Will it fit? Is the color perfect? Does it match their style? Port Washington fashion consultant Linda Cohen runs through a standard, evergreen mental checklist whenever she shops for gifts.
For the 2020 holiday season, she’s considering another make-or-break query: Will returning the present be a scramble or a snap? After all, more than ever, no one wants to be in a crowd or wait on line.
"When I give gifts, I don’t buy from companies where returns will be a hassle," said Cohen. "For me right now, it’s all about ease, convenience and sustainability … I look to companies with policies to make it simpler for people who want to make returns."
There’s no shortage of them. This year, 12% of U.S. consumers expect to bring back more than half of their gifts, according to an Oracle consumer research survey of 5,000 global shoppers.
"Returns have to be as easy as possible," said Curt Bimschleger, reverse logistics specialist for the research firm Deloitte. Making the process hassle-free is good for shoppers and for sellers, he added.
"The data is conclusive. If you have a poor returns experience there’s an extremely high correlation that you won’t come back to that brand," he said. "A positive returns experience is a good way to reinforce a brand."
So when the present is the wrong color or style, doesn’t fit (pandemic weight-gain is going around), or it’s just not right — and too weird to regift — bringing it back with ease doesn’t take a holiday miracle. Here are tips to pave the way for many happy returns.
You can return Amazon packages to Kohl’s and UPS. The pandemic has boosted e-commerce. Online holiday sales will increase 25%-35% for the 2020 season, expects Deloitte. That’s a lot of boxes to repackage and mail back, so why bother. You can make Amazon returns with no packaging or label at select locations, including Kohl’s, after generating a QR (quick response) code at amazon.com.
Kelly Arendt, 50, a teacher’s assistant who lives in Garden City, has made local UPS Store locations her go-to spot for Amazon returns. "I completely try to avoid lines," said Arendt, who times her returns for later in the evening to miss crowds. "You bring the item in, they package it for you. It’s seamless."
Many companies are extending the return window this year so you won't have to rush back. In some instances, you’ll be eligible for a full refund through January 2021, provided you have the receipt or gift receipt and items aren’t opened or used. Depending on the retailer, you may have even longer. "Ideally, I want people to have 60 days for returns," said Cohen.
Curbside returns could be an option. Nordstrom is known for its user-friendly returns, and some stores allow you to bring back items without entering it. At the Roosevelt Field location, parking spots are reserved for curbside service. Pull in, call to let them know you’ve arrived, pop your trunk, they come out to make contactless return. Use the store locator at nordstrom.com/stores to confirm where curbside return is available near you.
Some companies don’t even have an end point on returns. That includes Uncommon Goods, which specializes in quirky items. "Simply put, we stand behind our items and we don’t put time limits on returns," according to the policy at support.uncommongoods.com. "How many retailers can say they have a forever return policy?" The company’s bottomless return policy may exclude custom items.
You can belly up to a (return) bar for numerous brands. Happy Returns has "return bars" across Long Island. They offer in-person returns for online purchases from about five dozen partner retailers, including Dressbarn, Mack Weldon and Zip Top. Start the return online, generate a QR code and bring in to the return bar.
"Gently used" merchandise may be returnable. What to do when eye makeup just doesn’t work? In some instances, Sephora allows items returned in gently used condition. Ulta accepts open product returns and, said a press contact, "disposes of said returns accordingly."
Special holiday return arrangements are in the works. In Walmart shops where heavy return volume is expected, stores will open an alternate location within to help maintain social distancing guidelines. To help reduce long lines and process returns more quickly, Walmart’s Return with Me service lets associates process a return back to a customer’s debit or credit card or to a gift card from a handheld device.