Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Missing Pieces: Shop Policies

When I was first asked to write a piece about policies, I must admit I did come up against a bit of a brick wall. I mean, surely everyone has the same type of thing on their policies, don’t they?

Well when I started to look into it, I was rather surprised at how many small businesses either didn’t have any at all or they had just a couple of policies that looked to me as if they had been thrown together as an afterthought.

I was shocked. Honestly, I was truly shocked that these people who were putting money, time and love into their product, advertising and marketing, were then just throwing all their hard work away and making their shop look totally unprofessional, by not adding a few, well thought out policies.

When I put my own policies together I really didn’t know where to start. I had a look around to see what everybody else was doing and was amazed at how different they were.

So which were the ones that didn’t work for me? Which shops policy pages would even go as far as to put me off from buying from that particular seller?

Long ones
To start off with, there were the ridiculously long ones, you know the ones that try and cover every single aspect of their business and are paranoid about anything and everything. We are not Myer! We are (most of us) small businesses who just want to get paid, send our products off and hope they arrive safely and in one piece to our customer. Happy seller, happy customer.
Keep it short, sweet and to the point.

Rude ones
Then there were the rude ones. You can see that these sellers have been, in the past, been stung big time. Their policies are straight to the point, like a dagger through the heart. There are no nice vibes going on here at all. You may have had a bad experience in the past, but that is not your future customer’s problem, it’s yours. Move on!
Keep it upbeat and positive, but direct and to the point.

Confusing ones
Again this seller has been stung, yet is still trying their very hardest to be nice. They waffle on so much that you give up reading in the end. All this does is cause confusion on the buyer’s part and if there ever is an issue, the buyer could say that the policies were not clear enough.
Keep them clear and concise.

Trying to be clever
Again, these sellers come across rude. Their comments are sarcastic, not friendly. Keep your personality for you FB page. Policies are an important and integral part of your business.
Keep it professional.

So what do I think is important to include in your policies?

First of all you need to have a look around, like I did, and see what other people are doing. Pick out what works for you and your business/products and what doesn’t.

Points to remember

  • Make it clear and to the point
  • Keep it short and simple. If you start to waffle, rein it in, think about what the message is you are trying to say and stick to it.
  • Keep it friendly but professional. 
  • Include a link to your policies on every invoice you send out. Cover yourself from the offset. If this is not possible refer to or insert a link your shop policies in your listing.

Write down your main headings, making sure that the most important ones to you are at the top. Here are the headings I think are most important.

Payment – State payment methods taken

Shipping – Include here your policies for loss of shipped items. This is probably where you really need to be clear and to the point. Lost items are probably what have stung a lot of small businesses. I strongly suggest you either ONLY use registered post or you try your hardest to get your customer to add it to their order.

Refunds and exchanges – Be very clear on what you will and will not exchange. If you are happy to exchange, then state who will be paying the excess postage

Additional policies – This is where you need to include everything else, e.g. your custom and wholesale orders. Try not to waffle.

To finish off with, make sure you end with a really positive comment. Something like
“I will do my very best to make sure you are totally happy with your purchase”

Source: Artwork by Cheeky Pickle
Note from Author:
Last year I was unfortunate enough to be involved with a lost (expensive) parcel incident that I sent, registered post, to my customer. To cut a very long story short, Consumer Affairs became involved. Basically if you are unsure as to where you stand with regards lost parcels and postal services, call Consumer Affairs. They are very friendly and will give you the answers that you need. They may not necessarily be the answers you necessarily want to hear, but it can cut out a lot of uncertainty as to where you stand on the subject.

About the Contributor: 
Owner of Cheeky Pickle, Ali is a Textile Designer, originally from the U.K. She comes with a BA (hons) in Mixed Media Textile Design and has an established background in the Textile industry. She loves mixing simple, bold designs with an eclectic mix of mediums, creating unique and texturally exciting Art pieces. Ali finds her inspiration from simple, natural and organic shapes and textures, that can be seen in nature. To find out more about Ali go to her blog or follow her on Facebook.


  1. I love this post! It puts me off when a seller/artist doesn't have policies listed. It makes me wonder how organised they are if they haven't bothered to do that. It's my time wasted by having to contact people, that is if I can find their contact info. This series on missing pieces is so important. I'm surprised, as you were, when people don't list simple things like return policies, blog addresses and an email. By the way - your art work that is photographed above, is stunning!

  2. Very useful and well written. Another thing to add to my to do list - thank you for the prompt. Helen


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