An avid online shopper who frequently buys from Amazon says she was blindsided when the company closed her Prime account without warning, citing too many returns.
"I was shocked," said Jenn, who asked to be identified by her first name only. "I said, 'What do you mean I am banned from Amazon? How is that even possible?'"
Jenn says she was stunned when she received an email from Amazon that read, "We have closed this account because you have consistently returned a large number of your orders."
"I did send a lot of stuff back," she said. "I’m not going to argue about that, I did."
But she had no idea what the limit was. Amazon told her it sent her a notice 30 days before the lifetime ban, but she says it never arrived.
"The email was apparently a warning that I never saw," she said.
Jenn isn’t alone. Linda Hallstrom told NBC 5 Responds she, too, had a similarly surprising experience when she tried to return baby clothes at Carson Pirie Scott.
"Out of the register came a slip that said, 'returns denied,’” the Sycamore woman recalled. “I said to the cashier, ‘What is this? I have never seen a slip like that before. And she said, ‘Oh, we're getting a lot of them lately.’"
The slip not only declined the return, but declared Hallstrom in a “return timeout”-- ineligible for other returns for two months.
"They simply said I had returned too many items in a period that dated approximately from 2009," Hallstrom said.
A spokesperson for Carson’s parent company told NBC 5 Responds its posted policy does state it reserves the right to limit returns regardless of receipt. But on the same day as our inquiry, the company decided to immediately lift the restrictions on Hallstrom, and apologized for the inconvenience.
The Amazon website, however, did not appear to have a policy posted on this issue. When asked how many returns will get a shopper banned, an Amazon spokesperson would only say Amazon’s practice is to work directly with the customer to handle any issues with their account. Amazon wouldn’t confirm Jenn had been banned, but a few days later, the company reversed course.
“I did get an e-mail back from them saying, after reviewing my account, it has now been reinstated,” Jenn said.
Retailers have a number of reasons for getting tough on returns. The National Retail Federation estimates return fraud and abuse cost stores anywhere from $10 billion to $17 billion a year.
Jenn says she simply wants Amazon to make its return policy clearer, so customers can adjust their buying and returning habits accordingly.
“I understand they were probably losing money on some of my returns, I get it,” she said. “Just get it. Just tell me.”