Report: Retailers Tracking Customer Returns Through Third Party to Deny Refunds

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Retailers are quietly keeping score of the refund history of customers in a trend toward suspending return policies for unsatisfied customers.

Best Buy is one of the many retailers employing services like The Retail Equation. Using an undisclosed method, the company tracks customers who return items just before closing time, return items that are often stolen, and even those who merely return things too often.

Despite the average rate of fraudulent returns hovering around a mere one percent, retailers have decided this is enough excuse to require scanning your driver’s license before they will follow their own touted company policies. It isn’t without excuse — according to the NBC report, roughly $22.8 billion is lost annually in fraudulent returns. Unfortunately, aggressive tactics like these not only inconvenience legitimate customers but invade their privacy.

Jake Zakhar is one such example. A Best Buy customer who claims to have recently spent $5,000 on appliances in the store, he was banned from returning any product for a full year after trying to return three cell phone cases he bought as Christmas gifts and attempted to return well within the supposed 90-day return policy.

The retailer’s response to his tweet wasn’t encouraging:

But Zakhar had done just that, to no avail, after which, he was told by Best Buy that they “regretablly” (sic) were “unable to override the decisions from TRE.”

Putting aside the ludicrous nature of the response — a company which cannot override decisions made by one of their own contractors — it was an especially blunted example of the excuses used to treat consumers as suspects.

In all likelihood, the outcry against these practices will not be enough to change minds at the top of the national chains that employ companies like TRE. If consumers want to gain back some level of courtesy from the businesses that serve them, the pressure will need to go beyond a few tweets.


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