Will Guilting Consumers Help Reduce Online’s High Return Rates?

 “Accepting a product and preparing it to be shipped back is viewed as a nuisance, so not much thought has gone into making the process more efficient. Yet most companies still offer generous return policies to keep their customers coming back.”

– Gad Allon, Professor of Operations, Information and Decisions, The Wharton School

Gad Allon, a professor at Wharton School of Business, believes raising consumer awareness is key to reducing retail’s massive rate of returns.

“During your holiday shopping, do your part to stem return culture by choosing carefully and aiming to buy for keeps,” lectured Prof. Allon in a syndicated editorial that appeared last month in the Los Angeles TimesMiami Herald and other publications.

The column noted that about 30 percent of online purchases are returned, including half of clothing purchases — and a quarter ends up being discarded. In addition to waste, returns take a heavy toll on the environment as product piles up in landfills in addition to the greenhouse gases emitted as they’re shipped back and forth.

The high rate, he wrote, is partly attributable to the way consumers have been conditioned to return online items after Zappos began offering free returns for up to a year and others followed with their own lenient policies.

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