The 5 most hated online return experiences

Why do customers HATE certain return experiences? We asked and they shared.

the worst return experiences online

Today, we’re going to shine a light on the brands with the most hated online return experiences. In this post, we’ll share exactly why customers won’t be shopping at these businesses again.

Last week we published the five brands with the most loved online return experiences, based on a survey of over 300 online consumers. This time we are going over the top five most hated return experiences from that survey.

1. Amazon

You may have noticed that Amazon appears on our most hated as well as our most loved online return experiences list. Again, because Amazon is the largest online retailer in the world, it’s not surprising to see that the company draws both praise and criticism from its customers. We found out exactly what it was about Amazon’s return experience that made survey respondents unhappy. 

What customers hate about Amazon’s return experience:

  • Inconsistent return experience. Amazon has millions of sellers on its marketplace, and many of them enforce their own return policies - rather than using the one Amazon provides. This means that the return experience can look vastly different depending on who the customer purchases from. As one respondent describes: “It took a long time to get the approval to return the product I bought because I got it from an individual seller who didn't want to cooperate.”

  • Too much burden on the customer. Respondents also don’t like how much of the return process they have to handle on their own. In addition to figuring out each vendor’s specific return policy, they frequently have to print out their own return label and buy packaging for the product they’re shipping back. “I had to do all the work to do the return,” said one respondent.

2. Shein

Shein is a women’s apparel brand known for its low-cost and fast-fashion clothing. Despite its affordable prices, the business has created an online return experience that’s attracting a lot of criticism from its customers.  

Why customers hate Shein’s return experience:

  • Inherent distrust of customers. According to one respondent: “Shein asks for pictures with measurements (like with an actual ruler) to return an item.” This demand indicates that Shein doesn’t trust its customers, which is made apparent throughout its return experience. These rigid policies can deter customers from making a return in the first place which, as we’ll discuss later in the post, is terrible for the business. 

  • Don’t pay for return shipping. Customers already feel disgruntled when a brand puts the cost of return shipping on them. But they feel even more upset when the fee is higher than the price of the actual purchase! “Shein’s clothes are so cheap. But since I have to pay for shipping, it’s not even worth it to return,” said one respondent.  

  • Confusing return policy. The last thing you want is for a customer to read your return policy and come away with more questions than answers. Unfortunately, that’s how respondents felt about Shein’s return page. “It was too complicated, and it was unclear if you could return certain items.”

3. Apple

This one may surprise you. After all, Apple is known for its sleek, easy-to-use products and seamless customer experience. Unfortunately, that awesome experience doesn’t seem to extend to its return process. 

Why customers hate Apple’s return experience:

  • Too many return restrictions. Customers had a lot to say about this one, so we’ll let them do the talking: “They often sell out of a product, and if you've purchased in-store something that’s now sold out, there’s no opportunity to exchange.”Apple creates a lot of red tape before allowing me to make a return. When I finally went into the store, they didn't let me actually return.” “It took forever to get to the right person, and when I did, said that I couldn’t return the item since it wasn’t covered under warranty - according to a loophole they created.”

  • Short return window. Customers were also not thrilled about Apple’s super short return window, which is only 14 days long. “I can only make a return in the first two weeks, and sometimes they send your product to be ‘inspected at an off-site location’ before they even consider the refund," Explained one respondent. Many respondents were also complaining about refunds being sent to them through the mail rather than being handled electronically.

4. Wayfair

Wayfair is an online home goods and furniture store. While creating a top-notch return experience for a furniture brand is already a big challenge, Wayfair unfortunately doesn’t do itself any favors with its existing policies and processes. 

Why customers hate Wayfair’s return experience:

  • Logistical challenges. The most common complaints that customers had about Wayfair were related to logistics - whether that was not getting a refund, receiving damaged products, or even figuring out a way to ship back larger items. One respondent said: “I had to pay for the shipping, but the item got lost and I never received store credit.” According to other respondents: “A broken product was too heavy and difficult to ship for return. We got a new product, but we were stuck with an old one.” And “the product kept arriving damaged, but Wayfair didn’t want to take it back and just kept sending other items instead.”

  • Bad customer support. When these logistical problems arise, you want to have a top-notch customer support team to step in and resolve the problem for the customer. Unfortunately, most respondents indicated that Wayfair’s customer support team wasn’t very responsive or helpful.

5. Aritzia

Aritizia is a Candian apparel brand for women. Even though the brand’s trendy and fashionable clothing is very popular, many customers indicated being dissatisfied with its return experience - an obstacle that may make people think twice before making another purchase. 

Why customers hate Aritzia’s return experience:

  • High return shipping fee. According to our respondents, Aritzia charges an astoundingly high return shipping fee of $8. As we mentioned before, this can deter customers from returning a product at all, which can be harmful to the brand. 

  • Inflexible policies. Customers had a long laundry list of complaints when it came to Aritzia’s rigid approach to returns. Here’s a sample of some of the inflexible policies: no returns on any sales items discounted 50% or more; customers must call or email the support team to receive a return shipping label; and everything must be returned within a 14-day return window.

Top learnings from our survey

After analyzing all the responses, here are the most important things brands shouldn’t do if they want their customers to shop with them again.

1. Don’t charge for return shipping

As we mentioned in our other post, customers love it when brands cover the cost of return shipping. We’re seeing the same trend emerge when it comes to what makes customers hate a brand’s return experience: charging for return shipping. 

Our survey data supports this as well: we found that 74% of customerswould be hesitant to shop from a brand that charges them for return shipping. Many times, even if a customer still chooses to shop with your brand, they’ll end up keeping a product they don’t want (90% of customers have done this). 

This is terrible for your business, and here’s why: if a customer isn’t in love with the product they have, they’re very unlikely to make a repeat purchase or tell their friends about you. This leads to lower AOV and LTV, as well as fewer opportunities for organic customer acquisition.

2. Don’t put the burden on your customers

Making your customers do all the work when it comes to returns makes it likely that they won’t shop with you again. That’s why 92% of consumers have stated that they’ll buy something again if returns are easy - while the rest won’t bother coming back. 

This includes forcing customers to reach out to the support team, print a return label (even though 30% of households don’t own a printer), provide their own packaging for the product, and pay for return shipping.

This sends a clear signal that your brand doesn’t care about making customers happy and is just looking to pass the buck when it comes to costs and logistics. This will inevitably leave customers with a bad taste in their mouths and make it unlikely that they’ll shop with you again - let alone recommend your brand to others.

3. Don’t be rigid with your return policy

What does a rigid policy look like? Based on our survey responses, here are a few things to leave out of your return policy:

By comparing and contrasting the learnings from the most hated brands and the most loved online brands, you should come away with a clear idea of what makes for a customer-centric and positive return experience. Want to make sure your return experience is one that customers rave about? Loop is here to help.