More retailers charging fees for online returns; here's how you can avoid them

Posted at 6:06 AM, Nov 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-18 06:59:42-05

(WXYZ) — One of the perks of online shopping is that if you don't like something you buy, you can send it back for free. But, that may be changing with rising shipping costs and inflation.

A growing number of retailers are now charging customers to send back returns, with several stores switching their policies.

When brick-and-mortar stores closed during the pandemic, many people turned to online shopping, replacing fitting rooms with ordering a bunch of items and sending the rest back.

"When people want to shop now oftentimes they will order a whole bunch of things in different sizes and colors," Janell Townsend, a marketing professor at Oakland University said. "That’s called bracket shopping It’s costing them a fortune."

According to the National Retail Federation, last year, customers sent back $218 billion worth of products. That's more than double the amount of items returned in 2020.

Now, a growing number of companies like JCPenney, Zara, J. Crew and DSW are tacking on a return fee, averaging about $7.50 to $8 to ship it back.

"If they are going to charge now that might change my way of shopping," Townsend said.

Laurie Bolach said convenience is key when shopping online, and charging for returns is a turnoff.

On the other hand, Ted said h strongly feels customers should be the one to deal with the financial burden.

"They should have to pay for that, otherwise they have to mark up everything for the rest of us to cover the cost," Ted said.

Another way retailers are trying to meet their bottom line is by shortening the window you can send the merchandise back. As holiday shopping ramps up, Townsend has a warning.

"Before you click that check out button and say yes, I'm going to buy this, make sure you understand what the return policies are and exactly what it’s going to cost you," Townsend said.

If you would like to avoid a return fee, there is a loophole. Even if you purchased the item online, many times you can return the item in-store for free.