Report: Amazon Banning Customers Who Return Too Many Items
Amazon.com is banning customers from buying merchandise on its site who return too many items, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. The report cites two customers who had their accounts banned without warning. One of Amazon's customer's said he received an email in March notifying him that his account had been closed because he violated the company’s conditions of use agreement. After contacting the company, he was told his account had been closed due to his return activity. He said he has returned a computer drive this year and four items last year. After reaching out to Amazon's CEO Jeff Bezos, an Amazon employee notified the customer that his account had reinstated. Another customer said that even though she spends thousands of dollars a year on Amazon, her account was shut down without explanation earlier this month. After contacting Amazon, she was told she was terminated permanently because she “reported an unusual number of problems” with her orders. The customer said she has asked for refunds in the past on clothing and shoe orders, some of which she says were damaged or the wrong items. In addition, the WSJ report said dozens of people have complained on Twitter, Facebook and other online forums that Amazon closed their accounts without warning or explanation.
Amazon doesn’t note in its return policy that a customer's return behavior can get them banned, but the company says in its conditions of use that it reserves the right to terminate accounts in its sole discretion. Furthermore, Amazon said it's rare for a customer to receive a ban for abusing their service for a long period of time.
Total Retail's Take: While Amazon has cultivated an image as a customer-friendly company — in large part by making it easy for shoppers to return items they don’t want — it's learning that its somewhat lax return policy is starting to have a negative effect on its business. What can retailers do to avoid the same problem Amazon is having — being inundated with returns? There are several steps retailers can take, including building great product data, encouraging customers to leave product reviews, improving fulfillment accuracy, clarifying acceptable return conditions (and make sure documentation is required), and, perhaps, don't make it so easy to return items in the first place. Returns are costing retailers a lot of money, and with the growth of e-commerce, that number figures to continue to rise. Take steps now to get this problem under control … just maybe a little more delicately than Amazon did.