Liberal Return Policies vs. "has my camera been used?": A way to Solve This

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Liberal Return Policies vs. "has my camera been used?": A way to Solve This
4 months ago

There seems to be endless debate here and elsewhere about how many actuations a new, out of the box, camera should have.... or not have. Or what is ethical and\or legal about retailers re-selling returned cameras and lenses as new as long as there is no apparent damage.

Many point of view drive these opinions. Some people are not concerned about receiving an item, and paying full retail price, if it has been pre-sold, used, and returned. Others are not willing to accept that, at least unknowingly. Some people argue that accepting that you may get returned items now and then is acceptable because if keeps retails lower, and allows them to return something without paying a re-stocking fee.

The real question comes down to retailers liberal return policies. It's because of these policies that questions arise in the first place about weather or not an item received is new or used.

It seems to me this this whole issue can be easily resolved if manufacturer ship cameras and lenses with a factory applied seal, like software or other high end electronics. Here's how this would work:

  1. Manufacturers ship cameras and lenses with factory applied seal
  2. As long as the seal is untack, everyone can be 100% assured that their camera or lens is new, out-of-the-box, unused equipment

Retailers can still choose to have liberal return policies. Retailers making that decision are, logically, also choosing to increase their cost in returned goods. They are using this as a marketing tactic to increase top line sales and create customer loyalty. As such, the incremental hit to the return line on their P&L is a marketing expense.

The problem is some retailers also elect to cut corners, and re-sell as new to unsuspecting customers items that have been sold, used, and returned.

Factory sealed cameras and lenses eliminate that problem. They also don't really cost consumer more:

  • Honest retailers who choose liberal return policies will continue to be able to off-set their higher returns costs by the increases revenue and long term loyalty these policies generate. Their prices won't change because that have not been cutting corners all along.
  • Dishonest retailers who choose to cut corners by "recycling" returned items, i.e. re-selling them to unsuspecting customers, at new out-of-the-box prices will be forced, by default, to discontinue that practice.
  • Dishonest retailers who find that they cannot afford their liberal return policies can chooses other marketing tactics that offer better ROI. Either their prices will go up, to their policies will change.

Retailers who want to continue to use liberal return policies as a marketing tactic, but refuse to accept or cannot absorb the higher returns department cost that comes from an honest execution of this tactic, can modify their current plans. Here are a few examples of how to do so:

  • Negotiate a returns allowance with the manufacturer that helps off-set the of cost of selling returns as open boxed items at a discount. Manufacturers already do that, but it is possible that a few retailers are somehow unaware of that.
  • Charge a re-stocking fee to cover the open boxed discount. I'll bet most honest customers would be more than willing to pay a 5% restocking fee for the opportunity to try a camera or lens out, and have be able to return it if you don't like it.
  • Continue to recycle returns, but rather than dishonestly (and illegally) mis-represent those as new out-of-the-box units to unsuspecting customers, come clean and be honest. State clearly, in all posted and public sales and return policies,  that returned items that are determined to be in new working condition are recycled. By letting customers know they may be getting a recycled item on a random bases, they can choose to buy from these retailers. Retailers can advertise that this allows them to have lower everyday prices.

In this way, everyone gets what they expect. What do you think?

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