Marketing
September 1, 2022

What Does Amazon Do With Product Returns in 2022

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What does Amazon do with returns? Has this question ever bothered you? If you had ever ordered something on Amazon and got upset or disappointed when it arrived, maybe you have been wondering where it went after returning it.

Online shopping is a leap of faith because you don't see the product before paying for it. For example, maybe you ordered a comfy pair of shoes but only realized they had a small fitting after the package arrived.

Such an incident may be common and disappointing; however, the best you can do is return it. After all, you must get your money back if you do not want an exchange.

So, since you are wondering what happens to products once you return them to Amazon, we'll like to shed some light on that.

Let's get started!

What Does Amazon Do With Returns?

Now and then, customers return products they get from Amazon. This rather frequent occurrence may be because of a damaged product, wrong item, or even a product that did not satisfy the customer's expectations.

Sometimes online returns end up in liquidation  companies

Image: cbc.ca

Once you have returned a product to Amazon, it processes it and sells it to Amazon warehouses or liquidation retailers. Some returns make their way back to Amazon. However, most are put on pallets and sold in bulk to liquidation companies.

Apart from liquidation companies and Amazon warehouses, some returns end up in donations. There are also scenarios where there is no other option for recycling or re-using the product. This part could be because they are damaged or because of legal or hygienic reasons.

In such cases, the products are sent for energy recovery. Here, the process entails turning the non-recyclable waste into usable energy sources like fuel or heat. This conversion is done by combustion, pluralization, gasification, anaerobic digestion, or landfill gas recovery.

Where Do Amazon Products Go When Returned?

When a customer returns products bought to Amazon, they are processed at Amazon's fulfillment centers and then distributed to warehouses. Some clients return slightly used items that are not in bad condition. Such items are added to the Amazon warehouse.

Online purchases are returned more often than those bought at local stores

Image: nytimes.com

Other items are packed on pallets in the storerooms and sold to liquidation companies which buy them at a lower cost. Once a product gets to a liquidation company, it is sold through the sites of the said company.

Amazon finds it less costly in terms of time, money, and human resource to liquidate products. Hence, instead of placing them directly on its shelves, Amazon sells them to liquidation companies.

Reselling on the website and to liquidation firms helps mitigate losses. When Amazon cannot sell an item as new, it normally gives the seller other options. Such options include return-to seller, disposal, or fulfillment by Amazon grade and resell.

a) Liquidation Process

Liquidation is a process that Amazon offers sellers to use instead of disposal. The retailer partners with liquidation marketplaces that auction unwanted inventory to resellers.

returned items are packed into liquidation pallets and resold

Image: Forbes.com

The liquidation process helps you recover about 5% of your sale price. That is little but better than throwing it away. This process involves packing the returned products and shipping them to different buyers.

The package can contain similar items, or they can be mixed up. Once they are ready, the highest bidder will be the lucky one to buy them.

Each pallet will reach its destination with a manifest explaining its contents. However, you will never know the items' condition before opening the package.

b) Return-to-Seller

The product can travel long distances when choosing the Return to Seller alternative. This journey could be on a truck, cargo ship, or airplane after leaving the Amazon warehouse.

It travels back to the seller for additional processing. Next, it can proceed to a different Amazon warehouse for sorting and repackaging before being delivered to a new buyer with the option to be returned.

c) Disposal

Disposal is quite common among many online retailers that handle unsold products. Although Amazon claims to do its best to avoid sending product returns to energy recovery, it has not found a solution to end it.

So, if the product cannot be sold, donated, or recycled, it will likely end up in the trash. But, of course, trashing the items is always the easiest thing to do, and some brands do so to protect their name.

Product disposal usually happens because the brands do not want lesser valued items on the market. After all, such items could ruin their name, making them lose customer loyalty.

You can also find that other brands like Nike have invented ways to upcycle returns. In return, they make more valued items that can be bought and used well.

However, the best way to deal with product returns is to sell them in their original form. This tactic is the best way to protect the environment as sometimes transforming them requires a lot of energy.

Amazon has programs that do that. For instance, for electronics like Amazon devices, video games, or phones, the company allows customers to send them to certified recyclers or trade them in for gift cards.

Also, since 2019, the FDA donations program has allowed sellers to offer eligible overstock and returns to charitable organizations through a non-profit network. This way, it is easier to donate items without making them go through a lot of trouble.

d) Fulfillment by Amazon Grade and Resell

In this process, products returned are inspected and categorized into four. These categories include;

  • Used-like new
  • Used-very good
  • Used-good
  • Used acceptable

After grading the products, they are resold on sections of Amazon's sites. These sections include Amazon renewed for refurbished items, warehouse deals for used goods, Amazon outlet for overstock, and Woot. Also, if you want to sell used items on Amazon, you can do so in the abovementioned categories.

Amazon Return Policy

Like most online shops, Amazon offers returns on most items. After all, a return policy ensures things run smoothly for them and the clients. In addition, understanding their return policy can help you know what to do when you get something you do not want to keep.

If you purchase an item on Amazon and would like to return it, you only have up to 30 days from the shipment's receipt date. Other sellers also offer this service on Amazon.

Also, most sellers on Amazon offer a returns policy the same as that of Amazon itself. However, this sometimes differs; you may need to confirm that before returning an item.

You won't have to worry if the seller's listing is eligible for Amazon Prime. This is so because the return policy will be the same as that of items returned to Amazon.

When returning to Amazon, it can take up to 25 days before it reaches the fulfillment center. Then, it will take several business days for the refunds to be processed.

What Items Can't You Return On Amazon?

Not every product bought on Amazon is eligible for returns. Some, once you buy, you cannot return them. Examples include the following;

  • Open software
  • Live insects
  • Products missing the serial number or UPC
  • Products with special shipping restrictions
  • Grocery products
  • Prepaid game cards like Xbox 360 live, Wii Points, and World of Warcraft, among others
  • Some jewelry products
  • Some health and personal care products
  • Online subscriptions after they have been accessed
  • Desktops, laptops, kindles, and other electronic devices that you've stayed with for over 30 days
  • Hazardous materials or those that use flammable gases and liquids; for such items, you have to contact the manufacturer directly.
  • Gift cards
  • Software downloads
  • Products that expire rapidly
  • Alcoholic beverages, as their actual value can fluctuate, and the supplier has no control over them.

The important point is that Amazon.com does not accept product returns for items fulfilled by third-party sellers. After all, the seller, not Amazon, determines the return policy.

Also, if you bought a non-returnable item but it arrives defective or damaged, you can request a replacement or even a refund.

What is the Cost of Making Returns on Amazon?

If Amazon dispatched your product, it would refund the cost of sending it back. However, made-on-demand products are not eligible for free returns.

So, if you are returning a product that is not eligible for free returns, Amazon deducts the shipping costs from your refund. The amount deducted from your refund will depend on the size and number of packages you return.

For bigger packages, the shipping costs will cost a little more than for smaller items. For more details, you can also check how much it costs to ship a package from Amazon USA.

Amazon Global Store Products

Most purchases from the Amazon Global Store can be returned within 30 days after delivery. 

The fulfillment center may wait about 15 to 25 days to receive an item. And it takes two business days from the time of receipt for the refund to be processed.

Once the process concludes, you will receive a refund for your original delivery fees. You will also receive any import fee deposits you paid for the returned items if they were inaccurate, faulty, or damaged.

Returns Abuse Vs. Returns Fraud

What is Returns Abuse?

Return abuse is seen when customers take advantage of the seller's return policy, buy bulk items, and then return them. For example, this can happen when customers order the same item in all sizes and colors and return more than half of what they bought.

This phenomenon worsens when the client returns the products after using them, to the point that you can no longer sell them. They can also return a product after using it partially or entirely, making it impossible to resell.

Another example is online retail renting. Here, someone buys an item, uses it for a short while then sends it back for a refund.

Think of all the online fashion hauls where individuals buy a ton of clothing to try them on, review them, record a video, earn attention, and then send them back. Customers put them on a few times—often for special occasions—then repackage and send them back.

Some clients go beyond clothes, try everything they want, and then return them. These can be electronics or devices they need to use on a one-time job. Although this is unethical, it is legal, so you must act or look for ways to stop it if you are an online retailer.

What is Return Fraud?

Return fraud is an extreme form of return activity. One of the most typical types of return fraud is price manipulation or price swapping. It alludes to the custom of exchanging a product for another before returning it.

Most frequently, persons who carry out this type of fraud will buy two things at different prices. Then they switch the packaging and return the cheaper item as the more expensive item while pocketing the price difference.

Return fraud can also be practiced by returning an item bought from another retailer at a discount, a fake or stolen item.

Another form of fraud is friendly fraud. This is whereby a customer purchases a product and then claims that it wasn't them. Or that they did not receive the product and requested a refund while they kept the product.

It is called friendly fraud, as the customer's claims may sound honest and convincing.

Frequently Asked Questions on What Amazon Does With Returns

1. Does Amazon check their returns?

Amazon checks their returns; however, the seriousness will depend on the type of item. This means they check if it's a high fraud item and whether the customer returns items often or has a clean account.

2. Can Amazon ban you for too many returns?

Yes, Amazon may ban your account if you keep on returning items. However, this happens if you return more than 10% of your purchases. Also, if you keep returning their products and there's little or no evidence of real problems.

3. Does Amazon ever reject returns?

Amazon can reject items returned without original documentation. Also, if you return products that have been damaged, resized, or altered in any way (for example, damaged hygiene seals), they are more likely to be rejected than not.

4. What happens if the Amazon return window is closed and you want to return an item?

If you are not completely satisfied with your purchase and want to return it after 30 days, submit a return request. Amazon can allow you to return a product after the 30-day window, but this is handled on a case-by-case basis.

5. Must I have to pay return shipping charges?

If Amazon fulfills the items, you will not pay for the return shipping charges. However, if you bought the product from a third-party seller and initiated the return through the Amazon return page, you may have to pay the shipping fees.

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