June 16, 2003, 12:00 AM

Online merchants` returns policies inconsistent with customer service

Many online merchants make it difficult for consumers to find out how to return products, especially ones delivered and wrapped as gifts, the E-Tailing Group says.

Many online merchants make it difficult for consumers to find out how to return products, especially ones delivered and wrapped as gifts, the retail research and consulting firm E-Tailing Group says. "In some cases, it took up to three contacts with customer service to get a return authorization number or a return shipping label from the e-retailer," senior analyst Kylee Magno tells InternetRetailer.com.

 

Magno notes that gift-wrapped products often arrive with no return sticker or any type of invoice, making it difficult for the recipient to return the item. "You really have to want to return it and spend the time to return it," Magno says.

 

She adds that some retailers may figure that their rate of returns on gifts may be too high if they`re shipped with return labels or other documentation. "But it`s a double-edged sword," she says. "If a customer knows it`s hard to return something, will they come back and shop again?"

 

Overall, however, more online retailers are shipping products with returns forms included with the product: 9% of retailers included the forms in 2002, up from 4% in 2001, E-Tailing Group says. At the same time, however, fewer e-retailers are requesting shoppers to get a return authorization form before returning a product: 16% required RANs in 2002, down from 24% in 2001.

 

The E-Tailing Group based its findings on a survey of 100 e-retailers conducted in the third and fourth quarters of 2001 and 2002.

 

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