Kiss your free returns goodbye

Companies are ditching free returns, much to their customers’ displeasure.

You know the drill: You find a great pair of shoes online but are between sizes, so you order two pairs and return whichever one doesn’t fit.

shipping boxes

It was a foolproof, reliable system. It worked. That is until retailers said, “Pay up, losers.”

OK, they might not have used that exact language, but the sentiment stands: Per The Atlantic, an estimated 41% of retailers charged some kind of return shipping fee in 2022, up from 33% in 2021.

  • DSW charges $8.50 for returns
  • LL Bean takes $6.50 per returned package
  • Abercrombie & Fitch deducts $7 for online returns
  • Even Amazon started charging customers $1 for dropping packages at select UPS stores

While most retailers won’t charge if you return your rejected items at a brick-and-mortar location, standing in line at a cash register really takes the joy out of online shopping.

(We wanted to order our adult onesies and self-help books in private — that was the whole point!)

Why the change?

The average online purchase return rate is 15%-30%, and Americans returned $800B+ worth of goods in 2022. That’s a lot of boxes.

To make matters worse, a single return can cost a retailer $10-$20, not including transportation back to a warehouse, per The Atlantic.

Makes sense but…

… customers still aren’t pleased. More than half believe retailers should cover the cost of returns, and 62% said they’d shop elsewhere given a poor return experience with a brand.

While returns are more expensive than ever, so is therapy — so we might just stick with online shopping as our coping mechanism for now.

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