December and January are two of the busiest months in retail. When handling an important amount of orders, the last thing you want to be dealing with are the consequences of an unclear shipping and return policy. You and your customer should be on the same page in regards to what can and cannot be done after they have placed an order. Here are a few tips to draft a new shipping and return policy just in time for the new year or to simply improve your current one.
This post is meant to be taken as general information, not legal advice. If you want help with drafting a shipping and return policy, contact an attorney.
Shipping fees When writing a shipping and return policy, the first element you will want to determine is who will be paying for the shipping. Will you be offering free shipping or making the customer pay, depending on what they buy and where it is shipped? Will there be a minimum purchase amount in order for your customers to be able to get free shipping? After making your choice, you should determine where you want to ship your items as well as how many shipping services you will be offering. Some customers might absolutely want a tracking number while others would rather pay less for their shipping than have a tracking number. Make sure your policy clearly states the different options that are available to them. Most customers also like to know when their order will arrive, so including an estimate (taking handling into consideration) could be very helpful. However, during busier times such as the holidays, you might want to mention that delays are possible due to the volume of parcels postal services need to handle. As for returns, whether or not you will be including a return shipping label or making the customer pay to send back their orders should also be clearly mentioned, as it is often one of the determining factors for customer purchase.
Product condition If a customer returns an item, you obviously need to think about the future of that product in your company. Ideally, you should be able to sell it again. You should therefore mention the state in which items need to be when they are sent back (unworn or with no sign of wear, unwashed, with or without tags, etc.) You might also want to think about establishing different criteria for different types of products. For instance, you might not mind receiving an item of clothing without a tag, but will refuse the return of any intimate garments or beauty products. It is crucial that you use very precise and clear terms to describe how you expect an order to be sent back to avoid any disappointments after agreeing to a refund or an exchange.
Exchanges and returns Whether or not you will allow both returns and exchanges is a very discretionary decision that often depends on how you want to run your inventory, the kind of relationship you want with your customer, the type of product involved, etc. For instance, you might decide to allow refunds on everything except for gifts. Regardless of the choice you make, it is crucial to clearly state what can be exchanged and what can be refunded.
Deadlines Set clear dates for your return and exchange deadlines. If you have a specific number of days in mind, make sure to clearly state whether that window starts upon receipt or shipping of the customer’s order. You might want to have a dedicated section in your shipping and return policy for sale and clearance items, especially if you want to set a different deadline for those items or would like them to be final sale.
Refund method How you choose to refund a purchase obviously goes hand in hand with the deadlines you choose to set. For instance, if you set a 30-day return policy, you might offer to fully refund a purchase within that window but give store credits for products that are returned after that deadline. You might also want to only give store credits for sale and clearance items or gifts without a receipt. You should also determine whether or not the store credit will cover the full purchase, the purchase and the shipping costs, or the purchase and a little extra (110% of the order, for instance).
As with all Law on the Runway posts, please use this as general information, not as legal advice. If you have any questions, you may email firstname.lastname@example.org.