When shoppers can’t physically examine products before purchase, they’re more likely to end up with clothes that don’t fit or items that don’t suit their needs. People return on average about 25 percent of what they buy online, compared with about 8 percent of what they buy in stores, Chaturvedi says.
But here’s something you probably didn’t know: Many items that get returned never go back on sale. Instead, they’re often thrown out, even if they’re still brand-new. About 5 billion pounds of returned goods end up in landfills each year, according to logistics company Optoro.
It sounds shocking, but it all comes down to cost. When you send a product back, companies already owe you a refund, and it would cost them even more to ship the merchandise to a sorting facility and have someone evaluate whether it can be sold again, says Gad Allon, a professor of operations, information, and decisions at the University of Pennsylvania.
“At this stage, every person that touches that item is adding cost, but the company doesn’t earn any value,” he explains. Because of this, “the majority of things that are returned are most likely new and never return to be sold again as new.”