[WOW] What Happens To Amazon Returns?

Category: Shopping

Easy, no-hassle returns of merchandise have been critical to Amazon’s success. The e-commerce giant does not publish returns figures, but analysts estimate the MSRP value of returns runs into billions of dollars annually. What happens to all that returned merchandise? The answers may surprise you... read on!

Return to Sender… Then What?

I can remember when I was very young, my mother explained to me why she preferred to shop at the Lloyd's department store in our town, and not at the newer store that had recently opened nearby. It was all about the return policy, she said. If a store makes it easy to return an item, you shop there with confidence. According to a Deloitte Retail Survey, 60 percent of shoppers consider easy returns a major factor when shopping online. So Mom was right!

Perhaps Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, received similar advice from his mother. I should have asked him that when I interviewed him for Boardwatch Magazine, back in 1996. Back then, Amazon was still "Earth's biggest bookstore," and would not begin to expand into clothing, toys, gadgets and groceries for several years. But the no-hassle return policy has been a bedrock of the company since its inception in 1994.

Amazon says "You may return most new, unopened items sold and fulfilled by Amazon within 30 days of delivery for a full refund." Most returns are free, and refunds are completed in 3-5 days after the return is received. And from what I've read, they'll take back even opened items if you decide you didn't like or want it. If you received a damaged or defective item, they will provide a replacement of that item.

Amazon return policy

And that's where things get a little sticky. Returned items may go back on the warehouse shelf to be sold again, if it is still in its original packaging and undamaged. But opened, defective, or damaged merchandise may face several different fates. Some used merchandise ends up on the Amazon Warehouse site, where used goods from third-party sellers are offered at steep discounts.

There’s also an Amazon Renewed section for electronics and appliances that have been tested and certified to “look and work like new;” a 90-day warranty is included. Only selected sellers with high satisfaction ratings are allowed to offer “Amazon Renewed” goods. In some cases, the goods are refurbished by their manufacturers; on others, the seller refurbishes things.

Some prices are lower than MSRP but don’t seem like anything to write home about. This HP 14-inch laptop is $285.99, for instance. But there are some good deals. This refurbished Dyson Ball Multi Floor 2 Upright Vacuum which has an MSRP of $399, is offered for just $269. And this Blendtec Total Classic Original Blender (MSRP $449) is available for $269.

Amazon - refurbished items for sale

Liquidate: Not Just a Setting on Your Blender

Liquidation is another path that returned goods may follow. Here, Amazon disposes of used goods that third-party sellers don’t want back. Huge quantities of returned goods, unsorted and uninspected, are sold for pennies on the dollar to companies like Liquidity Services, which last year reported buying $33.7 million worth of Amazon returns.

At companies like Liquidity Services, items are loosely sorted into broad categories such as “electronics,” “home décor,” “health & beauty,” with no testing or close inspection. A pallet full of such items is shrink-wrapped and auctioned off to hopeful resellers. Each pallet’s online listing includes a manifest of its contents and the MSRP of each item, which is utterly meaningless as a measure of value. A pallet with $4,000 MSRP value may sell for a bid of $200. Huge warehouses around the country exist solely for processing and reselling returned items. Here's a video of that in action.

Pallet buyers have to be as patient and optimistic as gold-panners. It’s common for up to half of a pallet to be unsellable trash that has to be thrown out, according to experienced liquidation seller Walter Blake Knoblock. He has some good advice for would-be liquidation resellers in his live-streamed video preserved on YouTube. But hardly anyone takes it, because it’s not what they want to hear.

Liquidity Services says it has 3,357,000 registered buyers who spent $626.4 million last year on returned or surplus stuff, including but not limited to Amazon returns. These millions of small resellers are the gold panners of what Liquidity Services calls the “reverse supply chain.”

A lot of returned items end up on eBay in auctions that may start with a 1-cent bid. They may or may not come with a return option. In many cases, eBay’s Buyer Protection program will help buyers recover their money even if the seller’s policy is “no returns.” But often the price paid for an item is not worth the expense or hassle of returning it, so buyers just toss their “bargains” in the trash.

My Own Liquidation Story Had an Unhappy Ending

I've learned personally that some of that damaged merchandise is sold on Ebay and other outlets as "New" when it's clearly not. A few weeks ago, I tried to buy a replacement controller for an electric blanket. One seller on Ebay had the exact model I needed for $30, which was the best price I could find. The item arrived in a few days, but there was a surprise. The power cord was cut in half! I knew from a previous return experience of my own that vendors often require customers to cut the power cord before returning, so the item cannot be resold.

Clearly this was a defective, previously returned item being passed off as new merchandise. I had to fight a few rounds with the seller, who accused me of the dirty deed, before he agreed to refund me in full. To make things worse, I ordered the controller again (from a different Ebay seller) and that item was also dead on arrival. Ebay does have a strong refund policy as well, so at least it didn't cost me anything, except my time and frustration.

Buying used, returned merchandise is a gamble unless the goods come with a dependable company’s warranty. The lower price of such an item may not be worth the risk, especially if the price is dozens or hundreds of dollars. But sometimes it’s fun to drop $10 to $20 on an “amazing deal” just to see what you get. Even more fun (and free) is to search YouTube for “unboxing Amazon returns” and watching Millennials take the risk for you. Many “unboxing” videos get millions of views. Huh.

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Tell me about your experience when returning items you purchased at Amazon or other online sellers. Post your comment or question below...

 
Ask Your Computer or Internet Question

  (Enter your question in the box above.)

It's Guaranteed to Make You Smarter...

AskBob Updates: Boost your Internet IQ & solve computer problems.
Get your FREE Subscription!


Email:

Check out other articles in this category:



Link to this article from your site or blog. Just copy and paste from this box:

This article was posted by on 29 Jan 2019


For Fun: Buy Bob a Snickers.

Prev Article:
Is it Safe to Buy a Used Computer?

The Top Twenty
Next Article:
Geekly Update - 30 January 2019

Most recent comments on "[WOW] What Happens To Amazon Returns?"

Posted by:

Cold City
29 Jan 2019

Twice on returns, the seller simply refunded me and did not request to have the goods returned.
For clothing I got belts and socks without any manufacturer info on them, so I returned them for refund.
Thanks for sharing this, awesome info!


Posted by:

johnnieberesolute
29 Jan 2019

I purchased 2 adapters for my Amazon Fire tablet from Amazon: a 5 watt; and a 9 watt that matched the original 9 watt that came with the tablet. Both adapters are imprinted with the Amazon logo and are OEM. When the order came, there was no sign of tampering with the box containing the total shipment. However, the 5 watt adapter was in its original packaging, while the original packaging for the 9 watt was empty. The 9 watt adapter was missing. It had to be stolen in their own shipping department. They would not beleive me and charged me anyway. This is not the first problem I have had with Amazon. Two of my last 4 orders have been messed up. I won't buy from them anymore. They have become so big that they don't care. My local Walmart is stocking electronic accessories that used to be available only online.
I have even found some at Menards Home Improvement and Home Depot and Lowes. Look around before you buy.


Posted by:

Jack Underwood
29 Jan 2019

I have had good success with returns on Ebay where I always find things cheaper than on Amazon...Always. There have been 3 times I got a refund and the seller never asked for the product returned. As an ebay seller I have done the same thing and just told the buyer to just keep the item or throw it away. Recently ebay notified me that the seller had not set up something with his paypal and gave me a refund of the item with no request for the items return by the seller or a request for repay. Oh well.


Posted by:

SharonH
29 Jan 2019

Personally the few returns I've had to make went without a hitch and were effortless.

Sometimes it is only after the buyer has opened a package does he/she realize it's the wrong size, not the right item etc. So I can't see how Amazon can insist on only unopened packages, and in reality it really doesn't. I sent back a printer after two weeks because it did not have a simple scan button on the unit but one had to bring up the software every time a scan was needed--a real pain. It was returned to Amazon and the UPS guy came round to pick it up. I ended up with another brand and the credit was applied without any problem. So YMMV, I guess.


Posted by:

Jay R
29 Jan 2019

I purchased a "new" knife from eCop thru eBay. When it arrived, the blade was a different steel and there was a small defect in the cutting edge. The seller did nothing until I involved eBay. I eventually was refunded my purchase price. The seller wanted me to change my rating (I thot that one star was generous.) but I didn't. I am reluctant to buy from either of these sites. My daughter and her husband buy a lot from Amazon and have had no issues insofar as I know.


Posted by:

Connie
29 Jan 2019

In all my years of buying goods on Amazon, only once did I return one item. I had opened it to test it out, found it an extreme hassle and went thru the return process with no problems. Item was returned even tho it had been opened/tested. UPS dude picked it up; less than 1 week later I was refunded my money.


Posted by:

Bill
29 Jan 2019

I've never had a problem with Amazon. Mind you, I've never had to return anything either. Boardwatch Magazine! That brings back memories from the days I was a FidoNet BBS Sysop!


Posted by:

Mainer
29 Jan 2019

I order a lot of items from Amazon. Never a problem. I've returned a number of them with no problem: print out a return label; slap it on the package; take it to the Mail It 4 U nearby and drop it off. Packages are delivered to my door; what could be easier.


Posted by:

Kenneth Maltby
29 Jan 2019

I used Perfume.com (who I had used before) to purchase to bottles of cologne. They were cheaper price because they were testers, with no boxes. They were sour and did not smell nice at all. When trying to return them, even for a credit not refund, I was told I had to pay all the shipping/handling costs for the originals (which MUST NOT have been used)and new ones! I will certainly not be using Perfume.com again. I really think companies underestimate the importance of having 'user friendly' return policies


Posted by:

Duane
29 Jan 2019

My wife’s cell phone began displaying a “not on network” message if she tried to use it and no one could reach her phone. I contacted T-Mobile, our carrier, and after talking with their tech support twice, it was determined that the IMEI on the phone had apparently had a patch on it that for some reason was no longer masking the IMEI and the phone had been blocked. Bottom line, the phone had been stolen and hacked to make it appear to be valid with a new IMEI which was no longer associated with the phone, hence the block.

I looked up the cell phone order and we purchased it through Amazon from Joycells. I then contacted Amazon through Chat to inform them of the stolen phone issue and to see if there was anything they could do. The Chat representative responded that she would send the information to the “Investigation team” and I would be contacted via email within 24 to 48 hours

After waiting 3 business days, I tried a Customer Service phone call back contact with Amazon. Michelle called me and I explained I was still waiting for “investigations” to contact me. After finding the Chat call transcript and the phone order information, Michelle said my Chat report had never been sent to “investigations” and she would talk with her supervisor.

After the 1st supervisor conversation, Michelle returned and tried to divert me to my cell carrier for a resolution, said it was their responsibility. I then explained I had already had 2 different conversations with T-Mobile technical support, my carrier, and during the 2nd, they confirmed the phone was a stolen device and the once valid IMEI masking was gone and it had been blocked. Whether Michelle understood any of this or not, she went back to her supervisor again.

After the 2nd supervisor conversation, Michelle stated that Joycells had an excellent record with over 10,000 phones sold. All irrelevant information to my situation. I had a confirmed stolen cell phone, sold to me through Amazon, and Amazon’s customer service seems focused on deflecting and ignoring the situation. Michelle’s final comment was that the transaction occurred 4 years ago.

I did not know there was an expiration date on stolen property. I am also surprised that Amazon did not care to take this up with Joycells since the IMEI masking could be out there on a large number of Joycells provided phones that are either no longer in use or the mask is still effective.


Amazon was party to a transaction involving stolen property. I was not looking for a refund, but someone at Amazon should care about dealing with stolen property.


Posted by:

11bravo
29 Jan 2019

I buy a lot from Amazon and have had to return a few items, no problems on the returns, though I am watchful to see who the seller is (Amazon preferred).

I also use an Amex gold card which not only extends a warranty but also includes Buyer's Assurance: if a merchant won't take back an item, AMEX will refund the price, less shipping to AMEX. Have used this infrequently, but on occasion, does come in handy.


Posted by:

Robert T Deloyd
29 Jan 2019

Funny you should post this the day after I saw a video of an Amazon pallet buyer on YouTube... the pallet contained a bunch of junk and an Xbox game console that had box of nails inside for weight.
Thanks for writing this :)


Posted by:

George Sitts
29 Jan 2019

Boardwatch! I just discovered my stash of them the other day.


Posted by:

Ross Stevens
30 Jan 2019

I recently ordered a 3-pack of Tassimo discs from a seller on Amazon. The seller specified no returns. When I opened the packages I found the "best by" dates had been covered by blank labels pasted over them. When removing the labels I also obliterated the dates. I called Tassimo to try and find the dates so I would have ammunition when when contacting the seller. Tassimo could not tell me the date from factory codes and suggested I toss the coffee not knowing how old it was. After a few minutes on chat with Amazon they refunded my payment and told me to keep the coffee.


Posted by:

Greg C
30 Jan 2019

Walmart Was Great
About ten years ago we were shopping at Walmart in Michigan. At the checkout I thought my daughter would take a couple of the bags, while she thought I did. Long story short, the next day the missing bags were nowhere to be found and the story unfolded. This Walmart was now several hundred miles away, I called them in the hope that someone might remember or even have the bags, worth about $30 at the time.
Customer service listened & took my receipt number and then REFUNDED my credit card with the purchase price, no further questions asked.
I might sound like a commercial and this may never work again, but that is one reason I like to shop at Walmart.


Posted by:

Larry D379
30 Jan 2019

I am a big supporter of Amazon and have been for about 4 years now. I seldom buy anything without at least checking the Amazon price. They are not always the cheapest, but if it is anywhere close I will go with Amazon. Their two day delivery to my door saving me time and gas money is preferable and worth a few dollars more, not to mention the peace of mind in knowing they stand behind their sales.
A few months ago I purchased a cell phone on one of Amazon's one day sales and saved almost $200.00. When the phone arrived I tried everything I knew, but it would not come on. I went to their web site and the "refund and replace" page, but the "replace" page was missing. I did not want a refund, only a phone that worked. I called customer service and was told that the phone was a one day sale item so they would not replace it, but I would need to refund it and then purchase a new phone. My problem now was that the same phone was now going to cost me $150.00 more. The phone was still on sale, but at a discount of $50.00, not $200.00.
I called Customer Service again and got a very nice young man that worked with me for at least 45 minutes and finally got it worked out that they would send me a new phone at the price I originally paid. Some frustration and wasted time on my part but it all ended well and I am still a loyal customer.


Posted by:

Butch
30 Jan 2019

While perusing this article, MBAM displayed "Website blocked due to hijack." This happens from time to time. A problem with your site or a problem with MBAM??


Posted by:

Mark Pietroboni
30 Jan 2019

Last year my sister’s electric blanket thermostat/controller stopped working. She was about to throw the blanket away since she’s owned this blanket for 5 years. I told her to call the manufacturer, and to her and my surprise, after giving Customer Service the serial number of the controller, they sent her free of charge a new replacement controller.

My point is - sometimes if you are able to find a telephone number for the manufacturer (even if the product was made in an other country) you may strike some luck on receiving a free replacement, especially if the particular item part that broke has a history of malfunctioning.


Posted by:

Mark Pietroboni
30 Jan 2019

Last year my sister’s electric blanket thermostat/controller stopped working. She was about to throw the blanket away since she’s owned this blanket for 5 years. I told her to call the manufacturer, and to her and my surprise, after giving Customer Service the serial number of the controller, they sent her free of charge a new replacement controller.

My point is - sometimes if you are able to find a telephone number for the manufacturer (even if the product was made in an other country) you may strike some luck on receiving a free replacement, especially if the particular item part that broke has a history of malfunctioning.


Posted by:

SamG
30 Jan 2019

Walmart was Great. You nailed it with WAS. 2 day free shipping? When? The Wallyworlds here don't stock much. Too much theft may be the answer. Which i won't give another reason as to why that may be.
Ebay and Amazon can be risky. But I'll buy from them sooner than Wallyworld. Especially Amazon. Since before Christmas they offered free shipping. The 2nd reason, I only ever had 1 return of invalid merchandise with Amazon.
3 weeks ago my Wallyworld purchase of a Sceptre 24" tv (to use as a monitor) would have driven me from the house. It STANK. Literally. The first 2 days it spent in the garage. Took it back. Easy $100 return. Bestbuy had a $70 Insignia 24" tv close-out. Bought it and tested most everything. They have a 15 day return period. Since I'm waiting on an Ebay VGA to HDMI adapter I hope the adapter gets here soon.
Bottom line- when shopping for an item, read the reviews. And not just the 4 or 5 star reviews. Read and note how many 1 or 2 star reviews there are. If none, great! But put more trust in the 1 or 2 star. They may be a tip-off. Best of luck to all!


Post your Comments, Questions or Suggestions

*     *     (* = Required field)

    (Your email address will not be published)
(you may use HTML tags for style)

YES... spelling, punctuation, grammar and proper use of UPPER/lower case are important! Comments of a political nature are discouraged. Please limit your remarks to 3-4 paragraphs. If you want to see your comment posted, pay attention to these items.

All comments are reviewed, and may be edited or removed at the discretion of the moderator.

NOTE: Please, post comments on this article ONLY.
If you want to ask a question click here.


Free Tech Support -- Ask Bob Rankin
Subscribe to AskBobRankin Updates: Free Newsletter

Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved
Privacy Policy     RSS/XML


Article information: AskBobRankin -- [WOW] What Happens To Amazon Returns? (Posted: 29 Jan 2019)
Source: https://askbobrankin.com/wow_what_happens_to_amazon_returns.html
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved