BrainTrust Query: Can You Say ‘Returns Harassment?’
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from ScreenPlay InterActive’s blog
The NRF reports that 62 percent of retailers require customers to provide ID, such as a driver’s license (to be recorded), in order to make returns without a receipt, even though 86 percent are legitimate returns.
Contrast that with retailers that provide "hassle-free" returns with/without receipts and you can quickly see how attitude towards customers is a defining business trait.
Ethical consumers that have lost or damaged a receipt or received a gift are often caught in the crossfire between militant stores and crooks. Those stores are punishing authentic, valuable consumers for what are in large part, their own poor transaction/security methods.
Return fraud is a big deal and a catalyst for the actions of some retail establishments. For the 2011 holiday season, the NRF estimated losses at $3.5 billion.
But whatever the motivation, some retailers have deeply overreacted and gone far afoul, steamrolling over the rights and dignity of honest patrons, as illustrated in these examples:
- Within a few days of making a small tool purchase at Sears, I decided to return it in the unopened package, with the receipt. A verbal battle ensued because I refused to hand over my driver’s license to make the return. Nothing in their policy stated it was required.
- At Best Buy, we purchased two $15 iPod armbands. Upon returning one that was too large (within two weeks, with the receipt), we were told by the manager that all returns require gathering driver’s license info.
Sears killed a 20+ year relationship and Best Buy (where I never attempted a return before) has driven my business elsewhere online. The Star Ledger in New Jersey detailed a similar incident occurring at a Home Depot.
This trend gets even more troubling when judgments about return fraud are outsourced to third parties like The Retail Equation or Veridocs. TRE (claiming 17,000 participating locations) states that its Return Activity Report is available to consumers it profiles, but company practices are not public, not scrutinized by an independent observer, nor is it clear how they use, share, and protect such sensitive information.
Veridocs says it was born of The Patriot Act and provides retailers with customer ID verification "through the creation of a positive or negative customer file."
Reports and files on individuals, aggregation and sharing, highly personal data collection — have retailers forgotten that they are not Big Brother? Have they lost sight of selling merchandise, not data? Do they believe toying with people’s lives and harassment is a business strategy? For many, it seems so.
The returns situation is challenging to resolve, but crass corporate decisions that neglect consumer’s privacy, trust, and brand loyalty are the absolute wrong way to go.
- Retailers: Want One Reason Why Clicks Beat Bricks? Can You Say "Returns Harassment"? – ScreenPlay InterActive
- Return Fraud To Cost Retailers $3.5 Billion This Holiday Season, According To NRF Survey – National Retail Federation
- Bamboozled: Retailers are monitoring your return habits – The Star-Ledger
- The Retail Equation
Is asking shoppers to provide ID such as a driver’s license for returns over-stepping boundaries? What do you think of the value of and ethics around amassing customer return statistics?