm sending his refund and shipping insured from here on out. Move along, nothing to see here.
posted by Infinity_8 at 6:47 PM on March 23, 2012 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I know you closed the question but just a heads up for a later date. I used to sell books online many years ago & in Australia but what worked for me when I thought I might be being scammed was to tell the person that I had to file a trace or claim or some such made up but official sounding tern with the post office and would get back to them in seven days when they confirmed whatever story (be it damaged or undelivered package). In most cases I would follow up with the post office if the book was valuable enough.

I found that most scammers would immediately go oh oh never mind it's not as bad as I thought or the oops the package just arrived and that would be the end of it if they thought there was some way they might be caught scamming. In 4 years of selling over 2,000 books through various online websites (this was before Amazon) I only ever had to pay out for one return.

Also the chances of USPS having suddenly 2 packages of books being damaged at the same time and just randomly shoving books back into boxes sounds a bit off to me. Having said that it is your Karma and your business so do what helps you sleep at night, and make sure if you are going to insure parcels from now on to include the cost in the shipping. Good luck.
posted by wwax at 6:59 PM on March 23, 2012 [5 favorites]

For next time, when they first complain, ask if they'll send a photo. Pretty much everyone has a digital camera these days. No photo doesn't mean scam, necessarily, but a photo will help you believe "no scam".

Be apologetic -- "it's not that I don't believe you, it's just easier for me to pursue if I can show (Amazon/USPS/whatever)".
posted by mendel at 7:06 PM on March 23, 2012 [4 favorites]

I have twice had packages of books that I shipped by USPS be damaged in transit and show up with random books that were not mine in the packages.

Once I sent my mother a couple of books, including -the professor and the madman-, and she instead received some biology cancer book and a videotape, and when I moved I made the horrible mistake of shipping six books of math texts that I needed for work. Only five boxes made it, and one of them contained books that were not mine (e. g. a sociology textbook). Grrr.
posted by leahwrenn at 11:01 PM on March 23, 2012

Following up on wwax's advice- I used to work for a food company and at least 2 or 3 times a month we'd get an e-mail from someone that was like "I ATE YOUR PRODUCT AND MY WHOLE FAMILY THREW UP AND MY GREAT AUNT DIED AND I AM GOING TO SUE YOU TO DEATH". Our standard response was, "Hey, we're taking this seriously, so our lawyer will be contacting you to take a record of the complaint". In the 18 months I worked there, I don't ever think anyone replied after that. It was enough to spook anyone who thought they could get a free check.
posted by GilloD at 11:18 PM on March 23, 2012

I'm sending his refund and shipping insured from here on out.

Just insure the very expensive items. $15 of insurance from USPS costs $1.85, and you'll almost never have to make a claim. Insuring low-value packages is like lighting money on fire.

I buy shipping labels through PayPal. The rates are discounted, and delivery confirmation is only nineteen cents, if I remember right. Eat the occasional loss yourself.
posted by jon1270 at 1:51 AM on March 24, 2012

For future reference.... if I received the wrong book, and it was only 15 dollars, and I thought the seller was nice, I would tell them not to bother going to all the trouble of checking with the post office etc. And I'm not a scammer. So it's not necessarily a scam.

Also... if a product made my whole family sick, I"d let the company know and probably be bloody furious. But after I calmed down and started to feel better, might not feel the rage and might start to be exhausted at the idea of dealing with lawyers and not think suing was good for me, or society... so decide not to sue. And I'm not a scammer. So that is also not necessarily a scam.

All in all, my experience is that most folk aren't scammers and that I feel better about the world when I think the best of other people. And that is that they're not necessarily scammers.
posted by taff at 5:55 AM on March 24, 2012

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