Retailers crack down on 'returnaholics'

If you're a shopper who returns more than you keep, stores may have your name on a special list
February 25, 2014 5:11:46 AM PST
Are you an avid online shopper who loves taking advantage of free shipping and free returns?

Our consumer investigation reveals some stores are keeping tabs on how often you send Internet purchases back, and some stores even make lists of their "returnaholics."

Finding delivery boxes waiting at her door is Magda Walczak's favorite part of online shopping. If what she ordered doesn't fit, she often just fills out the return label and sends it back.

"I would say that about half the things that I actually buy I end up returning," Walczak said.

Sometimes she returns her online orders at the actual store, and lately she said the cashier has made remarks that stand out.

"Several times the person at the cash register would tell me, 'you know you don't have to buy online, you can just come to the store and you can try everything on,'" Walczak said.

Those reminders are just one new tactic some retailers are using to cut down on returns which cost them as much as $375 billion each year.

"For retailers, returns are an absolute nightmare. The days of using your living room as a fitting room are yes, going to be coming to a close," retail expert Carol Spieckerman said.

If you're guilty of over ordering online, one company may know. AgilOne keeps tabs on 525 million customers and says they flag 1 percent as returnaholics, meaning they send back a lot more than they keep.

"We look at returns in relation to the profitability of a customer. So for example, if you return 50 items that can be really terrible if you only keep one. But of course if you return 50 items and end up buying 200 that's fantastic," said AgilOne's Dominique Levin.

Companies use this data to curb chronic returning. Now, some won't send you coupons if you're a frequent returner. Others will only email you promotions for certain products.

Modnique.com sends frequent returners coupons for jewelry, watches, and beauty products, which get sent back less.

Some businesses are even revoking certain customers' free shipping. Experts say companies may start charging them restocking fees in the future.

"Most stores would rather have you continue to do business with them rather than their competitors. However, what we do see is stores starting to find ways to perhaps spend less money on you or find ways to have you return less," Levin said.

Experts say if you've been labeled a returnaholic you can improve your status with a store by starting to keep more items that you order.

"Most of the customer profiles that retailers are collecting on all of us get refreshed every single day, so every day is a new day when it comes to return profiles," Levin said.

Some stores even reward good customers who are not returnaholics by giving them special money saving offers and deals, as well as invitations to special sales and VIP events.

Find Patricia on Facebook at ABC13PatriciaLopez or on Twitter at @patricialopez13


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