In times of customers being spoiled by E-commerce how far do you have to go when dealing with returns? We asked on- and offline retailers around the world about their policies. 

Julien Bourzereau
© Beaubien
Julien Bourzereau
Julien Bouzereau, Beaubien, Paris, France

 “I think return policy has to be flexible. But only if everything is done to avoid too many returns, because they are very costly for indie stores (money, time, inventory management): a lot of product pictures, replying promptly to customer requests (e-mail, chat, social networks), carefully checking all products before shipping.... Acceptable is some flexibility, for example if the item was a gift. Totally unacceptable are products that would have been worn/used/damaged.

I had this customer returning a windbreaker. He put a note in the box explaining in detail what was wrong with the fit of the product vs. his body shape. That was kind of funny.”



Pascal Gerstenlauer
© Defanzy
Pascal Gerstenlauer
Pascal Gerstenlauer, Defanzy/Defshop, Germany

“Today we take stuff back up to 30 days without any reason and have no complaints concerning this. Damaged products can be sent back up to 12 month later to ensure customer fidelity to our shop and our brands DNGRS, Just Rhyse, Bangastic, Cazzy Clang and Cyprime.

Deciding what is acceptable can be difficult. I think acceptance level should be based on a reasonable appreciation of the client's needs and honesty. This encompasses the quality of returns, packaging, frequency and the condition of sent-back products. There is no one and only way of handling this.

As for examples, here is a funny one: Wrong brand from another online shop in the return box or empty box without any product. A not so funny one: Used and dirty underwear. And an amazing one: Totally destroyed caps with holes and dirt on them.”

Elizabeth Sontag
© Ellison Road
Elizabeth Sontag
Elizabeth Sontag, Ellison Road, Long Beach/Seal Beach, California, USA

“Our return policy is probably the most lenient in the area. We originally allowed only two weeks for returns. But we have become even more lenient over the years with the time limit because we have gotten feedback from our customers. We now allow returns within 21 days with an original receipt for store credit. We are pretty firm on the requirement for customers to have their original receipt. Especially now that we have a new point of sale system that allows customers to receive them through e-mail, making it less likely to lose it. All that being said, our goal is to make sure our customers are satisfied with their experience in our store, so we are pretty accommodating with returns. Most customers realize that we are a small business and that excessive, unwarranted returns are difficult for us.”

Roland Heim
© Zeitzeichen
Roland Heim
Roland Heim, Zeitzeichen, Würzburg, Germany

"Unfortunately, due to the pressure from online businesses, all legal parameters [in regards to returns] have been pushed back. This means customers are not interested in hearing if goods are being exchanged or not because of a liberal policy–they simply won't accept credit notes anymore. In 90% of cases we are forced to reimburse the purchase amount. Customers are no longer willing to accept that getting their money back is only an act of kindness.

A return is acceptable, for example, if a customer is not sure whether an article will go with another one they have at home or if they are buying an item for somebody else. That can be agreed in advance. But in the meantime customers make purchases in physical retail the way they do online. Today I don't feel like trying things on. Then I simply buy three garments, and if I am not happy with something I bring it back to the store the next day and ask for my money back. That is the worst scenario for us as retailers, especially if the customer also wants service while shopping. The customer takes advantage of our service and then wants their money back, too. That is actually an absolute breach. What other sector allows you to get service and then demand your money back? This would be unthinkable with manual trades. 

Although our staff are very well trained on this topic, some unpleasant scenes regularly occur at the checkout when customers are not willing to accept that the deadline for returned goods has expired, and you won’t take back goods which have been worn and discounted items cannot be exchanged for other articles. The impudence of some customers knows no end in some cases."

Paolo Beghini
© Kosmos
Paolo Beghini
Paolo Beghini, Kosmos, Trento, Italy

“Speaking about our brick-and-mortar store there are no international laws that oblige a retailer to change sold products–apart from when there is a production defect. For this reason, we don’t push our customers to buy a product if they are not convinced about size or how a model suits them. We advise them when making their purchase and inform them in advance that we do not accept returns apart from a few exceptions. In fact we can change a product only if someone is buying a present or on behalf of someone else. In those cases we take a note of the article and they can bring it back–though it has to be new, not worn or shortened or anything similar–within two weeks maximum after purchase. In all other cases we prefer to sell relatively less but more accurately rather than having to deal with returns and all the related problems. We also sell through e-commerce. In those cases according to laws we have to change products if the customer is not satisfied and we also have to refund shipment costs. Though, selling mostly sneakers–and mostly high-research ones–we have very few returns because those buying from us know more or less about their shoe size and are specifically looking for top research models.”

Tommaso Pecchioli
© Gerard Loft
Tommaso Pecchioli
Tommaso Pecchioli, Gerard Loft, Florence, Italy

“Everything is acceptable to a certain extent. A customer living in the surrounding area can take a piece home, try it and then bring it back if that piece is not satisfying him or her. We can almost always find a solution–it happens in 99% of the cases–though giving back money is a problem for accounting.

It is a different case if there is a technical problem: you buy a pair of trousers and on the second day it breaks for instance. In these cases I get in touch with the company and want the company to manage that because I don’t want to lose my client. In these situations either clients get a new product–the same or a different one–or their money back. But if a zipper in a jacket breaks after three years it is hard for me to make substitutions. Only one company accepts to change items up to three years, Stone Island.

In other cases I say ‘no.’ If someone from the US buys lots of products and then after some months wants to send them back saying they are not happy with them or if they are dirty and used I assume they took the pieces to copy them. In these cases I won’t change or refund them.”



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