The Art of Mastering Product Returns

As an online retailer, you are most probably familiar with the concept of Returned Products. Having a refund policy of any type is vital for the success and growth of your business, especially in the field of e-commerce. Ensuring your customers that they will be able to return their products , if they are not satisfied with them, for either an exchange, store credit or a complete refund, will help you build loyalty, security and reliability towards your online business. And although a liberal return policy might seem to be costly at the beginning, in the long run it is proven to be rather beneficial and effective.

You can find the original article published here: https://isenselabs.com/posts/the-art-of-mastering-product-returns

Although returned products are something common in every online business and the number of stores with refund policies and not a single returned product are close to 0, there are some simple steps which will help you minimize the returns, and thus your costs.

In this blogpost we will concentrate on the most common reasons for product returns, give you some ideas on how to reduce and avoid them. Towards the end of the article you will find some bizarre and absurd reasons for returned products which were actually used (and some of them even worked!)

7 most common reasons for returned products

As you might guess, one the most common reasons for returned products is the fact that the product is not actually working. If you are a store owner of a clothing store, this is not something to worry about, but if you are selling electronics this is the paragraph for you.

Shipping a product that is malfunctioning is not something uncommon and although it brings some negative reactions in the customers it is not something totally unexpected and inexcusable. Fabric defects and faults can happen and the only way to avoid them is to increase the quality control and assurance.

In such cases the best refund practice is to propose an exchange of the defective product for a brand new one.

The clothing store owners are the ones that have encountered the wrong-size cause for returned products numerous times. Unfortunately, in such a case there isn’t much you can do apart from clearly labeling the clothing sizes. You can even put size charts and comparison tables for the different sizes worldwide. This will be really helpful for foreign customers who are not used to your local sizing scale.

In this case the refund policy that will fit you best is to offer an item with the correct size.​

Another common reason for returning products, is when the actual product doesn’t match the description and/or the images used for its promotion. Unlike the previous two reasons, this one is considered to be more unpleasant for the customer and may result in a lost credibility and negative reviews and comments from your customers. Since the feedback for an online retailer is essential for its popularity, this third cause is the one that you should try avoiding by all means. In order to do so, always make sure that the description of each product is clear and detailed enough. Furthermore, add product images that are accurate and not misleading and in the best case scenario, taken from different angle and having the option to zoom in and out. Spending time on improving your product page will definitely result in happier and more satisfied customers.

In a case of returned products due to a non-corresponding description, the best practice is to offer either a full refund or a store credit to your customers, so that they don’t leave your online store with a negative impression and frustration.

This might sound bizarre, but you’ll be surprised how many people are getting distracted while shopping and ending up checked-out and paid for products which they don’t want and have accidentally put in their shopping cart. In such a case you can’t do much apart from asking for a confirmation before checking out and hoping that it wouldn’t go unnoticed.

The refund policy that best fits this situation would be a store credit.

This one seems similar to the unmatched description, but in fact it’s quite different. In the case of the misleading description, the problem comes from the contrast between the product’s description and the product itself, while in these case it comes from the difference between the product and the customer’s expectations. You would be correct to say that the expectations are built from the product details, but not only. The price of the product also affects the expectations: the higher the price, the higher the quality, is what a customer assumes. However, this is not always the case and in order to avoid this, the best piece of advice we can give you is not to overprice your products. If the quality of your products is high, keep your prices high as well, but the opposite should be applied too.

In these cases a store credit or a full refund will be the best applicable refund policy.

Having shipped the wrong item is a common situation as well, but the fault lies entirely on the retailers. In order to avoid such mistakes, make sure that your staff is sorting and shipping the correct items.

In this case, you can offer an exchange for the correct item.

Wardrobing is the practice of purchasing an item, using it for a while, and then returning it back to the store for a refund. In general, the most common items that are being wardrobed are clothes and accessories, but the same practice may apply to electronics and other tools. The only way you can keep your products from being wardrobed is creating a return policy which states the terms and conditions under which you are willing to refund products e.g. with their tags still on, all original packaging(boxes, bags, etc) should be returned, clean and not damaged in any way items, refund within 10 days, etc. As a store owner, you should keep in mind that there would be customers who would always try to find holes in your refund policies, take advantage and abuse them, so make sure that they are clear, strict and detailed enough.

In the second part of the blogpost, we will share with you some real retail stories for customers willing to return their purchased items for a refund and the reasons behind it. You might find some funny, other absurd and third even outrageous, so keep on reading and be prepared for anything your customers might come up with.

7 bizarre stories for customers willing a refund

The broken dishwasher

Some time after the purchase of a dishwasher, a customer came back to the store asking for a refund, reporting that the “The dishwasher is quite obviously faulty — when set to wash, water sprays, but the plates don’t spin

The non-waterproof jacket

An angry client came into a store to return a jacket he bought and threatened to escalate his complaint, since although the jacket was labeled to be ‘waterproof’, it didn’t protect his phone put in the pocket of the jacket from being corrupted after a full wash cycle.

The defective monitor

A helpdesk agent received a complaint from a lady, who claimed that she was able to view her monitor in the right way only when she laid her head on the desk. Once the monitor was rotated by the support team, her issue was solved.

A grill with a bonus

A guy came into a store to return a grill he bought two days ago. When asked whether he wants to exchange it for another one, he rejected the offer by saying that the grill wasn’t working and that he would never buy this product again. When the sales associate started processing the returned grill, he found a grilled steak still laying on the top.

​The borrowed jeans

A lady tried to return a pair of jeans bought a while ago without having neither a receipt nor a tag. The jeans were stained all over the crotch area and when being told that she is not able to get a refund if the jeans are in such a condition, she justified herself by stating that the stains weren’t hers and that she hasn’t worn them. It was her roommate who borrowed it from her without asking.

The $17 000 bill

A customer went into a store and spent $17 000 in one day. On the next day, the customer returns with a note from a therapist claiming that the customer is a shopping addict and the bought items have to be returned.

​Sand&Salt

An elderly couple used to buy a Famous Brand’s pudding powder, use the pudding powder and replace it with a mixture of sand and salt, pack it nicely and return it back to the store for a refund. They managed to do so in four stores, returning more than 50 packages of pudding before they got caught.

Final Words

We hope you enjoyed our blogpost! Feel free to share your stories, tips and ideas on how to minimize the returned products as well as how to construct a refund policy, which is beneficial both for clients and for retailers.