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Jim MacDiarmid
(jrmacd) - MLife
Sleeping bag Return Shipping Etiquette on 03/09/2009 16:40:21 MDT Print View

I'm looking to order a new sleeping bag online. None of them are available in s physical store for me to try out side by side, so I will probably order all 3 I'm looking at, keep one, and ship back the other two.

My query is, is it acceptable to ship the bags back in their stuff sacks rather than loose? It will take 2 days in transit. It will cost half as much (or less) to ship them back if they are stuffed and in a smaller box rather than loose in a bigger box.

I've never ordered a bag online before. Would I be violating a code of ethics to ship them back compressed?

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Sleeping bag Return Shipping Etiquette on 03/09/2009 16:57:52 MDT Print View

Ship them back the same way you receive them. If they come stuffed, send them back that way. Not going to make that big of a shipping price difference though.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Sleeping bag Return Shipping Etiquette on 03/09/2009 17:01:01 MDT Print View

James,
I just ran some numbers through the UPS site for 3 scenarios

I started with a 3# package, valued at $400, UPS Ground, My Packaging, from California to Colorado, paid for at a UPS depot (no account).

Package #1 was 24"x14"x12" - what I received a sleeping bag in.
Package #2 was 12"x14"x12" - a "smaller" box.
Package #3 was 12"x12"x6" - a "much smaller" box.

In all three cases the cost was $12.35.

Edited by greg23 on 03/09/2009 17:02:51 MDT.

Jim MacDiarmid
(jrmacd) - MLife
Re: Re: Sleeping bag Return Shipping Etiquette on 03/09/2009 17:13:12 MDT Print View

Thanks. I know UPS has some weight to box size ratio that can increase the cost for a light package in a big box, but I was having trouble figuring out how that worked, and where it kicked it. But if 24"x14"x12" costs the same as the other size boxes, I should be safe.

Of course, if i hadn't missed the backcountry frenzy, I'd just have myself a megalite right now and all this would be moot.

Thanks for the input.

Joe Kuster
(slacklinejoe) - MLife

Locale: Flatirons
Sleeping bag Return Shipping Etiquette on 03/09/2009 19:20:20 MDT Print View

FYI: You get a "large box fee" with UPS at 42".

As said before, return it as it came, hopefully with all packaging and in mint condition.

(My personal opinion) It's an unethical move to order gear that way..... Not all stores can eat the cost of consumer's flipant returns like REI can, especially the cottage manufacturers.

Robert Bryant
(KG4FAM) - F

Locale: Upstate
Re: Sleeping bag Return Shipping Etiquette on 03/09/2009 19:26:38 MDT Print View

"(My personal opinion) It's an unethical move to order gear that way..... Not all stores can eat the cost of consumer's flipant returns like REI can, especially the cottage manufacturers."

Why is it unethecal? If he returns the two bags that he does not like in unused sellable condition then the store can still make its profit from them.

Jim MacDiarmid
(jrmacd) - MLife
Re: Sleeping bag Return Shipping Etiquette on 03/09/2009 22:04:12 MDT Print View

"(My personal opinion) It's an unethical move to order gear that way..... Not all stores can eat the cost of consumer's flipant returns like REI can, especially the cottage manufacturers."

> I wasn't clear that I wasn't planning on taking the bags outside and 'using' them because I assumed that was a given. The whole point of my original question was that I didn't want to do something that would render the bag unsellable, or possibly damage it for a future buyer. I certainly don't have any intention of 'using' the bags other than testing them in my living room. If the store had a policy of only taking unused returns, it wouldn't be that hard to tell if somebody had used a bag, and the return would be rejected. And I'd be out my money. (If they couldn't tell, then it wouldn't make a difference.) Unless it was a place like REI or Backcountry which take all returns, and then that is a business decision on their part, which no one should feel guilty using.

In my case, there's no place within 60 miles of me that sells Montbell, so I figure gas + sales tax is greater or equal to return shipping.

Edited by jrmacd on 03/09/2009 22:05:25 MDT.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Sleeping bag Return Shipping Etiquette on 03/09/2009 22:56:47 MDT Print View

Jim,

There is nothing wrong with what you suggest other than you need to return the unused bags in the original shipping boxes/packing materials, and in the same condition you received them. Of course you will be out the shipping costs.

Joe Kuster
(slacklinejoe) - MLife

Locale: Flatirons
Sleeping bag Return Shipping Etiquette on 03/10/2009 16:50:32 MDT Print View

As I said, my personal opinion - I don't expect to convert anyone...

If you were instead to purchase 1 bag at a time, try it out and if you liked it, keep it, that'd be a totally different concept to me. But planning from the start to return 2/3 of your purchase gets annoying.

Keep in mind, I'm refering to the general practice. It is possible to do it without being a problem, however most customers do not return items in like new condition and in many packaging cases, it's actually impossible to try it on without damaging the packaging.

Most of the time they lack tags, packaging and such - the retail stores do not have replacement packaging from the companies so they often have to sell it as a demo unit.

From the company perspective:
We pay for someone to get said product listed and whatever other operating costs so you see the product.
We paid a cost per click (anywhere from $.20 to $2.50 each)if you used a search engine ad to find the product.
We get the sale, we lose 3-7% of the sale price on credit card processing.
We pay someone to print out the order, pack it and ship it (could be just a few bucks)
You receive it - but you already had a bag you like so you return it - your cost is just return shipping.
We have to pay someone to handle the RMA process.
We have to pay someone to accept the package and process the returned product.
We have to pay someone to process the transaction return.
Depending on the processing system, often we lose a % on the reversal processing.
We then have to pay the bookkeepers / accountants to handle the transaction reversal and any losses associated with the return.
We are then left with a product with opened packaging, torn cardboard tags and often meaning we have to return it to the vendor for exchange, sell it at a discount, or put it out as a display product. In some cases the opening the big plastic bag that the sleeping bag is sealed is enough to cause it to be value lost.

All told, it's one of those hidden expenses the consumer never thinks about, but it's the bane of small business and cottage industry owners - or it is if they are paying attention to trying to stay in business. For a big retailer, they often work out an assumed cost of doing business for returns, for smaller businesses, the practice can lead to significant price increases to offset the practice.

All of the above said, I want my customers to be happy with their purchase and will do what it takes to make that so and will gladly pay for the return if that's what it takes. However, the bottom line is that flippant returns raise prices or decrease retailer viability - often hitting smaller retailers the hardest.

Edited by slacklinejoe on 03/10/2009 16:58:11 MDT.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Sleeping bag Return Shipping Etiquette on 03/10/2009 18:20:25 MDT Print View

Joe:

You focused on your added costs but neglected to mention your savings.

At brick and mortar stores, we are able to try things out -- and this helps to reduce the chance of subsequent returns. To get people to buy "without first seeing and touching" -- most all online stores offer liberal, "no hassle" return / exchange policies! What online stores have to pay out in added shipping -- they also save themselves the need to pay for experienced store clerks and retail store rent! These costs/benefits are all part of the business model.

In your case, Joe, I feel that it is wrong of you to enjoy certain cost savings on the one hand -- then moan about higher costs at the other end. Your pointing fingers at us (your customers) for being unethical in this regard is entirely off the mark.

As an example, if you don't want people to order 2-3 of the same item but in different colors or sizes, etc. so they can pick out the best and return the rest -- because that drives up your shipping costs -- then by all means, open up a store and pay rent and hire some salespeople -- so your customers can try them out beforehand instead.

Pick the model you like, Joe, but you can't have it all.

Edited by ben2world on 03/10/2009 19:15:34 MDT.

Joe Kuster
(slacklinejoe) - MLife

Locale: Flatirons
Sleeping bag Return Shipping Etiquette on 03/10/2009 19:45:30 MDT Print View

Benjamin,

I'm well versed in the various models, trade-offs and such - this isn't my first rodeo. Your post also comes off a little more like your complaining about internet retailer's advantages - mind you, I currently am paying a mortgage on a 3,600 sq ft location and have to deal with a lot of the same issues as retailers - that wasn't my complaint.

My issue is not with returns for legitament reasons - that's just cost of doing business.

Wise retailers and manufacturers go far out of our way to prevent the need for returns in the first place, putting a lot of emphasis on educating the consumer, offering advice matrixes for usage and as much information as the customer is willing to sort through to help them make the optimial choice. This is probably one of those instances where the return, or at least 1 or 2 of them, would be avoidable with minimal effort. (such as calling a reputable retailer to get size/fit advice, or even simply posting here to ask the same question)

In other words, if you want to buy that way, no one will stop you so go ahead - businesses will just have to charge everyone else more to offset you so your actual cost is not just return shipping.

Edited by slacklinejoe on 03/10/2009 19:55:07 MDT.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Sleeping bag Return Shipping Etiquette on 03/10/2009 19:52:50 MDT Print View

"My issue is not with returns for legitimate reasons."

I think our difference is this: I feel that comparison shopping is important for us customers -- and we can either do that at brick and mortar stores -- or by ordering multiple items online so at the end, we can do the same.

I would venture to say that given the hassles involved in ordering, paying, and especially returning -- most customers will order oranges only if they are interested in oranges -- even if at the end, after a few squeezes, some customers may decide they would rather have apples instead.

I appreciate your wanting to keep costs (and prices) down -- who doesn't? -- but surely you can appreciate that returns should be (and are) a higher factor for online businesses! But your usage of "unethical" and "flippant" returns in this context actually causes me concern.

Edited by ben2world on 03/10/2009 19:58:02 MDT.

Joe Kuster
(slacklinejoe) - MLife

Locale: Flatirons
Sleeping bag Return Shipping Etiquette on 03/10/2009 19:58:15 MDT Print View

For my stance:

Flippant, placing at least 2 orders you know you'll be returning.

Legitament, buying it, giving it a shot, and if it's not what you want, returning it and ordering the next on your list.

And for the record, currently I've got a less than 1% return rate - for most retailers that's phenominal, regardless of storefront or internet based. I credit a lot of that from customer education up front. Given that ratio, I can still afford to be an idealist.

Edited by slacklinejoe on 03/10/2009 20:01:18 MDT.

Robert Bryant
(KG4FAM) - F

Locale: Upstate
Re: Sleeping bag Return Shipping Etiquette on 03/10/2009 20:15:18 MDT Print View

"Flippant, placing at least 2 orders you know you'll be returning.

Legitament, buying it, giving it a shot, and if it's not what you want, returning it and ordering the next on your list."


Buying three at once and returning two: All the bad hidden costs associated with returns that customers don't think about only once.

Buying one at a time: Possibility of having all that bad hidden costs associated with returns happening twice when the customer returns the first and second order when they finally decide on the third. Plus the extra costs of selling three times instead of once. Maybe the customer decides that after they have the third in hand that they want the second one instead. There is another return and another sale and more money down the drain on labor.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Sleeping bag Return Shipping Etiquette on 03/10/2009 20:19:30 MDT Print View

Hi Joe

A genuine question for you. (Honest.)

If you sell through a shop there are all the usual overheads to cover. We know about those.
But the customer expects to look at the goods, and open up the packing in some cases like sleeping bags. So plastic bags and tags do get mangled in the shop, and the customer may not buy.

If you run a web-site-store you miss out on a lot of the traditional costs associated with a bricks&mortar&staff shop. We know about that.
But the customer can't inspect the goods until they reach his home. So how do you cater to the customer's desire to inspect the goods? Should a web-site-store expect to have to accept the 'ship 3, get 2 back' model to keep the customer satisfied? It seems to me that this might be considered a normal cost of running a web-store?
(I am assuming that the customer plays fair and the returns are 'clean'.)

Cheers

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Sleeping bag Return Shipping Etiquette on 03/10/2009 20:19:35 MDT Print View

If I have narrowed my selection to the last 2 or 3 items -- then asking me to order then one at a time in sequence is akin to asking me to visit a brick/mortar store and only touch/feel one item per visit. Makes no sense to me.

Take backpacks as an example. I will likely want to load up and compare my final 2 or 3 choices together -- and not just order one -- return it -- and then order the second one and so on. Gee, is the third one really more comfy than the first? Shucks, it's been two weeks now and I can't remember exactly how the first one felt anymore...

Seems to me you are much, much more interested in your own operating convenience than in actually helping your customers make the best choice -- because at the end, no matter how good the online pics, product writeup's, and phone support -- some things are best decided upon actual tryout. Too bad you view that as flippant.

Edited by ben2world on 03/10/2009 20:37:13 MDT.

Joe Kuster
(slacklinejoe) - MLife

Locale: Flatirons
Sleeping bag Return Shipping Etiquette on 03/10/2009 20:21:52 MDT Print View

Well, that's why I stated the the premise was solely my personal opinion - not a creed to be passed on and forced down consumer's throats.

The fact is, it's the difference between a certainty of that cost vs a probability of that cost. In actuallity with proper research ahead of time it's likely his first choice would be just fine (again, emphasis on educated purchase).

In this instance, he is assuring himself a certainty of return cost which exceeds the cost of driving to the location and back - thus is a poor economic choice.

Edited by slacklinejoe on 03/10/2009 20:22:59 MDT.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Sleeping bag Return Shipping Etiquette on 03/10/2009 20:25:37 MDT Print View

As a storekeeper, that you personally consider as "flippant" the act of ordering 2-3 items to enable an actual comparison is actually bewildering to me -- and likely to most other consumers as well.

If I am going to pay $300 dollars for a sleeping bag -- then spending an extra $10 or $15 to really compare amongst 2 or 3 bags is definitely money well spent for me. Otherwise, just getting the first one, I may end up simply settling for "good enough".

As an example: if you just order a WM bag, then how will you ever know that MontBell's shell/liner material is so much softer and comfier to the touch? (Not saying MB is always a better bag or anything but just using one attribute as an illustration.)

Edited by ben2world on 03/10/2009 20:35:48 MDT.

Robert Bryant
(KG4FAM) - F

Locale: Upstate
Re: Sleeping bag Return Shipping Etiquette on 03/10/2009 20:36:52 MDT Print View

"The fact is, it's the difference between a certainty of that cost vs a probability of that cost. In actuallity with proper research ahead of time it's likely his first choice would be just fine (again, emphasis on educated purchase)."

If this is true then I should be the owner of a Jacks R Better No Sniveler quilt and their down sleeves. Concept looked good, specs looked good, reviews looked good, but when it got to my house and I tried it out I didn't like it and returned it. There is no substitute for the product in your hands.

Joe Kuster
(slacklinejoe) - MLife

Locale: Flatirons
Sleeping bag Return Shipping Etiquette on 03/10/2009 21:19:06 MDT Print View

Robert,

In your instance, that's a perfect example of a return for legitement reasons. (I also kind of agree - the down sleeves idea should work better than it does.)

Basically, my opinion that unnecessary returns is false economy for customers. They end up paying more for it in the end. In this instance, a relatively short drive would eliminate a lot of carbon emissions from returns, time spent on the phone or writing emails to get the returns authorized and pain in the ar$e.

I guess the root cause for the notion of using your home for a showroom is what, Envy? Honestly, I don't know.

Somehow not wanting to buy something that fits your needs, size requirements and preferences just fine now, but later finding out that Bob in the campsite across from you has a better bag can strike fear in a rational person.... but the grass is always greener anyway, or at least the next season's Outdoor Retailer's grass is...

Maybe I'm just spoiled by having the Montbell store, 3 REIs and many of the major outdoor companies located nearby. For me, 30 minutes in the car and I can visit 10 different outlets from the Northface store to GoLite's warehouse sales. None-the-less, I'll stick by my position that in this scenario, it's false economics for intentionally planning to return packages.

100% chance for 2 returns with a non-zero chance for 3 returns

vs

A non-zero chance for zero or up to 3 returns to evaluate the same bags.

Edited by slacklinejoe on 03/10/2009 21:37:50 MDT.