Return policies can help or hurt a business. Amazon has been making news lately with theirs – it seems as though they have been known to cancel Amazon accounts that meet the criteria for “account abuse.” But what does that mean exactly?
Just from reading reports, it’s difficult to know for sure. Users have reported having their accounts deleted for 7% return rates up to 11%. Return rates depend on the number of items purchased through Amazon vs. how many have been returned.
Amazon’s return policy does not say anything specific about this issue; it simply states: Items shipped from Amazon.com, including Warehouse Deals, can be returned within 30 days of receipt of shipment in most cases. Some products have different policies or requirements associated with them.
There have been reports circulating of people’s accounts being canceled, along with any gift card balances and/or Prime memberships. It is unclear as to whether these customers received a warning from Amazon before their accounts were closed. At any rate, is this excessive?
Maybe. Maybe not.
Retailers try to offer a liberal return policy where possible to improve the customer experience. It’s typically a few bad eggs that ruin it for the majority, and is the reason that other retails do track returns to look for patterns. This is what the retailers are up against:
- Those who borrow, not buy: most often in clothing stores, people will make purchases of clothing items with the intent to return once worn for a special event or similar situation.
- Returning to replace: need a new electronic item? Is yours not working properly, or just old? Some consumers have been caught purchasing a new item, and then using the receipt to return their old item, essentially making the purchase free.
- Shoplifting at its finest: consumers have also made legitimate purchases, and later returned to the store, found the items on the receipt, and proceeded to the customer service desk to make a “return” on these not purchased items, essentially shoplifting.
Retailers are in a tough spot – how do they prevent fraudulent returns while not placing the burden on the majority of consumers who are not engaged in any type of shady behavior? Some, many are big box or electronics stores where this type of behavior happens most often, have turned to requiring identification for all returns, regardless of having a receipt or not. This information is housed in a database to look for patterns that might signal an issue. Other retailers have a more liberal return policy.
It’s a fine line for retailers to protect themselves while ensuring customers have a great experience from beginning to end; however, I believe that retailers do need to be more forthcoming with their policies regarding potential return abuse and work closely with customers who may find themselves in this situation. Being more transparent on these policies will give customers an understanding of the “why” behind it and may make them less wary to make a truly needed return.