At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, retailers began loosening their return policies. They’ve expanded the timeframes in which you can return items, and they’re offering curbside returns to help allow for social distancing measures in stores.
Now, some retailers have gone even further by letting customers keep the items they’re looking to return.
The Wall Street Journal reports that major retailers like Amazon and Walmart are using artificial intelligence to calculate whether an item would cost more to return. So this won’t mean you’ll get to keep a large appliance or smart TV while also getting a refund. But, if you’re looking to send back a lower-cost bulky item or something that’s simply inexpensive, there’s a chance retailers will refund you and also tell you to just keep your order.
“We are getting so many inquiries about this that you will see it take off in coming months,” Amit Sharma, chief executive of Narvar Inc., which processes returns for retailers, told The Wall Street Journal.
Processing returns can cost 20% to 65% of the cost of goods sold, according to a report from UPS. Plus, shipping systems are squeezed right now with so many people shopping online amid the pandemic.
Prior to the pandemic, though, store return policies had become somewhat murky and less consumer-friendly than they had been in the past. For instance, some stores weren’t accepting returns on seasonal items, even if you had a receipt in hand. Retailers also began using a shared database to track your purchases, banning “serial returners” from making returns altogether.
While picking up traction and gaining attention, this policy of refunding consumers but letting them keep items isn’t exactly new. In 2017, Amazon introduced “Returnless Refunds” as an option for sellers.
The policy became a hot topic in online forums among sellers, according to CNBC, with one saying: “So, now, those ‘semi’ honest buyers are being encouraged to join the rest of the full fledged ‘scammers’ at our expense.”
Consumers return about $264 billion worth of merchandise every year, which is nearly 9% of total sales, according to industry estimates.
Still, the returnless refunds practice was requested by some sellers who wanted to avoid the time and cost of fielding returns that might be difficult to resell, according to RetailWire.
What do you think of this new practice surrounding returns? Have you ever had a retailer refund you, but tell you to go ahead and keep your purchase?