A Gurgaon-based merchant told Moneycontrol on condition of anonymity that he has received a packet of sanitary napkins as a returned product from a customer instead of the watch he sold
Priyanka SahayMoneycontrol News
Instances of customers receiving stones instead of mobile phones from online sellers is passe. Now is the time for sanitary napkins being delivered instead of wrist watches.
But there's a twist in the tale.
This time at the receiving end is not the customers but the sellers themselves.
A Gurgaon-based merchant, who sells watches on Amazon and Flipkart, told Moneycontrol on condition of anonymity that he has received a packet of sanitary napkins as a returned product from a customer instead of the watch he sold on Amazon.
Similarly, another seller, who did not wish to be named, said that within three days of receiving the order, a buyer requested a return of a pair of trousers as it was wrong colour, size and wasn't comfortable.
However, the buyer sent an old pair of trousers as returned product. The buyer had removed the brand label from the original trousers and stitched the label to an old pair of trouser and returned it back.
A third seller narrated an incidence where he had received an old phone in exchange of Nokia Lumia handset, he had sold to a customer.
"The customer said it was a gift for her grandmother and that she didn't like it. We agreed to take it back only to realise that she had sent back an old phone instead of the one we sent and had also tried to scratch the IMEI number printed on the phone," he said.
There are many more such instances where online sellers get incorrect, fake or used products back from customers as returns. Many sellers claim that quite often customers are the culprits who do these things with an intention of duping.
In some instances, even the delivery executives are accused of replacing the original products. On other occasions, these are basic human errors caused due to wrong stickers or addresses pasted on the packets by the dispatch executives.
According to research firm Redseer, around 18 percent of the products shipped are returned to the sellers. Of this, 12 percent is reverse pick-up which means that the customers open the packet and return it, 5-6 percent products are returned to the origin when delivery fails.
Sellers, however, claim that the numbers are much bigger. According to All India Online Vendors Association (AIOVA), in categories such as apparel, the return rate goes as high as 35-40 percent.
In an interaction with Moneycontrol, the Gurgaon-based merchant who got sanitary napkins in return said that out of every 8-10 products returned by the customers, one or two are fake or used products and sometimes the products are even changed.
"Sometimes delivery executives use a thin blade to slit open a packet and replace the original product," he alleges adding that in the current case, it was a different scenario. "This seems to be a case of the product delivered to the wrong seller," he adds.
It is also likely that he will be compensated for this loss by Amazon. However, not every time the seller gets compensated. E-commerce companies take a lot of things into account before processing a compensation.
“We have the option of asking for safety claims but it is not 100 percent of the value all the time,” said the seller adding that if the products are returned without being delivered to the customers there is no compensation. It is as good as the product not being sold. However, if the customer returns the product and there is some fault with the product then some compensation is given to the sellers.
The Gurgaon seller sells watches with an average ticket size of Rs 500.
Amazon and Flipkart did not respond to the queries.
"The buyer-seller interests are balanced by extensive data analysis, use of custom designed algorithms and case-specific investigation to determine the genuineness of returns. For both, sellers and buyers, we have a TrustPay policy under which their interests are protected. Sellers can reach out to Snapdeal in case of any issues related to returned product and after thorough analysis and investigation, compensation is given," said a Snapdeal spokesperson.
E-commerce companies charge commissions ranging between 13 and 18 percent from the sellers depending upon the categories. While sometimes this commission would include the shipping cost, quite often shipping charges are over and above the commission and vary for different merchants.
Sellers who do bulk businesses are often charged lesser as compared to smaller merchants. So, in cases where sellers are paying for the shipments, they have to bear double the cost when the product is returned. An average delivery of a watch, which is a product less than 500 gram would be Rs 75. If the product comes back then there is an additional Rs 75 charged for reverse logistics.
E-commerce companies pay sellers once it is convinced that the seller is not lying. Following this, there is a proper distress mechanism.
In order to curb the issue of incorrect returns, delivery companies have also started the process of quality control at the doorstep.
"The delivery boy takes a picture of the product and seals it in a packet at the time of collecting it from the customers. This creates a photographic evidence of the condition in which the product was picked up," said a senior executive of a delivery firm requesting anonymity. "Owing to these measures the cases of fraud have gone down by 50-60 percent in the last few years. The whole process is still evolving though," he added.
"Often the money gets deducted from account of the delivery firm and goes to the seller," the person quoted above said adding that a lot of times shipments are also insured.
Companies such as Fidelity, New India Insurance offer cover to the shipments of e-commerce companies. These insurers cover cases like loss in transit, theft, cash dropping, and multiple issues for different rates.
The sellers, however, also question the “no questions asked” return policy of the e-commerce companies in India. While the sector is still at a nascent stage, the sellers allege that such policies are abused by the customers quite often. “The argument is that the e-commerce companies cannot get rid of this policy at the cost of losing a customer. But then how can they justify transferring such costs to the sellers due to their flawed policy?” asks AIOVA.However, in a market which is still busy acquiring price sensitive consumers, such issues can hardly be addressed.