30 Jun 10

Store Policies: Six Key Topics To Cover

I recently noticed something after shopping at my favorite stores. Even if I only purchase two items, my receipt is so long that it could fit 20 items on it.

Why? Because under the details of my transaction, the receipt lists the store policies.

Why Establish Store Policies?

Store Policies are an important part of doing business – even in a small business – because they protect the seller and the customer. Store Policies are the “rules” to your store – customers know what to expect, and there’s a protocol for you to follow when various situations arise.

I spoke to two successful creative businesswomen to find out their tips on establishing store policies.

Deal with "What If?" Scenarios

Cori Dantini, an artist based out of Washington, creates mixed media pieces that she sells from her Etsy store, Corid. She aims to capture the visual poetry of everyday moments like the sigh of a bird’s song or the wind whispering in your ears.

Cori established store policies from beginning because she says customers feel more comfortable buying from someone who has a stance on “what if?” scenarios. At the same time, sellers are protected in the case of the transaction going wrong at the customer’s end.

Product returns, for example, can get complicated, so the subject should definitely be covered by your store policies. Cori's stance is that if the customer isn’t happy with the product, they can return it, no questions asked. Stores that aren’t so lenient about returns should spell out the procedure (length of time a customer has to return a product, whether the product must still be in its package, etc.) to avoid customer confrontations down the line.

Build Customer Confidence

Jaime Mancilla, a paper and textile artist in Arizona, agrees with the importance of store policies. Jaime runs her Etsy store of the same name, selling home décor items and gifts. Her pieces reflect her love for interior design and the latest fashion trends.

What Jaime likes most about store policies is that they eliminate guessing games. Everything is spelled out in black and white – customers know you mean business, and feel like they are dealing with a professional.

This is especially important for first-time online buyers who may not feel 100-per-cent comfortable making an online purchase.  Anything you can do to build trust is worth it.

Jaime’s main goal is “to always man the storefront”, meaning that she maintains excellent customer service, sturdy packaging, and fast shipment, no matter how small the order may be.  You never know who your customer is, and “for all you know, it could be the President or Martha Stewart ordering from you!” Jaime adds.

Six Key Topics to Cover

These vendors gave me this great list of important points to cover in your store policies:

1. Non-Payment:  How long do customers have to pay for their purchase before the item is returned back into inventory?

2. Return Policy: What happens if the customer is not happy with the final product?

3. Shipping: What is the standard method of shipment you use?  Does the customer have the option of expedited shipment?

4. Tax: Is tax included in the price listed, or is that added afterward?  (Unlike the U.S., a lot of countries have tax included in their list price, so make it clear whether tax is included or added at shipment).

5. Damage: What are your policies if an item arrives to the customer damaged in transit?

6. Forms of Payment:  What forms of payment do you accept?  Check?  PayPal?  Credit Card?

These cover so many possible scenarios that could arise in everyday business, so I would recommend including all of them when you set up your store policies. Thank you, Cori and Jaime!

Readers, please share the topics you include in your own store policies. What lessons have you learned about store policies in the course of running your business?

Dionne Christiansen is a graphic designer based in Houston, TX.  She is the face behind the Etsy store City of Dionne and blogs at Notes from Dionne.

Main images courtesy of Cori Dantini and Jaime Mancilla.

Posted by: Dionne Christiansen

Posted in: business management

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1 Julie - A Fine Tooth Comb commented on 06/30/2010

A very helpful post, Dionne! Sadly, many customers don't read the shop policies until it is too late, but having them in place protects both the seller and the customer.

I would add that it is important to update the policies page from time to time. As unforeseen situations arise, a seller could add wording to the policies that could help prevent similar problems with future orders.

Also, Etsy sellers should take note that the policies page states the date (at the bottom) on which the page was last updated. It's a good idea to update the policies every once in a while so that the date re-sets. If the policies are outdated, customers might wonder what other areas of the shop might be unprofessional too.

2 Shiny commented on 06/30/2010

Before publishing this article, I would have suggested each of the shops mentioned take a moment to polish their own policies. Consistency in format and grammar and checking for correctly-spelled-but-wrong-words go a long way towards customer confidence as well. Dionne, not to pick on you, but in your policy you don't even talk about returns or exchanges, just a warning that colors on monitors can vary.

3 Dionne_C commented on 07/02/2010

Oh dear, Shiny - you are awesome! I can't believe that I neglected to mention that in my own store policies. Thank you so much for taking the time to point that out to me. I really appreciate it, and definitely don't think of it as you picking on me. That's what's so great about the Meylah community - we can help each other out. Thank you!

4 Rosalina Black commented on 10/20/2010

I find the info very helpful I have been thinking on my policy and I know I have to make some changes for the costumers to make them feel more comfortable shopping at my etsy store,
thank you for the advice.

5 Mary Kerran commented on 10/22/2010

I am always trying to learn from others that know what they are doing. Thanks so very much.

6 Lori commented on 01/31/2011

Such good recommendations. I'll go check my policies right away.

7 Scott Staley commented on 04/05/2014

Thank you Thank you Thank you

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