Just curious: what happens to returns?
November 15, 2016 9:00 PM   Subscribe

I order things online all the time, especially clothing, and often send back most of what I ordered. What happens to this stuff?

Sometimes I receive items that have clearly been re-packaged but it's very rare. Mostly they look like they're in their original sealed plastic packages, with their original branded hangers etc.

A couple of times I have received things in sealed packs but it was the completely wrong item. Once I got a pair of jeans in a sealed plastic bag marked as the dress i ordered. Another time, I got the right shoebox but inside was a completely different pair of shoes.

How does this stuff happen?
Where do my returns go?
What about things I've ordered from say the UK and have a local return address here in Australia? I cant believe it would be worth their while to send a $20 dress from asos back to the UK...but where does it go instead?
posted by stellathon to Grab Bag (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I used to work for a major online retailer.

Returns: good condition are packaged up and resold. We had a tailor on site to fix things like missing sequins so we could resell. Some stuff is de-fuzzed or etc before being rewrapped in plastic.

Damages items were either returned to the vendor, sold to employees at a discount, or sent to our off-price division.

Jeans marked as dress: this is probably but not for certain the vendors fault. When stock arrived we audited a small portion, it all looked good, so it got shelved. Single items are picked and packed by "the singles machine" and often no one is checking the pack slip vs the label vs the item to make sure it's all matched up.

Wrong shoes: possibly another customer ordered both, mixed them up at return. The returns team was sloppy and just looked and said "yep shoes" before returning to the shelf. OR the vendor messed up and put the wrong shoes in the wrong box or the wrong label on the box and it was missed on the intake audit.

Edit: we had a very high rate of returns, which is pretty normal
posted by Amanda B at 9:28 PM on November 15, 2016 [9 favorites]

Should have gotten this all out the first time! ASOS has domestic warehouses in many countries, and I believe that is where returns go vs back to the UK
posted by Amanda B at 9:34 PM on November 15, 2016

Certain wine of the month clubs' in the US returns get returned to regional outlet shops (they're not explicitly called that) instead of the warehouse. They're then checked to make sure they aren't opened or the labels aren't damaged and resold, often as part of a huge sale (like 70% off).
posted by Gygesringtone at 6:08 AM on November 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

I used to work for a UK retailer that sold things that... weren't clothes, mostly kitchen stuff. Returns, as long as they weren't faulty, would be put on a spreadsheet and offered to staff for discounts of 50% or more. E.g. you got a coffee maker you didn't want for £100 and used it once. It would be offered to us for £50, first come first serve.

Faulty items were sent back.

Cheaper items that broke were thrown away. Old electronics were recycled.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 6:16 AM on November 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

In re: the return address, I used to work for a book wholesale distributor that did consumer direct fulfillment for many online websites (including Amazon.) We had boxes and labels from the website, so we packed and shipped books from our warehouses that looked like they were coming from Amazon/Overstock/BestBuy/whatever. So your items may be being shipped from closer than you think.
posted by lyssabee at 7:14 AM on November 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

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