How the Return System

By Evan Schuman  |  Posted 2004-12-31 Print this article Print

Works"> The database is typically accessed by the POS system over the Internet to a secure server, but when the network is down—and for retailers who do not have Internet access—a toll-free number uses voice recognition to replicate the online information.Siras system differs from The Return Exchanges system also in that can be more easily positioned as truly helping consumers, who often lose receipts. "Just as often, our system helps consumers that actually want to return an item legitimately. Its not exactly a duplicate receipt, but it does function as a proof of purchase," Junger said.
Retailers are considering many tactics for 2005, including pitching to customers when theyre trapped in dressing rooms, check-out lines or pushing shopping carts. To read how, click here.
The ability to quickly identify the included accessories is crucial, Junger said. He described a popular scam where a thief purchases two identical digital cameras, ostensibly to give away as gifts. Each camera comes with a very nice and expensive Flash memory card. The thief carefully removes the card from one box and replaces everything else. The next day, he presents the complete box for a full refund. With that accessory list on the POS screen, clerks would know to check for the card.Not only is the store ripped off the price of that memory card, Junger said, but the box is likely to go back on the shelf, and the next consumer will get no card with his or her purchase.The database is not solely of interest to retailers. Junger said some police departments have started using it to pursue theft charges against people who say that allegedly stolen material was actually purchased. The accused, for example, might say he bought the product at a particular store during a particular month. A quick scan now allows the product to testify to its own version of its history. Retailers are hiring their own meteorologists to outforecast the weather forecasters. Is it working? To find out, click here. Siras and The Return Exchange do share one thing in common. Executives with both companies argue that their databases help retailers administer their own return rules consistently, removing the arbitrary decisions of store employees. And when the decisions are "no," both databases take the argument away from the store and to the distant database firm.Junger cites consumer studies that shoppers actually prefer stores with consistently administered strict return policies over inconsistently administered lenient return policies. With inconsistent policies, consumers feel the need to argue and push for the stores discretion, which is generally unpleasant to all, Junger said. A strict policy—even if it means fewer returns—is preferable as long as consumers believe it will be handled consistently, as it removes doubt."Thats good news right now, as shoppers gorge themselves with [post-holiday sales items] that they may or may not want," he said.Retail Center Editor Evan Schuman can be reached at Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on technologys impact on retail.

Evan Schuman is the editor of's Retail industry center. He has covered retail technology issues since 1988 for Ziff-Davis, CMP Media, IDG, Penton, Lebhar-Friedman, VNU, BusinessWeek, Business 2.0 and United Press International, among others. He can be reached by e-mail at

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