There will always be a risk to buying a product online. You know it. Your buyers know it. That’s why more than two-thirds of customers habitually check for a merchant’s return policy before completing their purchase.
On Walmart Marketplace, your return and refund policies are no less important. As on most marketplaces, Walmart prefers this process to be clear, simple and generous so that buyers can shop with ease of mind. But unlike on Amazon, there isn’t one blanket approach to returns; Walmart Marketplace sellers have a bit more flexibility in determining their return policies.
Here’s your guide to everything you need to know about the returns and refund process on Walmart Marketplace, and tips for how to handle returns for your business.
Walmart Marketplace Return Guidelines
Return policies vary seller by seller. Some may offer 90-day return windows with easy in-store or mail-in options. Others may require special handling and the customer to contact the seller to initiate a return.
Regardless of the details, you must meet Walmart’s minimum standards for returns, which ensure a consistent customer experience.
“Walmart has long recognized that making returns easy is a key feature of a world-class customer experience.” - Walmart
The minimum return window is 30 days, which begins seven days after an item’s ship date, unless your product falls into one of the below categories. These products tend to have a shorter return window (usually 15 days).
- Computers and computer and video game hardware
- Camcorders and digital cameras
- Digital music players
- Tablets, cell phones, and e-readers
- GPS units
- Portable video players
In addition, Walmart protects the buyer from having to pay restocking and return shipping fees in most cases (read: you pay). And products deemed as hazardous materials, like computer equipment, flammable liquids and certain cosmetics, may not be returned to a Walmart store. The consumer will have to contact you, the seller, directly, or receive assistance from Walmart. Similar policies apply to any freight items, or items over 150 lbs.
How to Request a Return Exception
Hazmat, freight, perishable items, items that can’t be returned in a single box, hygiene products, gift cards, etc. are eligible for a Return Policy Exception. To enable return restrictions on your items, you must open a case with Seller Support. You’ll then have to complete a Return Exception Request Template for review and verification by the support team. If approved, you can mark your items as "returns restricted," meaning that the customer will have to contact you directly to initiate a return.
The Main Types of Returns
Walmart will accept returns at its stores on behalf of your company. The customer will have to bring the product to their local store in its original packaging (ready to be shipped). The associate will then look up the item in the system, print the return label using Walmart’s Returns Shipping Service (RSS) and handle the return shipping of the item. At that time, the customer will also be reimbursed via the method that was used to pay.
Online Returns / Return by Mail
Consumers who choose to return the product themselves can print the return label from their online account (which is generated according to the carrier that you choose), adhere it to the package and drop it off at the nearest location like UPS or FedEx.
“Keep It” Option
Alternatively, you may choose to let your customer keep an item if it falls below a certain price point and isn’t worth shipping back. To do so, you’d set “keep it” rules at a particular price threshold for a specific product category. The customer will be told to keep items that fall into this price range when they initiate a return and will receive a refund. (Note: “keep it” rules will not apply if the customer returns the product in stores.) You will be notified when the "keep it" rule has been used, and the return will be marked as complete.
The Walmart Marketplace Promise
In special circumstances or when there’s a dispute between a seller and buyer, Walmart will step in. For instance, if a buyer receives an item that’s different than expected but the seller denies a return, Walmart will contact the seller and require a “satisfactory resolution” within 48 hours. Walmart reserves the right to overthrow any resolutions deemed unsatisfactory.
As another example, if a buyer doesn’t receive an item within two days since the estimated delivery date, Walmart may automatically issue a refund. The Walmart Marketplace Promise also protects customers from the following situations:
- Tracking for a package shows that an item has not shipped to the shipping address on the order
- Item was returned with a trackable shipping method, but the seller has not issued a refund within 48 hours of receipt
- Customer was charged the cost of return shipping and/or restocking fees, even though the return was at the fault of the seller
How Are Return Shipping Labels Generated?
The default setting for returns is Walmart’s Return Shipping Service (RSS). These labels will include the PO# and RMA# for tracking purposes and offer discounted shipping rates, as reflected on your rate card in Seller Center. RSS, as noted above, will be applied automatically to any in-store returns. It may also serve as a backup if your own carrier is not able to generate a label for any reason.
The second option for return labels is to go through your own carrier account. Walmart currently only supports FedEx and UPS. You’ll have to enter your own account details and carrier API credentials.
How Are Returns Routed?
If you have more than one return center, returns will go to the one that is closest to the customer in order to save on shipping charges. However, you have the option of setting parameters that force specified products to ship exclusively to a certain return center.
Related: Do WFS and Deliverr handle returns?
Walmart's fulfillment services (WFS) does handle returns. Once received, you can decide what to do with the product. If you decide to retrieve the product, you will be charged a shipping cost and handling fee. Similarly, if you choose to get rid of the product, you will be charged a disposal fee.
Deliverr does not currently handle returns, though it may become available in the future. If you use Deliverr, you will need to set a custom return address and inspect, process and handle returns on your own.
Who Covers the Cost of Returns?
The party responsible for covering the cost of returns depends primarily on the reason why a customer initiates a return.
The seller is responsible for situations involving a product issue, including: Wrong Size/Poor Fit, Late to Arrive, Poor Quality, Missing Parts or Instructions, Incorrect Item Received, Not as Described, Item Damaged, Shipping Box Damaged, Received Extra Item or Quantity, Received Less Than Ordered, Duplicate or Defective.
WFS will take full responsibility of return costs if the customer returns a WFS-registered product because of a shipping issue, such as Late to Arrive or Item Damaged.
In rare cases, the customer will be held responsible for return and handling costs. This includes reasons like Bought Another Size or Color, Bought Somewhere Else, Lower Price and No Longer Wanted.
Disputing a Return
If you’d like to dispute a return reason or report an item returned in poor condition, you can open a case with Seller Support. Be prepared to provide photos, screenshots or other evidence to support your claim. Walmart will review requests carefully and decide what to do, while also monitoring your performance to prevent excessive appeals.
All refunds must be issued within 48 hours of the item being received at your return center. Walmart will auto-refund the customer if you do not within that time frame.
That being said, you have two choices when it comes to issuing refunds:
- You can refund the consumer upon initiation. This means that once the return is initiated, the customer will be refunded immediately, even though you haven’t received the item yet. This could be advantageous if your customer is already unhappy about a damaged or unsatisfactory product. He or she may appreciate the show of good faith and be more likely to purchase from you again in the future.
- You can refund the consumer after the return has been processed and completed. Remember that you must finish processing a returned item within 48 hours after receiving it.
Strategies for Optimizing Refund Policies and Limiting Returns
In an “Ask Walmart Marketplace” masterclass with Zentail, Zach Hekker, Senior Manager of Strategic Partnerships for Walmart's eCommerce, explained that the best way sellers can limit the number of returns for their products is to observe the acronym C.A.R.E (complete, accurate, relevant and engaging).
The below strategies will further help to reduce returns on Walmart, while simultaneously offering a better customer experience.
Provide Complete Product Descriptions and Attributes
Make sure your Walmart product descriptions are as detailed as possible. For instance, if you are selling a piece of clothing, be sure to specify the dimensions, the material it’s made of and care instructions. The same goes for electronics: provide important attributes like serial numbers and specs so that consumers will know for sure if it is the right kind of device to pair with their existing devices. The more details you provide, the more informed decisions your customers can make.
Offer Faster Shipping Times
Ensuring fast shipping times can help prevent returns. For example, let's say the shipping time for an item is seven days. The customer may very well find someone else who carries the same item with a faster shipping time post-purchase and cancel their order for your product. If you are shipping through services like WFS or Deliverr, you can easily take advantage of 2-day shipping.
Be Generous in Your Return Policy
Be as lenient with your return policies as you can be without harming your bottom line. The more lenient your policies are, the more comfortable consumers will feel about purchasing your products. (Note that a buyer can compare all the sellers of a one product and view returns from one window as they’re researching products.) As is often the case with returns on Amazon, a generous return policy can also lower the chances of a customer rushing a return decision.
Provide High-Quality Images
Including multiple professional images of your products will help consumers understand and see, versus imagining, what they are purchasing. Be sure to highlight all angles and notable features of your products. You can provide contextual images as well, although you’ll want to make sure you abide by Walmart’s image requirements.
Consumers who purchase items—only to find that they are not available—will naturally want a refund. But poor inventory control is an issue that plagues businesses both big and small, and can be especially tricky for Walmart sellers who sell on multiple marketplaces. The most reliable remedy is finding a multichannel software like Zentail that can sync your inventory across all of your channels, integrate into your 3PL or shipping software and communicate when an item is out of stock, the moment it goes out of stock (or when an item is no longer eligible for fast shipping because it runs out at a certain warehouse location). This can help you avoid disappointing customers and losing their business.
Issue a Price Adjustment
You may have a chance to correct a shipment before a full refund is required. In other words, if a customer contacts you about a defect or missing part before a return is initiated in the system, you can offer a partial refund using the Adjustments features in Seller Center. Alternatively, you can cancel the pending return, then make the adjustment.
Encourage Customer Reviews
Product reviews can serve multiple purposes. The first, most obvious, benefit is to offer an honest review of your item. Secondly, they can address questions or hesitations for new buyers. And thirdly, they have the power to influence expectations and sentiment long before a product arrives at a customer’s doorstep. Think about how a customer review can point out if a product runs small, is best used for a certain purpose and/or is better than another competitor’s item for XYZ reason (as examples). From reading these reviews, your customer already has a more informed and positive outlook on your product and may be less inclined to find fault in your product once it arrives.
The Bottom Line
Returns cost you precious time and money. Therefore, it is important to understand exactly how they work on Walmart, best practices for return policies and strategies that can prevent excessive returns. Be intentional with how you design your policy and pay attention to the quirks of Walmart Marketplace.