10 Things Your Ecommerce Return Policy Template Must Have

10 Things for your Ecommerce Return Policy Template

Last week I was talking with an old friend of mine. I won’t  say he is cheap because that’s not really the word for it. He is more resourceful I would say.

He always seems to know the deals or the ways to save more than anyone I know. You know the type. They are the ones who just got back from a European vacation, all expenses paid, using only “miles.”

How are You Going to Return Something From a Year Ago?

He was telling me this story about a pair of running shoes he had bought a year ago. He was complaining that the sole was starting to come off his shoe.  He was going to take them back to Nordstrom.

I said, “you bought them a year ago.”

Somehow he looked at me like I’m the crazy one.

“Nordstrom will take any returns at any time. There is no reason the sole should be coming off like this.”

return policy template nordstrom

Isn’t that peachy. They will just take back anything and everything. Life is good at Nordstrom

I didn’t feel like arguing with him but I went away thinking about this. Forget the fact that he was out of his mind. I was thinking about Nordstroms policies.

It’s true. They have incredible customer service.  They take just about anything back at any time.


Does the Nordstrom Return Policy Make Sense as a template to follow?

But I started thinking about this policy and whether it made sense.

In short, I think it’s a no brainer for them. The percentage of people that are like my friend, are inconsequential.

For every person like him, there are probably 50 other people never returning anything.

Those 50 shop with the comfort of knowing they can return anything. This comfort alone adds to the shopping experience and increase their bottom line.

Over the long run this has to be resulting in more sales and more satisfied customers.

Does the Perfect Return Policy Template Exist?

So this got me thinking about my wife’s online store.

When she was drafting her return policies  and looking for a return policy template she read everything.  She must have read 40 different online stores and their policies.   She must of combed through twenty different return policy templates

They all were comprehensive and well thought out.  Some things made sense and others didn’t.   In reality there was no silver bullet.  No specific return policy template covered everything she wanted.


These are actually silver so if you are looking to kill a vampire these may be the trick.

She ended up using a combination of bits and pieces from ones that she believed in.   You probably aren’t going to find the perfect return policy template.

You have to build your own.

Does Your Return Policy Matter?

Delivering Happiness in your Return Policy

This is Tony Hsiehs Book

My wife launched her site about 9 months ago and published her terms.  They were posted, but did they really mean anything?

You see, building a customer base means winning over fans one at a time. I talked about this in my post a couple of weeks back about writing personalized thank you notes.

When you are building a brand you have to leave a good taste in everyone’s mouth.  This means even if they are wrong. This is one of the driving succes factors that Tony Sheigh of Zappos writes about.  He wrote an incredible decribing this mantra called Delivering Happiness.

So the question is. What’s the point of having a return policy if you aren’t going to enforce it?

Can You Afford to Be the Return Policy Enforcer

Tony was building a huge company with unlimited resources. He could afford to give everyone everything.  And so can Nordstrom.  But most  ecommerce businesses are like my wife’s.

These are smaller operations looking to slowly build an audience. Most of us can’t afford the leniency of Zappos or Nordstrom.

My wife can’t afford to be taken of advantage over and over again. She has firm policies.

Whether she chooses to enforce them is up to her. 

If she decides it’s not worth it to upset a customer, she can make an exception.

But the decision is hers.

There is a difference between letting people return anything or granting them an exception.

If you make an exception to a rule from your return policy template, its perceived as a caring, thoughtful gesture.

Its Easier To Be Kinder Than Trying to Be Tougher

If its written in print, you can always show your customers.  From there you can proceed in a kinder fashion.  The benefit is, you are working from a position of strength rather than weakness.

Despite the fact that you will be lenient and gracious to your customers, you still need a firm return policy template.

The 10 Items To Include In Your Return Policy Template

Let’s look at some of the most important clauses for your return or exchange policy. These may need to be modified to work with your online store.  The general themes are applicable across various industries.

1st thing to include in return policy template

Limit Return Timeframes

Set a specific time frame to allow returns. Whether that’s 15 days or 6 months put it in writing. If someone comes back after the time frame, you can always make an exception.


2nd thing to include in return policy template

Whose Paying for Shipping

Define who pays for shipping for returns.  Define whether their initial shipping costs are refundable. Remember these shipping costs can add up. If you are selling a $25 item, shipping to and from your customer, can cost you your entire profit. We talk about this in our book in more detail when deciding what to sell.   Shipping can eat into your margins.

3rd thing to include in return policy template

You Break It You Keep It

Are you going to accept damaged goods back after a certain amount of time? If so how long. If it’s damaged in transit how long are you giving them to notify you of this? Don’t leave these up in the air. Clearly define the rules and the time periods you honor. The exception is yours to make later if you want to.


4th thing to include in return policy template

Clearance Items are Final Sales

How are you handling clearance or sale items? Are sale items final? Will you possibly allow store exchanges but not returns?  Think about how you want to handle it and what you think is fair.


5th thing to include in return policy template

How Long Should It Take To Get Items

How are your items sent and when can people expect to receive them?  Make sure to provide people with shipping rates up front and avoid surprises. Hidden shopping charges are one of the largest reasons for shopping cart abandonment. Let me people know ahead of time what your policy is.  More importantly returns should be sent back in a specific amount of time.  If you leave it open ended, you have no recourse when something arrives months later.


6th thing to include in return policy template

Require Return Approval Up Front

Require an authorization ahead of time. Rather than telling people to send back goods immediately, have them get an approval in advance.  This way you can address problems up front.  Make sure both parties are in agreement before they pay to ship something back to you. Possession is 9/10s of the law.


7th thing to include in return policy template

Custom Items Are Yours For Good

If you are personalizing items or make custom items, clarify if these fall under a separate return policy. My recommendation is you don’t allow returns on customs items. You don’t want to be stuck with something you can’t resell.


8th thing to include in return policy template

Who’s Paying To Ship Items Being Sent a Second Time

What happens if the customer enters an incorrect address and the item is returned to you?  Who is responsible now to ship the item out a second time?


9th thing to include in return policy template

Delivery Confirmation is Delivery Confirmation

What happens if an item is shipped and confirmed delivered but the purchaser says they never received it? Are you responsible only to confirm delivery to the provided address? Clarify this and make sure to include this in your policy.


10th thing to include in return policy template

The Mysterious Return that never Returns

What happens if the customers return never arrives back to you?  They should be responsible to get it to you. How do you even know they sent it if you never receive it. Be specific with your policy.


Don’t Rush And Forget The Basics

So regardless of the specific return policy template you find online, make sure these items are included.  Once the problem arises, its too late to add it to your policy then.

Am I missing something else you have included in your return policy template?  Let us know in the comments below.

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