Is there a returns blacklist?

By Robin Melen on September 10, 2013 12:01:00 am

SSBLOGAA036574_SHOPPING_returnsIn our July issue, we reported on the so-called returns blacklist. There’s no official list per se, but companies do keep track of the number of returns customers make and use that data to accept or deny future returns. It’s meant to stop folks who steal, use, or wear items and then bring them back, which resulted in an estimated $8.9 billion in losses last year, according to the National Retail Federation. But even if you don’t make the “list,” you will feel its impact; some stores now require identification for returns as a theft deterrent.

The Retail Equation’s Verify Return Authorization System is one way stores track returns. The company won’t disclose its clients but claims 10 of the top 100 retailers use its service.

Here’s how it works: When you hand over your receipt or ID to make a return, the system analyzes your return behaviors—frequency, dollar amounts, whether you had a receipt—and predicts whether or not you’re making a legit transaction.

Depending on the answer, you will successfully complete your return or be warned that you’re making too many or be banned from making returns for a period of time. You can be turned down if your behavior indicates fraud or abuse of the system, even if you follow the rules. So if you genuinely have several returns to make—say you received duplicate housewarming gifts or numerous underwhelming holiday presents—you may find yourself on the outs at your favorite store.

The Retail Equation says that it doesn’t aggregate information across retailers, report to credit bureaus, or accuse customers of theft or fraud. But if you want to see your file, you can request a copy of your Return Activity Report ( and dispute errors.

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Robin Melen

Robin Melen

Posted at 12:01:00 AM in
Consumer protection | Customer service | Featured | Money & Shopping | Shopping

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10:58:25 AM on Tue Sep 10 2013

On the one hand, I can see the retailers point, but a lot of times, I will buy something I'm unsure of, knowing I can return it if it isn't the right thing. I would hate to think I'm on some sort of list; it would make me just not want to buy in that store, period.

Donna Rae

03:12:08 PM on Fri Sep 20 2013

I don't like the idea of being on someones list for returns. I buy clothes for myself and husband and try them on at home. Too many stores either don't have enough rooms or are not very user friendly for changing clothes. Also as the other commenter noted, we sometimes buy something that just was wrong. So of course we take it back then buy the right item. Is that shown on the return list that you bought a replacement for the incorrect item? I suspect not! I am not happy at all to think I am on a list somewhere that I have not been informed of. Something is wrong with that. I will most definitely be checking the site to see if my or my husbands name is on that list and if so will be checking into legal consul.


01:16:38 PM on Sat Sep 21 2013

I tried to return an xmas present to target and got rudely told that I was only allowed one more return in the following calendar year or I would be banned from any future returns. I rarely shop there and was so surprised!
Also-I have been known to return any food item that the cashier/bagger smashes/dents/tears/etc or is expired. Aldi has a few cashiers who really need to learn not to throw heavy items on top of fragile items in the cart! Even if you catch it at the time, it is still considered a return.
And Kohls "no return policy" their customer service is a nightmare!!


12:32:33 PM on Sun Sep 22 2013

Stay away from Famous Footwear!! I bought 7 shoes for my kids to take home and try on at home so it wasn't a circus with my 4 little kids in the store. Well, naturally I needed to exchange some for different sizes, and one a totally different style. I ended up returning 1 shoe, and exchanging 4 shoes for different sizes. I paid for and kept 6 shoes! After I finish the return a print out comes saying that I won't be able to return anything for 60 days. Definitely left a bad taste for this store and I am done shopping at Famous Footwear. Every shoe I returned or exchanged were unworn, and I had a legitimate receipt. Even if I don't need to return any more shoes I did nothing wrong.

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