With shoppers expected to return $41.6 billion worth of merchandise bought online this November and December, according to a study by CBRE and Optoro, Amazon is looking to make returns processes easier by expanding free returns to “millions” of items — including electronics, household items, pet supplies and kitchen appliances — as long as they weigh under 50 pounds.
Previously, only clothing, shoes and bedding items were eligible for at least one free return. Customers could get full refunds on orders if the item was defective or something was wrong with the delivery.
The new policy kicks in retroactively, so it applies to any products purchased on Amazon starting Nov. 1 and remains active for any product purchased up until Dec. 31. Customers will have until Jan. 31 to return a product delivered in that time frame for free. Amazon says shoppers can return eligible items for any reason whatsoever and get a full refund.
Amazon says the expanded free return policy will remain in effect from 2020 onward, but customers will have only 30 days from the date of delivery to claim the free return instead of the full two-month window in effect throughout the holiday season.
Amazon will offer label-free and box-free returns for select purchases at more than 5,800 designated locations, including Amazon Hub lockers, Whole Foods and Kohl’s stores, as well as UPS stores and any of Amazon’s various brick-and-mortar bookstores and 4-star stores. The move is designed to limit the packaging used in returns and reduce pickups for drivers. In total, Amazon offers more than 18,000 no-cost return drop-off locations for customers.
Sustainability is becoming a bigger part of Amazon’s long-term initiatives, with the e-Commerce giant committing to net zero carbon by 2040 and 100% renewable energy by 2030. Returns generate 5 billion pounds of waste in U.S. landfills annually, per Optoro.
To start a return, customers select the item(s) to be returned and the reason for returning from the “Your Orders” page on Amazon.com or the Amazon mobile app. Customers then select from a list of return options, including at least one free option, and then drop off their item at a location within five miles of their delivery address. Most refunds are credited to customers’ accounts within two hours of the return being initiated, according to Amazon.