Finance Consumer Return to sender: Millions of people don’t send back unwanted purchases

Return to sender: Millions of people don’t send back unwanted purchases

A quick trip to the post office could mean more money in your bank account. Photo: Getty
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Almost one in two Australians haven’t returned an item they bought online even though they were dissatisfied with it, a new survey shows.

The popularity of online shopping soared during the pandemic, but Finder data from a survey of 1000 people shows 46 per cent of Australians – equivalent to 8.9 million people – are losing money by keeping items they don’t want.

Laziness (27 per cent), missing the return deadline (8 per cent) and not wanting to pay for postage (17 per cent) are among the top reasons consumers aren’t returning their unwanted online shopping.

Finder senior money editor Sarah Megginson said if an item is worth only $20 or $30, some shoppers might question whether it is worth the effort to return it at all.

But if this becomes a habit, the costs can quickly add up.

How to avoid keeping unwanted items

You are not always entitled to a refund if you’ve just changed your mind about a product, so Ms Megginson said it is crucial to read the fine print before you make a purchase you might regret.

“When the product doesn’t do what it’s meant to do, you have more rights,” she said.

“You can send it back and have a little bit more time on your side.”

Ms Megginson said if there’s a possibility you’ll decide not to keep the item you’ve bought, give yourself the best chance at getting your money back by being organised and planning ahead.

Popping a reminder of the return deadline in your diary or your phone’s calendar will help you send off the package in time.

What to do if you can’t make a return

If the online store doesn’t allow change-of-mind returns, or if you’ve missed the deadline, Ms Megginson said it doesn’t hurt to ask the retailer if they’ll make an exception to the rule.

She said this strategy worked for her in the past.

After becoming dissatisfied with an expensive pair of children’s school shoes five months after making the purchase online, the retailer gave her a gift voucher to buy a new pair.

Some retailers could view cases like that as a win-win, taking the hit in exchange for greater customer loyalty.

“They legally didn’t have to do anything, but they saw it as a good customer service move,” Ms Megginson said.

“And it was really smart, because I’ve got three kids [and] I’ve got 12 years of buying shoes for all of them.

“So that good kind of customer service experience means that they’ve got a customer for life out of me.”

But if asking the retailer to loosen the returns policy doesn’t work out, you can try to make the most of your unwanted purchase by giving it away as a gift.

You can also try your luck at clawing back some money by selling the item through online marketplaces such as eBay, Etsy, Facebook Marketplace, Gumtree or Amazon.

“You might not get the full amount back, but you’ll get a little bit of return,” Ms Megginson said.

She said the worst outcome is being haunted by your unwanted purchase sitting in a bag by the front door for months.