Saturday, June 16, 2012

Parents of young children must be bad customers

As parents of a 6-month-old, we’ve had occasion to go shopping. A lot. We’ve hit a few local stores—Magic Beans (three locations), Henry Bear’s Park (two locations), Tadpole, Isis (two locations), Wild Child, Giggle, Baby Warehouse, Bellini (two locations)—and it’s been rather startling how restrictive the return policies are. The last one we went into was limited to 14 days, with a receipt, for store credit only.

This suggests that returns are a huge problem for these stores. Are parents doing retail renting? Experiencing buyer’s remorse? Discovering that products aren’t as good as advertised? Or just shopping on Amazon after they get an item home and finding it cheaper there, or showing it off at a playdate only to be told there’s a better choice in that product category, or finding that their child has outgrown the item in just a few weeks (since a lot of baby products are only good for a very brief developmental stage)?

Amazon goes the other way, offering 365-day returns on a lot of baby purchases. They may be counting on a lot of baby purchases being bulky and a pain (or expensive) to ship back, or they may have found that customers buy more when they feel more protected by a generous return policy. Babies R Us keeps track of your purchases for you, takes returns for 90 days, and goes outside that when pressed. But the local stores really act like they’ve been burned repeatedly.

Perhaps we’ve been insanely lucky so far (or very undiscriminating), but we haven’t wanted to return almost anything. We only returned a few outfits that we received duplicates of, and a travel bassinet that the manufacturer said wasn’t safe to use. We enjoy passing along to friends items that David has outgrown, and there are plenty of local swap or donation options if that ever fails. I know this, but I still wonder about a place that only offers store credit for a product returned the next week unopened.

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