There are a lot of products that get returned from online shopping every year, with Amazon being the largest impact on these numbers due to the sheer number of sales. The return process for online retailers that feature products from multiple partner sellers is a bit different from what you’d get by walking a product back into a store, resulting in a lot of products that don’t always make it back to the digital shelf. So where do they go?
Sometimes, the products simply do go back into rotation. Waiting to be shipped out to the next interested buyer. But it doesn’t always work out that way. In fact, the numbers can get pretty concerning. Amazon has come under a lot of fire when it comes to this in recent years, forcing the company to seek alternative plans for these unwanted goods. Instead of allowing many of the product to be destroyed or thrown out (as they have been in the past), the company has been seeking other ways of reselling it all back to consumers.
Amazon Warehouse Deals
One of the closest to home is Amazon’s own Warehouse Deals section of the website. Where a lot of discontinued, slightly blemished, refurbished, or opened-box return items try to make their way to your hands at a discounted price. Sometimes this price isn’t much to get excited over, while other times you can score pretty well. Sometimes, they run specials where you might get an additional percentage off as you checkout (sometimes 20%-25% off).
Then there is the stuff that doesn’t sell so well within the Warehouse Deals section. Either they have too much of it, or the packaging is far too “opened” or missing. Maybe the blemishes are a little too much to sell as used but “like new” condition. These will typically make their way to large-scale liquidation services, like liqudation.com. These services will sell the product as part of large palettes filled with random items that you can bid on. You can’t control what items are in each palette, so its a bit more like Storage Hunters.
Sometimes you can score pretty big if you are lucky or wise enough. Just remember that it is all “as-is”, so you can’t send it back. Many of these items will run far greater in value than the average bid. So a lot of it comes down to how much of it is usable (visually pleasing enough to have sitting around the house). As well as how much of it you can sell, if you plan on taking the time on the side to start your own used product empire on eBay or something.
Finally, there is also the option of local auction houses. Usually larger warehouse-style auction services that will auction individual products away. Even then, some of these companies will also do mystery boxes of multiple product or even palettes. We, have taken advantage of some of these in the past for odd/random projects around the building. Including an impressive commercial paper shredder that we picked up once for about a quarter of the normal cost (and it has been working fantastic to this very day).
So when you return that item that you changed your mind about, there is a high chance (likely around 1 in 3) that it won’t simply “go back on the shelf”. It will likely join the island of misfit toys and work its way into someone else’s hand through some third-party solution or through Amazon’s warehouse. Meanwhile, any loses generally make their way back to customers through price hikes or come back to bite the sellers in the rump (which then may result in price hikes on their end). Showing that “free returns” actually do come at a price that will get paid one way or another.