Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
Note: On November 15, 2004, PRC staff meet with the CEO and Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing to discuss our concerns. The following Q&A is a result of that meeting.
Please note: The Return Exchange is now known as The Retail Equation.
- What has the PRC been hearing from consumers about The Return Exchange and retailer exchange policies in general?
The consumers who have contacted us have expressed a concern about having their drivers license swiped. Most indicate that they were not notified at the Point of Sale (POS) that their license or other form of goverment-issued ID would be required in order to make a return or exchange.
- Which retailers use The Return Exchange?
We have only heard anecdotal reports of retailers who use The Return Exchange (TRE). Those retailers include Limited Express, Victoria's Secret, Staples, Sports Authority, and KB Toy Stores. The Return Exchange is reluctant to provide a list mostly due to concerns about competitors approaching their clients to offer a similar service and of clients being contacted by other retail-oriented businesses trying to sell new products. We would like to hear from individuals who order a copy of their activity report that note retailers listed other than the ones noted above.
- Would a gift receipt impact the record of the purchaser or gift exchanger?
According to TRE, if a person received a gift with a gift receipt and took it back, the return or exchange would show up on the return activity report of the person who returned the gift and presented their ID to do so.
- In general, what criterions are used to make a determination that a person can no longer make a return or exchange? Dollar amount of returns? Time frame in which returns are made? Both? Other?
Due to the fact that TRE is in the business of detering fraud, they were reluctant to provide details about the criteria that are used to deny a return or exchange because that information might be useful to those who want to abuse a retailer's return policy. In generalities, criteria that might cause a retailer to rescind a customer's return privilege include anything that indicates suspicious return behavior, such as returning items one at a time rather than in one visit, returning items to numerous stores of the same retailer or in more than one state. Frequency of returns is certainly a primary issue, though dollar amount and whether a receipt was presented was not clarified as a possible criterion for revoking a customer's return privilege.
- Is volume of purchases taken into account?
No. A customer's purchase habits including volume of purchases is not taken into consideration. No information from the Point of Sale is used to determine whether a person's return privilege will be revoked or not.
- How can a person be denied a return one day, and then allowed the next?
Because several criteria are used to make the decision to deny a return, it may be that a return that is denied one day, would be accepted the next or soon after.
- Once someone has been told they cannot make a return or exchange, is that privilege ever reinstated at a later date? If so, when?
If a person's return or exchange is denied, it does not mean that their return privilege is permanently revoked. This is a key point for consumers to understand since some may be reluctant to continue shopping with a specific retailer after a return is denied because they assume their return privilege has been permanently revoked. Ask the retailer for clarification about when your privilege may be reinstated if your return or exchange is denied
- If someone purchases an item that has a deodorant stain, missing button, makeup stain from other customers who tried it on at the store, does that count against their ability to make returns in the future? What about other gray area situations?
A return or exchange that is conducted based on mitigating circumstances such as an item that is damaged in the store will be added to that individual's return activity report and may be used to deny a return or exchange with that retailer at a later date. Because the criteria used to make that determination is not always clear, returns that are made because of legitimate damage rather than from "wardrobing" will be used to make a decision about whether to allow a return or exchange in the future.
- How can I order a copy of my return activity report?
You can order a copy of your activity report with TRE by calling (800) 652-2331. Reports are indexed by the form of ID used to make a return or exchange whether that be a drivers license or state-issued ID. TRE will also allow those who do not have a license or state-issued ID to use a passport or other government-issued ID.
- What will I see on my TRE activity report?
If you have ordered a copy of your return activity report, you can expect it to contain much of the information on your license, such as license or ID number, the date the ID expires, your date of birth, license or ID number, and the address noted on the ID.
You will also see a list of the returns or exchanges that you've transacted with retailers who use TRE. The activity report will include the date and time you made the return or exchange, the dollar amount of the transaction, whether you had a receipt or not.