How to write Terms & Conditions that your buyers will love

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Don’t bid if you don’t intend to pay…

How many times have you seen that on an auction listing? Hundreds, if not more, I bet. How many non-paying bidders do you think it’s stopped? I’d estimate none. Every NPB has a unique and genuine (to them) reason why they can’t pay: they just got their credit card bill and they’re over their limit; they drank and bid again; they found a cheap one and they’re sure not going to pay your overblown prices.

angry man ripping up contractIt won’t stop any NPBs, but what ‘don’t bid if…’ does achieve is to put off the genuine bidder, the one who wants your item and is absolutely going to pay for it. ‘Don’t bid if…’ gives out two messages that genuine buyers really don’t want to hear:
Sometimes, people don’t pay this seller
What your negative message tells them is ‘maybe these people who don’t pay know something I don’t. Maybe this item that looks like exactly what I want, is something else. Maybe I’ll bid elsewhere.’
This seller is not very sympathetic about changes of mind
It’s unlikely that in the split second between clicking ‘BIN’ and accessing PayPal, there’ll be a major change in your buyer’s finances, of course. It’s not about paying, per se. But you’re sending a loud, clear signal that you’re inflexible. Would you buy from that?

Writing a great eBay listing isn’t just about crafting a perfect item description detailing every nuance of your product. It’s also about what surrounds that description, your ‘terms & conditions’. Done right, these can give your buyers confidence that they’re buying from an honest, sympathetic seller. Done wrong, they can kill your sales stone dead.

So the first principle of writing great T&Cs is to forget about yourself. Don’t try to catalogue every single possible problem that’s ever happened to you on eBay and protect yourself against it: buyers won’t read it and if they do, they won’t take any notice. Instead, use the space to send a positive message about what you’re like as a seller. Forget about what you want out of the sale and think like a buyer.

Top Ten Tips for Terrific Terms

  1. If it doesn’t need saying, don’t say it.
  2. Keep it short: most of us can give all the information we need to by filling out the eBay boxes.
  3. Specifying handling time is a matter of courtesy, especially on BIN listings. Can buyers safely assume you’ll post their urgent item the day they pay, or might it take a little longer? Head off problems before they happen with an honest assessment of your handling time.
  4. I *am* responsible for items lost in the post If you’re a business seller, you’re responsible by law to get your item safely to your buyer; if you take PayPal, even if you’re not a business seller, you’re responsible for delivery under their terms . And this is still the case if your buyer has chosen to pay for the cheapest, uninsured shipping. Don’t make yourself look both ignorant and untrustworthy by denying your responsibilities.
  5. Offer at least the minimum returns’ policy: eBay’s rules say that you must allow buyers to return goods within 14 days of purchase.
  6. Offer more than you have to: if stock control and other concerns allow, consider offering a longer returns period than 14 days. Buyers don’t, by and large, send things back: what they want is the security of know that they could if they wanted to. Make them feel more secure, and stand out from your competitors.
  7. Know your responsibilities: as just one example, perhaps as a response to eBay enforcing returns policies, I’m seeing more and more sellers saying they charge restocking fees for returned goods. For retail/B2C transactions, this is not allowed. Read up on what the law says are your responsibilities.
  8. Be specific about combined shipping: if you possibly can, make your buyers feel that they’ll get a good deal on buying more than one item from you. Offering free shipping on purchases above a certain level is always a good way to encourage more sales while giving buyers the idea they’ve got a bargain. (I know this can’t work for everyone: it does depend on what you sell.)
  9. Make things easy: don’t give buyers extra hoops to jump through: demanding they obtain a returns number before sending back goods, for example, might feel like it’ll cut down your number of returns, but all it will really get you is frustrated buyers. A buyer who’s sent something back and got a refund will come back to you (my most profitable buyer ever sent her first order back); a buyer whose life you make difficult will be put off for life.
  10. Keep it friendly: when you’re writing something that might have legal implications – e.g. who pays for returns – it’s tempting to write in legalise. Don’t. “Buyer shall remain responsible for return postage fees.” “You pay to send it back.” “We’ll ask you to pay the postage to send back any item that doesn’t 100% delight you.” I know which one I’d rather buy from.

10 Responses

  1. “We’ll ask you to pay the postage to send back any item that doesn’t 100% delight you.”

    ha! ya learn something every day ,guess whos changing the little box today 😉

  2. Like your turns of phrase very buyer friendly.

    I just wish I could find the handling time box, its location remains a mystery to me.

  3. ebay will soon insist sellers extend this another 10 or so

    we will pay your mortgage
    free car hire
    free fuel for a year
    free all expenses paid world cruise,
    free pet insurance
    free medical insurance
    your gas and electrity bills paid
    free tickets to a west end show of your choice
    £5000 to gamble on any betting site of your choice
    £5000 harrods voucher

  4. Where is the handling time box?
    Very well hidden in Turbo Lister. At the bottom of the Postage Options section is another button marked ‘postage options’; click that, and at the bottom of the first tab is a drop-down for ‘domestic handling time’.

    On the SYI form, look under Domestic Shipping for
    Additional options
    You haven’t selected insurance or handling time options for your listing.

    Below this is a link “change”, which allows you to specify dispatch time.

  5. This is spot on.

    Many sellers treat the T&Cs like “the small-print” where you can enforce any selling practices you want, like taking no responsibility for safe delivery or extorting feedback.

    Frankly, if your buyers have to read your T&Cs before dealing with you, then you have already got it wrong. Do you read the terms of every website and shop you deal with? Of course you don’t – because fair trading is what you expect, not an optional bonus.

    T&Cs are for showing the buyer you are professional and trustworthy, and being clear about your terms – which must be in line with (or over and above) their statutory rights and normal retail practices.

  6. if your buyers have to read your T&Cs before dealing with you, then you have already got it wrong.
    Andy, that’s a great point.

  7. our terms and conditions are they pay, we send,
    its only after they receive their item the fun can start
    so we only have the one condition
    if you want to send it back because you bought it while you were blutered drunk
    then you pay to return it

  8. Zigzagly Mrs Biddy..

    However, I suspect I have made lots of money on the back of some of my competitors’ unfriendly t&cs. 😈

    Webby selling is *all* about *longterm* buyer spend and loyalty. Yes, even if you sell ‘one offs’

    Happy wrapping!


  9. If it doesn’t need saying, don’t say it.

    Even when we do say it, some people think a return policy means they can wear and return dirty underwear…..


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