Return policies and serial returners refer to shoppers who often return items. So, consider this question. How should retailers such as Amazon deal with serial returners?

In prior posts, we studied return policies from the consumer’s perspective. For example, see:

Before we examine current retailer practices, we ask. Are YOU a serial returner. How should firms handle you?


What to Do? Return Policies and Serial Returners

As Krista Garcia reports for eMarketer:

“Return policies used to be viewed as a necessary evil. Behind the scenes, logistics can create a lot of headaches for retailers. But consumers expect a seamless process. Flexible returns may be a differentiating factor that can make or break customer loyalty.”

“More online buyers means there are also likely to be more returns and exchanges. Plus, ‘bracketing,’ the practice of buying multiple versions of an item to determine the one a shopper likes best and returning the rest, is becoming a common practice. According to a  survey of digital buyers who returned an item in the past six months, 41%  say they use bracketing some of the time. And luxury shoppers do this at an even higher rate (51%).”

“Some retailers are considering blacklisting serial returners. Yet, they should also take caution against alienating customers with legitimate reasons for sending back a purchase. It is to a retailer’s advantage to provide fast exchanges and immediate refunds, as most shoppers actually replace the item they returned (57%).”


What do YOU think about the findings shown below?

Return Policies and Serial Returners

14 Replies to “Return Policies and Serial Returners”

  1. I believe it would be short-sighted for a retailer to ban a serial returner; especially an online retailer considering the initial intangibility of online shopping, which doesn’t offer the more tangible, in-store “try on” experience. With traditional brick-and-mortar stores struggling these days, I expect online shopping will be the preferred choice for shopping in the future.

    As a consumer, I wouldn’t make a purchase from a retailer that didn’t allow or restricted, returns and exchanges. I certainly agree that a good return policy helps establish brand loyalty and trust among consumers and retailers, even becoming a competitive differentiator for companies such as Nordstrom and Lands’ End. I believe that the logistics of exchanges and returns will need to be a necessary evil that retailers will need to accommodate.

  2. It would not go over well if retailers ban serial returners. One of the beauties of being able to shop online is that if you do not like it or it does not fit, it can easily be returned. If retailers offer online shopping they have to be okay with the consequence of people buying a bulk of products and also returning a bulk of it too. Online shopping is easier for many consumers so it is helpful that stores are flexible with returns.

  3. I can definitely see how a retailer’s return policy/process impacts the consumers loyalty and their purchasing habits. Personally, I make sure to read every stores return labels prior to completing my purchase because I do feel as a consumer it is important to be aware of the policy and make sure it seems fair to me. It is apparent why an online shopper is more likely to make returns due to the fact that they don’t see the product right in front of them which essentially may hurt a company. Clicks only stores would most likely experience a lot more returns compared to one that is a bricks-and-clicks store where consumers have access to products in store and online, so if they were to make an in-store return it would be easier to turn it around into an exchange instead. In all, I do think that return policies should be made fair to accommodate the consumer but their are certain extremes that shouldn’t be allowed.

  4. Returns are part of retail. Sometimes customers are not happy with the product and its up to the company to have a return policy. Return policies can attract customers because they won’t feel betrayed by a company if the product does not meet expectations. Online stores receive more returns because they can’t physically see or hold the product.

  5. Although it must be incredibly annoying to constantly deal with serial returners, it’s a necessity in the retail market. One of the largest reasons that customers remain loyal to companies/brands is because of fairly lax return policies, because if an object does not work, fit, or match what you expected of it, one should be able to return it. For example, L.L. Bean used to sport what was perhaps the most relaxed return policy in the world; if you still had the receipt you were able to return the object no matter the time period. This has changed in recent years, but it’s one of the reasons the brand sports such a mass following. As well as this, online companies absolutely need to allow return policies or else they simply wouldn’t have a customer base. If something is ordered via website, presumably the person has never tried it on or used it before, so if it doesn’t fit or work to what they need it to, they should absolutely be able to return it. This is how companies build loyal bases, which in turn keep them earning and running for longer periods of time.

  6. Who gets to define who is a “serial returner?” This is a serious question, as being a person who returns a lot is more of an annoyance than a large cost. Will companies be judged by how many returns or warranties they deny because THEY DON’T FEEL LIKE IT? This is a fine line begging to become the next controversial news story.

  7. Personally, if a store did not allow a return policy, that would affect whether or not I purchased the product. I understand, however, people abusing the system and retailers being frustrated. How is a company supposed to make a profit if people are constantly returning items? A company should just have a clear return policy and stick by it and not question the consumer.

  8. In my opinion it is a little dramatic to ban a customer from returning an item they are unhappy with especially if the item is in perfect condition. Instead the company could create a stricter return policy, for instance you must return within 30 days and with a receipt. I am a big online shopper and also a big returner, so if a company blacklisted me from returning an item, I would definitely stop buying from there.

  9. I do not think it would be the smartest idea for retailers to ban serial returners. This is because although there might be some people that do abuse the return policies, others enjoy shopping online because of the freedom that it offers. People normally order a bulk of stuff online and whatever does not fit or does not meet their expectations will be returned; and I think that retailers are used to this mechanism already.

  10. I understand from the retailers side how it can be a difficult process to always deal with returns, especially with those who “bracket” and buy a bunch of things to then return, but it would be unfair to prevent any returns. The retailer should just make stricter return policies as to not exclude mass groups of shoppers from their stores as being able to make returns is a necessary part of retail. I know personally if I was on the fence about buying something I look at the return policy before making a purchase, and those with easier processes make me more inclined to show there.

  11. As someone who does online shopping and sometimes even bracketing, I do not think retailers should ban serial returners. When purchasing an item online it can be difficult to tell what the exact item is like, which is why it may be more often that online shoppers are constantly returning items. Given that I am someone who does return items, I would say that one of the factors that helps me decide to purchase an item that I am not so sure about is a retailer’s return policy. Many times when I see a good return policy I will just buy the item that I may plan on returning, but in the end keep it. Knowing that I have the option to return it later if I wanted to is a driving force in my decision to buy a product. I do not think people should be banned from a store or website just because they have changed their opinion on an item or did not receive what they were expecting.

  12. I understand this matter because I am a serial returner too. I find the fact that online shopping comes with high rate of returning is reasonable. Since it is much easier and faster for people to decide to buy without really get to see the real products; they might just change their mind as fast when they receive them. There’re both good and bad to e-commerce. I think that every company selling online should offer easy exchanges to different sizes or colors of the same product because most of the returners’ problems are size-accuracy. This will also solve bracketing as well. As a customer, I suggest that with the nature of online shopping, companies should provide as much information about the products online as possible, including insightful images, videos and descriptions. This will reduce chances of returning. Also, for online shopping, return and exchange policy is the key to customer royalty: whether customers will want to buy from a company again.

  13. I have a unique perspective on this because i actually work in retail at the mall. I work at a clothing store and i can attest to a lot of what is discussed in this post. However, I don’t think we would ever considering banning serial buyers. This is because as hard as returns are for us, they really do make or break customer loyalty. At my store we work to be as accommodating as possible with returns because it is more likely the customer will continue to shop with us if we are flexible with her on policies.

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