[CNBC] How Retailers Like T.J. Maxx And Home Depot Quietly Target 'Problem' Returners

Sharing for @VTR : How Retailers Like T.J. Maxx And Home Depot Quietly Target ‘Problem’ Returners (only about 8 minutes and WORTH IT)


Tracking returns has been going on for years.

It may be new to some of these clothing retailers but chains like Staples have been blocking returns from chronic returners for over a dozen years. Of course, their returns can be big ticket.


In the video, it made the point that, yes, tracking returns has been happening for years. (I personally remember my local Target in my old state of GA instituting “no returns without driver’s license” 20 years ago.) The question they asked is, so why only now are retailers making return policy changes, with data they have had for years, even decades? :thinking:

What resonated with me was that in 2023, the US alone had over $101 BILLION in costs for fraudulent, friendly fraud, or scam returns–outside of the costs of legitimate returns.

And the video also challenges consumers: How are you contributing to this? You think you’re an honest customer…but do you do this or this?

Very interesting watch :100:


Asking for ID was probably a deterrent in the past.

But the problem got worse.

Broken windows theory. If you let people get away with something, whether it be shoplifting, scam returns, etc, it gets worse.


In my entire history of online purchases, I have returned exactly 3 items.

One was an FBA purchase that was mislabeled so the FNSKU showed as the correct item, but I received a different item.

The second was a set of over-ear headphones that didn’t fit over my ears. I purchased it directly from the manufacturer and paid the return shipping.

The third was a jacket that did not match the advertised dimensions and could have fit 3 of me. I purchased it from the manufacturer and paid the return shipping.

I feel comfortable with my purchasing habits.


I feel comfortable with your return habits, and even though I’ve definitely returned more purchases than you (I shop for 5 people), I personally feel comfortable with my own, too.

On Amazon, I have returned 2 things in recent memory, both FBA purchases: a package of 4 pillowcases that only contained 3, and this pack of 30 that only had 26. In both cases, Amazon required return and did not refund until I had shipped.


This nugget actually made me feel good. On average we are lower than that on Amazon. Yet the returns are out of control and growing every day as the economy tanks.

Oddly, Never a refund ever on Etsy, Walmart, Ebay, and our 4 brand websites ever. “Ever” is a long time. For our own websites that would be over 25 years, make it 32 years if you include when we did eCommerce on a dialup bulletin board system.


To me, these data versus Amazon returns are very telling. It seems Etsy, Walmart, eBay, and yourself do less than Amazon to incentivize fraudulent returns, and it makes one question the legitimacy of any of your Amazon returns (even with a lower than average return rate).

Your customers are not dissatisfied with their purchases. :thinking:


Remember that the 14.5% number includes the clothing category, which represents a HUGE portion of retail. It also includes electronics, which is by far the highest fraud category. And it’s also based on total $ value. Higher $ items are more likely to be returned than cheap items.

If you’re anywhere close to 14% and aren’t doing clothing, electronics, or some kind of high fraud product, you have a serious problem somewhere.


It is different cultures on different sites.

Ebay gets fewer returns, in part, because buyers have not realized that they can return.

Many buyers who have valid claims under the Ebay Money Back Guarantee, fail to request a return through the system and lose the right to return. This is almost a daily occurrence on the Ebay forums. It is almost as common as the seller complaints about fraudulent returns.

It is well known among sellers and scammers that there is no longer a final sale listing on Ebay, no matter what the listing says. Anything where the buyer claims “not as described” is returnable/refundable with a prepaid shipping label from the seller.

There are also the returns/refunds on Ebay which are not counted because the buyer and seller have bypassed the system.

Ebay has been losing many of the sales which are comparable to Amazon sales to Amazon.

The pandemic made many Ebay buyers try Amazon, and they found faster delivery, lower prices and fewer order snafus. Ebay has lost many, many mass market sales.

Recently, Ebay buyers have had manufacturers refuse warranty coverage on “NEW” electronics bought on Ebay. To complicate matters, Allstate which owns the aftermarket insurance sold on Ebay has refused to pay because they claim that Ebay does not sell NEW items. The effects of this are still to come.

Effectively, the buyers of these new items only have a 30 day warranty.

Naturally, given the amount of retail arb and liquidation stock on Ebay makes a strong argument for the problems buyers are experiencing. The beginnings of efforts like Amazon’s required proof of authenticity by invoice are seen.


Or you are selling on Amazon.


Anyone who has 14% returns on Amazon outside of certain categories has a serious product problem. One that will likely cause their listing to get yanked for a high NCX rate.


:roll_eyes: See, we really shouldn’t make blanket statements or assumptions like that.

Amazon presents unique but not uniform challenges to Sellers across all categories.

Again, when the same Seller and products see clinically significant lower return rates on all other ecommerce sales channels, it’s not a product problem–it’s a channel problem.

Some Sellers/businesses can tolerate higher rates of returns than others, and some can not.

Jumping to conclusions based on a single statement seen only from your own perspective is too narrow and not helpful.


This article seems to confirm that most of the return problems are caused by a relatively small percentage of buyers doing it over and over.

I absolutely hate getting returns as a seller, mostly because Amazon makes it so easy for people to lie so they weasel out of paying for return shipping. Thankfully, our return rate is quite low.

However, I’ll admit that a liberal return policy is something I look for as a consumer, and with more and more retailers closing brick and mortar stores, I think online merchants of all kinds will be able to go only so far in making returns more difficult. Tracking returns by specific customers makes sense, because Amazon and some other companies have spawned serial returners that ruin things for the rest of us.

I also think return policies have to vary depending on the product. It makes sense to have free returns on clothing because it’s difficult to tell if something will fit. I’ve lost weight so have been shopping for a few clothing items on eBay, and I have to admit that the seller’s return policy is a major factor in my decision whether to buy. As a customer, I think eBay would be smart to make free returns mandatory for sellers that have a certain level of sales.


Years ago, I sold a book on Amazon and shipped it promptly as I’ve always done. About a week or so later, I received a message from the buyer (this is back when Amazon still allowed good communication between buyers and sellers). The buyer went on to say that she had ordered three copies of the same book from three different sellers. She added that since my copy had arrived first, she was going to keep it and return the other two.

As far as I knew, the other two sellers had done nothing wrong. Even if their packages were shipped the same time as mine, they had the misfortune of having the packages arrive later than mine.

Some buyers will play silly games like this not realizing how much of a problem it is for sellers. SMH


One of our wholesalers shows a widget on their order screen that clearly shows what your return % is. If you exceed the pre defined norms, you loose your volume bonus and eventually return privileges when you make the mistake.


Their widget is messed up though because when they make a mistake it counts against the counter I see above, but not the total they use to calculate my volume discount, so i don’t care as long as the check shows up.


When my husband was studying to become a paralegal, he had a classmate who did the exact same thing, though she ordered from only two sellers. She said, “I’ll keep the one that gets here first and return the other one.” I think that’s dishonest, wasteful and a lot of hassle for everyone involved.
Traditionally, textbooks have been quite easy to return because college students have a certain number of weeks to drop a class after a semester begins. My guess is that ordering more than one copy and returning ones you don’t need is actually a piece of advice offered to students by schools? teachers? other students? orientation leaders?


I don’t know why you would do that on a regular basis. It’s understandable if you need something urgently and are unsure if a seller will ship on time. But otherwise you’re just creating additional work for yourself to have to return something.

Even from a purely selfish perspective, there’s absolutely zero upside to doing this.

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Just had a buyer (dropshipper) do this.
Two orders to the same buyer (probably didn’t realize she was purchasing from the same seller). For whatever the reason, Amazon buy shipping sent USPS, the other UPS. The UPS package should deliver tomorrow, the USPS package will deliver today (both on time). Since they were not 2 day delivery as she is a PRIME member she wants to be refunded for both NOW claiming they are late (they are not). Will guess her buyer needed them quickly, dropshipper thought they were PRIME so when day 2 showed no package just scans she’s now wanting 2 refunds. I will not be refunding her.
Most buyers don’t understand the system and the processes a seller must go through many just assume that every order ships from Amazon and is PRIME.
I’ll wait for her 2 A to Z claims making some dishonest statement.
If Amazon follows policy I should be covered for both.


We have had the same experience.