Executive Briefings

Many Unhappy Returns? Online Holiday Shopping’s Big Hangover

Kristina Nicolas will proudly tell you that she’s been doing practically all her shopping online for years now. She will also tell you, in a more exasperated voice, that this has not remotely abbreviated the amount of time she spends going to stores.

“It has become a huge errand and a huge part of my life having to get all this stuff back to where it came from,” said Nicolas, a stay-at-home mother and former fashion buyer. She receives about 10 to 15 boxes per week of merchandise at her home in Chicago, and returns (or tries to return) about 30 percent.

The ease of the task varies.

“Sometimes it can be returned to the store, but sometimes it cannot,” said Nicolas, growing louder. “Sometimes it’s UPS, or DHL, or FedEx, or however they shipped it, then you have to print up a label, and I never seem to have the right tape.”

And who has a working printer at home anyway? “I don’t really need one except for this,” said Beth Paholak, a TV producer who has sacrificed a corner of her small apartment in Manhattan to boxes awaiting return. “And I’m not buying a printer just for returns.”

The paradox of e-commerce now is that while acquiring items has gotten easier than ever before, exchanging or returning the unwanted ones remains an epic, tyrannical time suck.

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“It has become a huge errand and a huge part of my life having to get all this stuff back to where it came from,” said Nicolas, a stay-at-home mother and former fashion buyer. She receives about 10 to 15 boxes per week of merchandise at her home in Chicago, and returns (or tries to return) about 30 percent.

The ease of the task varies.

“Sometimes it can be returned to the store, but sometimes it cannot,” said Nicolas, growing louder. “Sometimes it’s UPS, or DHL, or FedEx, or however they shipped it, then you have to print up a label, and I never seem to have the right tape.”

And who has a working printer at home anyway? “I don’t really need one except for this,” said Beth Paholak, a TV producer who has sacrificed a corner of her small apartment in Manhattan to boxes awaiting return. “And I’m not buying a printer just for returns.”

The paradox of e-commerce now is that while acquiring items has gotten easier than ever before, exchanging or returning the unwanted ones remains an epic, tyrannical time suck.

Read Full Article