A glimmer of hope in the returns fraud wasteland

We delve into consumers’ perceptions of returns fraud and test a potential solution

Ho, ho, ho, everybody! With holiday peak season well underway and returns season lurking in the wings, this month we’re reprising one of our most popular BOXpoll topics to date: returns fraud.

Last year, we presented respondents with different types of returns fraud—as well as other behaviors that hurt retailers’ bottom lines but don’t quite count as fraud—and asked how acceptable they thought the average consumer found each behavior. (In our experience, consumers are much more honest about judging other people’s attitudes and behavior than their own.)

This year, we’re again asking how acceptable different types of returns fraud and policy abuse are. While we kept two of our scenarios from last year, we introduced two scenarios that are becoming increasingly common in the world of returns fraud: shipping back either no item or the wrong item to get a refund while keeping the item.

Here’s what we found:

Key takeaways:

  • Consistent with our findings from last year, about half as many consumers who are okay with bracketing (otherwise known as wardrobing) find real returns fraud acceptable.
  • Returns fraud is consistently a younger shopper’s game—GenZ and Millennials are more than 10 percentage points more likely than their older counterparts to be okay with lying about a delivery or shipping back no item/a different item to get refund.
  • Both scenarios we brought back this year (bracketing and incorrectly reporting a purchase as missing) received consistent responses year-over-year, showing only nominal increases (within the margin of error) in levels of overall acceptability.

Then, we gauged the effectiveness of no-box/no-label returns as a fraud deterrent by asking whether an inspection at drop-off would make their experience more difficult.

Key takeaways:

  • Participants who expressed acceptance of fraud in our previous question were 10% more likely to find returns inspection difficult than their straight-edge counterparts. After all, it’s harder to successfully slap a return label on a box of rocks and get a refund when that box of rocks has to pass muster first.
  • The same demographics who find fraud more acceptable—GenZ and Millennials—are also more likely to find returns inspection difficult, as well as the largest share of online shoppers. This adds another layer of complexity to the issue, as retailers strive to strike the right balance between fraud prevention and ensuring a positive customer experience for these key target audiences.

BOXpollTM by Pitney Bowes, a weekly consumer survey on current events, culture, and ecommerce logistics. Conducted by Pitney Bowes with Morning Consult // 2200 US consumers surveyed October 2023. © Copyright Pitney Bowes Inc.

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