exabrial 11 days ago

I once was shipped a _very expensive_ server motherboard from Amazon by mistake when trying to buy something cheaper. The customer service agent (Indian non native speaker) failed to understand that Amazon didn’t ship the correct item, and refused the return. I spoke to another agent and they thanked me and I got the correct item exchanged.

I previously posted about this on HN and one of the responses was “who cares? Az makes $100k/min”

You know what? It matters. Doing the right thing fucking matters. Have some integrity, don’t take what isn’t yours, give back what was a mistake. Don’t fall into the trap of relativism.

You don’t know the whole story either... I’d like to think by returning that item I saved someone from getting fired; or a saved a small low margin retailer from losing their shirt. I’ll never know, but at the end of the day I can sleep with a clean conscience.

  • Nextgrid 11 days ago

    On the other hand, respect needs to go both ways. If a company can't be bothered to maintain a basic standard of competence in their customer support department, I see no reason to waste your own time fighting them.

    I'd actually be more lenient on this when it comes to a small business, but when a big faceless corporation can't (or rather intentionally doesn't want to) maintain a decent standard in their CS department - literally the only "escape hatch" for when things go wrong - they don't deserve respect.

    • awillen 11 days ago

      The problem with this logic is that a whole lot of products on Amazon (even those labeled as Prime) are fulfilled by Amazon for third party small businesses. I own one of those businesses, and getting Amazon to pay up when they screw something up or lose something is a huge pain. At my product price points of $12-30, it's not even worth my time to bother any more. For a very expensive product where it's clearly worth it, somebody's spending hours on the phone trying to get it made right.

    • WalterBright 11 days ago

      Your honor is independent of the honor of the other party.

      • pixl97 11 days ago

        My time is both expensive and limited. At some point you have to shrug and move on at their incompetence.

        • tekknik 10 days ago

          Your time is so important you can’t send an email? What company do you work for? Should we test their customer service?

          • Nextgrid 10 days ago

            > Your time is so important you can’t send an email?

            The company literally makes it impossible to "just" send an email, and even if he could send an email, in his case the first advisor was an idiot that couldn't even understand the problem so he had to explicitly try again and talk to someone else.

  • jiggunjer 11 days ago

    The way I see it, Amazon accepted this risk of losses because they make more money by skipping additional QC checks.

    If people stopped generously returning profits maybe they'd get their orders right more often?

    • WalterBright 11 days ago

      Accepting a risk of loss is not granting a license to steal.

      • jiggunjer 11 days ago

        Are you "stealing" if someone delivers their tv into your possession and never asks for it back?

        Your awareness of their mistake doesn't obligate you to correct it, especially when the mistake is easily avoided and fixing is a non-trivial effort.

        In the case of a business, I wouldn't be surprised if they count on exploiting that free labor in their cost projections.

        • tekknik 10 days ago

          > Are you "stealing" if someone delivers their tv into your possession and never asks for it back?

          by law no, but if this were a mom and pop operation, would you then return the TV? if so, then you know it’s wrong.

      • amanaplanacanal 11 days ago

        At least in the US, I believe you are not required to send back things that are sent to you by mistake. Not sure I would call it stealing in that case.

        • WalterBright 11 days ago

          Just because you aren't required to doesn't change anything.

          You might be surprised how much people appreciate others doing more for them than is required.

    • mritun 11 days ago

      I can’t speak for my employer but respectfully, that’s not true at all.

  • ksec 11 days ago

    >I can sleep with a clean conscience.

    "When did you acquire this taste for luxuries?" - Sir Humphrey

    >You know what? It matters. Doing the right thing fucking matters. Have some integrity, don’t take what isn’t yours, give back what was a mistake. Don’t fall into the trap of relativism. I’d like to think by returning that item I saved someone from getting fired.

    Yes. As someone who once worked in Retail and E-commerce, a small action like this help people stay sane in a world where rampant fraud happens every single day. ( And I have been told it is only getting worse )

  • 762236 11 days ago

    Totally agree. Amazon sent me two memory cards when I ordered one, so I called them and told them to charge me for the second.

    • Tijdreiziger 11 days ago

      They refunded me for a product I didn’t return. I told them to charge me again and they said they would, but they never did…

      Another time they refunded me for a product I had returned, and months later they refunded me another €6 for ‘shipping’ (I hadn’t paid for shipping). I called them and they told me to keep it, so I did.

  • fmajid 11 days ago

    It's sad to see how surprised and delighted small retailers get when you do the right thing.

  • ffhhj 11 days ago

    On the other side of things, search for laser safety goggles on Amazon, there are lots of cheap ones that won't provide real protection, and comments of people being hurt by using them. Should Amazon remove those products and affect many low margin retailers?

    • bathtub365 11 days ago

      Yes, and the retailers should be sued.

    • WalterBright 11 days ago

      I refused to buy any of those solar eclipse goggles from Amazon. No amount of "sorry" and $millions is worth losing eyesight over.

  • nullhack 11 days ago

    I had a package go to the wrong place, and went to ask the neighbor for it myself. Similarly, called to complain, and they, misunderstanding me, offered me a full refund for the item that I had on my desk.

  • illwrks 11 days ago

    Not enough integrity in the world. We'll done on being a decent person and highlighting the error.

rmatt2000 12 days ago

The clothing company LL Bean dealt with this same sort of issue. It used to be that if you weren't happy with a purchase, you could return any item you bought from Bean, at any time, for a full refund.

One day, the CEO of the company donated some of his old LL Bean clothing to a charity that accepts used clothing. One of the shirts he donated had his initials embroidered on it. In less than a month, that same shirt had been returned to Bean, stating the person was unsatisfied with his purchase, and requesting a full refund of the purchase price.

  • dmckeon 12 days ago

    When LL Bean started, 90% of his boots were returned, and the purchases refunded - which gave Bean the opportunity to analyze how the boots had failed, redesign them, and send new boots to his dissatisfied customers. Apparent MVP failure becomes better engineering becomes marketing and research. Find out what your users/customers want. sources: posted on the store wall in Freeport, and https://www.ecmag.com/section/your-business/lessons-learned-...

    • ghaff 11 days ago

      A number of retailers--REI is another--have pulled back considerably from essentially no questions asked return policies. I've wondered to what degree it is generally more poorly-made goods given that most come from the same Asian factories anyway and to what degree it is a generational shift where more people (though there's always been a subset) will just take advantage of any system they can.

      • acdha 11 days ago

        I think the internet has a lot of credit here: there were always scammers but you wouldn’t have had an outdoors magazine publish a column suggesting that you buy something you can’t afford, use it for your trip, and return it because that’s cheaper than renting. That was disturbingly common online prior to REI changing their policies – and you’d see people suggesting it for big items like kayaks or expedition-sized tents, where selling it at the used gear sale was a substantial haircut.

        One downside to sharing information easily is that attacks not only get better faster but also that it can hit the “everyone’s doing it!” norm where people start shifting how they feel about it.

        • ghaff 11 days ago

          >“everyone’s doing it!” norm where people start shifting how they feel about it.

          Yeah. A lot of people won't do something that they think is sort of scummy if they only know one person who does it--and he's sort of an asshole.

          But when there's a whole subreddit devoted to the behavior, they may start to think they're the sucker if they don't do what "everyone else" is doing.

          And unfortunately with outdoor gear, I've definitely had fairly expensive outdoor gear fail catastrophically after a few years even though it had only been gently used a handful of times. That said, I suspect LL Bean and REI still have some flexibility. I did just have Patagonia credit me for a somewhat older jacket that had completely delaminated--of course their normal prices are so high I'm not sure I'll even use the credit.

          • acdha 11 days ago

            > But when there's a whole subreddit devoted to the behavior, they may start to think they're the sucker if they don't do what "everyone else" is doing.

            That matched what I saw, too - I’m thinking especially of people like a few grad students I vaguely knew who treated it as a way to “upgrade” from their personal equipment for big trips. They wouldn’t have stolen something worth that much but the loss to REI is invisible.

        • mc32 11 days ago

          I could not agree more. I know people who can afford REI (DINKs) and despite that feel they had the “right” to try and then return items.

          Yes, some of this was built in to the price but not to the extent people stretched it.

          Nordstroms, I guess when it was not a middling retailer, had similar policies.

          But people have lost their moral bearings and it’s all about them, like there is no tomorrow.

          It’s little different than looting. Looters sometimes loot immediately needed goods, but often it’s jewelry, TVs, electronics and sneakers. These chronic abusers of return policies are in the same moral category.

          Very few people give a shit and care about themselves or society. It’s all a free-for-all, with few exceptions.

        • mjevans 11 days ago

          A nice alternative would be a return policy where there was a no questions, BUT small fee (20-25% of the cost)? For returns without defects but obvious use.

          The above policy should be _combined_ with an equipment rental that is substantially cheaper but expects similar condition returns.

          Particularly for apartment renters, the ability to not need to store a large bulky item used 2-3 times in their lifetime would be an upgrade.

          • nextos 11 days ago

            Yes, what freaks me out is when companies take any return, repackage it and sell it back as new.

            Amazon does this all the time, and I have stopped buying from them. I try to get buy-for-life items. I don't return anything unless it's defective, but I don't want to get pre-owned things sold as new.

            • bfuller 11 days ago

              This definitely happens all the time, I get packages whose boxes have obviously been opened before all the time.

              People double-dipping amazon products and saying they never got the package (or it was stolen) has been going on forever.

          • acdha 11 days ago

            Rentals aren’t badly priced at REI but there are unavoidable costs: liability, cleaning, storage, etc. which people were trying to avoid. The other limit is that they won’t have as large a selection so people who want pricier or niche gear won’t find it at the average rental shop.

          • ghaff 11 days ago

            Rentals are available for a lot of equipment. Although there are liability concerns for gear used for relatively high-risk activities. But renting a kayak or a canoe is mostly not that hard--especially if you have a local club.

      • blfr 11 days ago

        Not just a generational change but a move to lower trust society.

      • antisthenes 11 days ago

        > and to what degree it is a generational shift where more people (though there's always been a subset) will just take advantage of any system they can.

        When you're being squeezed by every system, and housing/life goals become increasingly unattainable and wages stagnate - you better be sure that people will try to exploit every system they can.

        Can't really even blame them for it, except for some egregious circumstances.

        • muro 11 days ago

          Life being difficult doesn't give one the right to cheat their way to make it easier.

        • ghaff 11 days ago

          That sounds like rationalizing crappy behavior.

  • Spooky23 12 days ago

    Walmart did something like this for many years. They were required to satisfy customers and would accept almost anything as a return to exchange.

    Like LL Bean, the internet kinda ruined it and when the management turned over to newer people who didn’t share the commitment that the founder had, it went away.

    • bfuller 11 days ago

      Sears used to take clothing back and replace it if it had any wear on it. In the 90s I bought a couple pairs of jeans at sears and just kept replacing them until they stopped doing that.

  • SkyMarshal 12 days ago

    It's odd they don't have some automated system to verify the returner actually purchased that item (or at least one of its model #). If yes, proceed with RMA. If no, "sorry our records show you never purchased that item".

    • ChrisMarshallNY 12 days ago

      Macy’s tears the tag, adds a red “sold tag,” and enters the number into their system, so you can’t just grab something off the rack, and return it.

      This was because people would grab something off the rack, tear off the tags, take it to the register, and request a refund. It wasn’t even shoplifting.

      • bluedino 12 days ago

        I don't remember doing that when I worked there. But plenty of people would try that exact scam, or buy something and then use the receipt to try to return the same item that they just grabbed off a shelf.

        • ChrisMarshallNY 11 days ago

          I think they only started doing that, in the last few years.

          The red tag has a barcode (and nothing else). They have a strip of them, next to the register.

          You hand them the item, they tear off the bottom of the price tag, stick on the red tag, then scan it.

          • yardstick 11 days ago

            So this also means you cannot return something without the red tag still intact?

            • ChrisMarshallNY 11 days ago

              I don’t know.

              I suspect you don’t need the tag, but you’ll need the receipt, otherwise.

        • specialist 11 days ago

          That (obvious) strategy would have never occurred to me. I's make a terrible criminal (or pentester).

      • Symbiote 12 days ago

        I noticed socks I bought from Uniqlo had an RFID tag in the label. Maybe that's for the same reason? They know which items haven't been sold.

        • __float 11 days ago

          It's (also?) used for self-checkout: put all of the items in a box, and it tallies up your total automatically, without scanning individual items.

        • csydas 11 days ago

          It's one aspect. Uniqlo also uses them for faster ring ups at the counter. They just stack you items over the reader and it gets every tag nice and fast with a final sight check by the cashier that they got everything.

          I'm not sure but I think it has a weight systém also to help with catching missed items but this I might be wrong on.

    • cortesoft 12 days ago

      Buy a new one, return the old one saying it was the new one... free conversion of old to new.

  • dspillett 12 days ago

    > The clothing company LL Bean dealt with this same sort

    Clothing retailers and similar have seen this sort of thing a lot, even before online shopping was a significant part of their trade.

    > Another issue, called ‘wardrobing’ is where a customer buys something to use once and then return

    A colleague of mine some years ago used to wear designer shirts and such to company social events. At one point he asked me how I afford as much tech as I bought¹ and I referenced his designer clothes² with the notion that we just prioritise our spending differently with most of my clothes being relatively bargain basement stuff³. In response to this he told me that he wore most of it only once, and returned it within a week or two of purchase as unused, so it cost him relatively little. This was not just mail-order catalogue purchases⁴ but physical stores too where he sometimes had to return items to the same real person he'd bought them from and did so repeatedly. This coloured my impression of his trustworthyness considerably - I have no love for the retail industry but that seems rather low. He said a lot of people do it, which I doubted the scale of at the time but maybe I was somewhat naive there⁵.

    My overly long-winded point being that this has been a thing for decades. The internet just makes it easier, makes learning the tricks to defraud the trade easier, and because open returns policies are often a selling point for an online retailer (for obvious reasons) makes those tricks relevant to a wider gamut of products & price ranges, which might not have had such returns policies in the past. The growth in social media and it's influence on how much we see of others outside of our close circles probably makes a big difference where fashion is concerned too.


    [1] it turned out part of this was that my salary was larger than his by more than either of us realised, another factor was how much he spent otherwise trying to impress marks when "on the pull" and how often this expensive hobby happened!

    [2] and his taste for expensive whiskey, but that isn't relevant to this thread!

    [3] no personal value judgement being made here, I understand what people get psychologically (and sometimes physically!) from improving their outward image, I just have different priorities which doesn't make me more or less right just different

    [4] internet shopping proper was only just starting to be significant for everyday fashion at the time, assuming what little I know of such shopping is accurate

    [5] he also pointed out, when I failed to disguise my discomfort in the idea, my habit at the time of downloading TV instead of waiting months/years for it to be broadcast or available to buy on tape/DVD in this country, which I admit was a valid comparison. I know my life has been some points sort of 100% morally clean!

    • lotsofpulp 11 days ago

      >my habit at the time of downloading TV instead of waiting months/years for it to be broadcast or available to buy on tape/DVD in this country, which I admit was a valid comparison

      How is that a valid comparison? You did what you had to do in order to be able to consume media because the media’s owner did not make it available to you in any form due to the geographic location you lived in.

      The other person committed fraud and basically stole the “newness” of a seller’s clothes because they could to afford them.

      It would only be sort of comparable if you had a reasonable way to pay the media owner for the media, but chose not to because you wanted to save money.

      • acdha 11 days ago

        Did they send money to the creator or buy it when it became available? If not, OP received a benefit without compensating the creator.

        You don’t have a right to use other people’s work without their consent. If it’s not available, the only ethical choice is not to use it - we’re not talking lifesaving medication here, you can watch something else.

  • fmajid 11 days ago

    The solution to that is simple: require the original purchase receipt.

    The return policy changes are just an excuse, the real reason is the new management (often private equity vultures) plans on performing Quality Fade, i.e. lowering the quality but keeping prices high as they run down the formerly deserved reputation into the ground. Of course that strategy won't work without also gutting the warranty.

  • bluedino 12 days ago

    Costco seems like it's the current place that people abuse the return system at

    • genericlogic 11 days ago

      One major difference is that Costco requires a membership. It seems like a bad actor could be effectively banned.

metadat 12 days ago

Super informative article, with a lot of little insights, claims, and customer blames. Some are exceedingly fair, others are shirking responsibility on the seller's side. Still a great read!

1. > If an item is in good shape or really is new and just unwanted, the packaging is almost always damaged beyond what could be considered a new item, so at best we might be able to sell it in a damaged package sale, which we do twice per year.

It's generally difficult to open products without damaging the packaging.

This is an intentional design with consumer packaged goods, likely for a variety of valid reasons.

Doesn't seem like the customer's fault (and shouldn't be the customer's problem), as long as the customer is being honest and not pulling a fraudulent return.

2. > but the Pista has two little screws that you have to remove take the thing apart and when we looked, all of these returned pumps have had those screws unthreaded which you can see as deformation in the screw head, whereas a new in box pump has only had them installed.

Does this suggest the manufacturer is using sub-par zinc screws instead of stainless steel? So many products have cheap screws that basically can't be removed without stripping or deforming the head, it makes the product unserviceable and dooms it to eventually land in a landfill, prematurely. Seems unacceptable to call a product top-notch with these kinds of components inside.

Fraudulent returns are still bad, as are shoddy products falsely marketed and sold as top-notch gems.

3. > Folks think they’re pulling one over on Jeff Bezos but don’t understand Amazon doesn’t own that inventory, it belongs to companies and when you think you’re screwing Amazon you’re actually screwing directly with some smaller company behind the product.

This is 100% on Amazon, due to marketing things as "Amazon Prime" and "Sold and Fulfilled by Amazon". Nasty, because the customer signals get to be ignored by Amazon as they reap the profits and offload the problem downstream onto Little Companies.

  • pstanger 12 days ago

    Swiss cheese screws are annoying but trashing Silca's products based on a vague description of screw deformation is both a stretch and a red herring. It's irrelevant to the blatant fraud talked about in that section

    • compiler-guy 12 days ago

      Especially given that the article has lots of descriptions about spare parts and servicability.

      And assuming that the scammers take any care at all to do the job right when disassembling for fraud.

    • loeg 12 days ago

      Also, Silca’s stuff is high end. The supposition was completely off-base.

    • manfre 12 days ago

      Sometimes fasteners are deemed single use consumables. Softer metals are used so that it will intentionally deform for a stronger/better mating.

  • alistairSH 12 days ago

    FWIW, these are some of the best pumps available. They last for decades and the company supplies all the rebuild parts (seals and stuff) to keep them running.

    I imagine the screws in question just show extra tool marks from being backed out. Not that they’re stripped, just show obvious use.

    • TheCondor 12 days ago

      I like the new Silca and own some of their stuff and I also own a couple legit Silca pumps, they are different organizations though.

      • alistairSH 11 days ago

        Sure, but the new owner (Josh Poertner, formerly an executive at Zipp, IIRC) appears genuinely interested in continuing the quality. The pumps still feel solid, use thick leather washers, built almost entirely of metal (looks like the only plastic is a few urethane gaskets), and are fully rebuildable.

        To the sibling comment about it being run by hipsters, I’m not sure what to make of that. Poertner has an established background in product management in the industry. The stuff is expensive, orders of magnitude more than much of the competition. So, it’s going to appeal to a similar group as Pinarello, or Rapha, etc. A brand for dentists and other MAMILs, maybe (I say knowing full well I’m in that target audience).

    • yourapostasy 12 days ago

      Now if I could only find an industrial pump manufacturer of like quality, repairability and serviceability.

    • stefan_ 12 days ago

      "SILCA" are hipsters that bought the brand name in 2014. They haven't been making their pumps for even a sole decade.

  • slaymaker1907 12 days ago

    I had to use the warranty on my phone and they sent it in a small, no nonsense box that I also used to send the old one back. All it had was a little plastic slip and some cardboard to keep the phone from moving too much. Companies could absolutely design things with reusable packaging.

    • tekknik 10 days ago

      > Companies could absolutely design things with reusable packaging.

      They use non-reusable package on purpose, because customers try to scam them. It’s not that they can’t make reusable packaging, this is a feature for them.

  • flutas 12 days ago

    > This is 100% on Amazon, due to marketing things as (...) "Sold and Fulfilled by Amazon".

    That... isn't how it's labeled?

    They clearly state "Sold by XYZ Company, Fulfilled by Amazon" on 3P sellers. The only time a product would say "Sold and Fulfilled by Amazon" is when it's actually Amazon selling a product.

    • nkrisc 11 days ago

      “Clearly” as in the text does technically appear on the page. In my experience using the site my impression is that they would rather think I think of everything as being sold by Amazon.

      Even though I know where the text is, I still have to search for it because there is so much information that can appear in that area and many variations that it’s difficult to tell at a glance who’s selling it.

      • tekknik 10 days ago

        > In my experience using the site my impression is that they would rather think I think of everything as being sold by Amazon.

        Or maybe they want the experience to look the same whether you’re buying from amazon or a 3p? Perhaps to avoid confusing people by changing the layout? UX?

  • bayindirh 12 days ago

    > It's generally difficult to open products without damaging the packaging.

    You're right, but the damage is not squarely due to customer or the packaging design. Some of the boxes arrive at my doorstep (from Amazon or what else) has clear shipping wear on it. It has banged around in the box, thrown around in an envelope, etc.

    The box is worn, but the product is not damaged. Even I return the box unopened, the seller can't ship it back out. It needs to be renewed again.

  • chiph 11 days ago

    > Does this suggest the manufacturer is using sub-par zinc screws instead of stainless steel?

    Unlikely that Silca does that. What they probably were saying that they could see the tool marks where the screws had been removed. Tightening the screws leaves marks on one side of the screw, and loosening would leave marks on the other side.

    Related: If you're buying a used car that uses rubber timing belts, and don't have solid documentation¹ that the belt was ever changed, you can look for tool marks on the timing cover bolts.

    ¹ There are people who will buy the timing belt parts kit then return it, in order to have a receipt to show prospective buyers that the work "had been done".

    • tekknik 10 days ago

      > If you're buying a used car that uses rubber timing belts, and don't have solid documentation¹ that the belt was ever changed, you can look for tool marks on the timing cover bolts.

      You can also just check the condition of the belt. Checking timing bolts for wear is not going to be an accurate measure of if the belt was replaced. (what if they had a head gasket replaced?)

  • anfilt 11 days ago

    There a lots of reasons a screw could be deformed from being removed other than being a cheap alloy.

    They could have added lock-tite or other thread adhesive. The person removing the screw used the wrong size bit or did not apply pressure perpendicular to head when applying torque allowing it jump out of the screw head (drive angle is important!!!) Similar to a wrong size bit, screw driver bits do wear out. A worn out screw driver will act like a wrong sized bit, and this wear is likely to happen faster if the tool is cheap.

  • marcus0x62 10 days ago

    > Does this suggest the manufacturer is using sub-par zinc screws instead of stainless steel?

    No. It suggests people are removing the screws and leaving tool marks in the process.

voakbasda 12 days ago

Reading this excellent article has made me decide to stop taking credit cards (or any electronic payments) for my small farm business. The card companies and their online cohorts are bad enough to deal with as a customer, and this story shattered the last of my trust that using these systems is safe as a merchant. I am already losing money on every sale anyway, because my family eats our potential profits (literally). Sales will be cash only from here on out, because these risks are not worth the potential costs.

  • tlogan 12 days ago

    Yesterday, I was talking with one guy doing home inspections. He also refuses to accept CC. The main reason is that after deal does not go thru the people who hire them will file a chargeback.

    • raverbashing 12 days ago

      It would be "fun" if those people that put the chargeback gets sent to collections and a nice entry gets put on their credit report for payment failure

      I bet the bank providing their mortgage would love to have that information

      • acdha 11 days ago

        So much small scale fraud relies keeping the losses below the level where someone is willing to risk getting sued. The kind of people who are doing this would be highly likely to try things which would end up with you needing a lawyer - even drafting a letter, much less showing up in small claims court would cost more.

        • raverbashing 11 days ago


          That's why you counteract with something that is also "cheap" to do (one lawyer letter is expensive, having a template is cheaper. Sending to collections is cheaper)

    • rightbyte 12 days ago

      How is that chargeback granted? The inspector has documentation for doing his job in the property. Does Mastercard etc not even ask him for some evidence?

      • acdha 11 days ago

        I’d imagine it’s similar to what’s described in the article where the cost of fighting it and the extra processing fees cut even further into the profit margin, and if it happens more than once they’ll use it as an excuse to jack up the base rate.

        Home inspection isn’t like retail sales - almost anyone buying a house can easily pay with cash or check, you’re not a big fraud risk since they’re not getting something they can resell, you can explain the problem in person, and a longer processing time doesn’t matter because you’re not doing a ton of transactions or any where someone expects to get the product in 30 seconds. I’m sure it’s convenient for customers but if you’re the inspector looking at paying 5+% of your revenue you’re definitely going to ask how many customers would walk if you don’t accept a credit card.

      • ZephyrBlu 11 days ago

        My understanding is that chargebacks are not fun to deal with even if there is overwhelming proof that it's fraudulent.

    • dawnerd 12 days ago

      Had to hire two inspectors in a short time and they both were cash or check only. Same reason.

    • ghaff 11 days ago

      Of course, a lot of small time contractors and other service people in the US still primarily operate by check. I suspect that most of the people here from the US who say they never write checks don't own houses.

  • fragmede 12 days ago

    Will you still accept debit cards then? Not all digital money systems are the same, and if you find cash-only to be too limiting, it would behoove you to find reasons to accept something digital. PayPal/Venmo/Square/Zelle/other each have their own issues, but they're different from credit cards.

    • minutemad 12 days ago

      Debit cards will get charged back all the same. Some fraudsters will "lose their card" just to chargeback all charges since they "lost it".

      • withinboredom 12 days ago

        Debit cards run as debit cards (ie, not through credit card processors like Visa/Mastercard) are actually really hard to charge back, if at all. They go through different processes than credit cards which are much more favorable to the merchant with lower fees.

        • tekknik 10 days ago

          > are actually really hard to charge back, if at all

          This is very much not true. In fact when I’m buying something that I think there may be a need to charge back I mostly use my debit card, or a particular CC. Both are VISA.

          And VISA handles the transaction, this is why their name is on the card.

          • withinboredom 10 days ago

            I take it you are in the US. Look at your debit card’s back. There are other networks the card may be charged through instead of as a credit card through visa. Likely those networks are Star, Pulse, etc. These process as DEBIT cards, Visa is a CREDIT card company.

            When you go into a store and they ask you to run it as debit or credit and you say debit, it uses one of these other networks. The fees are usually much lower than running it through Visa.

            • tekknik 9 days ago

              > When you go into a store and they ask you to run it as debit or credit and you say debit

              This isn’t a think where I’m at anymore, it all runs as VISA or one of the other networks. There isn’t a prompt to select card type and network selection happens based off the card number prefix.

        • ChrisMarshallNY 12 days ago

          This was why a bunch of retailers tried creating an Apple Pay competitor, based on direct bank access.

          It withered on the vine.

          • sgerenser 12 days ago

            Several major retailers, including WalMart, Kroger (and their dozens of grocery brands like Ralph’s, QFC, Harris Teeter), Lowes and Home Depot still don’t take Apple Pay (or any form of tap to pay). Obnoxious and thought they would have given in by now.

            • stephen_g 11 days ago

              That’s crazy. I can’t even fathom that, given that here in Australia tap to pay was almost universally supported before Apple Pay was even announced, an now swiping your card has been phased out for years, because literally everywhere has supported contactless and chip+pin for so long. So you can pay with ApplePay basically everywhere. You even see buskers now with Square readers!

              • ChoGGi 11 days ago

                The Lowe's and home depots around me all let you tap with a credit card, could just be where parent is?

                • sgerenser 11 days ago

                  You sure? I didn’t think it’s possible to accept card based NFC payments (tap to pay) but not accept phone based NFC payment (Apple/Google pay). AFAIK all lowes and Home Depot stores do NOT accept Apple Pay. A quick Google search confirms it, although the sources are admittedly a bit spammy:

                  “Unfortunately, Lowe's does not accept Apple Pay as an option for payment at any of its 2,200 locations around the continental United States nor online. The core reason why Lowe's doesn't take Apple Pay is simply that they do not have the core NFC payment infrastructure to make this possible.” https://www.gotechtor.com/does-lowes-take-apple-pay/

                  • ChoGGi 3 days ago

                    Sorry I meant Rona and home Depot. Lowe's owns Rona so I get confused about the two :)

                • ChrisMarshallNY 11 days ago

                  I don't usually use tap & pay; just ApplePay or Chip card.

                  They don't take ApplePay. Don't know about other services.

            • ChrisMarshallNY 11 days ago

              That sounds like the same retailers (I know WalMart was behind it). Wendy's also doesn't take it. I think that CVS used to reject it, but they have been taking it for at least the last couple of years. I use ApplePay for everything.

              It is starting to become stupid to reject it. Even the smallest mom-and-pop places I go, now take ApplePay. It's built into the processors. I think they have to consciously turn it off. Last time I got a haircut, I used it. They didn't even know they took it.

      • lrem 12 days ago

        I'm pretty sure it's not the same. There must be a reason for all those merchants around me who will accept VPay or Maestro, but not Visa nor Mastercard.

        • Tijdreiziger 11 days ago

          Maestro and V Pay are being discontinued as of July 2023 (existing cards will keep working but no new cards will be issued). Banks/merchants will have to start issuing/accepting MasterCard/Visa instead.

        • twarnp 11 days ago

          The point not being they're the same, but that debit cards won't protect you from chargebacks.

  • gtowey 12 days ago

    It feels that way because the credit card companies have never really cared about merchants. Thier customers are the cardholders. They create demand for convenience and therefore the merchants are unwilling hostages to the credit card companies, who can abuse them at their leisure.

    • briHass 11 days ago

      To be fair, it's mostly a mutually beneficial relationship. There are studies that show CC users tend to spend more at merchants than those that use cash. This logically makes sense, because you may not have enough cash on hand and/or the feel of watching a limited amount of paper money leaving your pocket is different from swiping a chunk of plastic.

      For online merchants, CCs are the only thing that allow most of them to stay in business. For something where the transaction was irreversible (mailing cash, bitcoin), as a consumer, I would almost never take a chance on ordering from an online merchant that wasn't large and established.

      That's not to say that the CC companies don't abuse their position. However, most/many businesses have 'done the math' and realized the pros outweigh the cons.

  • sireat 11 days ago

    Long time ago I learned that some people will use CC chargeback as a license to steal.

    Circa 1999 I ran a small retail anime shop. I also had a mail order catalogue and was one of the first to do ecommerce for anime as well.

    After a pleasant 20 minute call a customer bought a Gundam kit. It was around $100 the most expensive one in my shop.

    I was shocked to receive a chargeback request 40 days later. Puzzled I called the contact and the very same person claimed that their kid placed an order.

    Per the CC merchant rules I had to grant the chargeback request and ask for the kit back. I never got the kit.

  • minutemad 12 days ago

    Chip readers have liability shift. We did an event, and the fraudsters all had "sorry the chip doesn't work, can you swipe it or type it in?" cards. We had zero chargebacks.

    • sgerenser 12 days ago

      This only protects you from the most egregious form of fraud, where the actual card is cloned/stolen. Using a chip card doesn’t prevent the customer from filing a chargeback for a “failure to deliver” or defective product claim.

      • twarnp 11 days ago

        Yes, but fake cards were such a problem it moved the entire card industry to chips. And also, if the friendly fraudster claims fraud or that it wasn't them, the shift stands.

        I'd also argue that friendly fraud is just as if not more egregious than fraud fraud.

  • namibj 11 days ago

    If only the US had something as convenient and normal as SEPA Push, which recently-ish got extended with SEPA Instant (takes ~10 seconds for the payment to go through/finalize; charge backs are not a thing (unless the bank messed up)).

    And even normal SEPA Push doesn't have money-claw-back, the charge back process for that after the money has reached the recipient (usually next bank day) starts with asking for the money back and escalates into a lawsuit if the recipient doesn't give in.

    • Xylakant 11 days ago

      The problem with sepa push is that now the buyer needs to transfer the money explicitly, either before or after the purchase. Either the buyer needs to trust the merchant or the other way around - and on top you can’t make the financial transaction happen when the goods are shipped.

  • hnburnsy 12 days ago

    don't banks has cash depositing fees for business accounts and aren't there other cash risks like counterfeits, theft, and leakage?

  • seibelj 12 days ago

    Cryptocurrencies are like digital cash - one way payments that can’t be reversed. You can accept stablecoins on cheaper networks. Check out BitPay or Square for retail.

    • Gigachad 12 days ago

      The only payment system with all the downsides of cash while being even less convenient to deal with.

    • alpaca128 12 days ago

      So far "stablecoins" have to be proven to be anything but stable. And they are not like digital cash as every single transaction is public.

      Also I'm not sure getting rid of chargebacks completely makes sense - there's a good reason they were introduced in the first place.

    • mnd999 12 days ago

      There’s always one.

gizmo686 12 days ago

> The other behaviours that they normalized and now all of us deal with are what they call ‘serial returns’ where you buy maybe one of everything and return what you don’t want.

At least for clothing, this behaviour is officially supported by Amazon:


  • runnerup 12 days ago

    This is the cost of removing brick-and-mortar facilities where customers can try out options. Companies save tons of money not needing to support outlets in every major city globally. Then they spend a bit more on returns. Getting rid of both will result in no sales because I'll shop at a competitor.

    I recently got a weightlifting coach and was required to buy specialized weightlifting shoes. I live in Houston which serves 7-8 million people, but there was nowhere in town to try on or buy any weightlifting shoe:

    - Nike Romaleos - Adidas Adipower - Rogue Do-win / Classic

    This is despite there being quite a few Nike and Adidas stores here - standalone, typical mall, and outlet malls. So I bought 3 sizes and am returning two sizes.

    For Silca, maybe they have 3 different pumps and there's no way for me to stop by a local REI / bike shop to try them out. Is it worth getting a portable pump and a garage pump or can I just get by with the portable? Who the fuck knows. But I can buy both and return one if the value isn't worth the price.

    Or Silca can put a store in Houston where I can try out the products.

    Want to reduce return fraud? Make customers bring back items to your local store where knowledgeable salespeople can inspect it at the time of return. My guess is that eating return fraud is a lot cheaper though.

    • pedalpete 11 days ago

      Are you saying you bought and had 9 pairs of shoes (3 brands, 3 sizes) and are returning 8 because you weren't able to make a choice?

      Do you think about the environmental impact of shipping around all your crap because you can't figure out what size or brand to pick?

      The real option here is to pick a shoe, and pick a size. If the size doesn't fit, return it for the larger or smaller? If shipping is next day, or two day or whatever, can you really not wait that extra time?

      I get that the local stores don't stock specialty items, and you may think my comment is misguided, but I look at all the thousands of people who behave similar to you, and how much waste that creates.

      • runnerup 10 days ago

        3 pairs total.

        Is that waste larger or smaller than brick and mortar solutions? Maybe the solution is to both tax externalities and charge properly for shipping.

        • pedalpete 10 days ago

          I think charging appropriately for shipping and returns would help.

          For non-specialty items, I'd suggest brick and mortar is better.

          The challenge when we think about 3 pairs in order to keep 1, is that it isn't just the shipping on the 3 pairs, or 5 pairs of shoes shipped total.

          The extra 2 pair take up extra space on each delivery van, each way. You reach a point where many people take this approach, and the company needs to be sending out 5 times as many vans to your neighborhood. That's just the end of line delivery as well.

          I don't know enough about stock and warehouse, landfill, etc, but these things do add up.

          We all need to be aware of the externalities and issues this cause, aside from just directly on the business profits/costs.

          Unfortunately, because this has become common practice, the attitude seems to be "everyone else is doing it, so..."

          • gizmo686 10 days ago

            With a brick and mortor store, you have an almost empty van going to/from your house and the store (in addition to the logistics of keeping the retail store stocked). If you factor in what the consumer spends on transportation, you will find that delivery is far more efficient, even with returns.

            The big waste with returns comes from the fact that retailers can't trust them nearly as much. With in store shopping, no one is suspicious about about taking clothes left in a changing room and putting them back on the rack. With returns, you run into all of the issues talked about in the article.

    • prmoustache 12 days ago

      Silca do not have their own stores but they are distributed through regular brick and mortar shops too.

  • loeg 12 days ago

    It’s the only way to buy clothing sight unseen on the internet. If you don’t want to sell sized goods on the internet, don’t, but otherwise people need to try multiple sizes and return some.

    • alpaca128 12 days ago

      I wish we had a way to just enter all measurements and filter out clothes that won't fit. Clothing sizes are still in the middle ages, with the same unit meaning something different with each manufacturer and not everyone even uses the same units.

      • vladvasiliu 12 days ago

        Oh man, it's even worse than that. I mainly buy Levi's jeans, model 511.

        A few years ago I needed a new pair, checked my size from my current pair, and ordered the exact same off Amazon. My old pair still fit, maybe even a tad big at the waist.

        Then, perusing the catalog, I figured I'd also spice things up a bit, and ordered a 501 in a color I don't usually wear, for variety.

        When I received them, the sizing was a complete joke.

        It was absolutely impossible for me to put on the 511. My upper thighs would not fit inside the jeans without pulling on them, and after that it was impossible to button them.

        The 501 was the opposite: much too big, could have probably went two sizes down.

        I sent them both back, ordered a single 511 one size above, which was, you guessed, too big.

        Frustrated, I sent them all back and went to my local brick and mortar store and ended up with a pair of 514s – one size below my regular one.

        • loeg 11 days ago

          Levi’s has notoriously bad quality control. Five pairs in the same nominal size can all fit very differently. You have to try them on in person.

        • MezzoDelCammin 12 days ago

          Oh, Levi's jeans fit is a subject of its own. I think I've currently got about 6 different pairs (few 501s, then some 541 and a "Commuter", whatever the number was back then). Waist 36 sometimes ends up tighter than 35 or even 34, depending on cut and the stretchiness of the fabric.

          Specially with Silca being a cycling company, I think a lot of people here will be all too familiar with the phenomenon of "chicken legs" and how to find a pair of trousers to fit them into :-)

          • vladvasiliu 12 days ago

            > Specially with Silca being a cycling company, I think a lot of people here will be all too familiar with the phenomenon of "chicken legs" and how to find a pair of trousers to fit them into :-)

            I'm not really built like a cyclist, so I usually have the opposite problem when buying cycling shorts :)

            Although, to the point of this thread, I've found that actual sporting goods brands (as opposed to "lifestyle" or "sportswear", or whatever they're called) tend to stick to one set of measures.

            I used to love my Gore biking shorts, so when I was in the market for a pair of running shorts, and saw Gore made those too, I ordered the same size and fit was the same.

            I have similar experience with Decathlon, a French sports goods store, that also make their own products.

            Ditto for Nike, where my basketball shoes are the same size as my running shoes – bought several years apart.

          • namibj 11 days ago

            My 501's (in non-stretch fabric) enlarge one size from wearing, and shrink back from washing (40C, normal detergent, no fabric softener, no brightener, spin cycle and then hung to dry indoors on a line).

      • blfr 11 days ago

        In Poland, a large shoe retailer eobuwie does this with their esize.me[1] service. You can go to one of their (or affiliated) stores, scan your feet, and then use the scan to purchase shoes online later.

        I only tried it once but it worked very well. Suggested a smaller size than I would have purchased and they fit perfectly.

        Clothes are probably significantly more difficult than shoes though.

        [1] https://www.esize.me/

        • isbvhodnvemrwvn 11 days ago

          It didn't work for me at all. I used the machine three times and always got different results. That was 2 years ago so maybe they improved, but I was very disappointed, especially with heel width.

      • someweirdperson 12 days ago

        > I wish we had a way to just enter all measurements and filter out clothes that won't fit. Clothing sizes are still in the middle ages ...

        I would go one step further than just filtering. Production is usually still far too much manual labor (cheapest available). With significantly improved automation everything would change. Even just automating the cutting of cloth would allow to tailor to fit, not just standard sizes, with no significant increase in net effort.

        Combined with sewing in cheap parts of the world and any kind of returns policy it becomes a logistics nightmare of course.

        The solution is even higher automation.

        • krisoft 12 days ago

          > Even just automating the cutting of cloth would allow to tailor to fit, not just standard sizes, with no significant increase in net effort.

          I think you are seriously underestimating how big of a change in effort that would be. Just tracing and keeping track of a particular garment through the production would be a huge effort.

          • someweirdperson 11 days ago

            > Just tracing and keeping track of a particular garment through the production would be a huge effort.

            For a robot/computer.

            • krisoft 11 days ago

              Not just for a robot/computer. Imagine that you have to make 500 shirts. Previously you can take the textile, cut out the right size pieces. Maybe 3 or 4 pieces per end product. After cutting you have large piles, other people sew together to finished shirts. These shirts go to a giant pile and get shipped to a warehouse.

              Now what changes if you have an orderbook of 500 shirts all with custom sizes? You (or a robot or whoever) cuts out the pieces for order number 1. You can’t just grab any lefts and sew them to any backs. You need to sew that specific left with that specific back. After cutting do you mark the pieces? If so how do you remove the marks later? If not how do you QC that there were no mixups? After a shirt is done how do you make sure it ends up with the right customer?

              These are all solveable of course. The thing I am disagreeing is that all you need is a robot to cut the pieces and then you can offer custom tailoring for little or no effort.

        • 2143 11 days ago

          I'm sceptical if you'd get the same craftsmanship when robots do the job.

          (And I'm not talking high-end clothes).

      • thirdsun 9 days ago

        > with the same unit meaning something different with each manufacturer and not everyone even uses the same units.

        It's even worse. Some manufacturers have a single rough sizing table for an entire product category, like all shirts or pants. They will happily ignore different fittings and styles like slim fit, oversized, loose fit etc.

    • rgmerk 12 days ago

      Silca sells the odd bit of branded merch but the vast majority of their business isn't in clothing.

      They sell a variety of high-end bicycle accessories including pumps, bottle cages, fancy lubricants (including chains pre-treated with hot wax lubricant). It's quality stuff with a pricetag to match.

      • loeg 12 days ago

        I’m familiar with Silca’s products (I have some of their wax) but this thread is more generally about shopping for clothing online.

    • throwaway290 12 days ago

      I bought numerous pants, shirts, tees, hoodies, shoes of different makers from Amazon and other online shops over the years and I am yet to receive a single item that I would have to return or give to someone else because it doesn't fit, and I wear non-standard sizes (the reason I shop online).

      A little research and review-reading goes a long way.

throwaway81523 12 days ago

This is a fantastically good article for people interested in online retail or in payments. I lost the url but there was another article I've been wanting to find and link to, about how the US payment system is so completely screwed up. From a seller perspective, Alipay (used for everything in China) is much better than what we have here. They have an actual dispute resolution process before a transaction can be reversed, instead of reversing at the push of a button.

  • metadat 12 days ago

    What difference does it make if the reversal happens at the beginning or end? The process should account for this and see things through either way.

    • throwaway81523 12 days ago

      The US system purposely disfavors the merchant. Imagine being arrested and having to prove your innocence at trial, instead of the other way around. Alipay from what I understand tries to have a more neutral process. And it means the buyer can't exploit the asymmetry of one button click (to get a refund unless the merchant deals with a mountain of bureaucracy) vs dealing with the bureaucracy. It is better that if there is a disagreement, both have to deal with the bureaucracy.

      • metadat 12 days ago

        Clearly you've never been arrested. "Innocent until proven guilty" is a fantasy in the USA, especially if you're a part of a minority group. 90-95% of cases settle with a plea bargain, because the punishment will be disproportionately severe if you lose the case.

        Regardless, any system which inherently favors businesses over individuals is wrong. Businesses have the option of building the known cost of fraud into the products, whereas individual customers can easily get screwed without any recourse. What good is a gift card if the store turns out to be a bad actor?

        Ideally neither side should be favored and the process should be impartial and difficult to game. Dunno how to make such a system though, humans are a crafty bunch.

        "Better a thousand guilty people go free than imprison an innocent."

        • notch656a 12 days ago

          Lol I'll do you one better. I've had DHS "not arrest" me but put me in a jail cell, booked and fingerprinted me, including transport by prison van, all while only "being detained." That's right, you can be jailed without even being arrested or accused of a crime.

          • JTbane 12 days ago

            IMO both DHS and ICE are long overdue for some limitations of their power, especially the entirely bullshit "100 mile radius of the border"

          • labster 12 days ago

            Japanese police can detain suspects for up to 30 days before pressing charges… per crime. I remember reading about how long Carlos Ghosn was held because he had the temerity to not confess.

        • chrischen 12 days ago

          Businesses building the cost into the product also does nothing to address fraud. It just raises prices across the board due to fraud and consumers don’t even realize that’s the reason why.

        • ruuda 11 days ago

          > Ideally neither side should be favored and the process should be impartial and difficult to game. Dunno how to make such a system though, humans are a crafty bunch.

          There is the Exploding Nash Equilibrium [1]. Some related research is also linked from there. If you are fine with trusting a third party then you don't need the blockchain, and you can use an escrow service who mediates disputes. But my understanding from the article and the comments here is that credit card companies effectively fill this role, but they aren't neutral mediators.

          [1]: https://www.gwern.net/docs/bitcoin/nashx/index.

      • jsjohnst 12 days ago

        > And it means the buyer can't exploit the asymmetry of one button click (to get a refund unless the merchant deals with a mountain of bureaucracy)

        You’ve obviously never done a chargeback or are intentionally being hyperbolic and disingenuous. The “buy” part might be close to one click, but the chargeback process certainly isn’t for most (all?) US credit card companies.

      • fmajid 11 days ago

        I've had to deal with the AliExpress dispute resolution process. While it's slow, it's fair in my experience.

    • notch656a 12 days ago

      It's a good point. I had a scammer stole my credit card number. I reported the fraud and the bank instantly removed it, but the scammers just said I was lying and eventually got their money back. Bank backed the scammers and said I must be lying because the scammers produced a tracking number for some arbitrary package that went to my same zip code (but not my address).

      As a customer I found getting the charge reversed and then unreversed as not much different experience than the bank telling me to go fuck myself to begin with. It's actually laughably easy for the merchant to fight a chargeback by just providing any arbitrary tracking number to your zip code as full satisfactory proof they fulfilled their agreements. The writings of this article do not anywhere near match the reality I've seen with chargeback process and appeals process, which seam to heavily favor the merchant.

      • metadat 12 days ago

        It depends heavily on the card company. Most of them are user-hostile scum, with Amex being the most cardholder friendly.

        I've still been screwed by AirBnB to the tune of $2k even when I used an Amex card. Caveat emptor (buyer beware), I'll never use AirBnB again, got totally ripped off by a creepy and deceptive house host in Pebble Beach who claimed we damaged his house, even though I'd taken pics of a lot of the oddities. Live and learn.

      • blackoil 12 days ago

        This could have been protected using OTP or some 2FA good online credit card payments. Little hastle but goes long way to protecting fraud like this.

gambiting 12 days ago

Thankfully EU and UK force companies to accept returns within 14 days of purchase(delivery to the customer in fact) for anything sold "remotely"(through internet, phone, by post.....anything where the customer couldn't inspect the item before buying) so companies cannot try to pull this nonsense like here. Refund only for in-store credit? I sympathize with the issues of fraud, but that's not an acceptable return policy for any company selling anything on the internet.

  • googlryas 12 days ago

    Is the idea that companies should just eat an ever increasing proportion of fraud? I'm thankful that a blunt policy isn't enforced on companies where I'm from - as long as I know what the return policy is, I'm fine to make the decision whether it is acceptable for me or not.

    The result of that policy will probably just be that European companies are under more fraud pressure and will go out of business sooner than companies that have more tools to combat fraud.

    • raverbashing 12 days ago

      Having to accept returns doesn't mean having to accept return fraud, or things like returns without proof of purchase

      (And interestingly, by TFA Amazon actually helps dealing with the frauds - though I'm thinking they should start engaging lawyers on this)

      "the result of that policy" this is not a new thing, but yeah, please preach how some basic customer service is bad

      • googlryas 12 days ago

        Clearly one doesn't need to just accept return fraud. I'm not familiar enough with EU laws, but I'm assuming their consumer protection laws are a little stronger than a merchant just being allowed to unilaterally say "this is fraud, no refund for you".

        If the company gets dragged in front of a tribunal, or needs to provide evidence, what could they do in the situations where someone received a normal item, pilfered it for replacement parts, and then sent back the rest. How could one show that this is fraud and not the company just sending out an incomplete product? I suppose they could just ban the customer(can they?), but dedicated fraudsters would have no problem using numerous fake identities in order to conduct their fraud.

        • tgsovlerkhgsel 12 days ago

          The company can do whatever, the consumer or a consumer protection agency would then have to sue, so this is highly asymmetrical (against the consumer/fraudster) in the individual case.

          A company trying to scam people like this by claiming return fraud would likely find itself in expensive hot water once the pattern became obvious though.

          Avoiding the risk of having to deal with this is one of the reasons why people buy via Amazon (aside from convenience and fast+cheap shipping).

        • withinboredom 12 days ago

          > what could they do in the situations where someone received a normal item, pilfered it for replacement parts, and then sent back the rest.

          I imagine the manufacturer does some kind of QA, right? This seems like a pretty easy thing to prove. Sure, defective parts happen. But totally incomplete parts, that may be impossible in some cases, depending on the manufacturing process.

    • varispeed 11 days ago

      I think the problem is that the fraud has become essentially legal. Police is not interested in dealing with it, so fraudsters can do fraud to their heart's content without consequences.

      I have reported fraud many times, even had fraudsters on camera and all their details, Police huffed and puffed and said they won't do anything and complaints got me nowhere.

    • netr0ute 12 days ago

      If those companies go out of business, then ones willing to follow the rules will fill in the gaping void. :)

      • jonas21 12 days ago

        And they'll charge twice as much for everything to make up for the cost of fraud.

        • netr0ute 12 days ago

          Then cheaper ones will fill in the gaping void, and they still have to play by the rules too. This isn't the car business where cost of entry is high.

      • barry-cotter 12 days ago

        Or the business will become unprofitable and no one will do it.

        • netr0ute 12 days ago

          Where will the customers go to get their products?

          • analog31 12 days ago

            I only know the Silca brand from a pump that I got for $5 at St. Vinnie's. There are dozens if not hundreds of bike pumps on Amazon and AliExpress, including many that seem like the same pump being sold under different brands like GOBUYMD and PROOGMEF. I imagine they manage their costs so they can afford to eat the returns. That's the future of retail.

            If Silca goes out of business, someone will buy the brand, like Motobecane and Schwinn.

            I got a good pump at Target. I was able to confirm that it works before buying.

            • Lio 12 days ago

              > If Silca goes out of business, someone will buy the brand, like Motobecane and Schwinn.

              This is what has already happened. Silca was an Italian brand that went out of business when the owner died.

              Josh Portner (the guy behind using dimples to market Zipp wheels) bought them[1].

              As far as I know all the pumps and other accessories are now made in Taiwan or China by contract manufacturers.

              I have some of their stuff. It’s OK but no better than stuff from, say, Leyzne or Topeak.

              I would wager it’s come from the same contract manufacturer.

              1. I believe they were friends. There’s a nice write up of the story online. Came across as a personal project to continue the brand.

          • notch656a 12 days ago

            The black market, where the sellers won't give two fucks about the law and they'll force you to pay with something irreversible like cash or crypto.

            • netr0ute 12 days ago

              That could actually be a win-win, since return fraudsters now have no method to do their work, and you have the opportunity to pay with anonymous methods.

  • gaius_baltar 12 days ago

    Same thing here in Brazil, but for 7 days. That's a law from 1990, written when "remote buy" mean buying stuff by phone or catalog, but also generically written to allow future technologies. That's up for almost 32 years and have neither prevented online selling from happening nor made stuff unusually expensive nor made the e-commerce environment unprofitable.

    I have returned items twice in the last five or so years (one was an obvious packaging error and for the other I'm was never sure if it was an innocent mistake or if the seller tried to scam me ... but the law worked as intended). And I buy online a lot and have no reason to believe other people's experiences are too much different from mine. It just seems the law worked in a societal level.

    But I always try to be safe on my side: when receiving expensive products, I always record the unboxing in a full Dogme 95 style, filming from the labels on the sealed box down to serial numbers on the product. I never actually needed to use any of these videos, but if I got scammed for real I will have enough evidence for a lawsuit and stand my ground in the card company questions my chargeback.

  • nrp 12 days ago

    Policies like that harm both dishonest companies and honest customers. Honest customers end up needing to pay more to cover the cost of fraud from dishonest customers.

    We voluntarily have a 30-day return policy anyway instead of the required 14-day in the EU, but a lot of what the interviewee brings up rings painfully true.

    • notch656a 12 days ago

      I can't imagine 30 days makes much difference than 14 days from the perspective of a fraudster. Assuming they meant to do the fraud anyway, they probably want as fast turn around time as possible.

  • minutemad 12 days ago

    > Refund only for in-store credit?

    They changed their policy, but this won't prevent chargebacks.

    Anyone in the US who buys online with a credit card basically has up to 90 or even 180 day free returns.

    They just need to say the magic words. Product misrepresented/defective, merchant won't respond, or I don't recognize the charge.

    For example, they can poke a hole in the shirt they want to return and do it 1000% legally.

    • tekknik 10 days ago

      > Anyone in the US who buys online with a credit card basically has up to 90 or even 180 day free returns.

      Except the average consumer rarely reverses charges. Someone doing this regularly is going to stand out and will get legal attention.

      > For example, they can poke a hole in the shirt they want to return and do it 1000% legally.

      Except now they’ve damaged the good. Will they wear the shirt with the hole?

  • anonAndOn 12 days ago

    Thankfully the US doesn't force small businesses to run their business according to lawmakers' preferences for return policies. If a prospective customer doesn't like the return policy they are free to spend their money elsewhere and the market will decide whether the policy is good for business.

    • gambiting 12 days ago

      How has the "market will decide" worked out for American society over the decades?

    • 2143 11 days ago

      On the one hand your country is so great they don't force small businesses to run their business according to lawmakers' preferences for return policies.

      On the other hand your own citizens scam the businesses over there.

      You're in between a rock and a hard place.

      As long as people have the attitude to commit fraud, they would. Maybe it's time to take a few steps back and try to understand why people do this?

      • tekknik 10 days ago

        So you’re trying to regulate morality?

  • Rebelgecko 12 days ago

    How common is similar fraud in the UK and EU?

    • netr0ute 12 days ago

      It may or may not be similar, but the sellers have to suck it up either way.

Zaheer 12 days ago

Wow - was not expecting this level of depth. This is a masterclass in retail / payments from end to end. The title just doesn't do it justice. Thank you for sharing.

  • bambax 12 days ago

    Yes it's a really informative interview, and fun too. Great read.

michaelmrose 12 days ago

This isn't merely crass and dishonest its a crime. The solution is honestly to start making examples of people.

If someone stole all the parts of a thousand dollar bike start by suing them for the thousand bucks and then add all the employee time burned dealing with the matter. If they don't want to settle burn them for the entire cost of the litigation to recover those funds. If they can't pay then go to court and take absolutely anything that the court will late you take and attach their wages for eternity. Publish their names on a fraud page along with evidence of the crime and how much they paid you this month until its paid off.

Threaten absolutely every person who commits an obvious crime against your company and pick 1 a year and ruin their lives. The obvious fact is even a small crime like a $50 fraud is a multi thousand dollar bill if a lawyer ends up being a required step to collect.

Change the expectation that you will trivially get away with crime to an expectation that you will likely be hit with bill for your misbehavior.

  • MBCook 12 days ago

    First for small things the company is going to have to DIY it in small claims court. For larger items even if they win with treble damages will that pay for their lawyer bills?

    It’s a criminal issue anyway. The state should really be prosecuting these people somehow but I can’t see us ever willing to spend the political and financial capital to actually do that in this country.

    • michaelmrose 12 days ago

      Presumably you only actually recover a minority of cases while meeting every single case of fraud with a legitimate theoretically enforceable demand for payment. Joe rando might or might not pay or ultimately be sued but Bob evil committing dozens to hundreds of cases of fraud would be and Joe would be put off just a bit by Bob's ruination.

      • brewdad 12 days ago

        Just like $250,000 fines for downloading Metallica killed online piracy.

        • michaelmrose 12 days ago

          Good point but I believe the issues are dissimilar. With downloading you are dealing with 100s of millions of people who can trivially foil all efforts to stick them with a bill with a few clicks.

          Return fraud is orders of magnitudes smaller and as it involves physical goods changing hands spoiling anonymity. A single user committing a single act of fraud might yet retain relatively good odds but a massive portion of fraud as with retail theft is perpetrated by a minority of offenders which could well be correlated by requiring an ID for all returns and dealing with a tiny number of major offenders very harshly.

          An environment in which you hear news about fraudsters facing prosecution or financial ruin would be perceived as riskier further dissuading offenders.

          • ghaff 11 days ago

            It could also be seen as an environment where, as an honest buyer, you're safer purchasing from a B&M store where you can lay eyes on your purchase.

  • bsder 12 days ago

    > start by suing

    Spoken like someone who has never filed a lawsuit in the US. If that fraudster has ANY resources, that case you filed is going to be anywhere from $250K to $500K.

    Even if you win, you will bleed money. The opposition can hire a shitty lawyer that does the bare minimum and practically ignores everything while you have to file all the proper paperwork in a timely fashion.

    Because lawyers protect one another, that shitty lawyer won't suffer one iota, either.

    Yeah, I'm speaking from experience here ...

    So, referencing the original company, you can spend the revenue of one thousand pumps (in reality, probably more like the profits of ten thousand pumps) in the hope of getting back the value of one pump, or you can suck it up and deal with it as cheaply as you can.

  • lmz 12 days ago

    I'm surprised this comment is still visible, considering what the mainstream American opinion is on making examples out of criminals.

    • michaelmrose 12 days ago

      Mainstream America is absolutely vindictive and cruel towards criminals.

      • abalashov 12 days ago

        In weirdly asymmetrical, lopsided ways, where both extremes are simultaneously true. In part it depends on what one has in mind when speaking of "mainstream" America; it seems people have very different ideas of this.

        But I've been here almost 30 years, and seen both for-the-top run-amok police-state law-and-order in the red states, AND a passion for doing anything possible to avoid imprisoning repeat (felony!) offenders in many blue-state urban jurisdictions. The official explanation for the latter relates to penal system overcrowding and lack of capacity, and of course, there's something to that. But somehow this doesn't doesn't hinder the law-and-order "red" jurisdictions from "throwing the book" at some poor fellow who had a few too many ounces of weed on him or whatever.

        Here in Georgia, that's the difference between, say, Fulton County (which encompasses inner-city Atlanta) and one of the Metro ATL suburban counties, or for that matter, just about any other random county in Georgia. The outcomes vary immensely. You can find both extremes, allowing one to say in the same breath both that the state is cruel and vindictive toward criminals, and has let them run amok.

        It doesn't quite make my top 5 list of "things most maddening about America", but it's probably in the top 10.

PebblesHD 12 days ago

The returns fraud issue is a difficult one, and still very much an ongoing issue particularly with Amazon, as recently as yesterday when I ordered a used copy of a video game listed as returned to Amazon, and received an amazon warehouse sealed package containing a completely different game with the sticker replaced, so clearly not tested at all during the returns process to ensure it did actually work.

Now, as for a solution, is it too much to expect Amazon to test goods they then go on to sell again? I would previously have assumed they did this, but apparently not.

Luckily, the returns process is quite easy, which both leads to this issue in the first place but makes it easy to resolve.

  • rmatt2000 12 days ago

    I think the problem is that Amazon returns are not inspected by someone associated with the manufacture of the product. I suspect that return handlers have to handle thousands of products and can only give a returned product a cursory inspection.

    I once bought some expensive eyeglass frames from Amazon. When they arrived, it was pretty clear that they were not factory new. I returned the product and gave the company a bad review. The CEO of the company actually sent me an email apologizing, saying that this was an on-going problem. He said people order new frames identical to ones they currently own, swap out the lenses, and return the old ones. Amazon will often accept these returns, repackage them, and ship them as new, and the company which sells the frames has not control over this.

    • PebblesHD 12 days ago

      Absolutely, I really feel for the brands impacted by these practices that they have limited control over, just as the brand in the article ends up wearing the costs for returns via Amazon and co. It would make me think very hard before deciding to start a hardware company needing to deal with the small section of the population acting in bad faith here.

    • Ekaros 12 days ago

      I saw some video or something and it's the typical hyper optimized process. With the allowed time spend on item including data input being less than a minute or two if not even that.

  • fmajid 11 days ago

    Amazon doesn't bother to inspect returns any more. Most are auctioned off by the pound to specialized firms that sort through them and resell the good stuff for a profit.

powerhour 12 days ago

> The other behaviours that they normalized and now all of us deal with are what they call ‘serial returns’ where you buy maybe one of everything and return what you don’t want.

My wife and I do this, although not with small retailers. Very few brick and mortar companies carry clothing in our sizes, so if we want something we have to order a few options to find the right one. It's worse for my wife because she, according to clothing manufacturers, shrinks a full size every couple of years, making it nearly impossible to predict what size to buy.

Do the kids still say sorry not sorry?

  • hollandheese 12 days ago

    Yeah, this is a giant problem with clothing.

    I entirely blame the manufacturers and online stores for not having proper measurements for each article of clothing. Just that alone would ensure a lot fewer returns. There are several brands that I can't even trust that a 38/32 will be the same in two of the same "exact" pair of pants.

  • MBCook 12 days ago

    He spells out the pay of this later in the article. It’s about 5 sales to 1 kept. The example he used is if person A buys three things and return two, they have to sell two more things to others just to make up for the loss caused by person A.

    That’s a huge drain. Especially with something like clothing that can’t be refurbished and re-sold or stripped for parts.

  • bloggie 11 days ago

    I was under the impression that online retailers encouraged this practice, because the alternative is placing one order at a time until you find the right size.

WalterBright 11 days ago

> The bad actors who really know how to work the systems

Time to bring back retailers sharing a list of names of those bad actors and just refusing to do business with them.

For the people who buy one of each color and then return all but one, a solution is to only ship one at a time.

I'm surprised that Amazon doesn't have (or perhaps has it in secret) a "score" for each customer, and certain kinds of transactions are simply rejected for them.

  • ghaff 11 days ago

    >For the people who buy one of each color and then return all but one, a solution is to only ship one at a time.

    Zappos, which is owned by Amazon, essentially encourages people to order multiple sizes and return the ones that don't fit. Presumably there are people who take advantage of such policies to an extreme. There are presumably also people who just wouldn't shop for certain things online otherwise.

  • rmatt2000 11 days ago

    > For the people who buy one of each color and then return all but one

    Amazon's "try before you buy" encourages people to do just this, so I'm guessing Amazon has figured out how to make this shopping pattern profitable.

    • WalterBright 11 days ago

      Try before you buy is not quite the same as buy a spread in order to pick one.

      • tekknik 10 days ago

        Actually in this case it is, you choose a box of items to get shipped to you and ship back what you don’t want. You can get an identical shirt in 5 different colors, or sizes, and ship back all but one.

  • 9dev 11 days ago

    I’ll bet my last shirt they have in invested big time in fraud risk scoring. That’s stuff Amazon is set up to do perfectly.

    • VBprogrammer 11 days ago

      Not that it really disproves your point but a friend recently received a new camera from Amazon, except what was actually in the box was a container of pool chemicals.

ilamont 12 days ago

We put a report together for Amazon showing what has happened and if approved, they will allow us to keep the payment as if the item had not been returned and then they are now supposedly putting customers on a three-strike system where Amazon will potentially cancel their account for repeated misbehaviour.

This does not scale. It also isn’t worth it for low margin or low cost items. While it’s nice to hear this brand has a positive experience with Amazon, my experience as a third-party brand much lower down the totem pole is Amazon seldom investigates or respects such reports, and inevitably sides with the customer. ‘Customer delight’ is the dogma they preach 24/7, even though customers make mistakes or sometimes commit fraud.

  • vladvasiliu 12 days ago

    It doesn't scale if you do it for every item, but it can work as a deterrent, as in people may think twice about it if they know they can end up in court over some stupid item.

    Also, as an honest customer, I absolutely hate to receive a clearly used / defective / wrong item when ordering new. Sure, Amazon will accept my return and send me a new one, but I still have to go through the hassle of sending it back and waiting for the new one. There's nothing delightful about that.

    Making it not worthwhile to engage in shady returns is actually beneficial to "customer delight".

BSOhealth 12 days ago

Only here to support Silca (as a consumer) but hopefully relevant to HN as it’s just to highlight their product design. After tracking their American “rebirth” I dove in for Silca’s top-of-the-line $500 pump ~5 years ago and the quality and durability is exceptional. If you are, or claim to be, someone who appreciates mechanical watches, “The Design of Everyday Things” type stuff, unboxing and inspecting Apple products, etc. etc., _and_ you are a cyclist, I totally recommend seeing if you have a friend with a Silca pump to check out.

The push-on chuck, beautifully braided and flexible hose, and general height and ergonomics combines for a nearly a zero-to-one improvement over the rest of the market. It removes almost all cognitive and physical friction to getting the job done (filling a tyre), short of just automating it with an air compressor — which has its own complications for filling bike tyres.

Off-topic (but on-topic): REI also has a notoriously forgiving return policy. Generally, just about anything can be returned after years of use, abuse, wear, and tear, and it typically ends up getting sold. I know many REI shoppers who first run upstairs (or wherever) to the “Returns” racks to see what they can find at a discount. Granted, it’s a hit REI is taking, but it’s clearly not a total loss as the “Returns” section turns over pretty quickly.

  • redelbee 12 days ago

    Actually the current REI return policy has a time limit of 1 year. It changed in 2013:


    Before that there was no time limit though. I remember becoming a member in 2011 when I moved to a city with a local REI and that was one of the main benefits they pitched. I don’t miss it because I never returned anything after a year (or even a few weeks).

    REI started a trade-in program that serves a similar function and probably manages to foil most of the people who would have abused the system in the past. I think it goes well with their overall “earth friendly” ethos and brand identity as well.


supernova87a 12 days ago

I wish there were a similar story to read about at an even more "previous step" level, to learn about all the complications and issues that start arising as soon as you begin accepting credit cards for payment, and how to protect against those.

Is anyone aware of such a tutorial for people selling software, online services?

It would be nice to be able to accept payments without having to just take as a cost of doing business all the fraud, customer service headaches, etc. that come with it.

pwned1 11 days ago

I get a web page with the company logo and nothing else.

  • chedabob 11 days ago

    Scroll down a bit.

    There's a space for adverts that is set to take up the whole height of the window, and only gets resized when the advert loads in. If you've got an adblocker on, it never gets resized.

  • Neil44 11 days ago

    Me too, I was just about to disable ublock but then I realised there was stuff below the page of whitespace.

js2 12 days ago

> Essentially, people buy something, put something else in the packaging and return it for full refund.

I purchased a open-box Apple Pencil from Best Buy a couple years ago. What I got was someone else's returned pencil with totally shot battery. I took it back to BB and showed how the S/N on the pencil didn't match the box and they believed me, but I guess they could've thought I was the one pulling the scam. Anyway, they gave me a new opened Apple Pencil.

Now here's the weird part. The brand new pencil didn't work. I was sure BB was going to think I was scamming them, so when I returned it I asked them to verify the S/N matched the box and that it didn't work, but they didn't care, they gave me another new un-opened Apple Pencil which I verified worked there in the store.

Last year I purchased a 65" Hisense from Best Buy. Got it home, opened the box, before I even get it out of the box I see the upper-right corner of the screen is shattered. Take it back to BB, they swap it out for me. They have nothing but my word that I didn't drop it myself (I hadn't).

Last month I purchased a Westinghouse inverter generator. I was nervous it would be damaged during shipping, so I purchased it from Home Depot and had them ship-to-store. It turns out that they just FedEx it to the store. It doesn't go on a truck or pallet with a bunch of other items, so this doesn't reduce the chance of shipping damage. I pick up the generator at the store and notice the box is pretty beat up, but I bring it home anyway. Take it out of the box and it looks okay outside, but I pull the maintenance panel off and sure enough, the plastic air filter housing is cracked. Back in box, back to Home Depot. They order me a new one, no questions asked. When the new one arrives, I take it out of the box and inspect it at the store. Fortunately, no damage.

Which is all to say: yes, sometimes it's customer fraud. But sometimes the customer, like me, just gets unlucky. Most bulky goods I purchase these days are not adequately packaged.

I'm sure my "customer returns too much" rating has gotten dinged lately.

Edit: on the other side of the equation, customers have to deal with fraudulent merchants:

"8TB External SSD" for $89:



Fake 5 TB drive:


sylvainr65 8 days ago

I think I'm the average Amazon customer. If I buy something cheap and it breaks or doesn't work as expected, I just throw it away. If it's expensive, then I ask for a return, but I really take care to return it as new. If I command something and change my mind afterward, I just keep it and take it as a lesson.

denimnerd42 12 days ago

this + theft at retail drive me nuts as an honest consumer

I'm the one paying that 5-10% on their loss!

liminalsunset 11 days ago

From the customer side of things, there is one upside to people returning things - Amazon sells the returned stuff as Warehouse Deals, often at a great discount. Unless it is a gift, I don't usually (ever) care if the box is gone/damaged or if the item is slightly used, as long as it is cheap. So far, in Canada, I've never had to return a Warehouse Deals item.

mhb 11 days ago

Great article.

Interesting: With Amazon, it’s amazingly a bit easier, as Amazon has massive leverage with the credit card companies, and they also know that this is a big problem. Up to half of our returns through Amazon are fraudulent or at best unethical, and so when fraud does happen at Amazon, they are actually great about it.

tgsovlerkhgsel 12 days ago

Isn't 3DSecure supposed so solve CC fraud (in the sense of not making the seller be out of money if it does happen)?

  • minutemad 12 days ago

    It adds liability shift, which is what the merchant needs. The card company will eat the loss if you meet the criteria. It's better than not having it, but their criteria isn't without holes, and when it's a feature on the customer's card, you can't expect them to always have it.

SergeAx 11 days ago

(I am not an American and was in America only as a tourist). Why the company don't go to the police and press charges against clear fraudster? If people knew that would be a consequence - they will think twice before pulling a stunt like this.

2143 11 days ago

Isn't there a way to legally move against people who dupe companies like this?

Maybe don't chase everyone, but go after just a handful of fraudsters, and once you've won get your PR department to ensure everybody on Earth realizes this is one company not to be messed with.

danuker 12 days ago

One idea: require invitations from other, trusted by some criterion, customers.

But this would severely slow scaling.

  • michaelmrose 12 days ago

    You could scale it by sharing it between businesses to help them identify the small minority of customers screwing everyone they deal with.

    I'm sorry sir we can't take your order because our records show that you already ripped off 6 other merchants in the last 5 years and we aren't willing to deal with you.

    • benlivengood 12 days ago

      We could call it a social credit score and force everyone to positively identify themselves with government identification for every financial transaction.

    • tlogan 12 days ago

      There is a company for that: https://www.theretailequation.com/

      They track customer’s returns and calculates a “risk score.”

      • michaelmrose 12 days ago

        I'm familiar from dealing with the employee side of this situation but I mean refusing to sell to the customer in the first place not merely refusing their refund.

    • prmoustache 12 days ago

      That would be illegal in some countries.

  • 2143 11 days ago

    What if somebody just moves into a new country and they don't know anybody to vouch for them?

    I once moved to USA as a student and didn't know anybody for a while. And being the introvert that I am, I had trouble making friends.

    (Off topic: years later I returned "back to your (my) country”)

    • danuker 11 days ago

      Make acquaintances on the Internet.

      You can get to know someone enough to know they're not a scammer.

aimor 12 days ago

Recently my credit card has been validating my purchases via SMS OTPs. I'm not thrilled by that, but after reading the article it sounds like an effective way to cut back on a lot of the credit card fraud.

WalterBright 11 days ago

This is a must read for anyone who is thinking of starting a business that sells online.

jackmott 12 days ago

Josh is a great person and the internet is also full of in depth aerodynamic and rolling resistance information thanks to him.