I asked to talk to the store manager, she said there was nothing she could do. To me, the real problem with these systems is that relying on them too much removes the ability for people to provide good customer service.
Fortunately for me, I don't give up so easily. I guessed the email address of the CEO of Home Depot and wrote him. The next day the VP of Loss Prevention called me and then called the store. They let me return my merchandise the next time I tried. ;)
Funny thing, GDPR which is looked down here, has provisions concerning this problem: https://gdpr-info.eu/art-22-gdpr/ You can appeal automated decision making and companies have to provide you with such an option.
Why are they counting it against you?
This item then has to be liquidated or refurbished, but even if it didn't, you've still probably lost the margin you made on it just by handling the return. Margins per unit are in typically in the realm of a few bucks, at best. Pennies count in retail.
You can get away with this a few times, but more than that, and a backend system like this will flag you as a "serial returner" and instruct the staff to refuse your return.
It'd be great if they could make it easy to allow managerial override, but unfortunately, many managers or other store employees work in cahoots with civilian accomplices to rip off the retailers with this type of scheme.
I've met people who have bragged about doing that. So, it's a real thing. I always wondered if AutoZone's tool lending policy for customers was to just to help them or to partly counter people buying/returning tools just to fix an immediate problem. The main difference is the tool lending process requires them to hold your ID until you give the stuff back. Plus, it's a spare set in the back whose use doesn't reduce value of their main stuff.
I bet Walmart gets hit with hundreds of thousands to millions a year worth of returns for one-off uses of their products alone. Especially automotive or home improvement.
Some of their rentable tools are better than the tools available for retail sale while costing less or including better accessories like a sturdy case.
I kept several rental tools. I rented a few with intent to purchase them and told that to the store personnel so they could order a replacement. One of my favorite tools is a serpentine belt wrench. The rental version comes with a case and a couple of extra crow foot wrenches. The retail version has fewer accessories and no case.
Some locations now only rent for 48 hours. I had no problem returning those rentals after a week.
Replacing suspension components often requires specialty tools.
They figure they'll be at another crap job in near future or just won't get prosecuted, that Walmart is a racket not giving them anything for their work, that they're corporate evil that deserve no sympathy, and so on so forth. So, why not get something in return or hook their friends up while they're there?" they'll ask. That's how some explained it to me that were fired for stealing or doing stuff for friends at various retail places. They're so good at risk assessment they tell people like me they barely know about what they do. It's unreal lol.
Note: I ran into this stuff mostly in low-income areas both city and rural. Gets worse if the management treats workers worse.
It'll be interesting to see if this provision is actually doing anything in a year or so.
Australia’s largest home / hardware store also checks the items your taking against your receipt and stamps your receipt upon exiting the store, thereby reducing the incidence of thieves walking in empty handed and taking the item again while claiming they’ve already paid for it.
Why doesn’t Home Depot do something similar?
Assuming the "largest home / hardware store" means Bunnings, this w/e I returned items to a different store but with a receipt - so that was simple, but different to what you've stated.
Not long ago I return $175 worth of goods without receipts (after return $300 with receipts, because apparently I lost some...) to a different store to the one I bought from. They checked my ID and I assume I'm now on their loss prevention records; but from what I know that's not likely to be an issue until there's an obvious pattern of abuse.
Bunnings definitely have people returning items that they've stolen from one store and returned to another without a receipt, but they have a loss prevention team to try and reduce that.
It's the trade off of reduced friction (and increased purchases) vs theft - eg I wouldn't have bought everything I did if I was concerned that the returns process wouldn't be seamless.
The system at some stores make it hard to return stuff, while others make it easier. If the customer is happy they will return later to buy more stuff if not happy the go somewhere else like a competitor.
Categorically the only people on earth having trouble with this lose receipts, say no to electronic copies of the receipt, and come back in all the time without receipts.
Home depot has about the friendliest return policies of any major retailer I've ever shopped with.
It turns out that the credit card network's transaction ID is completely useless to store staff and doesn't correspond to anything they can search up.
They went ahead and decided that the fact I could give them an ID number at all is sufficient proof of purchase and happily exchanged it.
(Of course, in this case I was returning a defective item and they're legally obliged to replace it - perhaps they're stricter on change-of-mind.)
Why would a store ever accept returns without a receipt?
The whole process is even more convenient now that email receipts are becoming common.
Generally speaking, it's illegal to detain someone from leaving without probable cause of a crime.
Why doesn’t Home Depot do something similar?
(In contrast, Costco is empowered to do so via their membership agreement.)
"Generally speaking, it's illegal to detain someone from leaving without probable cause of a crime. (In contrast, Costco is empowered to do so via their membership agreement.)"
This is commonly thought but not quite right, either on facts, or on law.
First, people cite a membership agreement.
Let's take a look:
Maybe it's elsewhere. Can't easily be found (not good for Costco!)
It does say they can adopt rules at any time. But false imprisonment requires voluntary consent, which is knowing. So that would not help them.
Besides that, false imprisonment, in most states, is both a felony and a tort :)
The answer to the question "are you likely to be able to sue costco successfully for trying to check your receipt when you don't want them to" - no, unless you revoke consent and they don't revoke your membership and kick you off the property :)
The answer to the question "can they legally detain you" - also no if you revoke consent (and the first person to say something about the 4th amendment here loses, since we are talking about private actors).
Voluntary consent is definitely a valid defense to false imprisonment. However the idea that consent in the membership agreement overrides anything that later happens is, at best, laughable.
Imagine the membership agreement says "you unconditionally consent to costco locking you up in the backroom until they get bored".
Do you think I don't have a false imprisonment claim, if, when they try to do so, i say "I do not consent to this", and they do it anyway?
How is that voluntary consent? Even if i did consent, i clearly and unequivocally revoked it. Maybe i breached a contract. Irrelevant, however. Remember, it's both a tort and a crime. Even if they have an argument about the tort (they don't really), they don't about the crime.
There is plenty of precedent on revocation of consent all the way up the Supreme Court (United States v. Drayton, etc). Saying "no" to a receipt checker and walking away almost certainly counts as proper consent revocation.
Now Costco certainly has the right to revoke my membership and remove me from their property. But they can't certainly can't detain me though once i've revoked consent. It even may have a reasonable argument that the first time it tries to detain me, it was within the consent (depends on what happens in the above story).
The second i revoke my consent by saying no, sorry, it's clearly false imprisonment (in states that don't have a shopkeepers privilege).
In the "General Policies" section in your first link, we find:
One key claim Costco makes in justifying the inspections is to make sure you got everything you paid for. I have personally experienced at least three cases over the years where the process worked to my benefit.
Costco reserves the right to inspect any container, backpack, briefcase, etc., upon entering or leaving the warehouse.
Once (that I can remember), an item was misplaced by the checker into the items of the patron behind me (I had paid for something I wouldn't have gotten out the door with).
And at least twice, back when they accepted Discover and would allow up to $50 cash back on a purchase, I didn't realize that I hadn't gotten the money... only to have the receipt-checker proactively ask me if I got the cash. In both cases, a subsequent count of the register confirmed it, and I got the full amount of cash.
So, I'm content with Costco's process, but I don't allow proactive checks anywhere else (e.g. Fry's).
Errr, that doesn't give them the right to detain you, so no, that's not it. This is the more general stealing provision, and
1. Not even close to the same as receipt checking.
2. Probably void in a number of states (where receipt checking would not be)
Nobody's arguing that they have a power to detain you without probable cause, but they can (and have, many times) cancel a membership for noncompliance. But to say there is "nothing there" in the agreement on the topic is disingenuous.
that doesn't give them the right to detain you
Of course, those who aren't members anyway aren't really risking anything.
Kroger had $108 B.
Walmart had $485.9 B.
When you're selling that kind of volume, you're not doing it without algorithmic help.
Absolutely agree that OP should have been able to more easily get an in-person override. But I understand why the original rejection happened: or rather, I understand why HD uses a data mining company to attempt to prevent theft.
PS: Side note, you'd be surprised how big of a chunk of theft directly involves receipts / returns in some way or another.
These companies have been profitable for a long time prior to now. Why is it that they suddenly need algorithmic help?
If you're running a < 5% net profit margin, as most of these businesses are, then 1.5% inventory shrink (approx average) is a pretty big deal.
In any case it’s ridiculous that a manager can’t look at someone’s history of buying lots of stuff and override a one-time return for a fraction of a percent of their recent history.
The right answer here is that the algorithm probably screwed up in this instance. There was a clear signal for a legitimate customer: large order, small return.
Saying that the algorithm screwed up is confusing a symptom with the problem: making business processes so inflexible that local staff cannot correct mistakes.
In a case I know of, LP colluded with the customer service manager to steal $10K cash, by shifting the camera focus from the money counting area. In this case, both the LP manager and the customer service manager got fired, and, of course, without any charges, since there is no proof.
At Fry's electronics, to return a product, LP has to key in his password as well. If the price of returned product is more than $300, LP and some other manager have to key in their passwords.
Isn't that why receipts are printed?
Note that on the scale of Home Depot the guy complaining is a small customer. The big customers spend thousands of dollars there very week and return 10s of dollars every week. (buy 100 2x4, use 95 and return the 5, then repeat 100 for the next project tomorrow - they need the return because they have to pass the receipts on to their customers who might check to be sure they are not cheated out of $20 on a $15000 project)
- Menards; just added ability to look up your receipt yourself at their self-help terminals, so now they require you find the receipt there
- Lowes; requires the card you bought it on
- Harbor Freight; can help find the receipt, or will give in-store credit
- Home Depot; no idea, who shops here, it's way more expensive and they have nothing in stock lol
There's also the trick of rooting through the store garbage for receipts, then going through the store to find the corresponding items and 'returning' things you never bought with the found receipt.
Returns are mandated here though and I guess the US is anti-consumer in a lot of ways so companies won't really be forced to find solutions that don't explicitly benefit them.
Of course if you only allowed returns strictly with proper receipts all your challenges shockingly disapear except the all the people that are pissed off because their return is denied instead of only the minority now.
I really don’t think Australia has this solved any better than the US, if this is the only solution.
The ban seems to have expired, but for three years I had to get my wife to go return things for me.
"Despite 99.9%+ of this activity being perfectly reasonable, we see fit to limit it because it might help us catch <0.1%"
I have emailed various executives over the years and don’t recall it ever not working. It even worked with Comcast to my surprise - the next day someone from some department like “executive customer service” contacted me.
(I’m not an executive, but I have good insights)
In my experience, based on the email thread I think the CEO of Home Depot actually did read it. I left out a step in my story. What actually happened is the VP of Loss Prevention emailed me asking for my number so he could call me. I gave it and he called me. He actually replied to me via the original email. From the thread I could tell that the CEO forwarded it to the VP of Home Depot North America with something like "Jane, can you look into this?" then that person forwarded it to the VP with a more specific request. Based on my internal experiences at big companies this is pretty common.
It means they are doing something like using the execs inbox as a black-box monitoring stream to find out about problems that internal info gathering will miss. And better still, actually paying people to triage the alerts!
The trick I use is to just find any random persons email with a google search (ex "@homedepot.com") and use the same pattern for the person I am trying to reach at the given organization, it works most of the time.
I don't abuse it, but let me tell you, when I emailed Mary Barra @ GM a few months ago because the regular customer service was having no luck finding the car I had already ordered and paid for, even though OnStar showed it 20 miles away -- a gal from the executive response team called me a couple hours later and she already located the car, had someone on-site do a physical verification, and arranged for a truck to go pick it up and take it to the dealer so I could take delivery. Then she called several more times over the next couple days to make sure everything from that moment forward was going smoothly.
She turned me from a rapidly-getting-more-angry customer to a much more relaxed, happy customer with a bit of renewed faith that GM isn't totally a lost cause ;-).
I got a few replies.
Now I'm filing an Access to Information request to see what happened with all of the emails.
This seems like a legit response for returns without a receipt.
Some stores simply require an ID for any and all refunds. The reason for this is fraud, actually: I worked at a retail pharmacy in the US, and we had a group of people that would look through the trash to find cash receipts. They would proceed to another store to steal the merchandise, and then to a third store to refund the item.
Nearly all stores require ID if you do not have a receipt and enter it in their system. It might not be your card, but it'll be tied to your name and ID.
These folks searched the trash cans. Got receipts out that said method of payment was cash, stole the item and "returned" it. Yet another scam is to take such receipts from the trash, buy the item at a discount, and then return it to a more expensive store.
Sure, the store can see the item was paid for by someone, and even see the store it was bought from. But it can't know if the person just found the receipt and is returning stolen goods or goods bought elsewhere so long as the barcode matches up.
So when you return items, they will ask for your id, even if you paid cash originally.
That said, this seems like just bad policy that leads to the problem. Why should stores allow returns without a receipt or other proof (lookup using credit card)? That seems to be the major issue. If they require proof of purchase, it means they at least aren't refunding theft or products purchased from other stores.
Accepting returns of opened but non-damaged product that can't be resold (eg: missing parts/packaging, obviously used, etc) also seems to be opening themselves up to abuse. Of course, how they handle this has to take into consideration the fact that easy returns are a competitive advantage. This is maybe where the analytics firm can step in, to help identify people that frequently do this.
Amazon offers various kinds of free / flat-price shipping, and free return-shipping for flawed products
> Even with 'free shipping', the cost of shipping + everyone else's returns is just built in.
Delivering a package to a local retailer is customer-paid shipping, just in effort/gas/wear-and-tear, not simple cash.
Potentially. In the case of Home Depot, I usually take my returns when I need to go anyway to shop there. Kills two birds with one stone.
Speaking of which, I've got 3 bags of stuff to return. Hope they take it back! Not stuff I've used (like I wasn't sure what size window latch I needed, so I bought 4 different sizes, checked them on the window without opening the package, and have to return the other 3)
This kind of stuff is such a boon with kids. I don't have time for 3 trips to Home Depot in one day. But I do over the course of 3-4 weeks.
If you return a lot of items and it's repeatedly defective/incorrect info/<whatever makes return shipping free>, then you'll probably be flagged just like Home Depot is doing.
"You must tell the customer they can cancel their order up to 14 days after their order is delivered. They don’t need to give a reason for cancelling. If you don’t tell the customer about their right to cancel, they can cancel at any time in the next 12 months."
So it would be illegal for Amazon to remove the right to return items bought online.
The Tories (currently in government) seem to have added a lot of exemptions to this; like the dumb £42 limit (they really don't like poor people) but it still carries some protection, And if the government hadn't also knackered the legal aid system it could be enforced at the small claims court level too... oh well.
They're saying you can return items, and if the reason is defect or problem, then they can (as they should) wear the cost of that.
They're also saying that you can return an item, "because I don't like it/want it", and that's no fault of theirs, so you're free to return the item, but the cost of doing so is (and should be) yours.
The only thing I can think is that they are building a monopoly which might be a problem in the future.
A last-mile delivery truck goes out full and comes back empty. That's terrible logistics, but the fact that it happens anyway suggests that shipping from your home to a UPS center should be basically free - the marginal cost is nearly 0.
Amazon returns have to go through UPS. If Amazon sends out a lot more stuff through UPS than it receives from UPS, returns might just genuinely be free, occupying what would otherwise be slack in the system.
I disagree. At least here in europe, with mandatory 14-day return period, buying and returning something feels a lot easier than in a brick and mortar store.
I'm not quite sure, but I think even the shipping costs (for items above 40€, I think?) are covered by the return policy legislation. I appreciate this minimal set of standards.
Uh...I'm not a lawyer but I really don't think that interpretation of contract law would hold up in court. They offered a contract to purchase an item, the consumer accepted it. Making that contract then reliant on their intent rather than whats written seems a pretty obvious violation of Contra proferentem...am I nuts?
Though I don't know how that would hold up if you'd already bought a second item that you wanted to return the next day.
Like many retailers, we use a third party to help prevent losses by detecting improper returns [...] Reimbursements on returns lacking proof of purchase may be denied or limited and state sales tax and fees will not be reimbursed. [...] If we caution you or deny your return, you may request a copy of your Return Activity Report by calling 1-888-224-1920
So, they don't promise to unconditionally return items. I wonder what a 'Return Activity Report' looks like?
But as one of countless time-strapped homeowners who can't remember if he needs a 5/8" widget or a 1/2" widget, I frequently buy both and return the extra at a later date. I can only hope I don't get flagged. Frankly it's a big part of the value of shopping at a local retailer.
I had bought it from a Best Buy about an hour from my home, and tried to return it, with receipt, to the Best Buy 15 minutes from home since I had bought it on a Sunday afternoon and wanted to return it same day if possible. I was told I had to bring it back to the original store since the serials didn't match; okay great Best Buy didn't do it's job checking serials when whoever had this item before me return-swapped it, but sure I'll go out of my way.
I bring it back to the original store and they then tell me I'm on the no-return list from that time for 120 days. I've since stopped shopping at Best Buy.
- The stylus' battery was dead out of box
- Sleep/wake behavior was not what I like -- took too long for me
- Bluescreened about 3x/day on normal use
What they're not going to have is data on the people who choose not to shop at these stores because of this policy, both those who have been incorrectly identified as fraudsters and those who just don't want to bother with the hassle.
Why won't they have that data? They will certainly know if sales have gone down, and they can try it out in different areas to remove other factors.
"Like many retailers, we use a third party to help prevent losses by detecting improper returns, and, except where prohibited, require a valid ID for all store returns that lack proof of purchase. Reimbursements on returns lacking proof of purchase may be denied or limited and state sales tax and fees will not be reimbursed."
And the Visa guidelines for chargebacks, page 28 lists the reason codes: https://usa.visa.com/dam/VCOM/download/merchants/chargeback-...
My read puts Best Buy on solid footing here. If you're just returning it because you're unsatisfied, Visa doesn't seem to consider that valid for a chargeback. If it's defective and you have proof of purchase, you had enough evidence that BB would accept the return.
It also states in their return policy disclosure section: "For card-present transactions, Visa will accept that proper disclosure has occurred before a transaction is completed if the following (or similar) disclosure statements are legibly printed on the face of the transaction receipt near the cardholder signature area or in an area easily seen by the cardholder"
I'd argue that unless the receipt also mentions Best Buy's use of a third party to potentially deny a return, they have failed to properly disclose their return policy, making a valid claim that Best Buy misrepresented their terms of sale.
Where this surveillance system has become a major pain in my ass is returns over 90 days at Home Depot. The last period I had intensive HD purchases, I could count on returning stuff  late that I'd rather not stock, eating the sales tax, and then spending the store credit. Now it's be sure to return within 90 days or plan on keeping it to not end up flagged.
Also, I have personally stuck black tape  over the serial number and the barcodes on my drivers' license. When asked to show ID, this lets me exercise judgment about whether the rarer bits are revealed. This is especially handy at unknown liquor stores where the cashier will not have the courtesy to even ask before swiping your license in an electronic reader, backhauling it into the surveillance matrix.
 Unopened, new condition, completely resalable.
 Sharpie-colored masking tape. Electrical tape tends to be transparent to IR!
It doesn't matter though, because the scanners don't use IR. They use a red laser which is in the visible spectrum. Any tape that visibly blocks the barcode will work.
And yeah, red lasers are quite common. But that doesn't rule out the possibility of a reader using IR - my experience with the opto left me paranoid on the matter.
Unless the tape has holes, though, you can consider it opaque. Actually, because it absorbs and blocks ir, it's often used as a target for infrared temperature measurement of difficult-to-measure objects.
If it blocked say 90% of IR, it would congruent with both of our points. I'll have to investigate further - it would make a much simpler ID mask.
(hm. Just did an experiment with two IR remotes and it did appear to block for the most part. One of the remotes worked really close up, but I can't easily rule out leakage or some other type of coupling.)
Visa tends to side with the cardholder on chargebacks more than is probably fair, too.
Does this imply they just pocket the sales tax or receive it as a refund in some way?
I bought a Christmas gift for a family member at Toys R Us in King County WA and exchanged it in another county.
They refunded me 12c for the difference in sales tax between counties.
If I were blocked from returning things due to returning, say, a camera or a trio of phone cases that weren't the right ones, and then later had a defective washing machine or monitor, it seems like Code 53 (Not as Described or Defective Merchandise) would be a valid reason for a return, though.
But, as others have said ... this seems like a compelling reason not to even be a customer.
Also, if you think Amazon won't use a secret, proprietary algorithm to identify and ban people abusing their return policies (with limited to no appeal or recourse), I have a bridge to sell you.
You are correct, customers at Amazon pay for the operation that is known as Amazon and their policies, such as generous returns. Customers also shop there for the convenience of those returns.
Perhaps someday, a B&M store's algorithm will flag me as a problem customer. It's just as likely that Amazon will, though.
Amazon won't be a sustainable business if it can't reject "customers".
The guy who was flagged had spent thousands at the store, and bought 3 phone cases for 80$, then returned them as his only return ever, and got flagged.
Go to the forums of any major online game such as League of Legends or World of Warcraft and you'll semi-frequently find posts from players complaining about being banned for no reason at all until a moderator or CS rep finally has to step in and say "Actually, here's exactly what you did to get banned" and it's always a legitimate reason.
Ah yes, because machine learning algorithms never falsly flagged anyone.
This is as evil as AI/ML gets: a human standing in front of a dumb ML algorithm saying "the robot says you're scum, so you're scum!".
99.9% of retailers that accept returns are going to use algorithms to flag and block fraudulent returns.
For example, you buy a pair of shoes. Unless the sole is coming off or it has some other defect, you don't get to return it a week later. When buying online, the return conditions should also include size issues. Sometimes the indicated size does not fit as well as you'd like to and there's no way for you to find that out without wearing it.
If you try to require justifications, all you’re doing is paying people to interrogate customers - increasing the odds that they become former customers - and the people you’d most want to stop are also the most likely to have come up with a good excuse.
All other things being equal, I would prefer to shop at a store with a pleasant return process. This advantage could outweigh the cost of taking back a few returns.
* Stylists - they buy for a client (celebrities, wealthy people) and send back things that don't look appropriate
* Entertainment - TV and movies regularly buy a lot of clothes and return most of them
* Renters - people who may spend tens of thousands of dollars per year but only have $2,000 in lifetime sales -- everything else is returned
* Legitimate customers - they might buy two or three of the same item to find the one that fits
There are things we do to help with the last case and to help people figure out what will fit before they purchase the item, and those have been proven to work. Stylists and Entertainment buyers are tolerated. Renters get picked out with data analysis, but the queries tend to be expensive in time and resources and require human discretion, something missing in the Best Buy story.
Massive problem in jewellery - people "buy" an item, wear it to that dinner party to impress their friends, return it a day or two later saying "when I got it home I decided it didn't suit me"
Returns are the problem: returns may not get the nice discounts for shipping, they require manual review of the products (are it the correct SKU, the correct size, is it in a resellable condition, etc.), restocking and reinsertion into buyable inventory, etc. And then refund processing, which may take 7-10 days or more.
But it doesn't address the problem of renters: they won't buy a subscription box if there's a monthly fee associated with it. They like being able to get new shoes, clothes, and accessories to wear once and then return for free. Identifying renters and either directly contacting them to change their behavior (this is high touch, but the company culture encourages this) or removing them as customers are the best solutions I've seen to date.
The downside is that you buy them all and get a refund on return.
Formalwear is a bigger issue, but not many stores will give refunds for hemmed, tailored, or altered clothing returns, and you'd be defeating the purpose of having that type of outfit if you went out without them. It's been a few years since I bought a tux, but I think places like that probably have limited return and exchange policies.
Clothing is further complicated by the fact that not having time to try something on in store and returning it later is typically considered a pretty legitimate and widely practiced shopping pattern, and one that most clothing stores encourage, at least in my experience. I'd imagine red flagging this would materially impact sales overall in some places.
It's also not like returned clothes are of no value. I've seen plenty of stores put returns right back on the racks as if they're new.
(There's also the common case of regular customers who are busy and want to try lots of clothes at the same time, and the clerk makes a sales quote so they can bring up whatever didn't work for them later.)
OP is almost certainly talking about "customers" who buy a piece of clothing specifically to wear to a particular event out in the elements (party/dinner/camping/etc.), then try to return that piece for full credit after the elements have visibly changed the wear/fit/look/smell/elasticity of said clothing.
You have nothing to explain if a shop lets you purchase clothing to try at home in controlled clean conditions and then return it if you feel it doesn't work for you.
If you also bring back non-defective clothing that is no longer in a condition to be sold for full price, you are a meanie.
>Wardrobing is a form of return fraud. It is the practice of purchasing an item, using it, and then returning it to the store for a refund. It is most often done with expensive clothing - hence the name - but the practice is also common with tools, electronics, and even computers. To prevent this practice, some stores make certain items, such as wedding dresses or Christmas decorations unreturnable. Some observers classify wardrobing as a form of shoplifting.
Presumably your mom didn't make you wear the unwanted clothes for a few days before she returned them.
Both exhibit a similar pattern from the retailers viewpoint: purchase, a few days delay, return.
It costs a lot of money to process returns for a retailer, and that cost is often written down. It’s meant to be an exception during the sales process (not a normal condition) and offered as a curtosey, not a defacto right.
I think your knowledge may be dated here. Most higher-end stores I've been to in the past 5 years absolutely encourage that behavior strongly with sales reps suggesting you do so. They love it when my girlfriend is out shopping and brings back a dozen shirt options for me to try on, and then immediately returns 9 of them (heck, some stores even offer free shipping on the items you decide against). The store just made a sale on 3 items they otherwise would not have.
They of course don't want folks actually wearing those things out for a "trial" period, but they know they must compete with on-line options that operate in this exact manner.
A few times I've been in the store and overheard a conversation a customer had with a crew member who encouraged them to bring something back if they didn't like it.
I imagine this works out well for them: when you go back, you will probably find something else to buy!
Actually, quite a few of clothing retailers advertise with that.
Most famously Zalando ran constant TV ads everywhere here for a few months promoting the "buy, if you don't like it, send it back".
It is a defacto right in many situations in many countries. In the UK for example, if a good is sold sight unseen via "distance selling" (mail/phone/online etc), sale of goods legislation requires you to provide a refund for any reason whatsoever if the item is returned within 14 days.
I will not order items like footwear for mail delivery if I cannot return items that do not fit, and it is up to the retailer whether they want to trade with me on that basis.
This only stops gormless shoppers from making reasonable returns. Everyone else will do a chargeback for credit purchases, or file a complaint in small claims for cash purchases. The moxious will call their credit card company right at the returns desk and ask if they need a photograph of the posted return policy.
The retail-dispute resolution clauses of most credit agreements are very biased towards the consumer. If you can document that you made at least one good-faith effort at resolving the issue yourself before requesting that the credit issuer handle it for you, then the retailer has to overcome the presumption that the customer is always right in the arbitration.
As it's all about the money and private agreements, it is always possible that someone who has more of it than you could use it to buy a more favorable outcome. But it is also very unlikely that anyone would ever see a criminal indictment over credit fraud before the damages exceed thousands of dollars. No credit company wants to lose customers because they got a reputation for grassing on their customers, but they would want to discourage their petty frauds--they know they have some, with statistical certainty--from growing worse by occasionally prosecuting the worst of the grand frauds.
If HSBC can knowingly launder drug money, and Wells Fargo can knowingly open fake accounts, a credit bank can knowingly screw the retailer when one of their credit customers does a bogus chargeback just because the cashier was rude at the checkout.
I won't say bogus chargebacks are not a problem, but there is a threshold below which it does not negatively affect the revenue of the bank, so no one there will be paid to care about it. A computer program might evaluate it. It might get randomly selected for human auditing. And most people are mostly honest, so the fraud rate would still be low, even if no one policed it more than a token amount. The credit banks's mission isn't to catch the frauds; it's to make money. So they catch just the right amount of frauds in order to make the most money.
Thank you! That's an excellent suggestion!
If I can't return an item, I will be much more cautious about buying in the first place. As I am already very cheap, that usually means the time horizon for me to make a buying decision now spans well beyond the time I am spending in the store. Which means I will be elsewhere when thinking about a purchase. Which means that when I finally do decide to buy, I then have to decide from where.
Even if I never return an item, reducing the consequences of me making a wrong choice when buying something makes me more likely to actually spend my money. This means liberal return policies, price-match guarantees, in-stock guarantees for sale items, etc.
I don't know how much they actually lose to returns fraud, but I do know how much they never gain because I don't even bother to shop there any more.
They are trying to stop people who abuse the policies, not returns altogether. The article never says the retailers are making a move to stop returns from everyone. That kinda defeats the point you are trying to make.
>If I can't return an item, I will be much more cautious about buying in the first place.
Sounds like its working then. The point is the customers that feel they don't need to research an item they are purchasing cause they can 'just return it' are the ones they want to be more cautious about buying in the first place cause you are costing them more money.
Really sounds like you are arguing against a scenario that isn't taking place. You are actually bringing up points that made them decide to do this. They can deter constant returners from using returns as a 'try any item you like and return it' and also deter return frauds.
The primary problem in retail generally isn't revenue or margin, it is cash flow. Creating additional customers or even encouraging customers to purchase sooner than they otherwise would have is a huge win.
"Dozens of shoppers have complained on Twitter, Facebook, Yelp and other online forums that they were prevented from making returns despite following the store’s policy."
According to the article, the scenario is taking place, in an arbitrary and capricious fashion, such that BB is making fraudulent claims about its return policy. When shoppers buy there, they expect the policy will be honored; without that expectation, the sale might not have taken place.
Indeed, if you reverse the conditional, you are likely to have a very high percentage of the people who end up returning items attributing a large fraction of their buying decision to the return policy.
To me if you are saving more money by having this than not, why make it so aggressive? Better to catch the few then catch customers that aren't taking advantage of it and not catch every abuser.
Update: I guess it varies state by state http://consumer.findlaw.com/consumer-transactions/customer-r...
Minnesota, where I (and Best Buy Headquarters) are located requires:
"A seller must clearly and conspicuously display written notice of its policy in boldface type of a minimum size of 14 points. If a seller fails this requirement, cash refunds are required of goods that are acceptable for return."
Also, couldn't fraudsters circumvent this entirely by paying in cash?
Are they doing it off credit cards, or scanning your ID when you present the return and running that?
Can anyone explain why that specific behavior is a red flag?
Employees in cahoots often "returned" unsold merchandise shortly before, or immediately after, store closing. Mainly due to legitimate customers not being present.
There were a surprising number of rules that we had developed over time, usually in response to discovery of all the various schemes that people came up with.
Buying-then-returning-within-X-minutes was another.
The brand “new” pressure washer I bought was covered with scuff marks.
(I once bought a desktop computer from them. It was, unsurprisingly, busted -- it wouldn't boot, and the OS installs I tried all failed. I had to threaten to reverse charges on my credit card when they refused to take it back; their argument was it was broken and they were unable to put it back on the shelf and sell it to another customer!)
Around 2007, Fry's started putting lables on returned packages. This way, one can know whether something is returned or not. Some customers used to replace things by keeping the same new package.
I've never heard of this at Fry's; in CA, it would be illegal. And I've been shopping there since the original site on Oakmead. (The current Sunnyvale store is the 3rd she for the flagship.)
shrink wrap it, then place them back on shelves
If you lack a receipt but bought with a card, knowing the card used and the store bought at is enough for them to look it up.
1) the third party company blocks sketchy transactions
2) the third party cuts off customers that are deemed 'not profitable' because they return too many items
The first scenario seems perfectly reasonable. The second is evidence of a far more scary direction things could be going in. Fender bender in that rental car? No more Avis rentals. Had to negotiate that medical bill? No more medical care at this facility.
Also, can someone verify this but I thought that systems like this can be easily manipulated,i.e buying with cash or buying online with PayPal, different credit card etc, as that is PII and companies can't use it to identify you or reject your claims, unless tied to a specific loyalty account.
It's amazing how many issues have been cleared up within a few days once the money is on the line.
Make that very clear when you are initiating the return and you are being refused.
Best Buy, other chains pay to track customers’ shopping behavior and limit items they can bring back
(Picture of a best buy store with a car parked out front, and a man pushing a cart with a TV towards the entrance)
At Best Buy, returning too many items within a short time can hurt a person’s score, as can returning high-theft items such as digital cameras. Photo: Craig Matthews/The Press of Atlantic City/Associated Press
By Khadeeja Safdar March 13, 2018 5:30 a.m. ET
Every time shoppers return purchases to Best Buy Co., they are tracked by a company that has the power to override the store’s touted policy and refuse to refund their money.
That is because the electronics giant is one of several chains that have hired a service called Retail Equation to score customers’ shopping behavior and impose limits on the amount of merchandise they can return.
Jake Zakhar recently returned three cellphone cases at a Best Buy store in Mission Viejo, Calif., and a salesperson told him he would be banned from making returns and exchanges for a year. The 41-year-old real-estate agent had bought cases in extra colors as gifts for his sons and assumed he could bring back the unused ones within the 15 days stated in the return policy as long as he had a receipt.
The salesperson told him to contact Retail Equation, based in Irvine, Calif., to request his “return activity report,” a history of his return transactions. The report showed only three items—the cellphone cases—totaling $87.43. He asked the firm to lift the ban, but it declined. When he appealed to Best Buy and tweeted his report, the company referred him back to Retail Equation.
“I’m being made to feel like I committed a crime,” said Mr. Zakhar. “When you say habitual returner, I’m thinking 27 videogames and 14 TVs.”
Stores have long used generous return guidelines to lure more customers, but such policies also invite abuse. Retailers estimate 11% of their sales are returned, and of those, 11% are likely fraudulent returns, according to a 2017 survey of 63 retailers by the National Retail Federation. Return fraud or abuse occurs when customers exploit the return process, such as requesting a refund for items they have used, stolen or bought somewhere else.
Amazon.com Inc. and other online players that have made it easy to return items have changed consumer expectations, adding pressure on brick-and-mortar chains. L.L. Bean Inc., which once allowed customers to make returns even years after they purchased items, recently clamped down, citing abuse.
Some retailers monitor return fraud in-house, but Best Buy and others pay Retail Equation to track and score each customer’s return behavior for both in-store and online purchases. The service also works with Home Depot Inc., J.C. Penney Co. , Sephora and Victoria’s Secret. Some retailers use the system only to assess returns made without a receipt.
Best Buy uses Retail Equation to assess all returns, even those made with a receipt. Dozens of shoppers have complained on Twitter, Facebook, Yelp and other online forums that they were prevented from making returns despite following the store’s policy.
Retail Equation said its services are used in 34,000 stores, but declined to provide a full list of its clients. The Wall Street Journal learned of the relationship between some retailers and the firm by reviewing return activity reports from customers.
“We are hired by the retailers to review the returns, look for suspicious situations and issue approvals, warnings or denials,” said Tom Rittman, a marketing vice president at Appriss Inc., a Louisville, Ky., data analytics firm that acquired Retail Equation in 2015.
The company said its system is designed to identify 1% of shoppers whose behaviors mimic return fraud or abuse. Its statisticians and programmers have built a customized algorithm for each retailer that scores customers based on their shopping behavior and then flags people who exceed a certain score. The company said it doesn’t share a person’s data from one retailer with another.
“You could do things that are inside the posted rules, but if you are violating the intent of the rules, like every item you’re purchasing you’re using and then returning, then at a certain point in time you become not a profitable customer for that retailer,” said Mr. Rittman.
At Best Buy, returning too many items within a short time can hurt a person’s score, as can returning high-theft items such as digital cameras. After the Journal contacted Best Buy, the company said it created a dedicated hotline (1-866-764-6979) to help customers who think they were wrongfully banned from making returns.
“On very rare occasions—less than one tenth of one percent of returns—we stop what we believe is a fraudulent return,” said Jeff Haydock, a spokesman for Best Buy. “Fraud is a real problem in retail, but if our systems aren’t as good as they can be, we apologize to anyone inappropriately affected.”
Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly said the company is “looking very seriously at the process and partner around this.”
When a consumer makes a return, details about his or her identity and shopping visit are transmitted to Retail Equation, which then generates a “risk score.” If the score exceeds the threshold specific to the retailer, a salesperson informs the consumer that future returns will be denied and then directs them to Retail Equation to request a return activity report or file a dispute.
It isn’t easy for shoppers to learn their standing before receiving a warning. Retailers typically don’t publicize their relationship with Retail Equation. And even if a customer tracks down his or her return report, it doesn’t include purchase history or other information used to generate a score. The report also doesn’t disclose the actual score or the thresholds for getting barred.
Dave Payne, a 38-year-old public relations professional, said he learned of the system for the first time when he received a warning at a Best Buy in Orlando, Fla. He was returning a digital scale and a router extender, with a receipt for both items.
He said neither Best Buy nor Retail Equation provided a clear explanation for what he did wrong: “Best Buy advertises a 15-day return policy, but they are not advertising that at some point when you’ve crossed an arbitrary line, that policy no longer applies.”
The ban on his account was lifted after he complained to the company’s public-relations department, but he remains upset that his information is being shared with a third party. “It creeps me out.”
Write to Khadeeja Safdar at firstname.lastname@example.org
That's bad business. I think giving customers a second chance before shutting them out is a better idea.