According to the National Retail Federation close to 428 Billion in merchandise was returned by consumers in 2020. Although more lenient customer return policies including free returns are almost expected today, let’s think about ways to possibly avoid problems from both a distributor or consumer stand-point.
Manufacturers and Distributors
Double Check Your Shipment
If you have not read our blog about shipping the wrong product and ways to avoid it, please do. Having checks and balances within your fulfillment process will definitely save you time, money and resources. The reason our clients select our WMS Solution, is because we provide real-time tracking from order entry through fulfillment. The use of wireless and real-time shipping technology alleviates manual errors. Even if you are not leveraging this type of technology, you should still make an effort to double check the product, the packaging, the ship-to information and anything else to ensure the mistake is not on your part before you ship product out your door.
Improve Your Quality
Inspecting both your purchased and manufactured products for quality is important. Having a process to continuously address any quality issues will translate into a return on investment for you. Make it a point to include inspection procedures both upon receiving products and at the finished goods line. These are important steps in your process that, if handled correctly, will save you money in the future.
Be Specific in Your Returns Policy
Once I had a friend who worked for a retail store in customer service. She told me many stories of scammers who tried to return product that was either stolen, used or purchased several months ago. So as a manufacturer or distributor, take heed from this example and protect your company by being completely detailed and transparent with your return policy. Your return policy should be clearly stated on your website, on your packing slips, on your receipts, etc. Many of our manufacturing and distribution clients actually do this and also include information with their shipping paperwork. If you offer free returns on shipments, be specific in the time limit, the reasons and other rules.
So a few weeks ago, I ordered a wicker patio set from a large on line retailer. You’re probably familiar with this company. This was a $429.00 purchase. When the product arrived in two enormous long, flat and heavy boxes I was excited. The first thing I noticed was the box had “Be Careful, All Returns Must Be Packaged in this Box” so I was very careful when removing the pieces not to damage the box. It was impressive how it had been packaged, almost an engineering feat to fit all those pieces in there.
Along with the numerous loose pieces there was an instruction manual for assembly (keep in mind the internet said easy to assemble) with diagrams that made no sense and had every language but English for the directions. My friend, who is in the construction industry and very good at this type of thing, started immediately swearing as he attempted to segment the parts, pull out the hardware and assemble. He said, “Even if I spent one more hour on this, look at this cheap plastic material, it’s already breaking.” It was true, if you even poked the product with your pinky-finger the plastic would break.
So I decide to return the product. Putting all of the pieces back into the box was like putting together a Rubik’s Cube®. When I initiated the Return Process online, I was offered a major shipping carrier’s return label and was surprised and saddened to find I was expected to send the return back to China (seriously no offense here) rather than somewhere in the US. It was my responsibility to pay the shipping costs which were $117.00 at the least.
So after communicating with the Big Box eCommerce Retailer, I discovered they had to be the middle-man with the seller which required initiating a special process. The first thing they wanted was pictures of the product. Honestly, I had just painstakingly put the product back in the box and did not feel like pulling it out. So the next offer was, too bad, this is all stated in our return policy. So only after several email forms etc., I made an offer as a “business person” to the seller: “Please just give me ½ my money back and I will consider this a huge lesson learned.” It was just not worth my time and the aggravation.
So here are the lessons I learned:
1.) Carefully review the return policy online before you purchase a product, period.
2.) Find out, where the product is being shipped from.
3.) If you can purchase a product locally, even if it costs a little more, do so.
4.) You cannot always trust on-line reviews, so be leery.
5.) Know who you’re purchasing the product from.
Whether it’s from a distributor or consumer stand-point, please be very mindful to carefully assess the situation and do your best to prevent problems.
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