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Retailers Punishing Repeat Online Returners

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — A warning if you shop online and have a habit of returning items, you may be in for a surprise. More retailers are starting to take notice and some are even punishing repeat offenders.

Many retailers are starting to charge fees on all sorts of merchandise to help offset the cost of returns, which is estimated to be nearly $400 billion in losses each year.

Like many people, Magda Walczak does a lot of online shopping. And like many people, she also makes a lot of returns.

“About half the things that I actually buy, I end up returning,” Walczak said.

Sometimes Magda returns her online orders at the actual store but lately, she’s run into some trouble.

“Several times the person at the cash register would tell me, ‘You know you don’t have to buy online, you can just come to the store and you can try everything on.’”

Those reminders are just one new tactic some retailers are using to cut down on returns. Some experts also say the next time she makes a return, it could cost her more.

“The days of using your living room as a fitting room are yes, going to be coming to a close,” retail expert Carol Spieckerman said. ”For retailers, returns are an absolute nightmare.”

Some retailers are also hiring outside firms to help keep tabs on customers’ returns.

AgilOne is a company that keeps tabs on 525 million consumers. They flag one-percent of “return-a-holics”, which means they send back a lot more than they keep.

“We look at returns in relation to the profitability of a customer. So for example, if you return 50 items, that can be really terrible if you only keep one.  But of course if you return 50 items and end up buying 200, that’s fantastic,” explained Dominique Levin, of AgilOne.

Companies use this date to curb chronic returning.

Some companies won’t send coupons if you’re a frequent returner. Others will only email promotions for certain products.

In addition to charging restocking fees, stores may also start revoking free shipping.

Promotions and coupons may also be a thing of the past for customers who frequently return merchandise.

“Most stores really would rather have you continue to do business with them rather than their competitors. However, what we do see is stores starting to find ways to perhaps spend less money on you or find ways to have you return less,” said Levin.

The good news?  You can improve your status with a store by starting to keep more items than you return because customer profiles are refreshed frequently.

Magda said her bottom line is that if an item she orders doesn’t fit or she doesn’t like it, she needs to do what’s right for her.

“I’ll be mindful of taking advantage of the offers that I receive, but I don’t think it’s going to make me shop any less or return any less.”

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