One of the features consumers love most about Amazon.com is the ability to return anything for almost any reason, no questions asked.
It's yet another way the e-commerce juggernaut has beaten smaller competitors, who can't afford to give customers so much flexibility.
Amazon's obsession with consumers stands in stark contrast to how it treats sellers. The company is now expanding the returns policy in a way that has third-party merchants on edge.
Until now, businesses that sell on Amazon's marketplace and handle shipments outside of Amazon's fulfillment centers have not been subject to automatic returns. Instead, they've been able to review return requests individually and enforce certain policies, like refusing to accept items that have been used. They've also been able to impose restocking fees.
But heading into the holiday shopping season and the Cyber Monday rush, they're losing at least some of that control. In late September, many sellers received the following e-mail from Amazon:
"Dear seller, Starting on November 1, 2016, US seller fulfilled returns that are within Amazon's returns policy will be automatically authorized, and Amazon will provide customers with prepaid return labels on your behalf."