Holiday returns causing headaches for consumers

It is the season for returns, and COVID-19 has had its impact causing some retailers to impose restrictions, while others have expanded their policies. JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A study by the firm CBRE, in partnership with Optoro, a company that works with retailers in processing returns, forecast shoppers are expected […]

It is the season for returns, and COVID-19 has had its impact causing some retailers to impose restrictions, while others have expanded their policies.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A study by the firm CBRE, in partnership with Optoro, a company that works with retailers in processing returns, forecast shoppers are expected to return $41.6 billion worth of merchandise purchased on the internet this November and December.

It is the season for returns, and COVID-19 has had its impact causing some retailers to impose restrictions, while others have expanded their policies.

It is easy to return a small package, but some of the larger items may be more difficult.

“We ordered a couch online,” said Wendy Ward. “On November 24, we bought it on Walmart.com.” 

While some were shopping for diamond rings and electronics that are hard to find, Ward and her roommate were looking for a new sofa and found one online.

She said the sectional sofa was shipped to their Jacksonville home in multiple shipments, but they only received four of the five sections.

As result she said Walmart.com was willing to make it right.

“They said they could refund part of the money or we could return it, and we said we would like to return it,” said Ward.

Ward tells On Your Side that is where the problem began.

She said Fed Ex went to her home seven times. Each time, they were not prepared to pick up and remove the sectional sofa. Therefore, they have yet to complete the return to enable the refund.

“Every time they come, they say our package is too big for their truck,” Ward explained.

This year Walmart on its social media platform encourage shoppers: 

Select the item, arrange a pickup time and pack it up – all without waiting in line. https://bit.ly/34AWowG

Wendy Ward wish it was that simple for her. She said each time she would say it is cargo freight pick up, and each time a regular van shows up. The latest attempt was December 26 and that too failed.

“It is getting frustrating because we can’t receive a refund until they receive the couch but they won’t pick it up,” said Ward.

The sectional cost her $999. They have already made plans to replace it with a local purchase, but they just want the one in their apartment gone.

“I don’t know what to do, I don’t want to lose my money on it but we need this picked up,” said Ward. “It is frustrating and I will never buy furniture online again.”

While the uptick in holiday returns compare to 2019 means a significant bump in shipping fees for retailers, this appears to be a case of poor communication between the shipper and the retailer.

On Your Side reached out to Walmart and received this response:

“If you can provide the customer’s contact information, I can make sure the issue is escalated to the appropriate customer service team. That team will reach out to the customer in an effort to reach a resolution.”

This is a good reminder if you plan to make any returns now is the time to check the store’s policy.

From the Better Business Bureau; The following tips should help to make your holiday returns run more smoothly.

Get to know store policies. Before you make a purchase, find out if the store has a return policy and, if so, how it works. Understand that many retailers have changed their policies for the holiday season and the COVID-19 pandemic. If the store does allow returns or exchanges, find out if you will need to pay a restock fee. Ask the seller if they offer cash refunds, exchanges, or only store credit. Store policies are usually posted at the check-out counter or printed on the back of receipts.

Understand online store return policies.

If you are shopping online, search for the seller’s return policy and read it through before clicking “buy.” Find out if they accept returns or exchanges, and who pays the shipping when an item is returned. In some cases, you can save on shipping fees by returning an online purchase to the local brick-and-mortar store.

Get the details on a product’s warranty. 

Most electronics and home appliances come with warranties that are to be fulfilled with the manufacturer, not the retailer. Find out how returns and repairs are handled if an item stops working or needs replacement parts. Will the retailer ship the item to the manufacturer for you? Or will you need to deal with the manufacturer directly? Knowing the answers will leave you well-prepared for any future issues.

Keep your receipt and packaging. 

Most stores will only accept returns and exchanges if you can present the item with its receipt and original packaging. Always include a gift receipt with items you give, and hold on to any gift receipts you receive.

To avoid holiday return scams, many stores ask to see your ID when you return an item. Sometimes retailers require you bring your ID and the original form of payment. If this is the policy of the store where your gift is from, you may need the assistance of the gift giver in order to be reimbursed.

Make returns in a timely fashion.

 Almost all return policies are valid during a specific time period. Some stores modify their return period during the holidays, so don’t risk missing your chance to make your return. Take the item back to the store without delay.

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