How to Write a Returns Policy for Your E-Commerce Store


Would you shop in a store that clearly stated goods could not be returned or exchanged? Probably not. Yet it’s not unheard of for customers to abuse a generous returns/exchange policy.

Take LL Bean, a US store. Their returns/exchange policy was amazingly generous. One brazen family returned some items from their grandfather’s wardrobe for a nice gift card. Fair enough, you might think, but these garments were 20 years old!

Stores have wised up. John Lewis recently slashed its 90-day returns policy to a less generous 35-days. It’s still pretty generous, however.

Whilst most stores would prefer it if their customers never returned anything, it is inevitable that goods are returned sometimes. Online shoppers are even more likely to return goods because they can’t try before they buy. Returns also spike during the holiday season, when unwanted gifts are exchanged for a credit note or gift card.

Each time a parcel is returned, it costs the retailer money.

Unfortunately, if a store doesn’t have a fair returns policy, customers will think twice about shopping there. Most savvy customers check a store’s returns policy before making a purchase.

But how do you write a returns policy?  Let’s take a look.

Be Fair

Returns policies should be clear and unambiguous. Shady clauses and policies open to interpretation impact the customer experience and reduce trust. It can quite literally make or break your sale. Here’s a quick guide to writing a returns/exchange policy your customers will understand and trust.

Write a Personalised Policy

Whilst it is tempting to copy and paste a returns policy from a competitor, this is a really bad idea. For one thing, it might not be right for your business, and for another, their policy might be terrible!

  • Write your returns policy from scratch. Cover everything, from how long customers have to return goods, and under what circumstances they can claim a refund, e.g if goods are faulty. Be fair but not overly generous, or you open the business up to fraudulent returns.
  • Use plain English. Don’t dig a thesaurus out and use long, baffling words to disguise the fact returns are only accepted if Jupiter is in ascendant and blue cows just flew over the Houses of Parliament.
  • Avoid using scary words, such as “we are not responsible”. This kind of thing acts as a major red flag for customers. Never imply it is the customer’s fault if goods don’t fit or fall apart within a week.

The aim of a returns policy is to make it super easy for customers to return their purchases. It should be clear and to the point, written in friendly, helpful terms.

  • Let the customer know what to expect. Do you offer refunds or credit notes? Can they return goods for free, or must they pay postage costs? Decide what’s fair and consider having different procedures in place for different types of returns. For example, if a customer wants to return an item because they changed their mind, it’s OK to ask them to pay the postage, but if an item is faulty, it’s only fair that you let them return it for free.
  • Be clear about what must be included in the package, such as a returns slip, and decide whether you’ll provide a returns label or organise a courier to collect goods.
  • Make sure you list the returns process, step by step, in idiot-proof terms. Pitch your language at the lowest common denominator, and in multiple languages if appropriate.

Once you have a draft returns policy written, go over it with a fine-tooth comb to check for mistakes, typos, anomalies, and anything that might confuse a customer.

When you are happy with it, publish it online in a location where customers can easily find it, such as in the FAQ section. Add a link to your returns policy from your home page.

Educate Staff on Your Returns Policy

Finally, educate staff so they are familiar with your returns policy. The last thing you need is staff misleading customers and undermining your policies due to ignorance.

Remember, a clear returns policy leads to greater customer trust and less time spent processing returns.

Whether you need to write a returns policy, product descriptions, or blog posts – Ink Elves can help. Contact us today for a bespoke quote!