Handling Angry Customers, so Everyone if Happy
As a seller on Ebay for 10 years, and Etsy for 6, I’ve had the occasional irate customer. If you haven’t had the pleasure yet, you will. It’s just a matter of time. Through it all, I have learned a foolproof method of handling angry customers that works for ME every time.
Let’s say you have a vintage suitcase listed on your favorite site. Resist the temptation not to tell buyers about minor or major flaws for fear they won’t buy it. Believe me, you’ll save yourself lots of headaches down the road.
Be Up Front About Flaws
If there’s a problem later, and you didn’t tell them about the musty odor, the stains inside, the stitching coming loose, the scuff marks, and the rusty latches, and they’re not happy, it’s your neck.
Consequences When You’re Not Up Front
You’ll have to not only reimburse them for the original price plus shipping (if you’re selling on Ebay), but also foot the bill for them to return it.
So What’s the Solution?
It sounds too simple, but the solution is to be very honest about every single flaw, even those that seem too silly to mention, even those that are so minor you’ll think they’ll sound worse than they really are. Verbally describe it and document with a photo. And now it’s up to the buyer to read the description or look past the first picture. And all sellers know this is a big assumption!
Buyers Do Have a Responsibility
We all agree that many buyers don’t read the description! It’s their responsibility to do so. But if you’ve documented it, your derriere is covered.
What Buyers Wrongly Assume
When problems arise, buyers automatically assume you, the seller, is out to get them. Angrily they assume you’re trying to cheat them.
I recently had such a situation on Etsy. I sold a vintage sewing pattern, with most of the pattern pieces missing…an old 30’s “Hollywood pattern,” but I listed it because the envelopes are collectible.
A person bought it and 2 other vintage patterns. After they received it, an angry email arrived regarding the missing pattern pieces. They accused me of cheating them, being dishonest for selling the pattern, and threatened to open a case against me on Etsy.
I could have gotten angry at the unjust accusations, but I understood her frustrations. Lest I sound like an angel, HA! Believe me, I’m not, but I did understand her perspective.
How I Handled the Irate Customer
I remained calm.
I used her name, identifying and sympathizing with her: “Betty, I don’t blame you at all for being disappointed!” (Her tone changed almost immediately.)
I put the responsibility back on her. “I wondered if you had read the description where I clearly stated that most of the pattern pieces were missing.”
I reminded the buyer of her responsibility. “I debated about reminding you before shipping that the pieces were missing, but I usually assume people have read the description before purchasing.”
I promised to refund money for the pattern and part of the shipping. (I received a sheepish reply and an apology about “the misunderstanding.”)
The money was promptly refunded.
Steps for Handling Angry Customers:
- Don’t respond in anger or defensiveness. Be professional.
- Be honest about flaws. Describe and photograph items from every angle.
- Disclaimers are good reminders for buyers. “Vintage items are pre-loved and have normal signs of use. It is not a new item.”
- If complaints arise, you have it documented.
- Agree with their issues, which helps deflate anger.
- Tactfully remind them that it was in the description.
- Promptly refund money.
A much happier buyer is the result. You have protected your reputation and the buyer is happy. The maddest buyer becomes a lamb when you refund money.