Thursday, January 5, 2012

The high cost of retail returns

Every holiday season it happens.  The report comes out of which retailers have naughty return policies and which ones are nice.  I read the stories, I listen to it on the news and I seethe.  Nobody, anywhere talks about the cost of the returns.  Yes, I know, you’ll say it’s the cost of doing business.  I agree that it is.  However, somewhere we have to draw the line. 
Manufacturers, for the most part, will not accept returns from a small business, no matter what.  Even if it is defective, they expect us to order new parts, fix it, make it right to sell again.  Of course, we can’t sell it as new because it is not new.  If a customer returns something because they decided they did not “like” it, of course the manufacturer will not take it back.  As a small business, we do not have enough clout to demand it; they don’t care if we take our business elsewhere. 
What about the big retailer?  Yes, they may accept your returns, no questions asked, for limitless number of days.  This all seems wonderful to the customer, unless you stop to think about how this drives the prices up for everybody.  Whether the manufacturer takes it back, and they usually do because the giant retailer will threaten to take their business elsewhere, or the retailer absorbs the cost, that gets passed on to the consumer. 
I understand if an item is defective a retailer should take it back.  I understand if an e-retailer sells something that is not what it’s supposed to be there should be safeguards in place for the consumer.  I even understand that clothes or shoes don’t always fit and you need to return them and they can go right back out on the rack. 
But, let’s all do our part to get everything back on track and keep costs down for everybody.  Next time you buy something that doesn’t fit, think about if there is somebody else that can use it.  I recently gave a pair of shoes to my mother instead of returning them. 
When you are ordering a part for something, a battery for your watch, a bowl for your mixer, a filter for your vacuum, do your research, call and ask questions if you must, but do your part to get the right one the first time.  When you buy a vacuum filter you want a brand new one that nobody has “tried” on their vacuum cleaner; so if you return the one you “tried” it goes into the trash, because it is contaminated with germs.  It is wasteful, it fills the landfills, it drives up costs, and it allows the consumer to not take any responsibility for his /her actions. 
We are in an economic crisis.  We lose small businesses every day.  Please do your part to keep it all going.    
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