Avoid Higher Return Fees: Tips to Minimize Your Costs When Returning Items

As the holiday season wind down, many people brace themselves for the inevitable task of returning or exchanging gifts that just didn’t hit the mark. This year, however, the process may prove to be more complicated than usual. According to shopping expert Trae Bodge, consumers should expect a lot of variation in return policies, as well as an increase in retailers charging fees for returned merchandise. Bodge warns that navigating these changes will be challenging for many shoppers.

David Morin, vice president of customer strategy at Narvar, which provides shipping, tracking, and returns information for online retailers, reports that around 40 percent of both online and traditional retailers are imposing fees for returns this year, a significant increase from 31 percent last year. These fees can range from $3.99 to $9.99 and are typically associated with return shipping or restocking. This shift in policy is likely to be unwelcome news to many consumers expecting a hassle-free return process.

The prevalence of return fees is not the only change consumers will need to be aware of – Bodge indicates that the policies themselves are also becoming more varied and complex. In addition to fees, retailers are implementing stricter time frames for returns, as well as placing restrictions on the condition of items being returned. Simultaneously, shipping delays and stock shortages are further complicating the return process, leaving consumers with a sense of uncertainty and frustration.

The Covid-19 pandemic has played a significant role in creating these disturbances within the retail industry, as it has led to disruptions in both supply chains and staffing levels. The resulting shortages in inventory and delays in shipping have prompted many retailers to adjust their return policies in an attempt to mitigate potential financial losses. Furthermore, the increase in online shopping has presented additional challenges, as returning items purchased online can be more complex and costly than returning goods in-person.

Amidst this new landscape of return policies, consumers are advised to carefully review retailers’ policies and procedures before making purchases. Bodge recommends being mindful of time frames for returns, as well as any potential fees or restrictions that may apply. Additionally, she advises consumers to keep a close eye on shipping and tracking information in order to ensure a smooth return process. By being proactive and informed, shoppers can hopefully minimize the stress and uncertainty associated with returning unwanted gifts.

This year, the post-holiday experience of returning and exchanging gifts promises to be a departure from the norm. With the implementation of new and varying return policies, as well as the imposition of return fees, consumers will have to navigate through uncharted territory. Although the process may be more challenging, being well-informed and proactive will be key in ensuring a smooth and hassle-free return experience.

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