Three hundred and eighty billion dollars is a staggering amount money, by any standards. That's why it may surprise you to learn that this number doesn't represent the GDP of a small country, or the profit volume of the stock market. It's actually the total cost of retail return shipping on purchases made by consumers – shoppers just like you – in 2017. That's a lot of second thoughts! With the continual growth of online shopping, the practice of returns and refunds has become so big, there's a special industry term for it – "reverse logistics." A whole army of shippers, workers, and retail company employees dedicated to hitting the rewind button on that unwanted sweater you bought on a whim.
The Reverse Side of the Ecommerce Coin
Sure, online retail stores have made it easy to return your purchases, but you'll still have to put in effort to do so. Many times, you'll need to bring your package to a shipper like UPS or FedEx, which means an extra errand. You'll need to send it back within a certain time frame, and you might receive store credit instead of cash or credit back, once they process your return. Obviously, mistakes happen and reasons for buying could change unexpectedly, but your best bet for avoiding these steps is to stay in the right mindset for smart shopping.
Curb Your Emotions: Not Your Cart!
Keep an eye on the clock. Think of shopping the way you'd think about driving: you're going to have the best results when you're awake, alert, and able to focus on the task at hand. While it can be tempting to pull out your wallet for a late-night shopping binge, if it's something that can wait until you've had a good night's rest, it might be worth "sleeping on it."
Ask yourself if you want it for enduring reasons. Just like the age-old saying not to grocery shop while you're hungry, online shopping when you're in a very bad or very good mood could affect what goes into your cart. It's a familiar trope to pull out the credit card and soothe ruffled nerves with some online purchases, but just remember – putting a payment on credit is only delaying cost, not eliminating it.
Consider if it's actually a good deal. Sure, it's fun to toss things in your digital basket when shopping online, but cooler heads should prevail. Check product reviews and consumer reports, even if the item you're considering isn't particularly large or costly. If you feel pressured to buy it because it's on sale at a certain percentage off, make sure it's a deal worth jumping for, and not just an aggressive banner/email campaign designed to spur you to checkout.
Go beyond the site. The site you're shopping on, no matter what you're buying, is driven to get you to buy. While they have a returns process in place, a lot can happen between the sale and the return, and they're financially betting you won't make it all the way through. Instead, check aggregate shopping information websites, which rely on hosting a variety of useful, multi-company information to thrive.
Don't spend what you can't wait on. You've heard the old saying "don't invest what you can't lose," right? Think of retail shopping the same way. If an order going awry or a shipment delay (coming or going) could put you in a bad spot financially, hold off on hitting checkout. Some return processes can keep your money in limbo for days or even weeks, even after your item is put back in the mail for a return. Be sure to read up on return policies before hitting that buy button to avoid financial tangles, just in case you do have to return that online purchase.
Smart shopping is about more than online shopping price comparison tools, or "pausing" something on a wishlist before taking the financial plunge. It's about approaching your online browsing thoughtfully and buying for the right reasons. Sure, get excited and have fun – that's what eCommerce is about, after all – but use these tips to keep your returns and refund drama minimized. A "slow and steady" means that amazing deal will be that much more memorable when you find it!