Return Fraud.. Returning Rocks Instead of TVs

This past weekend I returned an unwanted cordless phone to Target. I patiently waited in the customer service line for quite some time. There were only two customers in front of me and neither one of them had an extraordinary number of items. With two customers and two or three items each it seemed that the line should be moving much faster.

I discovered the reason for the delay when I reached the front of the line. I handed the cashier the box with the unwanted phone and the receipt. The cashier proceeded to open the box, pull out the phone, compare it to the picture on the front of the box, and then place everything neatly back into the box it came in. Only then did she take my receipt and begin to ring up the return.

The cashier informed me that the store had an influx of customers returning empty boxes or boxes filled with rocks and bricks. She said the customers all provided receipts, so it seemed they had legitimately purchased the item, removed the item from the box, filled the box with rocks, waded up paper, and in one instance bricks, and then returned the box for a full refund. The problem was caught when the merchandise was restocked and other customers complained that the item they purchased was not inside the box. The store now requires all cashiers to open items, even if they are sealed, to ensure that the proper item is in fact inside.

Return fraud is estimated to cost retailers $16 billion in losses each year. 95 percent of retailers say patrons have stolen goods and then returned the stolen merchandise for money or store credit. 69 percent of retailers say consumers returned merchandise that was originally purchased with fraudulent or counterfeit tender and 52.4 percent of retailers had consumers return merchandise with counterfeit receipts. Another 56 percent of retailers encounter consumers who return items that have been worn or used.

These fraudulent practices are forcing each and every consumer to pay a little more at the register to pay for these crimes and retailers are making their return policies stricter than ever. It’s a sad day when a cashier has to open a box to make certain the item you are returning is actually inside.

3 thoughts on “Return Fraud.. Returning Rocks Instead of TVs”

  1. I worked retail for several years and often staffed our one and only satalite register (one isolated from all the other ones) in the shoe department. I often got returns and probably 75% of the con artists trying for both return fraud and other sorts of fraud. The oddest case I ever saw was a woman who would buy our clothes, sew her own (crappy) clothes, and then sew the labels from our clothes into hers and return them. Seems like a lot of work in order to pull a con. We also got a lot of store brands returned from other stores, people picking up our merchendise and bringing it right to the return counter and claiming they’d lost their receipt, (they got gift cards instead of money, but still) and other weird little tricks. The rock thing isn’t new. Working retail gave me a poor view of people in general over time.

    — Dancinghawk

  2. My wife got taken that way.

    She got a stick blender for her birthday (a really nice, and expensive brand) from her parents.

    When she opened the thing, it was the wrong color and she noticed that it had been used. Upon further inspection, it wasn’t even the right brand (shows her state of mind that she didn’t even notice it). She took it back WITH THE RECEIPT, and the store didn’t want to take it back because it was the wrong item.

    “That’s the whole problem!!!!”

    I’ve never heard my wife actually say “aaarrrgggh” before.

  3. That kind of stuff just makes me sick. It means that when honest people have an honest problem with a product, we’re looked at suspiciously, as in the example above that Wil gave with his wife. A few people are ruining it for the rest of us.


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