Action 9: Stores tracking customers that habitually return items

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Some big stores are tracking certain shoppers who constantly return items they buy.

Action 9 reporter Jason Stoogenke looked into which stores are doing it, how it works and how to find out if you are on the list.

Christina Collins shops online and by the time the packages arrive, she doesn’t always like what she sees.

Collins, who lives in NoDa, says she returns items a lot.

She said her friends even tease her about it.

“They make fun of me,” Collins said.

Experts like former Disney store executive Joseph Larocca said people con stores across the United States out of more than $8 billion per year.

“Some people game the system through either stealing the merchandise and either returning it back to the stores or they will buy merchandise, wear it, use it and then return it back to the store for return,” said Larocca.

Best Buy, Home Depot, JC Penney, Nike, Bath and Body Works and Victoria’s Secret all pay an outside company to track customers who return a lot.

Here is how it works: When someone returns something, many stores ask for your driver's license.

The store then puts together a return activity report on the consumer.

It looks at how often that person returns items, how much those items typically cost and whether they usually have receipts.

It warns the store about that person if the report is among the most suspicious top percent.

Consumer advocate Ed Meirzwinski worries about consumers’ privacy.

“If we have secret databases about consumers, that is unfair to the customer, it’s just completely unfair,” Meirzwinski.

Companies use different tracking services, but many of the stores use the Retail Equation.

To see if you are on its radar, use the email or mailing address below:

Email: returnactivityreport@theretailequation.com

The Retail Equation
PO Box 51373,
Irvine, CA 92619-1373