(CBS) — Attention online shoppers: Big Brother is watching … to make sure you don’t return a lot of items to retailers.
CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker takes a look at the punishment you could face for returning to sender too many times.
The favorite part of online shopping for Magda Walczak is opening the door to that latest thing she can’t live without. But if it doesn’t fit, she has no problem sending it back.
“For every 10 items I buy, I return four or five,” Walczak says.
Like a pair of shoes.
“I actually bought the exact same shoe in two different colors because I wasn’t sure what color I wanted to keep,” she says.
Walczak is the type of consumer who is on the radar screen of online retailers.
“For retailers, returns are an absolute nightmare,” retail expert Carol Spieckerman says.
She says returns cost merchants as much as $375 million each year and she predicts: “The days of using your living room as a fitting room are yes, going to be coming to a close.”
Companies like AgilOne are now watching.
The company keeps tabs on 525 million consumers and says it flags 1 percent as “returnaholics,” which means they send back a lot more than they keep.
“We look at returns in relation to the profitability of a customer. So, for example, if you return 50 items that can be really terrible if you only keep one,” Dominique Levin of AgilOne says.
If you’re labeled a returnaholic, some merchants won’t send you coupons. Others will only email you promotions for certain products.
“What we do see is stores starting to find ways to perhaps spend less money on you or find ways to have you return less,” Levin says.
For example, Modnique.com sends frequent returners coupons for jewelry, watches and beauty products that get sent back less. Some businesses are even revoking certain customers’ free shipping, and experts say companies may start charging them restocking fees in the future.
The tighter controls are aimed at frequent returners like Walczak.
“I will continue to be brand loyal to companies that are flexible with my purchase habits and my return habits. But companies that give me a hard time or withhold offers, I’ll stop shopping there,” she says.
If you’re on the returnaholics list, experts say, you can redeem yourself if you start keeping more than you return.