What about the products that we return online?

Few people think about it, and thousands of tons are the amount of products that are returned every year from all the purchases we make on-line.

In the online purchase, the return is practically guaranteed by all merchants. If we buy a product and when we receive it we do not like it, we have the option of returning it, almost always at no additional cost, and many people do it many times, perhaps too many.

I have read that in the 2020 holiday purchases, items worth $ 70 billion were returned in the USA alone. And in the rest of the world the proportion will be something similar.

That means millions of products that travel back to their place of origin, with the economic and environmental costs that this entails.

And the question that arises is: what do they do with these products?

It depends. A large part (around 25%) of them are simply destroyed because it does not compensate for their recovery. And that destruction can mean burning them, throwing them away or recycling them. It is not known precisely what happens to them.

And most of them ends up in the hands of specialized wholesalers buying these returned products very cheaply, trying to take advantage of them and resell them again to other merchants.

These wholesalers receive a large number of boxes of products all scrambled together, and proceed to select them (they separate them by categories, etc.) and then to resell them in a more organized way to other merchants who put them on sale again at much lower prices .

Because the big brands of online sales (Amazon, Walmart, etc …) in general do not want to know anything about these returns. As they receive them, they are sent to these intermediaries and they are the ones to get rid of them.

There is a large market with these returned products, and depending on the product in question, their handling is more or less complex. But many people earn good money with them, and on many occasions they end up offering them again on Amazon, eBay, etc…. at lower prices.

I think that as users we must be aware of the problems that returns pose, and the fact that they are free should not move us to buy and return things “with joy”, because we are making the system more expensive, polluting unnecessarily and ultimately causing damage even if we don’t see it.

I hope we will.

I am an electronic engineer with more than 40 years working in industry. I like to reflect on Technological and Social issues