As technology has increased, so have the security options for retailers broadened in recent years. Many large chain stores, such as Amazon, Best Buy and Home Depot, have been tracking customers’ merchandise return habits since the late 1990s in an effort to cut down on fraudulent returns.
How Do Retailers Track Returns?
Retail companies are outsourcing the task of tracking returns to third party businesses that specialize in this area, such as The Retail Equation (aka: ‘TRE’). Services provided by TRE and other similar companies are referred to as ‘Retail Transaction Optimization Solutions at the Point of Sale and Point of Return’. Needless to say, retailers are sure to favor this technology for its ability to detect customers’ merchandise return history. The data collected from shoppers informs retailers of consumers’ previous merchandise returns with a goal to identify fraud and abuse.
What Type of Behavior is a Red Flag for Fraudulent or Abusive Merchandise Returns?
Retailers are not looking to punish customers for returning items for logical reasons. They are on the look-out for customers who are excessive about returning items. This type of customer is referred to as a ‘returnaholic’. The stores understand that there are innocent shoppers who have a strong habit of shopping and changing their minds. But retailers’ rationale for returns tracking is to identify shoplifters and careless customers who treat the return policy as a tool to abuse the system for their own gain. When customers abuse the return policy and shoplifters take items without paying for them, the consequences will eventually lead to higher prices for honest and loyal customers are the result.
Below are some examples of the type of indicators the return tracking systems are watching for:
- Customer has a history of buying and returning items excessively
- Customer returns items with obvious evidence of use repeatedly
- Customer requests a cash refund or credit (both are illegal practices)
- Customer has been caught submitting fraudulent receipts for returns
If you have a habit of returning items regularly, you could find yourself on the ‘naughty list’ and may find it more difficult to make returns than for those shoppers who are not into returning items regularly. If this does happen to you, keep in mind that return tracking was implemented to help prevent shoplifting. Retailers have put these systems into place to help keep costs down, not to give customers a difficult time.