(WTNH) — If you’re an online shopper, here’s a heads up: those free online returns could be coming to an end for some sellers.
As the holiday shopping season ramps up, shoppers should beware.
Some major retailers really are adjusting their shipping return policies, making sure that free returns are a thing of the past.
“I was just kind of surprised,” said shopper Maxwell Howard.
Just as online shopping soared during the pandemic, so did returns. The National Retail Federation reported that $218 billion worth of online purchases were returned in 2021, more than double that of the year before.
“All signs point to the era of free returns probably coming to an end in the near future. They’re costing retailers millions of dollars every year, and that’s because shipping has gotten more expensive,” said Avery Hartmans, senior reporter for Insider. “And labor has gotten more expensive as well.”
Business Insiders reported that many shoppers do what’s called “bracketing.” They buy the same clothes in different sizes and colors and then return what they no longer want or doesn’t fit.
H&M announced on a recent earnings call that it will test a fee to ship back returns in certain markets.
“When I saw that there was going to be a deduction from my refunds, it kind of made me reconsider if I would really be shopping online as often,” said Howard.
Among other retailers charging shipping fees to return by mail is Zara. They’ll charge $3.95 for any returns to a drop-off point.
Abercrombie & Fitch will charge a $7 fee to return items, and J Crew’s prepaid label is now $7.50. JCPenny is also charging a flatline shipping rate of $8.
“I think eventually they’ll just end up paying for it because consumers want to shop and they want to make sure that they are returning the items that they don’t want anymore,” said the Chief Retail Analyst at DONEGER | TOBE, Hiltha Herzog.
Experts said there are still ways to avoid return costs.
Most retailers allow shoppers to return online purchases for free at Brick & Mortar stores. Also, see if the store will do free shipping for exchanges rather than returning the item.
Plus, make sure to make the returns within 30 days.