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Return policies in classified ads

Posted by schlange on Tuesday, April 2, 2013

like this

We've upgraded the classified ad system so sellers must now specify a return policy when they post an ad. They can specify if no returns are allowed, or if returns are allowed, they must indicate how the return will actually work (within X days, who pays shipping, etc).

The return policy specifics can be found on the detail page for the ad. Some existing ads may not have a return policy specified yet, since we just took this live--but new ads will have return policies, and we have notified owners of existing ads encouraging them to edit their ad to  include a return policy.

I thought this would be a good way to encourage sellers to offer money-back return policies, as well as ensuring that both parties involved in a transaction are happy once it's all done.

Look for this icon next to ads: Returns allowed with money back refund  This icon indicates that the seller offers a money-back return policy for that item. 

26 comments on “Return policies in classified ads”

kmwaters Says:
Wednesday, April 3, 2013 @8:00:35 AM

Excellent feature Eric. Probably the biggest obstacle to a classified ad producing a transaction is buyer trepidation if satisfaction is lacking upon receipt of the item. This can only result in more classifieds and more transactions at BHO.

schlange Says:
Wednesday, April 3, 2013 @9:57:46 AM

I agree, kmwaters. I'm not sure why we didn't do this sooner!

kmwaters Says:
Wednesday, April 3, 2013 @10:21:48 AM

Some things just have to evolve. You have a great site in BHO. And it will get even better as new ideas come to mind.

schlange Says:
Wednesday, April 3, 2013 @12:31:29 PM

I love seeing all the "Money Back Returns" icons on the ads now! As a buyer it takes away so much of the risk when that is offered. Way to go, sellers!

kmwaters Says:
Wednesday, April 3, 2013 @2:56:58 PM

Smart move by sellers. They must understand the importance of putting shopper fear to rest. And if they don't live up to it there should be some kind of sanction imposed.

kmwaters Says:
Wednesday, April 3, 2013 @2:57:47 PM

This is a great free service you offer Eric. I hope it is appreciated and respected.

schlange Says:
Wednesday, April 3, 2013 @3:17:06 PM

If a seller doesn't live up to their side of the bargain they should get a negative review from the buyer. Getting a negative review is a BIG deal, so in most cases that should be sanction enough.

kmwaters Says:
Wednesday, April 3, 2013 @4:51:29 PM

Agreed so long as they don't get shy.

mrphysics55 Says:
Monday, April 8, 2013 @3:09:09 PM


In my opinion this is another poorly thought out feature of your Classified AD section. It along with your "Show More Makers ... " link in the right hand column of the classifieds serve to make the Hangout a less appealing place to sell banjos.


schlange Says:
Monday, April 8, 2013 @3:19:39 PM

Eddie--what's bad about requiring a return policy on listings? Can you explain your thinking here?

mrphysics55 Says:
Monday, April 8, 2013 @4:36:24 PM


Thank you for asking. I am a big fan of the Hangout, in-particular the Classified Ads Section. I consider it one of the better places to go for the buying and selling of banjos.

In response to your questions;

Any safe return of a product counts on the ability of the return shipper to pack the item in a secure fashion and on the proper handling of the item by the chosen shipping company.

Real issues can arise when damage occurs during the return shipment. These include but are not limited to (1) The need for the return shipper to purchase proper insurance (2) The need for proper repackaging so that shipping insurance may be honored (3) The need for the return shipper to file and follow through on any insurance claims.

All of these issues are out of the control of the seller. As a result, I may never allow any return unless it is done in person and prior to any refund. Such a return policy quite likely may turn off potential buyers who are not prepared to perform proper due diligence prior to voluntarily agreeing to the purchase of a luxury item such as a banjo.

The implication of a seller not agreeing to accept any other than a hand delivered return of SOLD items may relegate the seller to a status of "difficult" or worse "nefarious".

In my opinion this feature [much like your "Show More Makers ..." feature that creates an arbitrary division of shown vs hidden makers] has created a two tier system in terms of getting ones' ad seen or being seen as a reputable vs potentially un-reputable seller.

I have never had a request for the return of any item that I have sold as I strive to fairly represent [via clear photos and accurate descriptions] what I have for sale and to properly package and ship.

No matter how well intentioned your thought process are in creating such features, when the Hangout interjects itself into the prioritization of listings or the actual peer to peer transaction I contend that unintentional bias may have or has occurred.

Respectfully yours,

kmwaters Says:
Monday, April 8, 2013 @6:07:00 PM

I have to agree with Eddie. While the new idea is a good one, it should not be used as a tool to give preferential treatment to an advertiser, or denigrate them in any way.

the-fish Says:
Monday, April 8, 2013 @6:19:43 PM

eddie, put my throughts into words...... very nicely as I must admit.... One of my concerns is folks who tend to change their minds, something perhaps may come up (life) between the commitment and the arrival of the banjo, and take advantage of the return policy even through they may be happy with the banjo.... I for one have had many second thoughts, but have always held up my end of the deal regardless... anyway, it is what it is

mrphysics55 Says:
Monday, April 8, 2013 @6:23:28 PM

kmwaters ...

I just noticed that your avatar says "I'm Difficult". ... You're difficult and I'm nefarious ... LOL!


kmwaters Says:
Monday, April 8, 2013 @6:26:59 PM

Isn't it great that we live in a free country where we can be like we are??

mrphysics55 Says:
Monday, April 8, 2013 @7:14:04 PM


As you said above ... "Getting a negative review is a BIG deal, so in most cases that should be sanction enough."

I'm a firm believer in your Rating Score feedback page. It is a great tool in helping to determine the dependability of sellers AND buyers.

Eric, you also stated; "I thought this would be a good way to encourage sellers to offer money-back return policies, as well as ensuring that both parties involved in a transaction are happy once it's all done." This policy seems to do little to ensure that the seller will be happy with the outcome of a transaction. The requirement of listing a return policy feels coercive and in my opinion shifts too much of the burden of responsibility onto the seller.

If a buyer wants more pictures or information all they need do is ask. The buyer can satisfy themselves before sending payment. As I stated earlier, these are voluntary purchases of a luxury items. If a buyer needs to try before they buy or requires a Money Back Guarantee then they should visit a brick and mortar store or arrange to meet the seller face to face The HangOut seems unlikely to provide a means to ensure that both parties involved in a transaction are happy once it's all done.

Let the members work through deals with the knowledge that they are responsible for their end of the bargain. With the aid of of the Ratings Scores and the "light of day" provided by the public nature of the HangOut we members can reasonably police ourselves.

Oh! and PLEASE ELIMINATE the "Show More Makers ..." feature on the Classifieds Page. It can only be considered as arbitrary and strongly favors listings that are immediately available to the eyes of potential buyers.

Thank you for allowing me the chance to list my concerns, I enjoy the HangOut and consider the Classifieds an invaluable component in my enjoyment of "the banjo".

Yours in BHAM.

schlange Says:
Tuesday, April 9, 2013 @8:59:20 AM

The "show more makers" link is anything but arbitrary. When something is arbitrary it is based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system. I've very specifically chosen which brands show up in the main list by looking at historic numbers of classifieds posted for specific brands, as well as traffic (searches) for specific brands. The most popular brands are on the initial list.

I've been building websites for.... 16 years now. And I've learned over and over again that you've got to keep navigation as simple as possible, and make it easy for users to find what they want. It's a guess, but I would say 90% of the time when people are searching for a particular banjo brand, that brand is one on the "popular makers" list. If they want to search for other makes they can do so from the search tools, or from the "Show more makers" links.

schlange Says:
Tuesday, April 9, 2013 @9:09:26 AM

When it comes to the return policy, I still believe that requiring a plainly-stated policy with each listing is best for both buyers and sellers. It makes sense for many reasons, which is why every music store on the planet has one, why eBay requires one, etc.

I chose to highlight those listings that offer a money-back return policy because this is obviously an attraction to buyers. In my opinion the biggest holdup with buying musical instruments online is that you have to do so sight unseen (and ear unheard). But if I can send the instrument back and just be out the cost of shipping, I'm a lot more likely to consider a purchase.

MrP, many of the concerns you stated about the buyer not packaging it correctly, etc can be alleviated by stating things in your return policy like "item must be properly packaged and shipped with insurance on return," etc. If you don't want to allow returns, that's perfectly acceptable as well. But you will, logically, attract more interested buyers if you allow returns.

Yes, these return policy changes do serve the buyers more than the sellers, I'll agree. But that doesn't mean they're bad. Buyers are the ones shouldering the risk here (sending money to someone they've never met) and if we can help to reduce that risk, or at least help them calculate the risks better, I think that's a good thing which will result in more buyer traffic and therefore more sales for our sellers.

schlange Says:
Tuesday, April 9, 2013 @9:11:32 AM

And MrP, I do appreciate your input on this. Thank-you for stating your concerns.

We may always be in agreement, but civil discussion makes us think through things, and that's always good!

mrphysics55 Says:
Tuesday, April 9, 2013 @9:56:18 AM

Perhaps it was a poor choice on my part to use the term arbitrary.

By making choices based on numerical popularity, etc. you bias the list and remove individual sellers/makers ads from that which is immediately visible. As I stated before this creates a multi-tier system where sellers lucky enough to be on the "popular makers" list may gain an advantage over those on the "unpopular makers" list. For example, I can almost guarantee you that Old Time, Open Back fans would consider Cedar Mountain and Noel Booth, both on the unpopular list, more "popular" than Custom-Built, Tranjo, or any very popular Bluegrass banjo. As an old time player, I am only interested in 6 or 7 of the 50 makers currently on the popular list [less than 15%]. I can only imagine what a 4-string player feels like who may see even less of their personal choices or ads represented on the popular/visible list.

Your historic number approach to selecting makers to populate these lists [although not arbitrary], seems to be unintentionally biased toward bluegrass banjos. It is frustrating as a seller who may be offering a high quality and sought after open back for sale to end up "riding in the back of the bus"simply because of rarity in numbers.

Perhaps a more useful feature would be to catagorize banjos by style and have links to those styles in the right hand column of the classifides. That would put all sellers, 4-string, 5-string, BG, Old Time, etc. on an equal footing. This would be just as simple to navigate as the current system, would keep the primary, visible list short and reduce any unintentional bias in the listings.

mrphysics55 Says:
Tuesday, April 9, 2013 @9:59:00 AM

Thanks again for hearing me out. I don't think I've had to type this much in a coon's age! : >)

schlange Says:
Tuesday, April 9, 2013 @11:03:40 AM

I like your "browse by banjo type" idea... I actually already have that on place at So I added it above the maker list:

I modified the "popular" list a bit more based on your feedback and taking a look at the numbers. I added Cedar Mountain, Barry Sholder, and Noel Booth.

mrphysics55 Says:
Tuesday, April 9, 2013 @1:09:56 PM

Thanks for listening. I believe the "browse by type" feature will be popular.

However if I had KNOWN that you were gonna listen to me I would have lobbied for my Birmingham building buddies; Jason Burns and Lee [J.L.] Sproull !

Yours in BHAM. I'm,

Gus Bloch Says:
Monday, April 15, 2013 @8:02:15 AM

OK Eric, you sold me on this and I've changed my add accordingly.
We'll see how it goes.

Thank you,

Gus Bloch

mrphysics55 Says:
Monday, April 15, 2013 @9:36:34 AM


I can see why you feel a need to offer protection to buyers. I have bought several banjos through the hangout and always grit my teeth when dealing with an unknown seller. However, a money back return policy is only as good as the word of the seller and really doesn't offer any real protection to the buyer.

I understand how to pack well and am willing to take a chance on shipping ... once. I commonly offer one-off, custom banjos that can never be replaced by insurance so I can not afford too take a chance on return shipping. I feel your return policy may make it harder for me to sell banjos ... time will tell.

I appreciate your efforts and the civil discourse ... and thanks for the HangOut


schlange Says:
Monday, April 15, 2013 @9:55:22 AM

There is no single "silver bullet" that will offer complete protection to everyone. This is just another tool for buyers and sellers to use to improve their chances of satisfactory transactions. Having a stated return policy is always a good idea, in my opinion--then everyone knows what they're getting into. It offers a little more protection (it's a written agreement, after all), but certainly there are plenty of ways around it.

If you don't want to let your buyers return their purchase that's perfectly acceptable. Buyers prefer to have that option, of course, so you will be at a disadvantage in that regard, which I believe is what you're saying. But there are many, many things which sellers can do to make their listings more attractive (upgrade to featured ads, take great photos, write good copy, link it to a swap shop post, have a low price, etc), so I think you can make up for that disadvantage somewhat, if you want.

I believe this will result in a "net gain" across the whole classifieds system, though, which is why I implemented it.

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