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After all the anticipation and waiting, you’ve finally opened your holiday gift and…of course, it’s not the right [size/color/fit/brand/model/age-group/etc]. Like many of us, you’re now faced with the ultimate question: what to do about returns, exchanges or refunds.
Since we at STELLAService knew you’d ask, we went ahead and road-tested the top 25 largest online retailers to see which ones have the most customer-friendly returns and refund processes (we tested the same 25 retailers that we evaluated in the 2011 Cyber Monday Customer Service Study).
As part of this assessment, we ordered and returned (via USPS standard ground) several products from each retailer to various parts of the country over the last few weeks (understanding it may be even tougher during the days and weeks after Christmas). Your return and refund experience, as well as the policies you’re up against, will vary depending on where and when the gifter ordered your present.
Several top retailers extended their normal return windows to account for the large number of people who will need to initiate returns or refunds over the next few weeks. If retailers can extend their policies during the holidays, can’t they just leave them extended during the rest of the year?
It’s also worth noting the varying refund processing times. While retailers often blame banks for slow refunds, our data suggests that the companies’ return processing cycle (i.e. the time to process a return and initiate a refund after the returned product reaches their warehouse) has a lot to do with how quick the retailers are in getting you your money back. As usual, some companies go out of their way to make life easier and better for their customers, and some don’t.
Are you wondering how the top online retailers rank after taking into account all of the major customer service metrics during the holidays? So are we…stay tuned!
As a result of evaluating the service of thousands of online retailers – some of them with “unfriendly” return policies – we were unfortunately left with hundreds of random products at the end of 2011.
As opposed to auctioning off these products on eBay or otherwise disposing of them, we decided to turn the negative situation into a positive one by giving away the items to those in need. Check it out!
Happy holidays from all of us at STELLAService!
One of the conveniences of online shopping is not having to leave your house to retrieve the product. The same should go for returns. Therefore, it should not be surprising that an easy returns process is something online shoppers seek out. This is especially true when shoppers buy clothes and books, the top two products purchased online that are returned or exchanged.
However, last week, the United States Postal Service announced it was considering closing 3,653 municipal post offices. The post offices in consideration are located mostly in rural areas and their closure would affect hundreds of thousands of people that depend on their services.
Since an estimated 62% of online shoppers prefer to return products purchased online via the mail instead of to the brick-and-mortar store (when a brick-and-mortar store exists) the potential shut-down of thousands of post offices means it will be a whole lot more difficult to return a product for those people whose local post offices close. In the rural areas in which post offices were proposed to be shut down, people likely live further from the closest brick-and-mortar version of their favorite retailer than the second-closest post office.
Thankfully, online shoppers may benefit from this news if online retailers react accordingly so as to maintain an easy returns process. Shoppers may start demanding that companies provide more accurate product descriptions and images to prevent the need for a return in the first place. A second feature from which consumers would benefit is if retailers more frequently provide a prepaid USPS, FedEx, or UPS labels inside the original package, in case of a return. Who doesn’t love a prepaid label to avoid a trip to the post office and to prevent a 20 minute wait in that dreaded line?
STELLAService elite retailer Zappos provides on their site free return labels with a few clicks of a mouse, and they won’t even deduct it from your refund! Staples.com, another Elite retailer, will show up at your doorstep to pick up your return for no extra charge. Savvy shoppers also love UrbanOutfitters.com‘s free prepaid return label provided with the original shipment.
What are some other features you look for in a returns policy? I always like a few free yours-to-keep-even-if-you-return-the-rest samples in any package I get, except for the time I got deodorant, shampoo, AND perfume samples…trying to tell me something, Internet?!
It’s that time of year again when millions of people, young and old, are racing to prepare for the first day back to school. For many, this is an exciting time, when personal aspirations meet opportunity and anything seems possible.
However, we know that this is also an anxious and nerve-racking time, when the “to-do” list seems to command all the attention. At STELLAService, we understand that students (and parents, of course) have enough to worry about, so we wanted to help by evaluating the Internet’s biggest one-stop shops for hassle-free back-to-school shopping.
We evaluated 15 of the Internet’s leading online retailers, including Amazon, Costco, Walmart, Buy.com, and Overstock.com. We measured the retailers according to six best practices exemplifying both speed and convenience during the back-to-school crunch, including shipping, returns, and payment options.
We’re excited to share these results below:
Costco.com offers the most hassle-free shopping features (6) and outpaces the others when it comes to shipping (see additional information below). Aside from fast shipping, Coscto.com makes it easy to return a product, offering a 90-day return window and no requirement for a Return Merchandise Authorization number (RMA#) should you need to send back any part of your order.
From school supplies to dorm accessories, the convenience of the shopping experience at Costco.com is an A+. We hope you find this information helpful, and feel free to share with us your own back-to-school shopping experiences at retailers beyond these one-stop shops.
Here’s to a successful school year!
At STELLAService, we order and return A LOT of products from A LOT of retailers. We’ve gotten tons of amazing responses when it comes to returns, both positive and negative. However the email chain below may take the cake for the most bizarre response to a customer initiating a return we’ve seen thus far (click the image below to see the thread full-size and begin reading from the bottom up). Although this is a great way to connect like-minded customers to one another, we doubt it’s in anybody’s best interests for retailers to be passing out customer’s mailing addresses.