Should I be apprehensive about returning an item?

Posted on February 8th, 2010 by

The results are in from our 12th Annual Mystery Shopping Study and we’re excited to see that return policies/ product guarantees were visible on 96% of the sites in our study- an increase of 37% over last year. The policies range from 30-90 day returns to 100% satisfaction, with the majority focused on satisfaction, so why did I encounter so many problems while trying to process my returns?

Are merchants stating “100% satisfaction” as a way of staying competitive in tough economic times, lulling shoppers into a false sense of security while not making any changes to the way returns are handled? Or is it less-than-enthused customer service representatives who don’t want any more paperwork flowing across their desks …I’m putting my money on the latter.

Many conversations about returns focused on the “lack of money” I would be receiving back from my return with statements such as

“Once we deduct the cost of the pre-paid shipping label we’ve included, you will only be receiving a few dollars back”, “There’s a re-stocking fee, a handling fee and then the fee for the pre-paid label”, and my all time favorite “even though you enjoyed free shipping of the item, returns are subject to the original cost of shipping deducted from the amount credited back, because we shouldn’t have to absorb your shipping costs.”

There were even those who made it seem as if a refund were an “urban legend”, so why bother;

“You MUST use the prepaid shipping label that was included; a $12.95 deduction would be taken from your credit (even though the cost would be $5.95 to send myself via UPS). You are responsible for tracking the package, calling customer service and requesting a refund. Returns come into our warehouse and we really have no procedure in place to know when your item is returned and a credit should be issued” (Side note: 3 calls and 30 days later I received a credit)

In the end it’s always the same; the best return policy or product guarantee on the planet means nothing if you have the wrong people manning the “front lines”. Customer service agents should try to save the sale by suggesting alternative items, promoting current specials or just graciously accepting returns, creating a win, win situation for both the customer and the retailer.

Will I continue to shop these merchants? Probably if they have something I really want. Will I buy an item I’m unsure of for myself or a gift recipient? Definitely not.

Would you buy again from a merchant who treats their customers this way?

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