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Stores are cracking down on 'returnaholics'

CREATED Jun 9, 2014

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Finding delivery boxes waiting at her door is Magda Walczak's favorite part of online shopping. If what's inside a package doesn't fit, she often just fills out the return label, packs it up, and sends it back. 

"I would say that about half the things that I actually buy I end up returning," Magda admits.
  
Returns cost companies as much as $375 billion each year. 

"For retailers, returns are an absolute nightmare," said retail expert Carol Spieckerman. "The days of using your living room as a fitting room are yes, going to be coming to a close."

If you're guilty of over-ordering online, Agilone may know!  The company keeps tabs on 525 million consumers, and says they flag 1% as 'Returnaholics', which mean they send back a lot more than they keep. 

"We look at returns in relation to the profitability of a customer, so for example if you return 50 items that can be really terrible if you only keep one," said Dominique Levin with Agilone.  "But of course if you return 50 items and end up buying 200 that's fantastic."

Companies use this data to curb chronic returning.  Now, some won't send you coupons if you're a frequent returner, others will only email you promotions for certain products.  Some businesses are even revoking certain customers free shipping, and experts say companies may start charging them restocking fees in the future.

"Most stores really would rather have you continue to do business with them rather than their competitors. However, what we do see is stores starting to find ways to perhaps spend less money on you or find ways to have you return less," Levin said.

Experts say if you've been labeled a 'returnaholic' you can improve your status with a store by starting to keep more items that you order.

Magda says her bottom line:  If an item she orders doesn't fit or she doesn't like it, she needs to do what's right for her. 

"I'll be mindful of taking advantage of the offers that I receive, but I don't think it's going to make me shop any less or return any less," she said.

Some stores even reward 'good customers', by giving them special money saving offers and deals, and invitations to special sales and VIP events.