How easy do you make it for your customers to return product?

When things go bad, great companies shine.

2 quick examples:

I ordered a pigment dyed tee shirt from The Territory Ahead. It never fit properly, as they run a bit large. After a year, I sent it back with a brief note – something along the lines of “Love it, but it’s never fit right, and I’d really like to have it fit…” No questions asked, exchanged it for a smaller size.

Jos. A. Bank: same scenario. Ordered a few shirts and a pair of slacks recently. Decided to return two of the shirts and while doing so, thought about a pair of slacks I’d ordered over a year ago which never quite fit right. Tossed them in the box with the 2 shirts, filled out the normal paperwork. New slacks and shirts arrived a couple of days ago. No questions, no grief, no hassle.

I love these companies. Their unwavering commitment to satisfying their customers has made me not only a loyal customer, but an ambassador for them. How often are you TOTALLY satisfied by a company?

How do you treat your customers who want to send your stuff back?

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3 Comments on Many happy returns…

  1. Rudy Vidal says:

    Kevin, thanks for your post on this most interesting topic.
    I spend most of my time thinking about customer satisfaction and how we can improve it. Returns is something that always comes up.
    I believe however, that the relationship between companies and customers needs to be mutually respectful and considerate. There are returns and then there are returns. Some segments, like apparel, run with large margins that can allow for liberal retuns policies. While others have short margins and as such suffer greatly from returns. One example of these is consumer electronics where the margins are so small that returns are usually larger than profits.
    Some large retailers, impose liberal return policies on its suppliers (costco for example) frankly, because they in turn send the merchandise back to the manufacturer and make the manufacturer pay for poorly set customer expectations in the buying process.
    I believe that when the product we buy is not what we expected, we should be able to return it unused. However, so many of us measure customer satisfaction by a company’s willingness to accept our abuse (buying, using and then returning) when in fact the relationship between customer and business, should be mutually respectful.
    We as customers have responsibilities as well.

    Our innability to see this is slowly putting many companies out of business, in which case, all of us loose (product viriety, jobs, competition, etc.).

    Thanks so much for your post. It’s always interesting to talk about returns.

    Rudy Vidal


  2. kc says:

    Rudy, thanks for your interesting and well thought out comment. I guess I should point out that I am a loyal and regular customer of both of these companies; I’m hope you are not characterizing my actions as abuse.

    I have little doubt that the prices I pay to T.A. and J.A.B. are higher than they would be if those firms didn’t offer an unconditional guarantee and no hassle return policy. I accept that and am willing to pay more for quality merchandise AND a quality experience.

    Contrast the experience one has with these companies – or LL Bean, Orvis, or Lands End – with an outfit like Burlington Coat Factory. I’ll gladly pay more to deal with a company that stands behind its merchandise and doesn’t make returning merchandise an ordeal.

    I would imagine – certainly I hope – that the demographic attracted to these firms’ products and quality wouldn’t abuse their returns policies.

    Thanks again,



  3. Rudy Vidal says:

    thanks for your comment. Oh no, it was not my intention to sound like I was characterising your actions in any such manner, my apologies if it sounded that way. You’re right, in the case of the higher tier stores, you are paying for the ability to return the merchandise. However, as we move to mainstream, the liberal return polilies more often than not, remain, with the returned merchandise accounting for more cost than the business can handle. Because the consumer expects the return policy, the retailer finds it difficult to retrive it.
    I spend most of my time thinking about ways to improve customer satisfaction, however, in this area, consumers need to become more reasonable – in mainstream retail – perhaps.
    (did you know that TV returns go up by 60% the few days after the superbowl?)

    enjoyed the comments – thank you for your reply.



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