While trying to find which ecommerce business model works the best for sellers– marketplace or inventory-led, an online seller had shared a very strong statement with Indian Online Seller (IOS). The seller Abdul Kadir Natali said,
“Inventory is businessman’s POWER. When you transfer power you become weak.”
And he was right as many sellers find themselves in a weak position after handing over inventory to ecommerce players, be it giant marketplaces or niche new entrants.
Marketplaces send returned products (from customers) to sellers after policy period
Scores of sellers have accused ecommerce players of returning their stock very late and not in good condition. The urgency shown in delivering and picking up goods from customers is not shown by the ecommerce firms while returning the stock to their rightful owner.
There are different versions of this complaint:
- Returns request being accepted by customers after the policy period and returning goods to sellers
- Products never moving from the warehouse and then returned to seller
- Returns lying around in the marketplaces’ warehouse and returned at a leisurely pace after 3-6 months
Flipkart accepts customers’ return request even after a year of delivery
Suresh Purohit, Founder & MD of Hi-Tech Communication who sells on Flipkart shared his predicament with IOS.
“We stopped selling on flipkart before 6 months And after that seller account has been blocked before 5 months. And they are still taking the product return which has been delivered to customer before 1 year… By doing these type or practices our settlement is showing -835,000/-,” says Purohit.
Once he received iBall speakers instead of his original product that too after 6 months of delivery of the product, while Flipkart’s seller panel reflected that the return request was completed 6 months back. When he tried to claim SPF (Seller Protection Fund), he was informed that the time limit of 14 days (for raising claim) is over, so he can’t claim SPF.
Product – gone, money – gone. What’s left? A list of charges and fees to be paid to Flipkart.
Purohit also shared another case and along with a string of emails exchanged between the marketplace and him with IOS to back his claims.
Flipkart emailed him in July 2016 informing that they have initiated the return process for a mobile order placed in August 2015! When Purohit said he won’t accept the return after 1 year in any condition as his return policy is 10 days, Flipkart’s seller support executive replied,
“…we request you to kindly accept the returned product. If you not accept the product it will go for liquidation due to this you will not receive the amount nor the product.”
When the seller escalated the matter, the etailer’s seller support executive wrote,
“…the buyer has requested for return so flipkart has initiated the return as per the return policy. Going further we will try not to repeat it.”
Flipkart executive accepted the marketplace’s error in accepting the return request after the acceptable period but said nothing can be done now.
“The representative from Flipkart on seller support helpline clearly told me that we understand the return request has been taken by mistake and now we can’t cancel the request so you have to take it or else it will go in liquidation,” says Purohit while talking about the abovementioned case.
Voonik and Amazon – birds of the same feather
It’s not just Flipkart. IOS has received emails/messages of the same nature from fashion etailer Voonik and ecommerce biggie Amazon’s sellers.
Voonik seller Rekha Fashion Hub wrote to IOS, “I have received around 40 RTO after Voonik’s policy date. I have list of so many of the orders and I have also mailed voonik about it but I haven’t got a single reply from their end.”
An Amazon seller shared with IOS that 20 of his COD orders (placed in June-July) were returned to him in September. When they investigated the case and tracked the orders, he found that most of the packages never moved from the American etailer’s warehouse!
Marketplaces deny sellers’ claims
Amazon didn’t respond. Flipkart’s spokesperson said that their system is completely automated and accepting returns after the policy period is not possible. We then informed the spokesperson that Flipkart seller support executives did accept that there’s been a mistake from their end. She promised to check it internally and provide an explanation, but Flipkart’s spokesperson never called back nor replied to our emails.
Voonik’s spokesperson says,
“For customer returned orders, a seller has to accept a return within 90 days of dispatching a product. Which means as per seller policy, an order placed on June 30 has to be accepted by seller by 30 September. For RTO (Returned to origin, i.e order was never delivered to customer) the time limit varies between 45 to 60 days, depending on courier partners.”
The fashion etailer’s representative adds,
“Accepting a return after expiry of the stipulated policy duration is completely at Seller discretion. All sellers are free to reject such returns or RTO orders. Therefore, under no condition a seller is ever forced to accept any return/RTO outside the seller policy.”
IOS asked Voonik if they agree with sellers’ sentiments that a 90-days return window favour buyers more than the sellers. And would Voonik consider reducing the returns period like few other ecommerce companies?
The spokesperson affirms,
“We connect sellers to millions of customers worldwide. Therefore it’s important to give customers an easy return policy. However, we ensure that the sellers get a fair business environment at Voonik. If any seller has objection to any particular return case, he/ she can raise it with the seller service teams. We intend to continue with our policies and processes as they are and will keep on addressing individual seller issues separately.”
Etailers, how about respecting your sellers’ inventory?
Barring real estate and gold, the resale value of things devaluates with time (unless it earns the ‘vintage’ tag). So imagine getting hold of your precious inventory after 6 months or 1 year. When not the only market value of the product has come down but the condition is miserable to be sold as new.
We agree that ecommerce biggies (few at least like Snapdeal, eBay, Shopclues) are working on their policies and are trying to reduce the menace of high returns. There’s huge room for improvement as it’s far from being perfect.
But what about the complete disregard for sellers’ inventory? Why is that acceptable? Especially when sellers are already paying off the loans taken to procure that stock on the behest of ecommerce companies?