What Is A Serial Returner? Online Retailers Are Cracking Down & You Really Don't Want To Be Blacklisted

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Have you ever received an online clothes parcel you can’t quite remember ordering? Or maybe you have had a terrible day so you deserve to treat yourself to everything in your saved basket on ASOS? If so, I feel you. Retail therapy mixed with a "treat yourself" attitude has led me to make many questionable online orders. This usually means a trip to the Post Office with an extremely large returns bag. However, easy returns may soon be a thing of the past, as some online retailers are cracking down. So what are “serial returners” and how do you end up on the black list?

A report by U.S. retail software company Brightpearl in March 2018 found that retailers are facing a “returns tsunami." Speaking to 200 retailers and 4,000 consumers, Brightpearl found that 25 percent of globe retailers will adopt a "try before you buy" system by 2019, but most are unprepared for the substantial cost they will incur as a result. In their survey, Brightpearl found that 85 percent of consumers expect free returns.

However, some retailers are now taking action against "serial returners" and the cost that comes with them. Specifically targeting those who buy, wear, and then return the item, according to i News, online fashion store ASOS and luxury department store Harrods are among the handful of shops that are planning to blacklist customers.

Jamie Grill Atlas/Stocksy

An article on the Independent reported that ASOS has already gone so far as to check the social-media accounts of customers to monitor those who wear clothes before sending them back, or those who falsely claim they never received their order. However, the Independent stated that ASOS denied checking in on customers who simply return unwanted items, as it is the user's right to do so.

ASOS’ returns policy is pretty flexible and hassle free. As long as the items are still in the condition in which you received them, you can return the order back within 28 days of receiving it and get your money back. It doesn't seem from the reports that this behaviour would throw up a red flag, as this is specifically about wearing and then falsely returning the item.

However, while returns may be easy for customers, they aren’t cheap for retailers. Retail data technology company Clear Returns estimated that returns cost UK retailers £60 billion a year, and £20 billion of that comes from online shopping, the Financial Times reports. Well, that has definitely made me think about my shopping habits.

Brightpearl CEO Derek O’Carroll commented that:

“For consumers, try-before-you-buy is a positive trend that removes another barrier to purchase. This will lead to an uplift in sales for retailers. However, it could spell disaster for business owners if they don’t have the right framework and solutions in place to manage returns. Consumers will buy more, but they could return an extra four items a month on average, potentially prompting an unmanageable tsunami of returns for some merchants.”

Online shopping is now easier than ever. The hardest thing about it is getting off the sofa to find my debit card. While it can be seriously tempting to put in big orders to sites like ASOS with the intention of sending most of the stuff back, I had never considered the monumental cost this has on the other end. While you won't need to worry about being blacklisted if you don't wear things and then return them, the cost is enough to give me pause for thought.