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06/30/2022

Survey: Returns ‘worst’ part of shopping experience; items worth returning are…

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Customers often find returning items difficult.

American shoppers are not happy with the returns process.

Nearly six in 10 (58%) respondents said they would be willing to do "nearly anything" to avoid returning items, according to a survey of 2,000 U.S. adults conducted by OnePoll for social shopping platform Slickdeals. Sixty-six percent said they believe the worst part of the shopping experience is going through the return process, and 67% hate returning items they previously purchased.

For 43% of respondents, returning purchases in person is worse than doing so online. The most hated parts of in-person returns are having the person in front of them escalate the situation (39%), getting managers involved in their returns (32%) and having to travel to the store (32%).   

Meanwhile, 29% of respondents think returning items online is more difficult. The most hated parts of online returns are paying for shipping (42%), having the item lost or not arrive at its destination (39%) and traveling to the post office (37%).

Top items worth, not worth returning
The study also revealed the top products that consumers believe should “always” be returned and those that are not “never worth” the return hassle. Phones (38%), clothing (38%), and TVs (37%) are the top items worth returning. Computers (37%) and clothing accessories (31%) rounded out the top five.

Survey participants ranked intimates (25%), groceries (25%) and clothing accessories (24%) ranked as the top items that are not worth returning. Beverages (23%) and phones (22%) as the items not worth returning.

Here are other findings from the survey.

• Fifty-six percent of respondents said they prefer returning an item to the store where they purchased it instead of going to a different location.

The “average person” said many return policies are too short, and that they should ideally be 30 days long.

• Fifty-two percent of respondents have changed their shopping habits so they don't have to deal with the return process at all.

• Consumers said the worst items to put back into their original packaging are computers (35%), TVs (29%), home improvement products (27%), headphones (27%), and furniture (26%).

• Respondents would rather give things they bought away (50%), keep them as a backup (36%) or resell them (29%), instead of returning them. If they end up returning items, 46% of respondents said they prefer having a cash back option or a complete refund.

"Inevitably we all make purchases that don't work out for us,” said Louie Patterson, personal finance manager for Slickdeals. “Luckily, many retailers have improved return policies to create a more pleasant return experience.”

Returns cost retailers 21% of order value
A recent survey of retailers revealed that returns can also be problematic for retailers. The Pitney Bowes BOXpoll survey of digital and omnichannel brands found that online returns cost retailers an average 21% of order value, with several brands reporting ratios considerably higher.

According to the survey, 70% of surveyed retailers say they are actively trying to lower the cost of returns by addressing transportation and/or processing costs. And while 42% give their logistics/operations leaders final authority on selecting a returns transportation vendor, only 25% give operations leaders the same authority for selecting returns technology vendors. This division of responsibility is more likely to create gridlock when it comes to decision-making, according to the study.