Q: I recently began selling my handmade jewelry on a website. Before, I only took wholesale or commission orders. Now I have a retail customer asking if I have a return policy. I didn’t need one with wholesale or commissions, as all sales were final. Do I have to take back a piece if the customer didn’t like it? Should I insist that it be unworn? I don’t know what to do because I can’t be sure she didn’t wear it. I don’t want to accidentally sell “used” pieces!

just-ask-december-2008-2A: I would hope that by the time you read this your return policy is posted on your website. Return policies can range from no returns to exchanges only to outright refunds. You must decide what best fits your business, but you must also be consistent. In this case, since you didn’t have a return policy at the time of the sale, you have to do what is in the best interest of your business. I believe many Internet shoppers expect to return items if they are not as they appeared on the screen. In a recent survey by the Opinion Research Corporation, 24 percent of respondents stated their main concern with shopping online was that the item they received didn’t look like the item they chose. Good, truthful, professional photography is essential for use online and the best way to avoid unhappy customers. In addition, jewelry has to fit the person who will wear it and the only way to know is to try it on. Most jewelry sold in shops is tried on so much that, to a certain extent, it too has been worn and “used.” In this case, I would first try to get the customer to exchange the piece. If this doesn’t work, upon return of the piece in perfect condition, I would refund the customer’s money and move on.

Of course all commissions are a final sale. However, I would suggest you consider instituting a trade-back policy for items you have sold to wholesale accounts. Wholesale buyers work very hard to get things right but sometimes make mistakes. The wholesale/retail relationship works best when both partners display their willingness to make it stronger and more profitable for both parties. TCR

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