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How Some Companies Are Innovating to Take the Hassle Out of Returns

Online shopping is easier than ever, but returning something you buy online can be a real hassle. The NBC4 I-Team's consumer investigator Randy Mac learned some companies are changing that. 

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Stefanie Schiff knows that returning items she buys online isn’t always easy. 

“I have to go to UPS, stand in line, it’s a whole hassle,” said Schiff.

But now, returning items is becoming hassle-free.

Some retailers are partnering with services like UPS 360 and Happy Returns. The industry has dubbed them “no box, no label” services, because you drop off your return at a UPS or FedEx location with no packaging or shipping label. You simply show them a QR code, issued by the retailer, and they package and ship the return. 

Amazon is making returns easier, too. You can drop them off at Whole Foods or Kohl’s. You don’t need a box or label for those returns, either. 

And now, a new Santa Monica startup is taking the returns process a step further. 

“There’s beren kind of a PTSD around returns, and we want to be the complete opposite of that,” said Kristian Zak.

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Zak founded Returnmates with Eric Wimer. The company picks up your returns right from your home – either at your doorstep or you can hand it to them in person. You upload the shipping label to their website, they do the printing and packing, and they ship it off. 

The service isn’t free. Some of their retail partners pick up the tab, but otherwise you’ll pay $15 a month for unlimited pickups, or $6 each. They believe consumers come out ahead. 

“If you don’t return one thing that’s $100, you basically pay for almost a year of Returnmates,” said Wimer. 

Schiff says she was one of their first customers. 

“I would lose like hundreds of dollars being like, ‘Oh I didn’t make it to the post office,’ or ‘I don’t want to do this,’” said Schiff. 

Katherine Cullen with the National Retail Federation says retailers want to make returns as easy as possible because it builds customer loyalty. 

Cullen says roughly 18% of retailers are partnering, or planning to partner, with one of these services, and she sees that number growing.

“This entire part of the customer experience is one where we’re seeing a lot of innovations, where we really are seeing retailers pay attention to that as part of the customer's journey and a way to build those customer relationships,” said Cullen. 

She says when customers use these services, they often get their refund quicker, too – at the time the return is dropped off or picked up, instead of when it’s processed at the retailer’s warehouse. That’s just one more perk for consumers like Schiff. 

“It’s like before you had the internet on your phone, and you’re like, ‘Who needs it?’ But then you have it and you’re like, ‘How did anyone not be able to search the web?’ That’s how I feel about this. It’s a game changer,” said Schiff. 

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