How Returns Would Work

By Evan Schuman  |  Posted 2004-09-22 Print this article Print

The way the process works is that when a customer needs to execute a return, the customer contacts the retailer to get a copy of their standard return form or downloads one from a Web site. The customer then uses retailer-provided information to log into a site created by Newgistics. The site will generate bar-code images to be printed by the customer and used in the return. That bar code includes much more information than the products description, including prepaid postage information as well as bar codes that discuss the customer information along with the invoice data. At every stage, the data is converted into XML and fed into various client retail databases.
Retail bar-code activity is going to remain for quite a few years, at least according to one prominent analyst group. Click here to read about its findings.
The customer then packages it and brings it to a local postal drop-off center. The post office brings it the relatively short hop to the nearest bulk mail center because the address label printed from the Newgistics Web site had identified the nearest bulk mail center and addressed the package accordingly. A trucking firm that partners with Newgistics picks up the package and transports it to the nearest bulk processing center by the retailer. During the trip, the site is updated with the products location. Unlike the tracking systems that major overnight shippers such as FedEx Corp. use, the beginning of the Newgistics trip is nowhere near real-time, often displaying initial information that is anywhere from 12 hours to 48 hours out of date. Thats because the initial leg is controlled by the Post office. Once the package is in Newgistics control, the information can be less than an hour old. As the industry begins its glacial transition from bar code to RFID, tools focused on integrating both technologies are flourishing. Click here to read about one of the hottest such tools. Customers can also be sent e-mail and regular mail updates. Jonathan Dampier, the vice president of marketing at Newgistics, said these efforts all focused on the objective of keeping the customer happy with the way the return is handled. "Were getting the customer back into a purchase mode again," he said. Beyond a theoretically more coordinated process with customers, added product management director Doug Kern, the retailer also learns more about the return process. For example, many consumers may call about a return, but either never ship or may ship at a later time. With this process, the retailer would be alerted that the package had shipped and given an estimate of its likely arrival date. Retail Center Editor Evan Schuman can be reached at Check out eWEEK.coms Retail Center for the latest news, views and analysis of this vital industry.

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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