I shop online more than I do offline (the combination of being a mom with a new baby and covering the online retail landscape for a living will do that to a gal), so I consider myself fairly well-versed in online shopping norms. But today I encountered something new, which I have since discovered is not really new, but definitely new to me and worth mentioning both for its deal-factor-iness and for what it says about the online shopping landscape in general.
I’ve paid for Amazon Prime for at least two years, and it’s been an exceedingly good deal for me considering the amount of baby- and kid-related merchandise that I buy from the site. Last week, I ordered a pair of baby booties for my daughter (it’s high time she emerges from the land of onesie-only dressing to don some pants and shirts outfits, and booties that stay put are key to making that happen). I decided to try a new brand of bootie (I’d always used Zutano in the past, but there weren’t any available in the right size and also eligible for Prime shipping). When the pair I ordered, made by Magnificent Baby, arrived, I realized that they had magnetic closures instead of snaps.
For anyone who doesn’t have a baby, this will seem like a minor detail, but trust me, it’s almost impossible to keep booties on a small child without some kind of serious fastening device involved, and I was immediately skeptical about the magnet method. I could just see myself losing one the first time my daughter wore them, so I decided to return them (I’ve got a pretty stringent personal policy against keeping anything I buy or order unless it’s something I’ll really use).
When I went to print out the return label, I went through the usual steps only to be told by Amazon at the end of the process (see above) that I could just keep the item and expect a full refund in a few days. What? You mean I can just keep something and get my money back? That’s a new one.
I went looking for more information about this unusual return policy, and while I found nothing official on Amazon itself, I did run across this post from BargainBabe from last year. It seems that it’s something that Amazon offers for certain products in certain cases (perhaps baby items are the common denominator, as BargainBabe also ordered something for a little one). But her post generated several comments about other online retailers – including Cafe Press and Art.com – that occasionally allow shoppers to just keep items instead of dealing with the hassle of returns.
While I doubt this kind of return policy will become a trend among any other than the largest retailers, it is a strategy worth noting at a time when so many online stores are nervous (and rightly so) about Amazon’s continued power and reach.
There’s also a worthwhile discussion to be had about how a policy like this affects the sellers, a question that will require some additional hunting and something I hope to look into soon.
More online shopping news….