Drop Shipping & eCommerce Blog | Doba

Our view on dropshipping returns policies

Written by Ashlee Toney on April 6, 2012 in Doba Features and Policies


Dropshipping returns policies can be a hassle for any retailer doing business through a third-party fulfillment method. This is our view on the issue and recommendations we have for retailers to alleviate any headaches dropshipping returns policies can cause. 

Part of the reason for this administrative headache is the fact that every drop-ship supplier has a different return policy. Some even have different policies within their own policies, based on manufacturers’ warranties and brand restrictions. It’s always best to read over the supplier’s return policy in its entirety.

Your own return policies should be a company decision on how you would like the service to happen between your end consumer and yourself. And you’ve got a couple of choices:

  1. You can pass the supplier’s return policy on directly.
  2. You can choose to have your own standard policy.

But know that if you choose to have one standard policy within your company, it doesn’t necessarily mean that policy will coincide with all of your supplier’s policies. When it comes to Doba-affiliated suppliers, anything that is not within the supplier’s policy (as listed on Doba) will be your responsibility.

Warning: Drop-ship supplier return policies can change or be updated at any point in time. Changes are rare, but can and may happen. You want to be sure to check often for new information or changes.

Here at Doba, when requesting a return, there are several steps that take place between contacting Doba for a Return Merchant Authorization (RMA) number and having the RMA resolved:

  • The first task is to visit and find the order in your account.
  • Double check the return policy to be sure you are within the policy parameters.
  • Then submit a request for an RMA number.

The process of submitting the RMA number to the supplier and receiving a reply normally takes between two to four business days. Some suppliers may take longer, but this is usually due to requests for additional details or because of unusual situations that may arise (i.e., a claim needing to be filed with the shipper for a lost item or damaged package). Your best bet is to write down as much as you can in the RMA request in order to provide the returns department and the supplier with enough details to quickly handle your RMA request.

Once the RMA request has been submitted and sent to the supplier, a response will come in. The Returns Department here at Doba will contact you if additional details are needed or if there is a problem with your RMA request. Otherwise, an RMA number will be entered into your order and an automated email will be sent to you with the RMA number and instructions.

If the RMA email doesn’t have an address for the customer to return the item, we should be sending a separate email with this information. You will want to wait on this information, or contact Doba Customer Support before having your customer return the item. If your customer returns it to the wrong address, it could result in the item being returned to your buyer, lost, or no credit being issued.

Once you have all of the return information and details, you will want to pass this along to your buyer.

Tip: One thing to think about at this point in time is the return shipping costs. Some suppliers may provide returns labels and some do not. Most of the time, this information is stated in their return policy. If the supplier does not provide return labels, you will need to decide whether you will cover this for your buyer and reimburse them, or if they will be responsible for the return shipping costs.

Suppliers who do help with the return shipping costs normally handle it in one of two ways:

  1. They will issue a return label to you by email. You can pass this along to your buyer to print, apply to the outside of the package (again, be sure the RMA number is on the outside of the box), and then drop off with the shipper (USPS, UPS, FedEx, etc).
  2. They will issue a call tag. A call tag is where the shipper will come to your buyer (the ship to address on the order), and will pick up the return. The item must be boxed and ready to be returned, with the RMA number on the outside of the box (the shipper will have the label.)

Return tracking is a most important step. We can contact the supplier and ask for a refund (or replacement if the supplier offers it and RMA asks for it). However, here at Doba, we won’t have any information as to whether it has been received. If the warehouse has not communicated with the returns department that it has been received, the supplier may not have it showing as being returned. It’s always best to log into and pull up the order in your account, then enter the return tracking. Doba’s Return Department can follow the tracking and — once it shows the supplier has received it — we can contact them for the refund/replacement.

The last step of the return process is what resolves the return — either getting a refund issued or a replacement sent.

Note: Most of Doba’s drop-ship suppliers prefer to refund an order that was returned and have you — the retailer — place a new order. Others only offer a replacement to be sent and this will be noted in their return policy. If they offer both exchanges without a new order (which is rare), or refunds, this should be noted in their policy and you will see an option for “replacement” when requesting an RMA.

Doba allows the supplier up to 15 business days from the date they received the return to issue a credit and for us to refund you, the retailer or send the replacement item. This allows their warehouse to receive the return, have it processed (determine whether it can be resold, whether it was damaged or defective, etc.), and then pass along the information to the returns department to issue the refund or authorize the replacement. Most refunds/replacement orders do not normally take this long unless they are behind on returns (normally during the fourth quarter and the following couple months after the holidays – January and February). Delays may also occur if they are having an issue with the return. An example of an issue that may arise is finding that not all parts were returned, the item was not deemed as actually being defective/damaged, or that the item is not in stock at that time.

Important: There are some standard policies regarding refunds and returns under special situations. If your buyer refuses a shipment, or it is undeliverable for some reason, or it is returned without an RMA number, that shipment can be refused by the supplier, not credited, or credited minus fees. These fees normally include the drop ship/handling fee and shipping from the original order, the return shipping cost/refusal fee/etc. from the shipper, and restocking fees.

It’s always advisable to have your buyer confirm the address and have them accept the shipment, and then request an RMA number instead of returning it without an RMA number or refusing the order. Some of these same fees apply to non-defective (buyer’s remorse) returns. The end consumer will be responsible for the return shipping, unless you have agreed to something else within your return policy. And once the refund is being issued, the refund will be minus drop ship/handling and shipping from the original order. There also might be a restocking fee if the supplier has one.

I hope this information will help you understand the complete process of returning an order, and providing the information up front to your buyers. It explains the processes, from the supplier, Doba, and the retailer, as well as, the timing and fees that may be applied.

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Photo by pheezy on Flickr.

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