Would you alienate 1% of your customers on purpose? It appears Best Buy and some other retainers have done that with a service that checks ‘frequent returners’. If you happen to be a person who buys and returns purchases, even with a receipt, you can get a black mark on your name that will limit your ability to return or exchange products at retailers for 90 days.
The Hartford Current published an article titled: After Best Buy Swipes His Driver’s License: No Returns For 90 Days, which describes this Best Buy policy. The service that checks ‘frequent returners’ is provided by a California company, The Retail Equation, that verifies return authorizations by tracking consumers’ return-exchange behavior at participating stores.
The rationale for this policy is to stop those who misuse the return policy by buying a product, using it for a time and then returning it. The example given in this situation, is someone who buys a TV on the Friday before the Super Bowl game, and then uses it to watch the game and then returns it. These kinds of customers are may look like return fraud or abuse and maybe there are some who do. But what about legitimate cases where the TV doesn’t fit in the room, or is defective or just doesn’t work well in the customer’s configuration. Are they all fraud and abuse? Who decides?
The Retail Equation is being used in 20,000 stores across the US. That means it isn’t just Best Buy that is using them. (I found complaints on the web about Home Depot, and The Children’s Place).
Are Retailer’s using this service abusing customers?
1. First, Best Buy and the other stores that use The Retail Equation should notify customers that they have this ‘limited’ return policy. Apparently it is included in Best Buy’s ‘returns and exchange policy’. How well known is this? Is its on the receipt you receive? Or is a consumer expected to consult a computer before they buy? I tried finding Best Buy’s returns and exchange policy on my iPhone using their mobile site and couldn’t find it.
2. Exchanges for the same product should not be included in this program. If you have a defective movie, or a defective piece of equipment, you should be able to return it for a replacement. If it fails repeatedly, then you should be able to pick another brand of the same product. Exchange based on a defect in the product should not be counted.
3. Anyone designated on the black list of The Retail Equation should be able to challenge their status. The Retail Equation does have an email address to send a complaint to and they will call you back. Is this a new designation you need to keep track of, like your credit reports? Could The Retail Equation be ‘evil’? Could they abuse their position? Who decides?
4. Store personnel and managers should be able to override The Retail Equation’s designation. in extenuating circumstances.
As this rolls out and becomes more commonly used, will consumers now avoid those retailers that use this service? Will it inhibit buyers from trying new things in their homes or environment? Will consumers refuse to buy something unless an independent agency has designated that the product has high quality, low return rates and high levels of customer satisfaction?
Or will government legislation be created to limit this kind of service’s use or misuse. Another article on this subject can be found at ‘Retailers are Watching You with a New Tracking Program‘.
According to Hartford Current, Best Buy recently announced it would lay off 400 workers and close 50 stores. Their president, Brian Dunn, recently resigned. There is speculation that Best Buy may go out of business. Is alienating customers another step along that road?
What do you think will happen?
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