What happens to your returns?

LogoIn last Friday’s post, I shared some of the reasons why I prefer shopping for clothes in person rather than online. Today, I want to discuss what I consider to be another very big strike against online shopping.

Do you know what happens to the items that you return? In far too many cases, they end up in the landfill! That’s right! It’s estimated that more than 25% of all returns go into the garbage! I was shocked and appalled when a reader brought this to my attention.

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In a time when people are doing more than ever before to protect the environment, consumers usually don’t realize that their online shopping habits could be undoing a lot of the good that they are doing in other areas. While it might be convenient to order a pair of jeans in two or three different sizes, keep the one that fits, and return the others, most people would probably think twice about doing that if they knew that the pairs they are returning might end up in the garbage.

So why is this happening? It’s all about money, of course. It costs companies more to employ the people required to check returns for damage and, in the case of clothing, to re-press and repackage each item than it does to simply incinerate them or throw them in the dumpster. Not only does the environment suffer, but we, the consumers, end up paying more for products because retailers have to increase their prices to recoup their losses.

So how big is this problem? In Canada alone, we are returning $46 billion worth of goods every year. In the US, over 4 billion pounds of brand new returned apparel end up in the landfills annually. That’s approximately the equivalent to every family in the country throwing one laundry load of clothing in the garbage every year. This dirty little secret isn’t exclusively an online shopping problem. About 5 to 10 percent of in-store purchases are returned, but that rises to 15 to 40 percent for purchases made online. Clothing and shoes bought online typically have the highest rates with 30 to 40 percent returned.

If I wasn’t already committed to shopping in person, I definitely would be after looking into this! I learn a lot from my readers, so please keep the comments coming. 🙂

4 thoughts on “What happens to your returns?

  1. Wow, I had no idea what happens to returns, either online or in a store. I shop at local Goodwill stores and find new items from local retailers like Kohls and Target. They must send their out of season items to Goodwill. Someone could use those items being returned. It is almost criminal to just throw them away. Now I sound like my mother…and that’s not a bad thing!

    • Unfortunately, many fashion brands, especially high end ones, don’t send their returns to discount or thrift stores because they want to remain exclusive and not be associated with the second-hand shopping crowd. Sad!

  2. This is really eye opening. Especially during this last few months, when online shopping has increased so much. I am glad I did not succumb to the lure….. i too prefer to touch and feel, try on, because sizing often differs widely.

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