Archive | December, 2010

Less Refunds This Holiday Season

21 Dec

All that is left of the returned holiday gifts is this very sad kitty

While sitting in the waiting room of my ghetto pharmacy, I picked up the only option that I had for good reading material: SmartMoney Magazine. And, while most of the articles featured topics that were laced with the kind of jargon that I repeatedly attempt to avoid while studying for my finance class and had the word “portfolio” scattered across each page at least five times, I managed to find quite a gem of an article in the midst of such terribly boring stuff: “The Point of No Return,” by Kristen Bellstrom.

In her article, Bellstrom discusses how many retail stores this holiday season are going to become more strict when it comes to returns. As she reports, one out of ten purchases is returned and, while 10% of purchases does not sound like much, it ends up totaling to a large amount ($43 million) in returned goods not during the fiscal year, but during the holiday.

I mean, wonder if Santa decided to just buy his reindeer for the Christmas season, saved the receipt, and returned Rudolph and his other reindeer buddies after he had finished delivering all of his gifts?

I must say that America, in general, is way too lenient about returns. My international marketing professor even told my class that in some countries refunds (and even coupons) are pretty much banned. It’s like preschool teachers used to say when someone would hand out treats during a classroom birthday celebration: “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset.” Well, whatever happened to that kind of mentality? In America, at least, it has faded just as fast as a laser-printed receipt does when sitting out in direct sunlight.

I remember when I first started working in retail and how shocked I was that people were able to get away with the most ridiculous returns. This one woman came in with a shampoo bottle (and it wasn’t the typical cheap V05 bottle, either) and told me that she wanted to return it. I picked up the bottle and realized it was pretty much empty. When I mentioned this to her, she said “Yeah, it leaked all over and that’s why I’m returning it.” Okay, even if a shampoo bottle did leak, it would take a long time for a large bottle to leak that much. But, as we all know, the customer is always right, and that woman ended up getting a refund anyway.

So, during these last few (and frenzied) days of holiday shopping, I would like to propose a challenge to serial refunders around the country: buy only what you need, make thoughtful and rational decisions when buying gifts for others, and if you do receive a crappy present, learn to appreciate it for what it is, or donate it to someone less fortunate instead of trying it out, damaging it, and then trying to get a few bucks back. It will make you feel happier, more appreciative, and will turn you into a better person. And no one would ever think of refunding a thoughtful, happy person.

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