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Marketplace Scratch Pad

I know what you’re getting for Xmas

Scott Jagow Nov 24, 2009

Nope, sorry, it’s not a big screen TV. A new video iPod? Not this year. No fancy digital camera either. Come on, look at the economy. No, according to Goldman Sachs retail analysts, this is what you’re getting:

The Wall Street Journal takes note of a Goldman retail comment:

“For years, the gift-giving excitement focused on consumer electronics innovation; this year, we could see more sweaters under the tree, given (1) healthy pent-up demand after three years of weak apparel sales, (2) sharper price pointing makes for a compelling gift alternative, and (3) a more muted consumer electronics product cycle providing less crowding out [of apparel.]”

Now, if don’t like the sweater you’re getting, you better hope your aunt or significant other saved the receipt. Stores are cracking down on returns:

Some 15.9 percent of retailers surveyed said return policies would be tighter this holiday season compared with a year ago, according to the National Retail Federation… Tighter policies can include things such as always requiring a receipt when taking back merchandise or shortening the time limit for returns. Retail fraud, which the Retail Federation estimates will result in stores losing $2.7 billion this holiday season, can include using fake receipts to bring back stolen merchandise or returning used merchandise.

Or “chargebacks.” This is where customers dispute a charge on their card, even though it’s quite real. Hopefully your aunt is not involved in such practices, but retailers say the economy is tempting more people to the dark side. The perpetrator of “friendly fraud” may very well be an innocent-looking shopper in a Christmas sweater. More from the Wall Street Journal:

Credit card companies charge merchants a fine–typically up to $100 per chargeback–which can be costly when coupled with the lost sale and the lost product.

“One out of every 100 purchases would be a chargeback,” estimates Mr. Robinson (president of Sun Tints Inc.)

Mr. Robinson signed up to use BadCustomer.com. Business owners enter credit card numbers of those who have done a chargeback in the past, then cashiers can search the site’s database and refuse the card. Customers on the list can call BadCustomer.com to explain why they did the chargeback and have an opportunity to remove their card from the database.

Bad Customer. Bad.

Did you realize merchants get charged $100 every time a customer disputes a charge? At our morning meeting today, most people didn’t realize that’s the case. So, we’ll be looking more into this subject tonight on Marketplace.

By the way, if you’ve now got your heart set on the sweater pictured above, you’ll find it at uglysweaterstore.com.

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