Unlike the straightforward process at local retail stores, e-commerce returns present a unique challenge due to varying policies and practices across different platforms
As the holiday season comes to a close, holiday shoppers and gift recipients are faced with the daunting task of returning merchandise for replacement, exchange, or a refund. Unlike the straightforward process at local retail stores, e-commerce returns present a unique challenge due to varying policies and practices across different platforms.
While the return period is typically extended during the holidays, delaying returns can lead to encountering stricter policies and additional fees. It's best to read a store's return policy before purchasing or returning, and always keep the receipt.
According to Appriss Retail, a service specializing in return management, approximately 20% of merchandise purchased online is returned, almost double the rate of retail store purchases. In 2023, over $743 billion worth of retail merchandise was returned for reasons ranging from receiving incorrect or damaged items to dealing with the influx of counterfeit, fraudulent, and replica merchandise. Return fraud alone accounted for $101 billion in losses for retailers, and consumers may find that third-party online sellers they paid months earlier have vanished.
Amazon's return policies
Amazon's past lax return policies conditioned consumers to easy returns, however be aware that the e-commerce giant has significantly changed return policies and may ban shoppers from the site for infractions such as returning too many items, sometimes without telling them what they did wrong.
Year-round, you'll get 30 days to return your Amazon purchases. For the 2023 holiday season, most items (other than Apple brand products) purchased between November 1 and December 31, 2023, can be returned until January 31, 2024. For Apple brand products, items purchased between November 1 and December 31, 2023, can be returned until January 15, 2024. See Amazon's website for an extensive list of return conditions and exceptions. Out-of-country destinations require additional postage and a U.S. Customs declaration. For information about products that can't be returned, see Items That Can't Be Returned.
Amazon previously offered a simple and free process to return products, but that option is gone. Amazon now charges $6.99 for a UPS drop-off and $7.99 for a UPS pickup. Consumers may avoid shipping fees if they opt to drive around town looking for a free drop-off point like Amazon's Whole Foods Market or Kohl's. If the item is not exactly as described in the listing, the "Wrong item sent" may land you a free return label.
Amazon's online automated "bot" customer service system is also a challenge; phone calls are better if you can avoid Amazon's overseas customer service "outsource partners." Requesting assistance from a U.S. based Amazon employee is recommended.
Walmart's return policies
Walmart generally allows a 90-day return window for most items, reduced to 30 days for electronics and only 14 days for post-paid cellphones. For holiday purchases made between October 1 and December 31, 2023, most items can be returned until January 31.
Return policies for items purchased from online third-party Marketplace sellers vary. Most items don't have a return shipping fee, but check the Return Policy link on the item's listing page for more details.
Items purchased from dealers or resellers and not Walmart or Walmart.com directly generally aren't eligible for return, refund, or exchange.
Other major retailers
This holiday season, retailers are enforcing stricter refund policies, making it imperative for shoppers to carefully read the fine print, as substantial return fees may apply. See the overview from the Daily Mail.
The first step in returning an item is to contact the seller or e-commerce website, often through online forms that open the communication channel. For low-value items, the cost of returns may outweigh the product's value, leading sellers to suggest keeping or donating the item.
If a resolution with the seller proves elusive, filing a formal complaint or claim with the website or disputing the charge with your credit card company or payment service is an option. Shifting loyalty to another retailer is always possible, and leaving feedback about the return experience can help fellow consumers make informed decisions.
Facebook: The Counterfeit Report