We purchased a new home last year that needed quite a bit of TLC, giving me the opportunity to make the most of my Walmart+ membership and its offer of free shipping. A considerable number of the purchases I've made have been through Walmart's third-party sellers. While some buyers may have horror stories, I've had good experiences with these merchants.
How are third-party sellers chosen?
Walmart currently partners with about 100,000 various third-party sellers. But how does it decide who makes the cut? According to the company, only qualified businesses are approved to sell on the Walmart Marketplace. When Walmart is determining whether a company is a good fit, it dives into the business's catalog (what it has to offer Walmart buyers), how its operations work, and other details. In short, Walmart doesn't want to get stuck with customers who are unhappy due to the shifty practices of a third-party seller.
Walmart regularly reviews the performance of its third-party sellers. Sellers that provide excellent service to Walmart customers earn a Pro Seller badge on their item pages.
In case you're wondering: Walmart never shares a customer's financial information with sellers.
Do sellers fulfill their own orders?
There are two ways to receive an item you've purchased from a third-party seller. If a seller keeps inventory at a Walmart fulfillment center, Walmart is the one that packs and ships it to you. If the item comes directly from the seller, you get the same secure checkout process, but may have to wait a little longer for your order to arrive.
In either case, Walmart stands behind the order.
What happens if I want to return a product purchased from a third-party seller?
All sellers must follow a minimum return window of 14 days for electronics and luxury items and 30 days for other items. However, before pulling out a credit card to make a purchase from a third-party seller, check its return policy. Here's how:
- Once you notice a product is sold by a third-party seller, scroll down the page. Go past the price, the warranty offer, and the boxes asking if you want to pick the item up, have it shipped, or if you want it delivered. That's where you'll find information specific to the seller.
- Click on the “Details” link near the seller's name.
- A box will pop up, letting you know how long you have to return the item and if it can be returned to a Walmart store.
For example, I just looked up a shiatsu foot massager sold by a company called Renpho. Once I clicked on the “Details” link, I learned that Renpho gives buyers 90 days to make a return and allows its items to be returned directly to a Walmart store.
If you want to be extra careful about who you're working with, type “pro sellers” in the search bar. The next page that comes up will have a list of filters you can set. Scroll down to “Retailer” and click two boxes, “Walmart” and “Pro Sellers.” Once set, that means the only products you'll be shown are sold directly by Walmart or by sellers that have earned pro status.
Contacting a third-party seller directly
Once you contact the seller from your Walmart.com account, Walmart gives the seller 48 hours to respond. In addition, Walmart retains a copy of every email between you and the seller, creating a paper trail of your experience. Then, if Walmart needs to step in to resolve a dispute, it has that email chain to review and get up to date.
While it may be tempting to reach out to Walmart customer service first, the paper trail created by working directly with the seller can speed up the resolution process if you do need to turn to Walmart customer service.
What will Walmart do if I have a problem with my order?
If you purchase something through a third-party seller and you need technical support or have a question about warranties or item specifications, Walmart suggests that you contact the seller. After all, they're in the best position to answer your questions.
However, if the seller can't or won't solve your issue, Walmart steps in to take care of the matter. Last year, I purchased a triple bunk bed for a bedroom I was decorating for our granddaughters. The bed I found was sold through a third-party seller, but I wasn't worried because I knew that Walmart would make sure the purchase proceeded smoothly.
Unfortunately, when the bunk bed arrived, it was missing an entire section. I contacted the seller but did not immediately hear back. The girls were coming for a visit, and I wanted the room to be ready to surprise them. And so, I reached out to Walmart customer service.
Not only was Walmart immediately helpful, but the third-party seller also jumped in to see what it could do. There must be something about selling goods through the largest retailer in the world that inspires business owners to stay in Walmart's good graces.
The third-party seller was not able to fulfill our order, but with Walmart looking over its shoulder, we received a speedy refund and were able to purchase another triple bunk bed.
Walmart's “Marketplace Promise”
The Marketplace Promise is designed to let you know that you're safe making purchases through third-party sellers. As mentioned, the seller has 48 hours from the time you first contact them to make things right. If it doesn't, Walmart is happy to step in and find a solution you're happy with.
Can things go wrong when making a purchase through a third-party seller? Absolutely. While it may be a hassle, you should end up with the purchase price back in your checking account due to Walmart's promise to stand behind anything sold under its umbrella.
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The Ascent does not cover all offers on the market. Editorial content from The Ascent is separate from The Motley Fool editorial content and is created by a different analyst team.Dana George has positions in Walmart. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Walmart. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.