Returns and Exchanges…the True Test of Customer Service

Earlier in the week, I finally bit the bullet and ordered a pair of sandals that I have been wanting for a while.  They have gotten a ton of really great reviews on lots of different websites, and I was so excited to finally try them for myself.  In order to get the color and size that I wanted, I had to order from the actual company that makes the sandals (I would normally order shoes from Zappos because of their amazing shipping/returns/exchanges policy…but I’m getting ahead of myself).  When I got to the end of my order, it said I would have to pay $6.95 in shipping, but the price of the sandals was about five dollars cheaper than it had been at Zappos, so I completed my order.

Yesterday, the package arrived.  I was thrilled at how fast it had come, and all the way from California at that!  Well, as is often the case with me and shoes, they didn’t fit quite right.  So I dug through the box to find a return shipping label–and there was none to be found.  On the receipt inside the box, however, it stated their return/exchange policy, which read something like (and I’m parahrasing):

“Returns: You can mail your unworn sandals back to the address above.  When we receive the package, we will refund you your money back.  Exchanges: Mail your unworn sandals to the address above, and write the size and color of the sandals you would like in exchange for them on this receipt.  When we receive the package, we will send out your new sandals.  Note: there will be a $4.95 re-shipping fee for all exchanges.”

So let me get this straight.  Not only do I have to go down to the post office and pay to mail the package back to the company (which I’m assuming will cost $6.95 but hey, ya never know–could be more!), but then, just to do the exchange, I have to pay a random $5 fee too?  That means I am now paying $12 more than I originally paid for the sandals.  Suffice it to say, I was not a happy camper at this prospect.

Here’s what I decided to do.  I went on Zappos, and sure enough, although they had not had the size/color that I thought I needed initially, they did have the other size that I realized I needed after trying on the original pair.  And, as I’m sure you know, they have a drastically different approach to shipping, returns, and exchanges.  Also known as…..FREE shipping, FREE returns, FREE exchanges.  I ordered the new pair off of Zappos, and will be returning the sandals that I originally ordered for a refund.  Still going to have to eat that $6.95 or however much it will cost to ship them back to California, but at least I won’t have to deal with a re-shipping fee, or worse, have to go through the whole thing again if the other size doesn’t work either.

Here’s the thing.  If you are an online retailer, you need to have an amazing policy in these areas.  Because really, that is the whole nature of your business.  You don’t have a physical store where people can take multiple sizes into a dressing room with them and pick which one fits the best.  They are sometimes going to have to return the original item to you in order to have you send them a different size (in fact, this will probably happen all the time).  And if you make that process difficult, let alone expensive, for them, they’re not going to be happy–and they probably will never use you again.  Am I overreacting?  Perhaps.  But I guess after dealing with some really amazing companies that really know how to handle these types of things, I have pretty high standards when it comes to customer service.  We all should, because in this day and age, online retailers need to get with the program in order to stay competitive.