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Thread: Brick and Mortar Return Policies

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    Brick and Mortar Return Policies

    This article indicates Macy's return policy may change in the future (it's a point of contention with union workers):

    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/14/bu...rkers-pay.html

    Consumers "abusing" return policies has come up a few times in recent threads. The article suggests brick and mortar stores are feeling pressure from Amazon and other online retailers to maintain liberal return policies.

    The solution for brick and mortar stores seems pretty simple to me. Just do what Amazon does with "prime abuse." Only offer returns for purchases made with a credit card, and if someone abuses the liberal return policy too many times, then cut them off. I don't understand why brick and mortar stores have to cut their employee pay and/or make their customers feel bad about returning products in order to compete with online retailers.

    I can't remember the last time I bought something in a brick and mortar store and returned it, but I return stuff I buy online all the time. Sometimes I return items to a brick and mortar store and do some shopping while I'm there.

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    Super Moderator LesserBlackDog's Avatar
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    This is why I think retailers like Costco are smart. Your ability to shop there is tied to your membership, which also allows the store to track your purchase and return history. Those who seriously abuse Costco's famously generous lifetime guarantee/return policy will be refunded their membership fee and invited not to return.

    The thing I don't like about Amazon's return policy is that they tend to be very procedurally strict (miss the 30 day return window to return a totally unused item? too bad!) but not very substantively strict (wear an item for 29 days straight and then return it? Go ahead and return it, we probably won't even check its condition before turning around and trying to sell it to some poor, unsuspecting schmuck).

    Of course, businesses can implement broad policies to help absorb losses caused by returns, including returns of items that cannot be resold. The issue addressed in the article - the cost and uncertainty of generous return policies to individual salespeople whose livelihood depends on commissions - is quite different.

    I've talked about this issue with a friend of mine, who sells makeup at a major department store. He'll have people return makeup products that have clearly been used... in some cases, even used up... but because of the store's "the customer is always right" return policy, he has to accept the return and take the hit on his commission-based income. It's a lot harder for an individual to "absorb" those kinds of losses, particularly if they depend on selling a few high-ticket items (suits, watches, whatever) rather than lots of smaller items.

    [Edit] In terms of my own shopping habits, especially for clothing, return policies don't make a big difference to me in deciding between online or local stores. The thing that drives me to shop online is that there simply aren't any decent menswear retailers in my area. We've got a few lower-end department stores (Macy's, JCPenney, etc) with limited men's sections, and that's about it. In any case, the whole benefit of buying something from a local store is that you can see it in the flesh and try it on before purchasing it, which pretty much eliminates the need for returns.

    Return policies are more important to me when comparing online stores to each other. Mail returns are kind of a hassle, so if two online retailers offer the same product at a similar price, I will try to pick the one that offers free returns, sends a prepaid shipping label, etc., rather than one that requires me to request a return authorization, arrange my own postage, etc.
    Last edited by LesserBlackDog; June 15th, 2016 at 02:01 PM.
    Ben

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    Quote Originally Posted by LesserBlackDog View Post
    ...Of course, businesses can implement broad policies to help absorb losses caused by returns, including returns of items that cannot be resold. The issue addressed in the article - the cost and uncertainty of generous return policies to individual salespeople whose livelihood depends on commissions - is quite different...
    I have mixed feelings about commissions. I like motivated sales staff who answer questions and help me, but I'm usually turned off by people who are too pushy or use the same old sales tricks (make the customer feel inadequate or dumb, never provide any information that might make the customer spend less money or buy from someone else, keep the customer in the dark, don't ever tell you about an upcoming sale, stay quite or lie to you about sales prices, charge a higher price than you can get from the same store online, etc.).

    I can give you lots of examples of bad salespeople from my own personal experience. Bad salespeople might get me to spend more money during one shopping trip, but they pay for it in the long run, since I am so reluctant to go back once I figure out that I was conned. I realize that the salespeople are often just doing what their employers force them to do in many cases.

    I think of Joe and dappered.com as the online equivalent of a great online salesperson with affiliate links instead of a commission. I tend to think of most other websites with affiliate links like dishonest or overly pushy salespeople, who will say anything just to get you to click on the link and buy stuff. I try to use dappered.com affliliate links as much as possible, and I definitely don't click on affiliate links to those other websites.

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    Dappered Veteran Vicious49's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alex1 View Post
    I have mixed feelings about commissions. I like motivated sales staff who answer questions and help me, but I'm usually turned off by people who are too pushy or use the same old sales tricks (make the customer feel inadequate or dumb, never provide any information that might make the customer spend less money or buy from someone else, keep the customer in the dark, don't ever tell you about an upcoming sale, stay quite or lie to you about sales prices, charge a higher price than you can get from the same store online, etc.).

    I can give you lots of examples of bad salespeople from my own personal experience. Bad salespeople might get me to spend more money during one shopping trip, but they pay for it in the long run, since I am so reluctant to go back once I figure out that I was conned. I realize that the salespeople are often just doing what their employers force them to do in many cases.
    I used to work at Circuit City back in the day and at that time we were commissioned. Having commissioned sales people made for much more knowledgeable employees than what you have in places like Best Buy now where they are hourly. Not to mention much more helpful staff in general. Last time I went to Best Buy I had to track down someone to help me.

    Salespeople are just like regular people - you have good ones and you have bad ones. The pushier ones will make more money simply because they are more aggressive in approaching customers and once they latch on, they don't let go. Some items do pay more than others, even if they are priced the same so some employees did try to steer people towards those items.

    As far as upcoming sales, we never knew what was going to be in the upcoming sales until we had to put up the new price tags the night before.

    No employee is ever going to tell you that you can get the item cheaper elsewhere. It's unreasonable for you to even expect that. That is on you to do your homework.

    Since you are complaining about employees, let's look at it from the other end.
    - I've had customers who were obviously only coming in to get info so they could go purchase elsewhere.
    - There were customers who would waste an hour of my time starting at the most expensive item in whatever category and work their way down to the cheapest. At the end of all that, they would ask if there is a discount if they bought 2. "No, there is no discount if you buy 2 of the $19.99 cordless phones that pay me 25 cents each!!"
    - There were customers who expected a commissioned employee who might make $6 off of their sale to drive across town to another store to pick the item up for them since they didn't want to be bothered to do it themselves.
    - There were customers who would 'rent' an item for 29 days and return it right before the return period expired.

    I could go on and on. But like I said, there will always be good and bad in everything (people, salespeople, customers).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vicious49 View Post
    Salespeople are just like regular people - you have good ones and you have bad ones...

    As far as upcoming sales, we never knew what was going to be in the upcoming sales until we had to put up the new price tags the night before.

    No employee is ever going to tell you that you can get the item cheaper elsewhere. It's unreasonable for you to even expect that. That is on you to do your homework.

    Since you are complaining about employees, let's look at it from the other end....
    Joe on dappered.com tells me if a product is cheaper elsewhere, even if there is no affiliate link. He doesn't make any money off of that, but he sure as hell has my trust. I just bought that cashmere sweater from Lands End yesterday because he said it is a good sweater and has lasted a couple of months. I clicked on the dappered.com affiliate link before I bought it.

    In sharp contrast, I asked a Brooks Brother employee last November if an Fitzgerald 1818 suit would go on sale on black Friday. He said it might go on sale after Christmas, but not before then. It turned out that the lowest price of the year for that suit was was in early December, which was the same as the year before. I'm glad I waited. Maybe the employee (manager of the store) didn't know about the upcoming sale, maybe he did. He should have just said "I don't know." I haven't been back to that store, but I did buy stuff online from Brooks Brothers after that.

    I appreciate the work that commissioned sales people do, but I'm just better off doing my own homework and not buying anything form them unless I absolutely have to. It's not their fault. The brick and mortar stores that allow and encourage bad behaviour will hopefully just go out of business eventually.

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