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How do you handle returns?

Hi All,

I am curious how people selling at craft shows handle returns for
reasons other than a defect? Lately, and I guess it is the economy
(stupid), I’m at a show, people are loving the work and buying and a
week after I get home, I get a piece sent back in the mail, usually
with a note attached to the effect of “sorry, I got carried away and
overspent - please credit my VISA for $________.” No phone call,
nothing wrong with the piece - they just decided, a week or 2 later
they did not want to spend the money. It really ticks me off because
by that time I have paid the sales tax, paid the credit card fees
etc. not to mention that having the piece out of my booth did not
allow me to sell it to anyone else. What do you do at that point,
trundle back to UPS and send it back saying you have a NO Returns
Policy? I never push anyone to buy anything in my booth and I assume
if they buy it, they can afford it and love it. I am not a department
store and can’t take those kinds of hits. Does anyone know what the
law is concerning returns on Credit Card Purchases? I called my
Merchant company but have not heard back from them yet. I would like
to know if I am obligated to take the piece back and refund the full
amount of the purchase, including tax.


  1. You should have your return/exchange policy clearly posted in
    your booth.

  2. You should have them sign off on a sales slip that clearly states
    your return/exchange policy.

  3. You might consider what a lot of companies are doing today and
    have a restocking charge if they are going to return something (say
    25% of the price). This would cover your issues of fees and taking
    the piece out of circulation. But as with all things make sure that
    it is clearly written and that the customer actually signs something
    with the policy explained on it.

  4. People need to hear things three times before it sinks in. Make
    sure you mention when they are making the purchase, again when they
    are signing the slip (it helps to actually point out the policy on
    the slip), and just for good measure repeat it when you’re handing
    them the boxed piece. There are nice ways that you can say it that
    don’t seem to be so aggressive about it.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, LLC
1780 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140


When I set up my merchant account I was asked to provide my return
policy. This policy must also be provided to the customer. If you
don’t have a return policy, and the customer calls her credit card
company because you do not issue a credit, they’ll simply issue a
chargeback. This will cost you additional funds. I’m charged $25 for
a chargeback, plus the refund amount, sales tax included.

I have a 3 x 5" clear stand with my return policy slipped inside,
placed on my table/in booth. I also had a rubber stamp made, at a
local print shop, with my return policy. I stamp this policy on the
back of each customer receipt (before the show).

You should go to your State’s web-site to see what is, and is not,
acceptable for a return policy. You most certainly do have to refund
the amount of tax paid. You should, however, deduct this amount the
next time you send in sales tax.

Chalk this up to a lesson learned.
Best of luck,
Newburyport, MA

What is your returns policy? Most likely when you signed up for your
merchant account this was one of the questions.

Even with a non-returns policy some people will insist on returning
things. You can have an after show return policy of 10-25% restocking
fee. Post a small sign and put it on receipts. Smaller percentage to
cover your expenses, larger percentage to cover your lost opportunity
to resell it at that show. Document your new return policy with
credit card company.


Don’t know if it’s the same in every state, but I think the law is
once money and goods change hands, unless there is misrepresentation
or other violation of fair trade laws, it’s a done deal, you are not
required to take it back. The credit card company on the other hand
can and often will just let the customer have a charge-back and never
even check to see whether the item was returned or not. They seem to
consider your customer their customer, not you, even though you are
the person that pays all their charges.

Basically, from my experience, if the customer uses a credit card
and then decides they don’t want the piece, take it back. They can
get a charge-back easily with a five minute phone call. Be glad you
get your piece back, and take your lumps. The only solution to this
is to not take credit cards. You then have to decide which option
will cost you the least.

Welcome to the world of retail jewelry!



Have the statement “no returns” or “returns only for credit” on your
sales slip and on your credit card slip. The credit card company will
help you add that line. You must have that on your credit card slip,
otherwise the customer can do a dispute.

Richard Hart

Based on a recent lesson I learned, even though I had a platinum
card and had a truly valid reason for wanting to cancel an order with
a vendor (after 3 weeks, the vendor had not placed my order), the
policy of my credit card company, Visa, regarding returns is that
they will not fight the vendor for a chargeback if the vendor has a
specific policy, and the client has signed and acknowledged that

My card company was willing to make the chargeback, but would not
guarantee that it would stick if the vendor wanted to contest it.
All this stuff about payment protection for consumers is diluted by
actual practice-- credit card companies are not in the business of
defending their card holders in court.

So this means, if you want to avoid the hassle of chargebacks,
install a no return policy on your sales receipts, explain it to your
client and have them initial the policy, and you should be able to
withstand a chargeback. Not real warm and fuzzy, but that’s business.
If you’re at a show, you are in business.

At the very minimum, I suggest you have a policy of charging a
restocking fee of at least 15%-- that will make the blowbacks a
little less costly and less frequent. Be sure to have your clients
initial the policy if at all possible, and have the policy clearly
printed on your paperwork.

We’re not in the rent-a-jewel business-- you must protect yourself.
The oohing and aahing is nice and great for the ego, but SHOW ME THE

Mardon Jewelers

There are two ways to deal with this.

  1. all sales are final. Finito. End of Story.

  2. they can exchange something for equal value up to two weeks after
    the sale

As long as they know your policy up front, there is no confusion.

I don’t think you’re obligated…but I can tell you that if you don’t
have your policy spelled out on the bottom of the crdeit card slip,
you’ll be taking that return one way or another. You can program your
visa machine to say something like “No Returns” on the bottom and
then the story is over. The other thing is possesion is 9/10ths of
the law. If you are in possesion of the item, they can get a credit
from the credit card company -regardless. I allow a 30 day echange on
unworn/unaltered items. Anything over and above is up to me. It all
depends on the circumstance.


I am getting ready for my first show where I will be selling my own
work, one of the lingering questions that I have is the hassles
involved with credit cards.

I am planning on not accepting credit cards for the very reason of
returns, and of course finance charges.

do most of everyone’s hassles involve sales paid using credit cards?

warm regards
Mark Zirinsky

Mark, I was very late to accepting credit cards at shows. But the
hassles are far out weighed by the increase in sales it has brought
in. Most people will give you a check if you say you don’t take
credit cards but there is the thought that putting something on a
card is not really spending money. At shows now I get mostly credit
cards or cash it is getting rarer to see a check. It is definitely
worth taking cards. Like everything else there are things you need
to do to protect yourself just like adding your return policy on the
charge slips.


As far as I know, the best way to protect yourself is to have your
return policy clearly stated both in your booth and on the receipt
that is given to the customer. I do my best to stand behind my work
for nearly any reason. I’ve not taken back much over the years, or
been asked to. Generally, I leave open the ‘return door’ for those
who feel that the item is not what they believed it would be (I do
most of my business by mail) or for items that are truly defective
in some way. I do not guarantee against damage or loss that is the
buyer’s fault, though this can sometimes be difficult to prove. I’ve
also had people inflict intentional damage (at least, in my mind) in
order to ‘legitimately’ return. As for the charge card returns, any
consumer can dispute a charge through the issuing company. Often
they will win and you will get a chargeback that will now cost you
even more. My own return policy is generally one that states that I
will refund the purchase price, but not the shipping and handling
charges. I will also not be responsible for the cost of shipping the
item back to me. This is my normal stance when I put items on Ebay.
By the way, I can’t say I recommend Ebay for selling jewelry items.
Most of the pieces I have tested the waters with draw offers that are
genuinely less than scrap value. Another story, though. In any case,
do what you can to be sure your policies are clearly stated, both
verbally and in writing. Then just roll with the inevitable customer
who will just not be satisfied until they get a refund. The peace of
mind that comes with knowing they can’t legitimately bad mouth you is
usually worth the loss of the sale.


Hi Mark, I’ve found not accepting credit cards would’ve lost me quite
a few sales. I guess it depends on the price of your goods. All of my
jewelry is over $50.00, so it just makes it easier for the customer
to say yes to a sale. The finance charge for credit cards is a pain,
but price your things accordingly. Just tack on 3% or whatever it is
they charge. 80% of my sales are on CC, so it’s been a positive for
me. I haven’t had to take a return yet, but it’s just part of doing
business. You can shop around for rates from different companies.

Good luck
Scott Verson
Metal & Stone Design

I am planning on not accepting credit cards for the very reason of
returns, and of course finance charges. 

You will lose a lot of sales if you do not accept credit cards.
Hardly anyone carries cash anymore; people spend more when the use
credit; if you don’t accept cards, you have to take checks, which is
more work and more of a pain.

Hard to Find Tools for Metal Clay

Hi Grace,

Sorry to hear that happened to you, that’s certainly not a happy
situation! To be honest, I’m not sure how to handle the one that’s
already happened, if you didn’t have a return policy stated when
they bought the item. It’s tough, too, if you just return it to them,
wondering if they will then refuse the charge. Yuck. And did I
understand correctly that this has happened to you multiple times?
That seems odd to happen even once, let alone multiple times. At any
rate, in the future, I would certainly recommend printing clearly on
your receipts a simple return policy. Perhaps things like “No
returns for reasons other than defect”, “Contact first before
returning”, etc. Of course, you want to be sure they don’t create a
"defect" in order to return it, but then the need for them to contact
you first comes into play. Tricky situations, no doubt, especially
since it’s at a show, and not like they’ll be coming back into your
store to make the return.

Designs by Lisa Gallagher

Based on the replies thus far I feel it’s worth putting forth what
seems to be a contrarian position…

I offer a 100% no questions asked return policy on everything I sell
provided it is in the same condition it was sold in.

Sales went up significantly when I instituted this policy, posted it
clearly, and began including this in my sales patter.

It projects absolute confidence in what I offer and buying
confidence in my customers. The infintessimal number of returns I
actually get is offset ten times over by the increased sales this
policy has brought.

There’s a reason why countless top shelf retailers offer the same
without burdensome restrictions such as short time frames and
restocking fees.

One of the greatest unspoken reservations when shopping is the fear
that one will regret their buying decision, and such a policy
completely disarms this emotional objection.

In the same vein my warranty is equally liberal and open ended for
all the same reasons. My repairs are few and far between and I have
more sales than ever before.

Dante (who must give credit to Jay Abraham for illuminating all of
the above)

To all who responded to my post about returns I thank you for all
your input and ideas. As I said, we are not talking about defective
merchandise, or even a request for an exchange - it’s about people
who apparently overspend during a moment of enthusiasm and then get
hit by reality when they go home or get their bill-- and I don’t want
to be a victim of their poor judgement. I have ordered a stamp,
clearly stating my return policy and I am going to post a small sign
in my booth. I just don’t want to sound too aggressive and scare away
sales, but I need to protect myself. I will see how that works over
the course of the rest of the season and report back. Again, thanks.

Grace Stokes

I feel the need to respond to this post since I initiated the
original post – and seeing that it is a completely opposite
philosophy from what others are suggesting… Up to this point,
without a clearly stated NO RETURNS policy, it has pretty much been
my Unstated Policy to accept returns, or at least customers have
assumed that and I don’t feel it has increased sales - I could be
wrong. I also think adopting this policy would force me to have to
really raise my prices as a cushion and I am trying desperately to
keep them down. I think I will take my chances with the "NO RETURNS"
POLICY and see if that effects my sales adversely. It has however
always been my policy to take back anything defective and I always
repair items, without question - luckily for me, those scenarios are
very infrequent. One question Dante, do you have the same liberal
policy on custom work? If you purchase the material and begin the
work on a custom piece and the customer just changes their mind, do
you eat it and move on?


If you don’t accept credit cards and only accept checks, you’ll not
sell me. I don’t carry checks.

I carry a debit card.

That is today’s CHECK.

David Geller

Just tack on 3% or whatever it is they charge. You'll find this to
probably be against your merchant agreement. Someone complains you
could have your account closed instantly. 

I would NOT charge extra. Whenever you folks doing shows (or any
type of shop), figure your costs, add 10% MORE into your cost and
mark that up

EX: Ring cost to make $88. Add 10% or $8.80, Now cost is $96.80. Now
double that to $193.00.

Don’t be penny annee. If you think not taking cards is a detriment,
think about folks who didn’t buy and said “OK, thanks, we’ll think
about it”

More than one reason for not buying.

David Geller