3 Retailers Telling Customers to Keep Returned Items

Woman returning an item
Photo by Odua Images / Shutterstock.com

The next time you try to return an item purchased from Amazon, Walmart or Target, you might be told to keep the product. At no cost to you.

In some — although certainly not all — cases, big retailers are deciding the expense of returning an item is not worth it. So, they are refunding customers and allowing them to keep their purchases, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

The newspaper reports that Amazon and Walmart are among companies employing artificial intelligence to decide when it is more cost-effective not to accept returns.

According to the WSJ:

“For inexpensive items or large ones that would incur hefty shipping fees, it is often cheaper to refund the purchase price and let customers keep the products.”

Amazon long has been known for refunding purchases while also sometimes allowing customers to keep the items. CBS News reports that the online retail giant most often uses this option for inexpensive or bulky items such as basic yoga mats and dog food.

Other situations where Amazon reportedly has used this approach involve returns of:

  • Napkin rings
  • Baby bottle tips
  • Clocks
  • Paperback books

Other retailers are using the same tactic. A spokeswoman for Target told the WSJ that the retailer occasionally refunds a customer, but tells her or him to keep or donate the item.

At Walmart, a spokeswoman said the retailer has a “keep it” option that sometimes is used for merchandise it isn’t going to resell. Decisions to employ the “keep it” approach are based on factors such as the customer’s purchase history, the value of the product and the cost of processing the return.

The trend of allowing customers to keep returned items is expected to grow among retailers, especially given that returns have surged during the pandemic. Returns of e-commerce purchases jumped 70% in 2020, according to Narvar Inc., which processes returns for retailers.

Amit Sharma, Narvar chief executive, told the WSJ:

“We are getting so many inquiries about this that you will see it take off in coming months.”

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