When Your Product Is So Cheap You Can’t Send A Refund

On the few occasions that I buy products on ebay, I always filter for UK only. If I do need to return something (a rare occurence I might add) I don’t want to have to post it half way across the world. But using the UK filters will not necessarily get you a UK based product and you can easily still fall foul of unscrupulous importers.

At the end of July I bought a couple of jumpsuits. I used the UK only filter. They had free postage and listed a UK address, so I thought ‘no problem’. When they arrived, considering the cost they weren’t ‘that’ bad. I will wear them. Except one of them had a dye mark right on the front in the middle. It was small but noticeable because of the bright colour of the garment.

I emailed the seller and asked for a replacement or refund which they clearly didn’t want to give because of their poor profit margin – at least that’s what they told me. They offered me a 20% refund which wasn’t any use since what I wanted was to wear the item. Accepting this offer would have meant I’d still have paid something for a garment I couldn’t wear but they didn’t seem to get this. I refused the refund and they offered me a 30% refund, as well as this:

Screenshot_2018-08-22 My eBay Messages

Over the days that followed, the refund offer slowly escalated up to 60%. Communication was slowed because of ‘tomb sweeping’. In fact, it became evident early on that I was talking to someone in China and not in the UK despite the return address on the packaging being a UK address. Eventually they did agree to a 100% refund but only after I threatened them with negative feedback. Even so, they still didn’t want the item back to check it.

I’ve had a similar problem with another ebayer since then, when I bought some running gear from what I thought was a UK seller with a UK return address on their packaging. The sizing was terrible (a clear giveaway it wasn’t UK made) and they needed to go back. But they wouldn’t refund me, unless I returned them to, yes you’ve guessed it – China, which will cost more than I paid for the items in the first place. They also don’t refund the postage costs because they say there is nothing wrong with the item.

Screenshot_2018-08-22 My eBay MessagesInstead, and because in tiny print on the listing it does mention Hong Kong, I have felt obliged to accept the 30% refund and keep the item. Thankfully, because I can do alterations I can make these fit me, but it’s a lot of work for something I thought I had already paid for.

The problem of the country of origin on listings not being the same as the real return address, is an ongoing issue on ebay, with no satisfactory resolution for buyers. It seems to be a legitimate way to list your item and yet if you search the community pages you’ll find it a reoccuring subject. The rules suggest that if they don’t offer you a UK return address you don’t have to return the item and you get a refund too. At least, that’s what the sellers will offer you, but ebay is not supporting buyers in their attempts to send things back where the country of origin has not been accurately disclosed. You have to read the very small print to be sure of where your purchase is coming from.

It’s been such a problem that buyers have started the FIGHTBACK campaign. Even so, the listings keep coming and it’s not so easy to filter out the problem sellers. You cannot just search for UK products only. Ebay also isn’t fussed about tightening up on listing rules. The campaign offers these warnings and advice:

Screenshot_2018-08-22 Fight Back Against Chinese Sellers - Buyers Guide

Essentially, this example makes nonsense of the idea of cheap clothing and free postage and how this makes financial sense for companies selling cheap and online with the offer of free transit. Their profit margins are small but their production is so cheap they can seemingly afford to make these post sale concessions when things go wrong. Advertising the product location as the UK (even on the packaging) but it arrives from China is the bit that really jars with me.

Free postage and returns are the bane of UK fashion companies and many are realising the high cost to themselves of offering these perks to online customers. The cost of returns that are not resellable, plus the courier costs, surely outweigh the profit margins. It still seems to be the sales tactic companies use however, as more of us tire of the high street experience and companies try to avoid the expense of bricks and mortar shops amidst crippling business rates and shop rents. Many of us, when we buy online, don’t realise the impact of ‘free’ postage and free returns. Quite simply, it is putting companies out of business and that’s not something we hear about often enough.


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