How To Handle Print-On-Demand Returns
October 19, 2021
by Rebecca Fox

Handling print-on-demand (POD) returns can be more challenging than regular returns and exchanges. Learn how to manage POD returns for your Shopify store.

The big benefit of print-on-demand products is that every order is custom-made. However, each order being unique also makes returns and exchanges an exceptional challenge, since products can’t easily be returned and resold to another customer. 

Since print-on-demand returns pose such a unique challenge, it is important to learn how to handle them effectively, since returns play a key role in providing a positive customer experience.

The Difficulty with Print-On-Demand Returns

Returns can be a hassle if you’re a print-on-demand seller because it can reduce your profit, especially if you can’t resell the product. Communicating clearly with your supplier and having a well-defined return policy can prevent a lot of return requests that are based on misunderstandings. 

4 Tips For Handling Print-On-Demand Returns:

1. Clearly Communicate Your Return Policy

Fit the Policy to the Product

Your store’s return policy outlines what can be returned and exchanged at your eCommerce store. Your policy should include:  

  • Who is responsible for return shipping 
  • Return conditions
  • Supported return types
  • Return time frame

Your return policy should be suited to the types of print-on-demand products that you offer. 

You might decide that if your customer receives a damaged, misprinted, or faulty product you will refund or replace it, however if your customer simply changes their mind after placing the order, they won’t be able to replace the item.  

Consider the types of products you sell and whether they can be resold. Make it clear how the POD product will look different from how it appears on the listing page. 

Clearly Display Your Return Policy

As soon as you’ve decided on your return policy, post it everywhere in your store. Put it in the FAQ section of your site, in the product description, on the checkout page, and in the message that you send your customers to confirm their order.

Having a clear return and exchange policy helps your customers know what to expect in the case of an incorrect or damaged product, and reassures them that they are making the right choice by purchasing from your Shopify store. According to a UPS study, 66% of consumers will review a store’s return policy before buying, so it’s important to make it clear and easy to find.

2. Verify Your Supplier’s Return Policy

Supplier Refund Options

As part of creating your store’s return policy, find out what your print-on-demand supplier’s refund policy is. Check whether your supplier offers partial refunds for returned products and exchanges, whether they can resell returned products, and whether they accommodate exchanges and returns. Your return policy will be largely influenced by your POD supplier’s policy. 

Supplier Restocking Fee

Many POD suppliers don’t charge for returned products if they are undamaged. If your supplier does have a restocking fee and you choose to have your customers be responsible for that fee, make sure to communicate the restocking fee price and conditions in your return policy.

Supplier Shipping Policy

Your print-on-demand supplier may have different policies regarding shipping. Depending on the situation, they might prefer to send a replacement product before receiving the returned item, or delay sending the replacement until receiving the returned item.

Additionally, if the returned item cannot be resold, your supplier may not want to receive the item back at all. In such cases, you may choose to refund the customer or replace the product and have the customer keep the damaged or incorrect product, since you won’t have anything to do with the returned product.

Make sure your store’s shipping policy is compatible with your POD supplier’s shipping policy and clearly communicated to your customers.

3. Define Return vs Exchange Options

Specify Exchange Turnaround Time

Be sure to explain exactly how your Shopify print-on-demand exchange process works, how long the process is expected to take, and whether or not the return shipping is free.

Decide on Return and Exchange Conditions

Determine which products require a return and which can be handled through an exchange or store credit. Depending on the product, and whether it can be resold or not, you might decide to send a replacement product or issue a refund without requesting the old one to be returned.

4. Simplify Your Returns Process

Automate Your Returns

Using an automated returns portal will help you implement your return policy without having to manually handle each return request. Let your customers select which item they want to return and how they want to handle the return, and then easily manage your returns on the back-end using a returns management dashboard.

A returns management system enables you to track and monitor all your returns in one place, making the whole returns process fast and easy.


Print-on-demand returns can be challenging to manage, especially without the right returns management system in place. Implement a clear returns policy and communicate well with your suppliers and customers to make the POD returns process efficient and effective.

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