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.