As The World (Re)Turns: Shoppers Returned Over $400 Billion In Merchandise In 2020!

FILE - Women carry shopping bags, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020, in New York. Shoppers, who can't touch or feel products they're ordering, are expected to return items during the holiday season at a rate double from last year, costing retailers roughly $1.1 billion, according to Narvar Inc., a software and technology company that manages online returns for hundreds of brands. That puts retailers in a conundrum: they don't want the returns, but they also want to make shoppers feel comfortable to freely buy without worry. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Want to hear a stat that will make your head spin? Consumers returned, yes, returned over $428 billion worth of merchandise they bought in 2020. Over 10% of items purchased in the past year were sent back.

Now here’s the really crazy part of the story; many of the big retailers like Amazon and Walmart don’t even want the crap back. And yes, that means even after they’ve issued a refund.

For anyone that’s purchased something online you have to admit, it’s easy to return things if you don’t want them. So easy, that returns more than doubled in 2020 from 2019.  That is a staggering piece of data, but it does make sense when you consider how much online shopping was done in 2020 because of the pandemic.

E-commerce along accounted for $565 billion of total sales nationwide, and roughly $102 billion of it was returned.

On top of 10% of items being returned to retailers, they faced another big problem. Fraud. In 2020, almost 6% of all returns ended up being fraudulent, which is almost $25.3 billion.

If you’re wondering why retailers would issue a refund and not even care if you returned the item, it’s very simple. In many cases it costs more to pay for the return shipping and the man hours processing the return than the product was worth. Mega retailers like Amazon and Walmart utilize artificial intelligence to help determine the cost benefit of a return, and if it’s worth getting the item back.

Target is one big box retailer who in some cases tells people to donate the item they don’t want anymore. If nothing else, you will have plenty of gifts for a white elephant gift exchange next Christmas. 

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