How Returns Affect Buyers and Sellers – Two Case Studies

As business manager of the Native American Jewelry store at Horsekeeping, I take care of the day-to-day details of order fulfillment, banking and other business details.We rarely get an item returned but thought the following case studies would be interesting.

Each case makes an interesting story from a merchant’s point of view and also from the customer’s standpoint in terms of shipping costs required to send things back and forth.

There are some useful, positive morals to both stories, so please read on.

As with most independent online businesses, unless an item is defective or not as described, shipping is non-refundable and return shipping is the customer’s responsibility.

Note that when the word “shipping” is used it means the actual cost of packaging materials, postage, delivery confirmation, and insurance rounded to the nearest dollar.

OK …….now onto to the two Case Studies.

Customer A

Customer A

Neckace #1  Customer A used a credit card to purchase Necklace #1 which cost $272 plus $10 shipping.

Although the description clearly states the length and size of beads, the customer returned the necklace because it was “too short to fit my neck and the beads were too small”. I refunded her credit card $272 because she said she was going to purchase another necklace. Return shipping cost her $10.

“The necklace is too tight !!”

Necklace #2

The same customer then purchased a longer, graduated necklace for $325 plus $10 shipping.

Although the description clearly states and shows in the photos that the necklace is made from graduated beads ranging down from 18 mm at the center to 9 mm at the ends, the customer returned the necklace because “I wanted beads all one size.”

“I wanted beads all the same size !!!”

I refunded her credit card $325 even though I could have charged her a restocking fee (see later in the article).  Return shipping cost her $10.

When the customer contacted us about another necklace, we replied that we had nothing to fit her criteria.

The bottom line: A lose-lose situation.

Merchant sold nothing and paid $18 in credit card processing fees. That’s part of doing business and with returns a tiny fraction of 1% of our total sales, $18 is not a big deal.

But Paula (that’s me !) spent precious time and money dealing with the customer. The time (spent fulfilling the orders, processing the returns and refunding and replying to all the emails from this customer) was a greater outlay than the loss in credit card fees.

Time is Money

The customer ended up with no necklace and paid $40 for shipping and insurance ($10 x 4 = $40).

Customer could have avoided costly errors in ordering by reading the item’s page and taking advantage of the educational articles on the website such as Everything You Need to Know About Navajo Pearls.


Customer B

Customer B

Bracelet #1

Customer B used PayPal to purchase a silver twist bracelet for $95 (plus $7 shipping) but found it was too small and too thin for her taste.

“Bracelet too small”

She returned it for a refund of $95 through PayPal because she said she would be buying another bracelet. The cost of her return shipping and insurance was $6.

Bracelet #2

Customer B then purchased a larger, thicker bracelet for $198 (plus $8 shipping) but found that it was a little bit too large and slipped off her thin wrist several times.


“Whoops – where did I lose that bracelet?”

She returned it for a refund of $198 through PayPal because she said she would measure better and purchase another bracelet. The cost of her return shipping and insurance was $8

Bracelet #3

Then customer B purchased another bracelet for $198 (plus $8 shipping) and it fit.

The bottom line: A kinda win and sorta win situation

Merchant sold one bracelet for $198 but paid THREE $6 fees to PayPal to receive the three payments. That cuts into the slim profit we have on items.  And the merchant spent quite a bit of extra time with this customer.

Customer paid $198 plus $37 shipping ($7 + $6 + $8 + $8 + 8 = $37)

Customer was afforded excellent customer service and appreciated it ! But she could have avoided excess shipping costs by more careful measuring of her wrist size and knowing what diameter bracelet she wanted. We have plenty of information on How to Choose and Fit a Cuff Bracelet and More on Cuff Bracelets.

For best fit, measure your wrist

Morals of the stories:

Read informative articles. See above for articles specific to this post

OR, browse this blog

OR see a Complete List of All of My Native American Jewelry Articles on our website.

Compare jewelry you are ordering with some that you have that fits you well.

Use a cloth measuring tape to measure your neck, your necklaces, your wrist, your bracelets and so on.

Ask Paula questions if you need more information about an item.

Note that we reserve the right to charge a restocking fee when an item is returned because it doesn’t fit or the customer doesn’t like it.


3 thoughts on “How Returns Affect Buyers and Sellers – Two Case Studies

  1. “RETURN” – this really was an eye-opener to me from the merchant’s perspective. Although I seldom return items (unless there is a defect, etc) I will be sure to read product descriptions more carefully. One thing for sure – you are “fair and square” with your customers.

    By the way – I love your animated graphics.

    Thank you for another good “lesson.”

  2. Thanks for the great comment !

    I thought it would be especially helpful to today’s readers since internet shopping is growing by leaps and bounds – I’ll have to look up the growth figures sometime.

    With the cost of gas and time and hassle of driving around and looking for things, especially specialty items like Native American jewelry, people are shopping on line in droves.

    It is easy to have a great on line shopping experience.
    Know what you want, specs and sizes.
    Choose a good merchant with great products and personal customer service.

  3. Pingback: What is a Restocking Fee? What is Horsekeeping’s Policy? | Native American Jewelry Tips

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