Buyer Beware: Here’s How Some Retailers Are Holding Your Returns Against You

As we move farther and farther into the digital age, we are watched more closely than ever – and that now includes retailers.
Buyer Beware: Here's How Some Retailers Are Holding Your Returns Against You

Whether something doesn’t fit, doesn’t look right, or wasn’t made properly, you have plenty of reasons to return an item you’ve bought to the store. It’s something as normal to you as sending a dish back at a restaurant, right? Well, not for much longer, according to the Wall Street Journal.

As we move farther and farther into the digital age, we are watched more closely than ever — and that now includes our returns.

You’ve probably heard of companies giving your information to third-party apps or companies, right? Well, even your return habits are being sent to a third party called The Retail Equation, and that information is being used by the stores you love to shop at. 

 The Retail Equation program helps stores to evaluate customers’ return behaviour and ban those who return too many products.

The principle behind the practice is this: major companies like Home Depot and Victoria’s Secret want to keep an eye on the frequency at which a single customer returns products. They’re looking for risks to their companies, since the numbers show that 92.5% of retailers have experienced a form of “return fraud.”

Essentially, they want to make sure they’re not being scammed.


Does a customer return things on a regular basis? How much do they get back, and in what form? These are all things that are now being monitored by your ID. The Retail Equation will build a shopping and return history using your identification to keep track of you. If something in their algorithm is triggered, they can deny you your money back.

“A Home Depot representative, Matt Harrigan, noted that to combat return fraud, the home improvement retailer uses the Retail Equation database only for returns made without a receipt,” reports NPR.

According to the NPR, retailers use it to prevent retail crime.”There were organized retail crime rings, and those crimes negatively affect the entire community.”


The problem, however, is that this database is not perfect.

For example, the Wall Street Journal reports, Best Buy customer Jake Zakhar ran into a snag in the system after he returned three phone cases to the big box store. Like many of us, he bought a few extra than he needed and planned to return the ones his sons didn’t want. However, upon speaking to an associate at Best Buy, he was told that he was banned from shopping and exchanging anything at Best Buy for a year.

There is some good news, however: The Retail Equation has a step-by-step process to help customers like Jake. Emailing them is the first step to appealing your case, and also to obtaining your Retail Equation Report.

Even so, some customers are still having trouble, as evidenced by TRE’s one-star rating on Yelp. One user wrote, “This company is the worst company I have dealt with in the last 20 years.”

The Retail Equation currently has a class action lawsuit against them.

Featured image:bellaellaboutique via Flickr 

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