Returns: The Moral Conundrum

Returns within the retail sector is a divisive issue. On one hand its become a must for retailers to provide at least the option of free delivery and a comprehensive returns policy. On the other hand, it has become a hugely costly and environmentally impactful pursuit for retailers.

The pressure on retailers is at the point where customers will ‘walk away’ from an e-commerce site if there is not a perceived option of free deliveries and an adequate returns option. This stance is reaffirmed in an article from ​PracticalEcommerce​, Marcia Kaplan who highlights that ​‘C​ ustomers will often decide to shop elsewhere if a merchant does not provide free returns.’1 This pressure has created issues within the retail sector, as from a cost perspective retailers risk losing money on this service. Previously, when shipping and handling fees were perceived the norm, it was quite a lucrative business, however, things have now changed. Retailers are having to weigh up the potential loss of a sale versus bearing the cost of delivery and returns. This issue was raised in a BBC article, ​Black Friday: I feel guilty about how much I return,​ Business reporter Neil Mackenzie cites, ​‘It can cost a retailer twice the price of [a] delivery for a product to be returned to the supply chain…Items will be reprocessed, cleaned, repaired, repackaged and made ready for its new owner. In total, it will pass through seven pairs of hands before it is back on sale again’2

Ultimately, from an environmental standpoint returns are contributing to the ever important drive to achieve lower emissions. If we as consumers are serious about the impact that we are having on this World, then we also need to recognise that our shopping habits are part of the problem. This is not to say that as consumers we should not be purchasing our products online, but perhaps we should consider the way we do it. Ethical delivery and returns are now far more accessible to everyone and we should be utilising these more. In a time where we are increasingly more concerned with our carbon footprint, shouldn’t we be considering how our shopping habits are affecting the environment as well. If as a customer you could order your shopping online and have you items delivered to you the same day, on a zero emission e-bike, would that not be a better option? If you could then have the option to try the items on in your own home, and if not satisfied, returned back to the store using the same zero emission e-bikes delivery service. Wouldn’t that be a more beneficial service to you from a convenience point and an environmental perspective? This is where services, such as Tryd can bridge the gap and address all these issues.

1 https://www.practicalecommerce.com/the-growing-problem-of-customer-returns 

2 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-50556886

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