Saturday, July 23, 2011

Don't let re-stocking fees un-stock your wallet

Web shopping is a highly useful, convenient marvel of modern commerce.  Discounted merchandise is easy to find, and often even with shipping charges, the savings are far better than sloughing it to the store where you might be "up sold" anyway.  However, there are a few perils which I was reminded of recently that make it less appealing at times.

Not to single out smaller stores, their return policies might not exactly favor the customer, unfortunately, as much as "big box" stores.  Usually, if you buy something from a large retailer, and must return a purchase, you might get stuck with paying for shipping, either in the form of reduced reimbursement, or store credit, to make up the difference.  I don't have a huge problem with this, unless the product was clearly defective.  Best case, a straight refund, with no loss for a return.

However, what I do take exception to is the "re-stocking fee," about 15% or more, according to Smart Money.  While it's certainly buyer beware when purchasing anything, I don't think customers, provided they are being honest, should have to subsidize a business' operations beyond what they would if they were to take delivery of a product after payment.  Case in point, I was told recently that if I returned merchandise I bought, I would be paying for the cost of restocking and shipping the product.  In effect, I paid three times for shipping: once for buying the product, once for returning it, and then once again for the business to re-sell the product (their policy said re-stock and shipping fee).  On smaller purchases, it's almost not worth returning the product at all.  Bum deal.  

The take a way here is that unless you know exactly what you are purchasing, it fits, etc., avoid businesses that have such policies.  To me, the re-stocking fee is likely almost pure profit.  Repeated over and over, one can't help to wonder if it's a nice source of revenue for the company: they exert a little effort in pulling the product off the shelf, charge you to ship to/from them, and then charge you again to put it back on the shelf if you don't like it.

Remember, before you press "ok" and submit your payment, read the return policy.