by Maggie Fox May 26, 2023
Consumers have been trained to expect all the wrong things.
Have you ever thought about what it takes for a maker or retailer to have a "no questions asked" returns policy? I'm not talking about replacing products that are defective or incorrectly shipped, but a policy where new items are shipped to customers, they are used (or misused), and then the customer decides they don't like them... and the products are returned. It's a little bit like ten people buying themselves an apple, and all taking a bite. Three of them decide they don't like that kind of apple, and then expect the grocer to give them a new one (in e-commerce businesses, the return rate can be as high as 30%).
Not a particularly sustainable business model.
Amazon, Walmart, IKEA and other massive global retailers are the reason we even imagine that this is reasonable - and they've done so for very specific reasons: to crush smaller stores who can't afford massive inventory losses due to customers changing their minds. It also has direct impact on what retailers regard as most important: When you're essentially throwing away 20-30% of your inventory, price becomes one of the most critical things you consider. A laser focus on obtaining the cheapest products in order to maintain profit margins will force your business to cut corners and find products that are ever cheaper (with a corresponding decline in quality). It's a race to the bottom.
But when you're focussed entirely on quality, things are very different indeed. If your standards for product mean you only source and stock the very best, you consistently work with your suppliers to maintain the highest standards, and you make sure every single item that comes in and leaves your business is perfect, a company should expect no more than a 2-3% returns rate (industry average for incorrectly shipped items plus defective products). This is a very different prospect.
In this environment, an e-commerce retailer has two options:
1) Cater to a segment of the population who have been conditioned to expect "no questions asked" returns policies, and - since there is no such thing as a free lunch - tack on a 30% markup for returns (which also means those who have made a careful and considered purchase are subsidizing those who will change their minds). This doesn't even consider the waste and carbon footprint of three out of ten items shipped being returned. In our case, these scissors are unsalable, since it is unfair and dishonest to position items that have been used as "new"; we don't know how they have been treated.
2) Have a relentless and meticulous focus on quality standards and a terrible (but VERY clear) Returns Policy. From day one, ours has been this:
We are available virtually 24/7 to gladly answer (sometimes very lengthy) questions via live chat and email. We offer incredibly detailed product page information, including recommended uses, steel composition, manufacture details and maker biographies, as well as country of origin and many, many unedited, unvarnished customer reviews.
We have visited all of our makers in-person to inspect their facilities. We have interviewed and prodded them to ensure our values around quality are aligned, and that they are committed (almost religiously) to the highest possible standards.
We personally inspect each and every pair of scissors that are shipped to us, hand polishing each, and returning the very few with (primarily aesthetic) defects. During this three-step process, we closely examine every surface and do a cut test. We place our scissors securely in custom packaging designed to withstand the rigours of e-commerce fulfillment. And then we send them to you.
That's why we have a terrible Returns Policy. We uphold an absurd standard to bring you our beautiful products for life. On the other side of this contract, we think consumers have an obligation to educate themselves about the things they spend their money on, and that while "changing ones mind" is of course allowed - we shouldn't be responsible for it.
We have thousands of thoughtful customers who support this sustainable way of doing business… but we have had a small number (fewer than half a dozen) who do expect a "no questions asked" returns policy. If you're the former, we're delighted to meet you. If you're the latter - perhaps it's best if we part amicably.
“No questions asked”.
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