Amazon bans people for returning too much, but it shouldn't act like a traditional retailer

  • Amazon bans customers for returning too many items, according to a report.
  • Amazon shouldn't follow this practice, used by traditional retailers since customers don't have a place to try most of what it sells.
Jeff Bezos
Gary Cameron | Reuters
Jeff Bezos

Amazon bans customers who return too many products, according to The Wall Street Journal. This is a practice that's used by traditional retailers, but Amazon shouldn't act like its brick-and-mortar competitors.

Amazon customers speaking to the Journal described being banned for returning all sorts of products, from clothing to cellphones.

Retailers like Best Buy use outside firms to impose limits on returns, according to the Journal's previous reporting. In my own experience — I purchase and return a lot from Best Buy — I was told by a checkout clerk I'd only get flagged if I didn't keep a majority of my purchases.

When you walk into an electronics store or a clothing store, you get the chance to see a product and, often, even try it before you walk out the door. You can see how one TV hanging on the wall compares to another, or pick up five pairs of khakis and pick the ones that fit right. You know the drill: You leave the ones that don't fit on the counter as you walk out of the dressing room.

You don't get that same experience with Amazon.

Instead, and this is part of Amazon's appeal, consumers can order whatever they like, see if it fits their needs, and then return what doesn't fit. Amazon's customer service has made this experience attractive and it's one of the reasons Amazon's been so successful.

There are times when I use Amazon to order what I need: a light bulb, food from Amazon Fresh or a pack of batteries. Then there are times when I order what I like but I'm not sure how it will work: an Amazon Echo (turned out great) or polo shirts and shoes that don't always fit properly.

Worse, Amazon makes it so easy to return products that it's become a part of the service we expect. You can now return products to Kohl's Drop Off locations, for example, or drop them off at a nearby Amazon Locker. In my experience, Amazon even issues a credit back to my account before the product has returned to its facilities. Its return process is enjoyable!

We don't have an option to go to an Amazon dressing room of sorts. If it is going to ding us, then it should give us proper terms so we know when we're at risk of violating its unspoken policies.

I dug through Amazon's return policies and didn't find anything clear that suggests someone might get banned for a return. Here's what Amazon's return policy says:

"Items shipped from, including Amazon Warehouse, can be returned within 30 days of receipt of shipment in most cases. Some products have different policies or requirements associated with them." Amazon even lets you return some products past the 30-day return window, though not for a full refund.

I asked Amazon for a comment on how it flags accounts — whether it's because of too many returns or a certain value of items. Amazon didn't explain, but said this:

We want everyone to be able to use Amazon, but there are rare occasions where someone abuses our service over an extended period of time. We never take these decisions lightly, but with over 300 million customers around the world, we take action when appropriate to protect the experience for all our customers. If a customer believes we've made an error, we encourage them to contact us directly so we can review their account and take appropriate action.