Rejecting Your Returns - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

11/25/04

Rejecting Your Returns

Now that shopping season is upon us, most of us will race at top speed to get gifts for everyone on our list. That doesn't leave much time for discriminating buying. No big deal. If you change your mind, you'll simply bring the stuff back, right? Maybe... Maybe not. A little known retail trend may leave you rejected at the returns counter, even if you have a receipt and are within the time limit.

Kimberly Beetlestone loves to shop, but says her time is very limited. "I run in, I run out. I really don't have time to try on clothes, so whatever catches my eye, I grab," says Kimberly Beetlestone. Then, if something doesn't fit right, she brings it back. No problem. Until one day... "I brought my two items up to the counter and basically they said 'you're over your limit.''"

That's right. Kimberly had reached her so called return limit and the store refused to take back the clothes. "I had the receipt. I had the tags," says Kimberly. "They were unworn. Once the clerk told me that I had too many returns, I was basically shocked." Shocked to learn that some retailers actually track returns. They know how many, when, if you had a receipt and the return amount.

"I don't think customers know that their returns are being tracked right now, and there are national chains that are doing it," says Frances Smith of Consumer Alert.

Some retailers do the tracking themselves. Others hire an outside company called The Return Exchange. Officials there said no to our request for an interview, but did send us a video statement explaining what they do. "We look for fraud or abusive behaviors on product returns through the frequency of return, the amount of time, the amount of dollars that they spend," says Mark Hammond, CEO of The Return Exchange. And the National Retail Federation says stores battle a whopping 16-billion dollars worth of return fraud every year.

"It forces them to raise prices for the more than 99 percent of their honest loyal customers," says Scott Krugman of the National Retail Federation.

But it's those honest, loyal customers consumer advocates are worried about. "It looks like some legitimate customers, legitimate returns, might be getting snared in some of those tracking systems," says Smith.

So, how do you know if you're being watched? One big hint: "If you're making a return or an exchange and you're asked to hand over your driver's license that company is using the return exchange or they have an internal way of keeping track of return activity," says Jordana Beebe of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

Experts say before you buy, ask, "Is there a return limit?" and, "Are you tracking my returns?" You can even find out whether the return exchange has a history on you.

If there is one, get a copy. "See exactly what kind of history they have about you to give you a better idea of the stores that may revoke your privilege to make a return in the future," says Beebe.

Kimberly ordered hers. Turns out she made eight returns to the same retailer in the last year, including the one the store initially refused. She complained to corporate and was eventually allowed an exchange. Regardless, from now on... "I'm going to make sure that I ask that retailer, you know, what their limit is as far as returns and tracking before I make that purchase," says Kimberly.

While Kimberly did get to exchange the item, the store told her she couldn't return anything else for at least 60 days. To order your return history report - simply call The Return Exchange at 1-800-652-2331 - and ask if there is a return history on you. If there is, the company will send it to you for free

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