Service of Free Shipping & Returns
October 15th, 2015
Categories: E-Commerce, Retail, Shipping Charges
Loretta Chao wrote “More Retailers Offering Free Shipping on Returns,” which caught my eye because I’m spoiled by online retailers who swallow the cost of shipping back and forth instead of foisting the charges on me. She wrote in The Wall Street Journal: “About 49% of retailers now offer free return shipping, according to a new study released this month by the National Retail Federation, underscoring how companies that had long been resistant to footing the bill for returns are being forced to do so by their customers.”
I see shipping as an e-tailer’s cost of doing business just like rent in often expensive neighborhoods and the salaries of sales associates are costs that standard retailers shoulder. I’m irritated when an e-tailer asks for a minimum purchase that’s too high–like $100–to qualify for free shipping and I pass on the opportunity if I only need $39 worth of goods. If there’s a generous sale involved, I can accept a minimum order without gripe.
Those in e-commerce would do well to guarantee free returns, even if they charge for the initial shipping, or people may increasingly be reluctant to buy more than commodities. Sizes of clothing and shoes are zany and the vase you thought Aunt Irene would love may not be a fit. It’s inconvenient enough to repack a box and deliver it someplace without adding the insult of another charge.
“The added costs will put a strain on retailers gearing up for the peak holiday season, which historically is followed by a surge in returns,” wrote Chao. “In January, returns were up 15% over average return rates for 2014, and the volume is growing, Mr. Jindel said.” Satish Jindel is president of SJ Consulting Group Inc. and shipping data firm ShipMatrix Inc.
Another industry expert, Chris Dunn said that in the past e-tailers thought people simply wouldn’t return things so they didn’t have to worry about offering the service. Chao quoted Dunn: “‘They’re starting to realize that you’re still going to return, and you’re not going to buy from that retailer again.’”
Do you pay attention to shipping costs when you buy online? Have you ever balked when you’ve seen what the shipping costs will be even after taking the time to identify what you want and fill out all the charge and address information? If you’re buying something that needs to fit a person, a bed or a window, or a gift that someone might want to exchange, do you cancel an order if you, or the recipient, must pay to ship the return?