How Do Dropshipping Returns Work?


As you’re searching this topic, I assume you own or want to start a dropshipping store and after studying the concept you have uncovered a flaw in the design. That flaw is customer returns and especially if you’re dropshipping from a supplier that is overseas from the recipient.


The whole return process really depends on a few factors, the product price, supplier location and cost of delivery from the customer to the supplier. If it’s a relatively cheap product, a refund or replacement is normally the cheapest option. However, if you’re wanting the customer to send it back to the supplier, you’ll need a return number from them and a return address.


The likelihood of customers wanting to return your products is minimal if you’ve marketed them correctly and are supplying quality goods. However, eventually you’ll end up running into this situation one way or another. It’s the last thing any new or current dropshipping store owner wants to think about, but you must ensure you have a plan behind it and an excellent policy to protect yourself.


How to Deal with Returns While Dropshipping


While creating your dropshipping store you’re required to create a return policy. To do this accurately and reliably you’ll need to read up on your supplier’s returns policy and create something that works likewise. For example, if they offer a free return period for 30 days, I suggest you do something similar.


If you have numerous suppliers, you’ll need to understand each of their policies and create something that can protect you in all return situations. Take into consideration each supplier’s free return period, one supplier may have 40 days and the other 30, therefore I would create my policy with this in mind and only offer a 30-day free return period


When a customer wants to return an item, you’ll need to have a process behind it to ensure a smooth transaction. After dropshipping for many years, my process behind customer returns looks something like this:


  1.  First, a customer will contact me and request a return on an item they’ve purchased.
  2. If their reason for return falls within my policy, I’ll then request a return number from my supplier (sometimes known as a return merchandise authorization “RMA”).
  3. Once I’ve received the return number from my supplier, I’ll supply the return slip and the return number via email, requesting the customer to write the return number on the box.
  4. When the goods reach the supplier, they’ll identify the parcel with your designated return number.
  5.  Once classified, the supplier will refund your total amount and you’ll then refund the customer in full.

Although this may look simple, a lot of the time it fails to be this way. If you haven’t created a solid return policy it’ll certainly show and you may be forced to pay for shipping fees that your supplier won’t cover.


It can be complicated at times as a lot of factors play a role in what you’ll need to do in order to keep the customer happy. Below are some elements that may confuse the return process and something that you should plan ahead for.

Return Fees


Although you may have perfected your return policy to a “T”, you may be charged with unexpected return fees if you’re not careful. These fees can come unpredictably and without notice as your supplier can change their return policy overnight. To save yourself from this situation, I recommend that you regularly update yourself on any policy changes. Although this rarely happens, it certainly can. But don’t beat yourself up about it if you fall into this issue, you’ll easily make the money back from other customers interested in your products.

Faulty Goods


As a customer, there’s nothing worse than receiving a product that is faulty and doesn’t work for its purpose. I’ve been there a ton of times and it can be a frustrating experience. However, most dropshipping suppliers that are found on the popular sites AliExpress and Alibaba, don’t include defective goods in their policy. As a lot of them don’t physically manufacture the goods, they believe it’s not their fault it arrives broken. This is typically for the cheaper items, but an annoyance to say the least.


However, if an item arrives faulty somebody has to take responsibility for it, that someone is you. If you’re wanting to build a reputable business, you’ll need to provide customers with an excellent service. At the end of the day, you never know who they might be friends with and word of mouth goes a long way still.


If the faulty item is rather cheap, it can make more sense not to pay for a return that may be more expensive than the physical cost of the item. If you can, try to offer them a refund or a brand-new item for free if it doesn’t hurt your turnover too much. In the long run, you’ll get positive reviews on your website and you will also cover the costs that you may have lost. Here are some tips on why I would do a refund this way.


  1. Sometimes it can cost less, by just sending them another item. For example, if a product costs $10 from your supplier and the return delivery is $12, there’s no real point in returning it. Instead, refund or send a new product, keep the customer happy, and save yourself a ton of trouble.
  2. How would you feel if a supplier either straight up refunded you or sent you out another item to replace the faulty one without any questions asked? You’d be blown away with the customer experience, wouldn’t you? Therefore, pass this onto your customer if your product cost allows for it.
  3. You should also read your supplier’s policy as you may encounter a defective section that suggests they’ll send a replacement for the broken goods. Most suppliers (depending on the price of the product) will send another item out for you if you’re able to prove the defect instead of returning it for a refund.


If you fall into the situation of your customer wanting to return a non-broken or fully useable item, you may be able to push the return cost on them (unless your policy says otherwise). Most companies expect the buyer to pay the return of a non-faulty item and something you should add to your policy.


All in all, when dropshipping customer returns should be a breeze if you have faultless a policy and return process. Make sure you keep your policy inline with all your suppliers so you’re able to cover yourself in most return situations and pass on the costs.  

If you’d like to learn more, sign up for our newsletter below and become an e-commerce genius!