Holiday returns: Insider tips from the BBB


Packages await delivery inside of a UPS truck, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018, in Baltimore. Shoppers, who can’t touch or feel products they’re ordering, are expected to return items during the holiday season at a rate double from last year, costing retailers roughly $1.1 billion, according to Narvar Inc., a software and technology company that manages online returns for hundreds of brands. That puts retailers in a conundrum: they don’t want the returns, but they also want to make shoppers feel comfortable to freely buy without worry.(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

October 02 2021 06:00 pm

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Holiday returns can be a hassle every year—and that’s not counting the part where you have to tell your grandma you don’t like your new sweater. Braving the hustle and bustle in and out of stores, scrounging around for receipts, and keeping track of varying return windows is always a headache. Amidst the COVID chaos, there’s at least one thing shoppers can be thankful for: more lenient return policies.

While each has their own return policy, most established retailers are embracing extended deadlines and return methods, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Central and South Alabama says.

“The legitimate retailers are being much more lenient with their returns this year, particularly clothing. If you bought it from a major department store or an Amazon, things like that, they’re going to take it back,” BBB of Central and South Alabama CEO Carl Bates said.

This year, online retailers have experienced a record spike in sales, and consequently, online returns. Pandemic-induced shipping delays are one cause for the extended return deadlines.

“A lot of them have a 30-day return [window], and with the late shipping, they’re going past 30 days. We’re finding most online retailers are allowing returns within a reasonable amount of time, particularly if the person who bought it calls them,” Bates explained. 

Warehouses and distribution centers are now stocking up on more merchandise than brick and mortars due to the heightened hesitancy to shop in person. Most exchanged or returned merchandise is being sent back into company warehouses, because retailers assume the uptick in online shopping will remain post-pandemic.

“Most people who buy it online return it online. They return it through a shipper or a drop-off site, and that’s the biggest thing. A lot of those returns that used to be restocked into the stores no longer are restocked into the stores. They go back to the distribution centers,” Bates said. 

The BBB encourages anyone making a return or exchange to be kind and flexible with retailers who are facing more hindrances to good customer service than ever before.


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