Retailers are tightening return policies

Alisa Roth Dec 25, 2009

Retailers are tightening return policies

Alisa Roth Dec 25, 2009


KAI RYSSDAL: If you were out shopping at the last minute yesterday — a fate I managed to avoid — you might have been able to nab yourself some pretty good deals. Tomorrow might even better, though. Retailers are expecting Saturday to be about as busy a shopping day as they could possible hope for. Maybe, because, I don’t know, they’re offering deeper discounts than ever to get all that extra inventory out the door.

Never mind all those shoppers returning gifts that are the wrong size or wrong color, or just plain wrong. On that front, by the by, if you’re the person doing the returning, you might want to beware. This has been, as you may have heard, a tough holiday season for retailers. The post-holiday returns season may be a challenge, too.

From New York, Marketplace’s Alica Roth has more.

ALISA ROTH: Here’s the dilemma: most of the time people return sweaters or new gadgets because it didn’t fit. Or they didn’t like it. But sometimes it’s more devious: They wear the sweater before they return it. Or they’ve stolen the gadget and they’re trying to make a little cash by bringing it back.

So some stores have been looking for ways to discourage them. A store might limit how many days you have to bring something back. Or return too often and your name might end up on a black list.

John Long is at Kurt Salmon Associates. It’s a retail strategy firm.

JOHN LONG: Certain retailers, electronics retailers and the like, do have what they call restocking fees.

Basically, it’s a charge for bringing something back, so you don’t get a full refund. But he says stores are also trying to make it easy for shoppers.

LONG: These days — it’s our view anyway — that for retailers it’s still a tug of war to win more of the customer’s wallet so they have to make every online and in-store experience as pleasant and easy as possible.

Some stores are using their return policies as a way to do that. At Avenue, a women’s clothing store in Manhattan, shoppers can bring stuff back until January 24th. And a sales clerk told me no sale is ever final.

Felicia King kept coming back to take advantage of that.

FELICIA KING: You know, my taste is my taste and their taste is their taste. So if I give someone something, I want them to be able to return it, if they don’t want it.

If you’re planning to bring stuff back, resist the urge to open the box. And don’t forget the receipt, if you have it.

And don’t despair, a survey by the National Retail Federation suggests most stores haven’t tightened things up too much this year.

In New York. I’m Alisa Rothy for Marketplace.

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