If you are a new seller, or an advanced seller, Buyer Review Extortion has become a quickly growing phenomenon, especially with DIY Custom items (etsy, for example) where the buyer chooses all of the options (color, size, print color, etc) then decides they dislike the item THEY created! Here’s what you need to know about Review Extortion:
The buyer purchases your item.
When it arrives they complain about something overall very trivial. The trivial thing could be where the mail carrier left the package, or, the buyer claims the item is Merlot color, not Mahogany, or, as mentioned above, the buyer chooses the font and color combo for the custom item then becomes upset that “It’s ugly”.
At this point most sellers would likely point out their return policy. However the buyer beats them to the punch by saying he/she will be happy if a large refund was applied and he / she keeps the item(s). BUT that’s not all; the buyer proceeds to let the seller know that if a refund isn’t issued they will leave a bad feedback for the seller.
So, at this point, the seller is trapped with two options: Take a loss or Get Bad Feedback. And please don't assume that this issue is only happening on etsy! Review Extortion is everywhere, even on book sites, like GoodReads, Amazon and more!
THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW
If you sell on a marketplace, Feedback Extortion is NOT ALLOWED. Immediately screenshot the extortion and report the buyer. The marketplace should deal with the situation and IF the buyer proceeds to file a dispute you should be fully covered.
If you don’t sell on a marketplace, things become a little more complicated because there’s nobody to cover your loss or deal with the buyer for you. In my opinion, if the item is super cheap it’s often easier to just refund the jerk and write-off the loss on your taxes. For example, we once had a lady buy a Lot of 10pc Grab Bag Womens Walmart tees for only $24.99 with free shipping. She threw a tantrum that “there are too many solid colors and not enough pieces with patterns!”. Our reply was “We have refunded you in full. If you dislike the tees please donate them to GoodWill. Have a great day!” because it was beyond clear that this woman was going to be an endless headache over $24 (which was only $5 net profit after all expenses!). ---- Keep reading this blog post because I have an update on this lady that you need to hear!
Your website should have Terms, and you should be making buyers Agree to Terms before they purchase. Those Terms should clearly lay out your Return Policy. So, let’s assume you do have Terms and the Terms say that Custom Items cannot be returned. You can then point this out to the buyer, but offer them a discount on the purchase of a new item. Additionally you can offer to help them design a new item or offer to make some suggestion to help them create whatever the F it is that they’re seeking.
Here’s the update on the 10pc Walmart Tees woman; after refunding her, in full, meaning she got shipped 10 tees FOR FREE, she STILL left bad feedback, still continued to harass us and STILL filed a chargeback!
We had to then show the credit card company that the refund was already issued, in full, therefore she is not entitled to getting 10 tees PLUS $25 out of our pocket. MasterCard agreed with us, that she had indeed been fully refunded previously. But the harassment continued:
This psycho lady would email us multiple times a day to continue to complain about the 10 tops; she hated everything from the colors to the cotton blend to the way they fit her. She then complained about the stitching on one piece. We continually reminded her that THEY ARE FREE. No cost to you! Please donate them, throw them out, give them to someone who can use them, use them as rags… whatever you want to do because THEY ARE FREE!!!!
…. But that wasn’t good enough. Then she wanted us to send REPLACEMENTS. You can’t make this sh*t up! So not only did she get 10 free shirts + free shipping, then left a bad review, then filed a chargeback that we had to fight AFTER the full refund was issued…. But now this nut job wants to EXCHANGE the shirts! Unbelievable. Needless to say, the answer was NO.
The reason I am telling you this is because even IF you do allow the Extortionist to get a large (or full) refund from you, there is no way to guarantee the problems have ended. With this in mind, it’s often better to just point to your return policy and offer a discount off of a future order OR an exchange at their expense.
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