Retailers large and small are starting to make it difficult to return items and shoppers are giving them good reasons for doing so.
The National Retail Federation says return fraud, or de-shopping, wherein customers return used and even shoplifted items for refunds, cost American businesses more than $14 billion last year, an increase of roughly 35 percent since 2009.
How are de-shoppers getting away with it? They resort to tactics that take advantage of the retailers desire to maintain good customer service. For example, some customers will storm into a store with the defective merchandise, bent on creating a scene. Managers are more likely to give such customers what they want in order to avoid a scene.
Other customers return items at different store locations to avoid being caught. It is harder for a retailer to spot a pattern when returns are spread out among different locations. In another tactic, a customer simply takes an item from the shelf, and then takes it to the Customer Service department claiming it is a return. In this case, the Customer Service representatives typically extend store credit to the person perpetrating the fraud.
Online retailers are easy targets for de-shoppers because they have fewer rules when it comes to returning goods. It also helps that it is easier to remain anonymous online.
In response to the trend, retailers are limiting the amount of time a shopper has to return an item. They are also establishing dedicated Customer Service desks in areas of the store that isolate those who may seek to fraudulently extract refunds by kicking and screaming
Tracking customers who return goods is a great way retailers are fighting back. It is much easier to track a problem when a company has an easily accessible database to reference.
Allowing customers to return purchased items is a sign of good customer service. Customers who legitimately are not satisfied should be entitled to a refund. However, it is important to keep track of returns so no one abuses the good intentions of the system.
Read more at The Economist.