Seinfeld on Marketing: Returns

Welcome to Seinfeld on Marketing! In this episode, Jerry trys to return a suit that he recently purchased:

Jerry: Excuse me I’d like to return this jacket.
Teller: Certainly. May I ask why?
Jerry: For spite.
Teller: Spite?
Jerry: That’s right. I don’t care for the salesman that sold it to me.
Teller: I don’t think you can return an item for spite.
Jerry: What do you mean?
Teller: Well if there was some problem with the garment. If it were unsatisfactory in some way,then we could do it for you, but I’m afraid spite doesn’t fit into any of our conditions for a refund.
Jerry: That’s ridiculous, I want to return it. What’s the difference what the reason is.
Teller: Let me speak with the manager…excuse me …Bob!
[The Teller walks over to Bob the manager and whispers. Bob the manager then walks over to talk to Jerry]
Bob: What seems to be the problem?
Jerry: Well I want to return this jacket and she asked me why and I said for spite and now she won’t take it back.
Bob: That’s true. You can’t return an item based purely on spite.
Jerry: Well, so fine then ..then I don’t want it and then that’s why I’m returning it.
Bob: Well you already said spite so…
Jerry: But I changed my mind.
Bob: No…you said spite…too late.

A survey by KPMG LLP found that shoppers “weren’t attracted by newspaper inserts or coupons, and even fewer reacted to e-mail solicitations. In fact, some 81 percent of consumers said they shopped at the store that had their desired item in stock, and 75 percent said a simple return policy helped them decide which retailers to patronize.” (Emphasis added)

Maybe its time for all of us to rethink our returns policies. Seth Godin has said: “Marketing is the way your people answer the phone, the typesetting on your bills and your returns policy. (Emphasis added)

So what do most customers want in a return policy? I can think of at least three attributes that should be included in every returns policy:

  1. Painless. We do not want to jump through hoops by providing a receipt, a “darn good reason” for the return and our finger prints (okay this last one may be a bit of a stretch, but sometimes it sure feels that way).
  2. Seemless. We want to have a choice of returning an item bought online to a bricks and mortar store or, for that matter, to be able to pick up something ordered online at a nearby store.
  3. Guiltless. And we espically don’t want a shameful glare from the returns person or a sinking suspecion that we will not get to successfully make the return even though we have played by the “returns game” rules.

Anything else you would include in a returns policy?

This post is part of a weekly series, Seinfeld on Marketing.

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