One of the most common problems that online sellers are facing these days is that of bogus buyers. Unscrupulous people are placing orders on online marketplaces, and are making a fast buck on the sellers’ expense.
A buyer can reject an order at the doorstep in case of COD, return the product saying it does not meet the mark (possibly because the buyer found a cheaper deal elsewhere), steal the product, replace it and return it, order the same thing multiple times or simply cancels orders, which results in a poor seller rating, or other repercussions for the seller. All this can accumulate to heavy losses for the seller, not to mention a drop in ratings and performance in the marketplace.
Marketplaces’ policies and remedies for sellers
Unfortunately, marketplaces are unable to regulate the fraud buying activities. However, this is not a fair trade. When there are strict rules in place at all marketplaces for sellers (in case of customer complaint and returns, the seller has to bear the loss), it is only fair that the sellers are given some form of protection.
The response of Amazon’s team is to tell the sellers to contact the Seller Support team. However, this doesn’t really give a satisfying solution to the seller, who would like some action taken against fraudulent buyers, or at the very least be able to block such buyers.
PayPal’s take on fake buyers
The sellers’ discussion forum on PayPal has a thread on fraudulent buyers. Several sellers are raising their concerns about buyers who create nonexistent problems and harass the sellers. A member sums up a typical problem in the following words, “I have noticed a trend with many buyers, using Paypal to pay for an item. I like to call it renegotiation of the price, after the transaction is complete. This has happened to me and many of my friends and it can also happen on a private transaction as well.
A buyer wins an auction or purchases an item directly and pays with Paypal. After receiving the item, the buyer complains about damage, wrong color, etc, and wants a partial refund of a set price.
The seller refuses to give a partial refund and asks the buyer to return the item. The buyer refuses and starts to hammer away with threats about what they are going to do and how they are going to file a dispute with PayPal and cause the seller pain and suffering and extra expenses. The seller over and over again tells the buyer in emails to please return the item. The buyer refuses and still demands money.
They usually start out high, depending on the item, and then start chipping away at the refund amount they are demanding. They start twisting and spinning words and continue to harass. Why did Paypal leave this sort of exposure to all the honest sellers, without having some sort of protection in place?” laments the poster, who goes by the screen name ‘wc’.
An administrator of the forum, (possibly a PayPal employee) Olivia replies, “The truth is that in any marketplace or selling venue, the seller usually ends up reaching farther toward compromise than the buyer.
There is some exposure for the seller if a buyer is being dishonest. This is true online, and it’s true in person. In selling, the default assumption has to be that a buyer’s claim is honest. Obviously there are situations where additional information will disprove that honesty, but in the absence of sufficient information to prove the buyer’s dishonesty, the onus is on the seller to make things right.
The best recommendation I can make is to be as forthcoming as possible in the dispute process, and offer the information you have. Even if it doesn’t win you the claim, it shows the circumstances and contributes to the big picture.
Does this mean online sellers have no respite?
Steps to protect yourself from fraud buyers
Immediately report the buyer so that she or he is marked.
Before shipping the product, take note of the product’s serial number or take a picture of any such unique identifying features. This will come in handy if the buyer has returned a different/used piece.
If you are selling on EBay, and feel that a buyer has no intention to pay, set the item to ‘Buy It Now’. Under ‘Buy It Now’, a buyer who has won the bid is obliged to pay for it in two days. If the buyer doesn’t pay, the seller will get a fee credit in their account.
One Quoran suggests that courier delivery personnel can be empowered to check the product while taking it back.
This is a good tip from an Amazon seller on the forum – when you take the returned package, take a video of it as you open it, and if there is any discrepancy, get in touch with the marketplace with the package and the video.
Another Amazon seller says that things got better after they moved to Fulfilment by Amazon. This way, the entire consignment is in the Amazon warehouse, and is shipped by the company directly.
Flipkart has introduced an extra verification step in the returns process to curb fraudulent returns.
These are a few means by which sellers can guard themselves against scamming buyers. While there may not be a conclusive solution to a loss that a seller has already incurred, they can help protect the seller and other sellers from facing further problems.
This list is not comprehensive, and we invite our readers and online sellers to share their experiences and tips with us. Leave your story in the comment box below, and let us keep the conversation going!