Shoppers may be eager to find the best deals on Black Friday, but in doing so, they may be overlooking one area where they can lose out: product returns.
Six in 10 retailers are changing their return policies this holiday season, according to a recent survey of 500 retailers by return management provider goTRG. Sender Shamis, CEO of goTRG, said these changes are generally not favorable to consumers, with many stores adding restocking and online return fees to shorten return periods.
The changes may surprise some shoppers who had grown accustomed to the generous return policies common during the pandemic, when retailers relaxed their guidelines to give consumers more breathing room. For example, Kohl’s and Bloomingdale’s extended their return windows to 30 and 90 days, respectively, in 2020.
But retailers are now dealing with one.and a sluggish economy, leading some to tighten their policies. Top tip for Black Friday shoppers: Check the return policy before you buy to avoid unpleasant surprises, experts say.
“Now retailers are saying, ‘We don’t care if customers cause this crazy returns nightmare that we can’t afford,'” Shamis said.
He added that retail executives are concerned about the strength of the economy “and making sure their policies best serve their businesses.”
Small window on Amazon
Among the changes this year at major retailers: Amazon, which They say Customers who purchased items between October 11 and December 25 can return them till January 31, 2023. Smaller window than last yearwhen buyers can return items purchased between October 1 and December 31, 2021 until January 31, 2022.
Some retailers are now charging customers for online returns, though they typically won’t charge for items returned to brick-and-mortar locations. This can help retailers reduce costs, while also encouraging more people to visit the store, where they may be tempted to buy additional items during their return.
“The low-hanging fruit is changing the return policy,” Shamis said. “As e-commerce matures, they’re starting to roll back the very liberal policies that were there way back.”
H&M, for example, charges a US return shipping fee of $5.99 that is deducted from a customer’s refund when they return an item. The store noted that the policy is not new, but it may also begin testing online return fees in some European markets.
Zara earlier this year Started charging $3.95. For online returns, though, there is no fee charged when customers return online purchases to a brick-and-mortar location.
“During the pandemic we got used to these very long return policies,” Shamis said. “None of that exists anymore.”