Jag Venugopal's Blog

December 16, 2011

Americans returning gadgets in record numbers

Filed under: Project Management — Jag @ 10:42 pm

This, according to the Chicago Tribune, quoting a report by Accenture. Return rates for electronics are between 11-20%, and increasing.

For anyone that has purchased electronics recently, this should come as no surprise. I count myself among the geekiest of gadget users, but need to refer to the manual sometimes. And in two expensive purchases I’ve made in recent days, there was no manual included.

When I bought the Sony HX9V camera in summer, there was some “online help” built into the camera. There was a web-based manual readable on Sony’s web site that was accessible with some searching. Even that was not very helpful. To date, I’ve not understood how to get the still 3-D feature to work. The rest of the camera has been so good as to prevent me from returning it, but I can imagine that someone less of a gadget freak than I am would get frustrated within minutes of their purchase.

I recently bought a Motorola Droid Razr mobile phone. As phones go, its considered rather upscale, and with a two year contract, I am laying out big bucks for its acquisition. Yet, the “manual” was a teeny tiny booklet with hardly any information that could be considered useful. A novice user would have significant difficulty understanding the myriad settings and apps that go along with the phone.

If electronics manufacturers are really serious about reducing returns, how about having a 24×7 hotline with trained (please not outsourced) representatives who actually have a clue about the product, that can help a user set it up? And how about a DVD which shows the use of the product? The purchaser could pop it into their DVD player and practice along as the major features are explained.

The general public would benefit greatly from experienced sales staff who were sincere about customer satisfaction. When was the last time anyone at Best Buy or (horrors) Wal-Mart knew and cared enough to explain anything to you? Every time I’ve shopped at Best Buy, I’ve noticed some twenty-something employees hanging out with co-workers of the opposite sex. They seem to appear out of nowhere when it comes time to ring up the sale, or tack on various unnecessary accessories, yet are never on hand to explain or show anything.

In my opinion, increasing returns are not evidence that the customer is buying the product in bad faith, intending to use it for a few days and then return it. I’d be surprised if Joe Public could figure out most new electronic hardware within the return period. Instead, returns should be seen as evidence that manufacturers and retailers are not educating the consumer sufficiently on how their product is properly put to use. Until they take this part of the purchase experience seriously, returns will continue to increase.


1 Comment »

  1. I don’t think the return rates are solely associated with the ease of use of these machines, but probably they have something to do with the recession. People are now buying things for themselves, enjoying these “gadgets”, and then returning them before the 1 month period elapses.

    Comment by Fadi El-Eter — December 19, 2011 @ 6:55 am | Reply

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