For years, consumers have had all the freedom they want to return items back to a retailer, but that’s changing quickly. And it’s a complete about-face, too.
Just a year ago, some retailers were all “nah, don’t worry” about returns, but by the 2022 holidays, things started to change direction. Now, the gloves are really coming off and more than 60% of retailers are dramatically changing their policies, some eliminating returns completely.
This week, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported that nonreturnable items are becoming the standard. The report gave the example of Poshmark, the secondhand clothing seller, which has witnessed a 61% increase in items marked “new with tags” and featuring the words “final sale” in an item’s description.
That use of “final sale” is as definitive as it can get for a shopper, too. If an item doesn’t fit, sorry, but you bought it and you’ll keep it.
We did this to ourselves
It doesn’t matter whether consumers made bad buying decisions or abused the privilege, though. It’s the retailers who are in the driver’s seat and for the last two years, they’ve been beset with 16.5% of the items they sold being returned – double what it was in pre-pandemic 2019.
Either way, PracticalAdvice’s Marcia Kaplan suggests that we – the consumers – did it to ourselves.
“Larger companies track ‘serial returners’ and ban returns from them, but smaller merchants do not typically have the software or personnel,” she said.
One of the lines we crossed is the habit of “bracketing” – the play where a consumer buys multiple sizes or colors expecting to return what they don’t like. It may seem like a fair angle to work for the shopper, but it’s still a return and the returns are throwing up roadblocks there, too.
Who’s charging what for returns?
The next time you go shopping, you should take extra caution in asking what the store’s current returns policy is before you plop down your credit card for those five dresses – four of which you’ll probably return.
Returns specialist goTRG says that 60% of merchants across the U.S. have changed their returns policies. Some have done away with free returns and some are charging additional shipping or restocking fees.
ConsumerAffairs compiled a current list of how many major retailers are handling returns and here’s what we found. Note: There may be variations on what's purchased online vs. in-store so it would be wise to ask before making any purchase that you think you might return.
- Abercrombie: $7 deducted from refund
- American Eagle Outfitters: $5 deducted from refund
- Anthropologie: $5.95
- Big Lots: 20% of purchase price processing fee
- Dillard's: $9 deducted from refund
- DSW: $8.50 deducted from refund (free for Gold and Elite Rewards members)
- Eddie Bauer: $7 deducted from refund
- Foot Locker deducts $6.99 from refunds on all returns made by mail.
- J.C. Penney deducts $8 from all refunds on returned online purchases made by mail.
- J.Crew deducts $7.50 from the refund for shipped returns.
- Kohl’s requires customers to pay for all shipping for returns.
- L.L.Bean charges $6.50 for returns and exchanges through U.S. mail unless the customer used an L.L.Bean Mastercard for the purchase.
- Lands’ End deducts $6.95 from the refund credit.
- Neiman Marcus: $9.95 deducted from refund (free if you return within 15 days and it’s not clearance)
- Pacsun deducts $7 from the refund.
- REI deducts $5.99 from refunds for packages of standard size and weight.
- Saks Fifth Avenue: $9.95 deducted from refund
- Shoe Carnival deducts $6 from all refunds on online returns sent by mail.
- T.J.Maxx: $10.99 deducted from refund
- Urban Outfitters deducts $5 from all online orders returned by mail.
- Zara charges $3.95 in the U.S. for returns at drop-off point