ORLANDO, Fla. - Free shipping, coupons, email alerts: All those good deals have turned many shop-a-holics into return-a-holics. Stores are now keeping tabs and cracking down, even banning some shoppers.
[WEB EXTRA: Cracking down on online returns]
A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is if you return 10 items for every one you buy, beware -- stores will start taking action. That's because they're losing $375 billion every year on returned orders.
Daily mail delivery has transformed Magda Walczak's home into a virtual dressing room. If what's inside a package doesn't fit, she simply fills out the return label, packs it up and sends it back, usually for free.
"I would say that about half the things that I actually buy I end up returning," said Walczak.
But lately, if she decides to return one of those online orders to the actual store, the clerk says, "You know, you don't have to buy online. You can just come to the store and you can try everything on."
Tiffany Scarborough said she's actually been banned from shopping at Target.
"If I need to return something to Target, I ask my husband to return it because he hasn't had as many returns as I do," said Scarborough.
Returns have become such a problem that stores are hiring companies like The Retail Equation and Agil-One. Agil-One actually keeps tabs on 525 million customers and said they flag about 1 percent as "return-a-holics."
So if you do return too many items too often, what can happen to you? Some stores will revoke your free shipping offers. Other companies may start charging a re-stocking fee which, by state law, can be up to 50 percent of the sale price.
But stores, like Modnique.com, are taking a more proactive approach. Instead of sending coupons for shoes and clothes, they'll offer deals on jewelry and beauty products, which are sent back less often.
QVC, the popular home shopping network, now emails instructional videos in hopes that understanding how to use an item will make you want to keep it.
Then there's True Fit, a free service offered by retailers like Macy's, Nordstrom and jean designers on their websites.
Customers enter in the brand, size and style of the jeans they currently have in their closets. They then answer height, weight and "body type" questions, and voila -- a list of the jeans that are supposed to fit the best.
While more stores are doing more to protect their bottom lines, Walczak said if an item she orders doesn't fit or she doesn't like it, she needs to do what's right for her.
"I'll be mindful of taking advantage of the offers that I receive, but I don't think it's going to make me shop any less or return any less," said Walczak.
Stores aren't just looking to punish the chronic returners. They're also offering deals to those who don't return. The more items you keep, the more likely you will get special email offers and invitations to special sales events.
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