Now that the Easter break is over and we’re back to our normal routines, it’s time for me to post, post, post! First off the block is some information on return policies when you purchase online. People have told me that this is a barrier to purchasing online – they are of the view that either you can’t return it or it’s too much hassle to return it so would prefer to go in-store and buy locally. Whilst this may be true sometimes, if the savings are worth it, then a little effort, IF you need to return it, will also be worth it.
A LOT of overseas retailers’ return policies are very generous and puts some of our local retailers to shame. Having said that, some Australian online stores have followed and returns are getting easier and easier. The way I see it, as a retailer, I would want the customer to spend in the first instance and one way to encourage this online is to have an easy return process – i.e. hassle free. You can worry about return products later – you need to get customer to spend in the first instance before worrying about returns – and a lot of the times, customers won’t need to return it. That’s why I just don’t get places – especially fashion retailers – that have stingy return policies and give you the third degree when you go in store to return. It really discourages me from going back there and they’ve just lost future sales.
Ok rant over. Let me describe some of the different return policies offered by online stores these days so you know which ones appeal to you.
1. FREE RETURNS
Can’t beat that huh? I can think of a few off the top of my head – Bonds, The Iconic, StyleTread, Net-a-Porter – they all offer free returns. What this usually means is that you fill out the return forms (it usually comes with your package but you might need to contact customer service) and call and organise for the store’s courier to come and pick it up from you. Bonds provide you with a reply paid address so you need to package it up yourself and post it.
Piece of cake. Why wouldn’t you shop at these stores??
Just make sure you keep all the original packaging and ensure the package gets to them within the return period.
2. PAY FOR SHIPPING TO RETURN GOODS
As the heading suggests, you need to organise and pay for your own shipping to have the items sent back to the retailer. This is probably the biggest deterrent for us in Australia from buying overseas. Depending on what the item is, shipping can be quite expensive – especially if you want to add tracking to it. I would only ever pay shipping to return goods for clothes or soft items that don’t weigh much but might have high value – e.g. I bought a cashmere top but didn’t really suit me so I paid $25 shipping to return it and received $295 back – so I basically got $270 back but still worth it for me.
Overseas retailers that charge you for shipping to return will give you a long enough timeframe to make sure the items get to them on time – for example, you get 60 days to return items with J.Crew, 30 days for most places such as Shopbop, Revolve, Next Direct (they have a Australian return address so even cheaper), Saks, Nordstrom, ASOS and 35 days with Mark & Spencer. BUT, the best one of them all is Bloomingdales which offer a return period of 180 days! That’s almost 6 months! With low shipping, I think Bloomies has to be one of the best places to shop!
For local online retailers, shipping should be cheaper as it will be domestic shipping rather than international. Having said that, if you’ve bought a top online which was on sale for $30 and doesn’t fit, just factor in shipping charges before deciding to return it. You might be better off selling it on eBay!
3. RETURN INSTORE – Local retailers
Most Australian retailers who have an online presence as well as a bricks and mortar store give you the flexibility to return online purchases in-store. This way, you don’t pay for unnecessary shipping charges to return. If any brick and mortar stores don’t offer such flexibility for online purchases, I say don’t shop with them – that’s just crap customer service. I’m not aware of any places that do this but note that in exchange for offering such flexibility they tend to have shorter return periods – usually 14 days.
- Some overseas retailers will offer refunds on any duties/taxes paid (say if you had to pay customs duty) and some won’t so be aware.
- Most places, actually all places I know, don’t refund on original shipping paid (that’s why I try to avoid paying shipping at ALL cost).
- Some places insist you return goods to them via a certain method – e.g registered post – so be aware of that also.
- Keep original packaging (boxes, tissue paper, plastic bags, etc) and don’t take ANY tags off until you’re sure you won’t be returning it.
- Some places won’t offer refunds on sale items (especially Australian retailers) and will only offer store credit. A lot of overseas retailers have items marked as ‘FINAL SALE’ which is the last and final round of discounting. Such items won’t be refundable or exchangeable.
So a lot of this sounds obvious but you’d be surprised how many people don’t bother reading the returns policy prior to making the purchase and get caught out and put off. Online shopping is all about common sense and getting yourself the best deal requires just a little bit of effort. There’s a crazy amount of sales happening at the moment so happy smart shopping! I hope you score yourself a great buy! 🙂