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Businesses The Almighty Buck Technology

Shoppers More Likely To Return Items Bought Online Than in Store (axios.com) 117

From a report: Almost a third of all online orders are returned compared to only 9% of purchases made in a brick-and-mortar store, according to Bloomberg. This is largely due to free shipping offered by most companies, which has also caused an increase of online purchases by almost three times those of physical stores. Why it matters: Returns can be costly for online companies -- anywhere from 20-65% of the cost of goods sold a UPS study found.
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Shoppers More Likely To Return Items Bought Online Than in Store

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  • Broken stuff (Score:5, Insightful)

    by XXongo ( 3986865 ) on Friday November 03, 2017 @03:06PM (#55485359) Homepage
    Well, on a real-world store you can look at stuff before you buy it-- for the most part, you can pick up the very same object that you will later own. With an online store, you're buying something you've never seen.

    Also, a lot of online stores sell broken crap-- possibly stuff that previous customers had returned that they're still trying to get rid of.

    • you're not doing it correctly. go to your local mega-corp owned place and look at the stuff you want. even try on the model of shoes, for example. then go home and get a good deal online.

      • ...and still receive an item DOA, that a previous customer already returned DOA.
        • Have you never heard of brick and mortars pulling the same stuff. This has been a problem since before buying a pig in a poke.
          • Have you never heard of brick and mortars pulling the same stuff.

            Of course a brick and mortar can restock a returned item that is defective. The shopper gets to LOOK at the item before buying it. There's also a concern by the store that it wastes a LOT of money to do that, and burns a lot of customer good-will. Customers that may just buy it online the next time and not come back.

            I know this is an old anecdote, but I remember when my Dad worked at Monkey Wards. People returned all kinds of things that weren't actually broken, and some of the broken stuff was easily fixa

        • nope, the places I buy from don't do that.

          meanwhile, the shoes in boxes under the display at your local shoe store, you're going to tell me that someone with infected feet didn't put their feet in them to try them out?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by wyHunter ( 4241347 )
      Also, clothing: my wife will order 4 outfits and return 3 of them. Why not? In a store you try on different things.
      • For clothing in general and woman's clothing the size listed is irrevalant and doesn't reflect the actual size and cut of the garment. Shoes and pants are generally accurate. Everything else you need to know the. It and fit of. Some comps us shirts are deigned for beer bellies some are slim

        Me personally I am either a large or xl for shirts depending on cut a co with a tight fit might be better than a large loose fit or sometimes the companies large slim fits best.

        clothing and woman's clothikng really needs

        • Me personally I am either a large or xl for shirts depending on cut a co with a tight fit might be better than a large loose fit or sometimes the companies large slim fits best.

          Personal preference also has a lot to do with it. Some folks like tight fitting stuff; others like loose fits.

          Back in the original dotcom boom, a start up sold shoes that were custom made to fit the customer's feet exactly. They scanned the feet. Folks were nevertheless unsatisfied, because some folks liked "barefoot freedom" while others prefer a tight, controlled feeling.

        • Exactly. It would be nice if clothing sizes were the GARMENT size and you simply bought the size you wanted for the degree of snugness/looseness.
      • Re:Broken stuff (Score:5, Insightful)

        by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Friday November 03, 2017 @03:46PM (#55485691) Homepage Journal

        Also, clothing: my wife will order 4 outfits and return 3 of them. Why not?

        Because all customers have to foot the bill for your wife's returns. It's selfish, and everyone else have to pay higher prices.

        • Over here several online clothing stores actually advertise with this. They encourage you to order several items and try them on. The package has the return label already included.

          It is selfish in the same way as using the fitting room in a store. "the rent of the floor space has to be paid from the sales. All customers pay the same, even the ones who do not use the fitting room".

          • by arth1 ( 260657 )

            It is selfish in the same way as using the fitting room in a store. "the rent of the floor space has to be paid from the sales. All customers pay the same, even the ones who do not use the fitting room".

            It's different in that what has been tried on in a changing room can still be sold as new, while what has been returned in an online purchase cannot. The seller cannot know the extent of use, and have to assume that it has been used.

            • It surprises me that you think that they sell that as used. I guess you never worked in retail. No, it is checked and repackaged and sold "as new". Note that hardly any store explicitely sells something as "new, never been touched before". And rightfully so in my opinion. It is still the exact same product. Also, brick and mortar stores do exactly the same. If a returned product doesn't clearly show signs of use, it goes right back on the shelves.

              Speaking at someone who has worked at at least a dozen on- an

        • Short term thats true.
          In long term, you might order something, but that also means you finish measurement with the first batch of clothes.
          So you order 32-32 pants, get to see how the S-M-L scaling goes, take a few measurements.
          So i guess the economy of scale means: Customers might do 75% return, but those don't do that often. So between broken goods, cloth returns, and whatnot, only 1/3 returns?
          That means that people do figure out what to order, to avoid returns. Otherwise the number could be far higher, or

        • You're getting upset about deals consenting adults are making.The store can easily charge me for shipping and restocking if they like. I just won't shop there. But you can and enjoy the savings.

          I return about 50% of what I order. If it's a brand I've never seen before I might order 4 styles in 2 sizes each and keep one. But how bad of a customer can I be one retailer (the one where I'm the worst offender) gives me free overnight shipping?

          • by arth1 ( 260657 )

            Those with little money can't afford those shops because the prices are higher to cover all the returns. That's a problem - not for the haves, but for the have-nots.

            • What's the problem, exactly?

            • Some of those brands have a Minimum Advertised Price. [wikipedia.org] Which means that the prices don't have to be higher - they're probably already too high and the margin covers the returns. Look at the iPad - stores can't even lower the prices if they want to (due to wholesale agreement) - but they can give you freebies and incentives with the purchase on Black Friday.

          • The word "consent" often comes with an important adjective: "informed". When not present, that adjective is usually implied. Dishonest sellers will frequently not note things like "removed from old equipment", "chipped", "B stock", "used", "open box", etc..

            The practice of ordering 8 things with the intention of returning 7 at no cost to yourself without prior agreement is dishonest.

        • by J-1000 ( 869558 )

          It's not selfish. This is the chosen business model of the store. You want someone to buy your clothes online instead of walking into a brick & mortar store? Fine, you better be good with returns, because trying things on is part of the clothes shopping process. I'm not advocating abuse, but liberal return policies are part of the core value proposition for these stores, and are the only reason people consider buying clothes online.

          and everyone else have to pay higher prices.

          Since when is that the litm

  • by war4peace ( 1628283 ) on Friday November 03, 2017 @03:07PM (#55485363)

    I don't know why others return their online purchased items, but when I do it, it's because:
    - The item had incorrect specifications online, e.g. a tablet had a resolution of 1280x800 on the seller's website but 1024x600 in reality.
    - The pictures of the item showed it as way better looking than in reality. Think hamburgers in ads versus hamburgers in the store.
    - I received a different item. I can't use a pink female genitalia shaving machine on my beard.

    • Re:Reasons (Score:5, Funny)

      by TWX ( 665546 ) on Friday November 03, 2017 @03:11PM (#55485391)

      I received a different item. I can't use a pink female genitalia shaving machine on my beard.

      Well, I mean, you can, but you just don't want to.

    • Sure you can. But if you all that interested in shaving her genitals, there is a chance she's not just a beard.

      Go for it dude. Are you afraid you're going to like it?

    • I have another reason:
      Returning items online is easier than returning to a brick and mortar store nowadays. So I prefer to buy higher risk items online AND I take more risks when buying something online. When in doubt, in a brick and mortar store I will probably not buy. Online, I will.

      Result: "Shoppers more likely to return items online". It is a feature, and it is why online shopping is winning.

    • I can't use a pink female genitalia shaving machine on my beard.

      Why not? As long as it's the same size and shape, it'll work fine. (The Venus razors for shaving your legs are the same as the Gillette Fusion razors, for example. They just come encased in a giant block of fragranced lube.)

  • This is why I bought my sneakers in a real store. I tried them on, made sure they fit and went out for a run the next day.

    Buy it online and two weeks later you might still be waiting for the right size

  • by MSG ( 12810 ) on Friday November 03, 2017 @03:12PM (#55485395)

    Gosh, you're going to tell me that people want to try things in person before they commit to buying(/keeping) them? I'm shocked! Shocked, I tell you!

  • 1/3 of all online orders are returned?

    Does this match anyone's experience?

    • by evlkind ( 858428 )

      1/3 of all online orders are returned?

      Does this match anyone's experience?

      I can vouch being a wal-mart worker, most online purchases are returned. Far above the 1/3rd. But...again..it is wal-mart..

    • I think I've only returned an online order perhaps three times maximum and that was a completely defective product and it was replaced with a working version of the same model. One in three does sound suspicious, but I think Slashdot readers may be more careful with online purchases or more likely to read reviews or look online for a specific product instead of just shoving the first or cheapest thing into our carts. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if a lot of people buy cheap Chinese knock-off product
    • I probably return half of the clothes I buy online because they didn't fit right (not every size M or size L is the same across all brands/manufacturers or even the same brand), the image didn't present the garments color accurately, item was damaged or irregular, or because of poor construction quality/materials.

      When buying in-store, I can try on and inspect the item before purchasing. Obviously, you can't do that with online purchases.

    • 1/3 of all online orders are returned?

      Does this match anyone's experience?

      I read reviews carefully, and almost never return anything. My wife, OTOH, returns stuff all the time. She is on a first name basis with all the UPS drivers.

      • My wife, OTOH, returns stuff all the time. She is on a first name basis with all the UPS drivers.

        Ohh, don't say that out loud or all the women will start using that as the excuse. "Yeah, he picks up all my returned items" wink wink.

    • Not me! I was going to post a similar response, but figured it better to just reply to yours.

      I did return two small (~$10) items to Amazon last month, but those were the only things I've returned in recent memory... and I've probably bought 100 or more items on Amazon since the last time I returned anything before that.

      1/3rd feels absurdly high to me, but then again even the 9% for brick-and-mortar stores that the summary quotes seems crazy high. I maybe return 1-3% of items bought in stores, and most of th

    • by mssymrvn ( 15684 )

      Read a guitar message board sometime. The blooze lawyers on those sites buy a pedal, use it for a month, then return it. And then piss and moan when they have to pay return shipping. For an item on which the retailer just lost any possibility of profit.

      Then again, the retailer shouldn't offer free shipping as UPS's rates keep going through the roof and there is little recourse for when they won't cover damage in shipping. Damage that was clearly from a handler putting his foot through the package (I work fo

    • I could not find the actual report, but the "third of online orders returned" comes from a 2013 Kurt Salmon study which was picked up by the WSJ and parroted by just about everyone else.

  • 33%, is that right? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jandrese ( 485 ) <kensama@vt.edu> on Friday November 03, 2017 @03:13PM (#55485407) Homepage Journal
    I rarely return anything, pretty much only if it arrives broken. It seems shocking to me that a full third of all purchases get returned online. Even that 9% for in-store seems crazy high. Are there people who just buy stuff and return it all day long?
    • If it were a true number, no online retailer could turn a profit.

      At least not without charging the constant returners much more, which would turn into 'whack a mole' as people use prepaid cards to get lower prices.

    • I don't know anyone who returns things at that rate, assertion is nonsense.

    • by XXongo ( 3986865 )

      I rarely return anything, pretty much only if it arrives broken. It seems shocking to me that a full third of all purchases get returned online.

      I'd believe it-- I'd even believe that a third of all stuff bought online arrives broken, or was broken in the first place, or was substantially different from the description-- I've had some bad experiences. But I also know some people who use the "free return" policies as a way to examine stuff to decide whether they want to buy it.

      Even that 9% for in-store seems crazy high. Are there people who just buy stuff and return it all day long?

      Now, that does seem a bit high. I almost never return stuff I bought, but that's because if I buy it in a real store, I look at it carefully before buying.

      • I'd believe it only if you include the sum total of dodgy chinese ebay sellers in the stats. That obviously makes the entire assertion worthless.

    • by evlkind ( 858428 )
      Go work in retail for a year, you'll understand. Especially at places like walmart, where the return policy is so lax. I've known of people to buy a BBQ for a big event, ,return it the next day all, and not even cleaned up.
      • Not always. I bought an air mattress. Used it for one night - found out it leaked horribly. They said it was against policy to allow returns on a used air mattress (as if it were underwear). Then they pulled out a giant binder from behind them (that I did not see prior to purchase) and claimed I should somehow know the policy buried within.

        Sure, I just took it to another Wal-Mart and they returned it without hassle. But not everyone will keep trying.

    • I suspect this is a lot like credit card debt, where the average debt is a shocking $6k. But if you drill down into the numbers, you find that 95% of people are actually responsible and keep their balance down to a thousand dollars or less (a third carry no balance). And the average is skewed high by about 5% of people who carry $50k or more in credit card debt.

      Likewise, I suspect the vast majority of people are like you and me and return probably 1%-2% of what we buy. But a small minority abuse the s
      • And the average is skewed high by about 5% of people who carry $50k or more in credit card debt.

        These might be the same people who compulsively buy and return 1/2 or more of everything they buy.

    • by erice ( 13380 )

      I rarely return anything, pretty much only if it arrives broken. It seems shocking to me that a full third of all purchases get returned online. Even that 9% for in-store seems crazy high. Are there people who just buy stuff and return it all day long?

      Surprises me too. For most online purchases, returning is such a PIA, that I try very hard to avoid returning anything. I've kept worthless junk because it wasn't worth my time to return it. And that doesn't even account for the monetary costs. Most of the time you end up paying for return shipping, which is usually more expensive than what the retailer spent to ship it to you. It is especially severe for purchases from overseas vendors.
      The vendor ships via some sweet bulk deal. Your return goes bog s

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      I rarely return anything, pretty much only if it arrives broken. It seems shocking to me that a full third of all purchases get returned online. Even that 9% for in-store seems crazy high. Are there people who just buy stuff and return it all day long?

      I seem to remember a friend of mine studying in the US said they did a lot of renovation by simply buying power tools, using them for whatever they needed then returning it. Allegedly they got the idea from hearing that many other people did that, I don't think he was justifying because he didn't really have to tell me anything at all. My guess is that online shopping is equally skewed by a few, like ordering a whole wardrobe and returning everything but one dress. Personally I don't think I've returned any

  • I am sure online retailers have to expect that. When ordering something that has an individual fit - I do not know if it actually fits until the item arrives and I can try it. Clothes, shoes, glasses and many other items. Picture and description is not the same as seeing an item in person.
    Why is that news? I am sure catalog sales back in the day had the same return percentage.

  • In a store you can see the item and try it on.

      You can't do that with online stuff. And it's not just clothing.

    Here are things I would not have bought if I had seen them in a store:

    1) Bag of popcorn -unpopped (thought it was popped)
    2) Shirt, shoes and pants that did not fit.
    3) Half size ottoman that I thought was full sized.
    4) Wedge of cheese that was 1/3 the size I thought it was.

  • For many clothing purchases I buy online in multiple sizes, because I can't tell what will fit - sometimes all buying a few different styles, because I'm not sure what I will like.

    Any vendor selling stuff online is setup to handle this, usually with free or very low cost shipping on returns or in-store.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    As a UPS driver who picks up 300+ pieces per day from UPS Stores, well over half of the boxes are returns and most go back to Amazon. The only people winning here is UPS themselves

  • I think the most common explanation is Drunk Amazon purchases late at night. I know some people who have had problems with Ambien shopping as well.

    Online vendors misleading information on what you're buying versus what you'll receive.

    Just crappy merchandise. Knockoffs,something that's already been returned, items that have been pre-damaged for your enjoyment.

    Clothes that don't fit, I have a hard enough time getting things in a store that are supposed to be the same size, but aren't. The same goes for shoes

    • Hellman's Mayonnaise, I'm ok with buying online

      Something tells me it's harder to get fresh mayo. Sitting in a warehouse (longer), no way to check the expiration date at purchase.

  • by MindPrison ( 864299 ) on Friday November 03, 2017 @03:30PM (#55485555) Journal

    ...I got some experience on the subject, I'm in my 50's and have shopped online for over 14+ years, and 35+ years in stores, especially electronics stores.

    The thing about shopping in a store is that you get an hands-on experience of everything you want to purchase, you get to test it - right there and then, if you don't like it - it's more of a "meh..." experience, and you walk away, no harm done. But if you get that "woah" experience, you'll most likely make a purchase right there and then, or come back later for a purchase. The thing is - you get a realtime experience with the goods in question instead of some video representation of it, and you get a real life feel for how the product actually work.

    Some of you, might ask - well, why don't you go to a physical store and test the product, and later - go get it cheaper on the internet?

    Well, there's a reason we don't really do that, many actually. Some of mine are that I can easily return a product I tested in store if it doesn't live up to my "store" experiences, without too much problems. If I do this online, I can do this...but it's a lot of hassle...I have to carry the product back to the postal offices, if it's pickup-based, I usually have to cover the cost if the company doesn't agree with my view on the subject... (at least in Sweden).

    And when I bought it in a store - I get a lot of support, the seller will recognize me and immediately give me support when I have questions or need help, whereas when I do that online, it's more of a hassle to get a RMA and finally get to ship it off, just to have it returned to me with 100+ scratches from all the handling + loads of more risks involving shipping damage, where the company in question is not to blame....but the postal services...which I've had the worst luck with...blaming everything on bad packaging etc.

    Classy online companies, won't have this issue...usually clothes related companies, as they will pretty much accept any returns, without complaints...but try that with small online companies dealing with IT-Tech and small margins...you're in for the battle of your life..

    Not worth it.

    Shop locally!

    • Some of you, might ask - well, why don't you go to a physical store and test the product, and later - go get it cheaper on the internet?

      Some of them are idiots. I shop online because B&M stores don't carry what I want. I can drive to every store in my county and still not be able to buy one tenth of one percent of the stuff I can find on the internets. This is especially true for me because I live in the sticks. The nearest town of any size is Ukiah which is still small, and stupid — they've been fighting against a Costco for years for example, because they were really attached to having a massive eyesore expanse of unused concret

    • by havana9 ( 101033 )
      IT's easier to give back an item bought online, due the consumer protection law or how compaines are willing to help you, I remember in the '80 you could buy from a papaer catalog sending a paer letter some items, even a TV set and the company had a policy you could return anything without problem in the 15 days after delivery policy.
      On a brick and mortar shop it's norally more difficult.
      If you see a physical object in a shop you could easily check if it's ok or it's broken and have a look on exact aspect
  • Did they base this off of the metrics of products force returned because UPS wouldn't deliver, or worse lost the item, or worst, randomly delaying deliveries for so long the retailers have to refund their customers?

  • It looks like these high return rates are US stats. Other countries have less of a return culture, being more intimidated by store policies, and discouraged by high return postage rates, though it's perhaps slowly becoming more US-like everywhere.

    I've long been surprised reading about US buyers who had no problem returning things until they got exactly what they wanted. In the US, retailers better accept that the consumer is king, perhaps due to better-developed competition, a greater focus on service, a

    • Europe also generally doesn't allow re-selling returned/refurbished items as new and generally better consumer protection laws.

  • Industrial products with a clear specification
    Consumable items you have bought before and need re-supply
    Replacement parts
    Anything cheap enough that gambling is OK

    Online does NOT work for stuff like..

    Anything where color is critical. Most monitors aren't calibrated and most online sellers aren't real careful about color
    Anything where touch or feel is critical. All you get online is a photo, and sometimes it's crappy
    Some clothing. Sizes are NOT standard, it's why physical stores have dressing rooms

    Online work

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