Counterfeits, fraud, and theft: Why Silca changed its return policy

262 points14
rmatt200010 hours ago

The clothing company LL Bean dealt with this same sort of issue. It used to be that if you weren't happy with a purchase, you could return any item you bought from Bean, at any time, for a full refund.

One day, the CEO of the company donated some of his old LL Bean clothing to a charity that accepts used clothing. One of the shirts he donated had his initials embroidered on it. In less than a month, that same shirt had been returned to Bean, stating the person was unsatisfied with his purchase, and requesting a full refund of the purchase price.

bluedino21 minutes ago

Costco seems like it's the current place that people abuse the return system at

dmckeon5 hours ago

When LL Bean started, 90% of his boots were returned, and the purchases refunded - which gave Bean the opportunity to analyze how the boots had failed, redesign them, and send new boots to his dissatisfied customers. Apparent MVP failure becomes better engineering becomes marketing and research. Find out what your users/customers want. sources: posted on the store wall in Freeport, and

Spooky238 hours ago

Walmart did something like this for many years. They were required to satisfy customers and would accept almost anything as a return to exchange.

Like LL Bean, the internet kinda ruined it and when the management turned over to newer people who didn’t share the commitment that the founder had, it went away.

SkyMarshal7 hours ago

It's odd they don't have some automated system to verify the returner actually purchased that item (or at least one of its model #). If yes, proceed with RMA. If no, "sorry our records show you never purchased that item".

ChrisMarshallNY2 hours ago

Macy’s tears the tag, adds a red “sold tag,” and enters the number into their system, so you can’t just grab something off the rack, and return it.

This was because people would grab something off the rack, tear off the tags, take it to the register, and request a refund. It wasn’t even shoplifting.

bluedino19 minutes ago

I don't remember doing that when I worked there. But plenty of people would try that exact scam, or buy something and then use the receipt to try to return the same item that they just grabbed off a shelf.

ChrisMarshallNY16 minutes ago

I think they only started doing that, in the last few years.

Symbiote44 minutes ago

I noticed socks I bought from Uniqlo had an RFID tag in the label. Maybe that's for the same reason? They know which items haven't been sold.

cortesoft6 hours ago

Buy a new one, return the old one saying it was the new one... free conversion of old to new.

dspillett3 hours ago

> The clothing company LL Bean dealt with this same sort

Clothing retailers and similar have seen this sort of thing a lot, even before online shopping was a significant part of their trade.

> Another issue, called ‘wardrobing’ is where a customer buys something to use once and then return

A colleague of mine some years ago used to wear designer shirts and such to company social events. At one point he asked me how I afford as much tech as I bought¹ and I referenced his designer clothes² with the notion that we just prioritise our spending differently with most of my clothes being relatively bargain basement stuff³. In response to this he told me that he wore most of it only once, and returned it within a week or two of purchase as unused, so it cost him relatively little. This was not just mail-order catalogue purchases⁴ but physical stores too where he sometimes had to return items to the same real person he'd bought them from and did so repeatedly. This coloured my impression of his trustworthyness considerably - I have no love for the retail industry but that seems rather low. He said a lot of people do it, which I doubted the scale of at the time but maybe I was somewhat naive there⁵.

My overly long-winded point being that this has been a thing for decades. The internet just makes it easier, makes learning the tricks to defraud the trade easier, and because open returns policies are often a selling point for an online retailer (for obvious reasons) makes those tricks relevant to a wider gamut of products & price ranges, which might not have had such returns policies in the past. The growth in social media and it's influence on how much we see of others outside of our close circles probably makes a big difference where fashion is concerned too.


[1] it turned out part of this was that my salary was larger than his by more than either of us realised, another factor was how much he spent otherwise trying to impress marks when "on the pull" and how often this expensive hobby happened!

[2] and his taste for expensive whiskey, but that isn't relevant to this thread!

[3] no personal value judgement being made here, I understand what people get psychologically (and sometimes physically!) from improving their outward image, I just have different priorities which doesn't make me more or less right just different

[4] internet shopping proper was only just starting to be significant for everyday fashion at the time, assuming what little I know of such shopping is accurate

[5] he also pointed out, when I failed to disguise my discomfort in the idea, my habit at the time of downloading TV instead of waiting months/years for it to be broadcast or available to buy on tape/DVD in this country, which I admit was a valid comparison. I know my life has been some points sort of 100% morally clean!

SnowHill990210 hours ago

Interesting. Reference?

aardvarkr8 hours ago

OP delivers! Thanks :)

metadat13 hours ago

Super informative article, with a lot of little insights, claims, and customer blames. Some are exceedingly fair, others are shirking responsibility on the seller's side. Still a great read!

1. > If an item is in good shape or really is new and just unwanted, the packaging is almost always damaged beyond what could be considered a new item, so at best we might be able to sell it in a damaged package sale, which we do twice per year.

It's generally difficult to open products without damaging the packaging.

This is an intentional design with consumer packaged goods, likely for a variety of valid reasons.

Doesn't seem like the customer's fault (and shouldn't be the customer's problem), as long as the customer is being honest and not pulling a fraudulent return.

2. > but the Pista has two little screws that you have to remove take the thing apart and when we looked, all of these returned pumps have had those screws unthreaded which you can see as deformation in the screw head, whereas a new in box pump has only had them installed.

Does this suggest the manufacturer is using sub-par zinc screws instead of stainless steel? So many products have cheap screws that basically can't be removed without stripping or deforming the head, it makes the product unserviceable and dooms it to eventually land in a landfill, prematurely. Seems unacceptable to call a product top-notch with these kinds of components inside.

Fraudulent returns are still bad, as are shoddy products falsely marketed and sold as top-notch gems.

3. > Folks think they’re pulling one over on Jeff Bezos but don’t understand Amazon doesn’t own that inventory, it belongs to companies and when you think you’re screwing Amazon you’re actually screwing directly with some smaller company behind the product.

This is 100% on Amazon, due to marketing things as "Amazon Prime" and "Sold and Fulfilled by Amazon". Nasty, because the customer signals get to be ignored by Amazon as they reap the profits and offload the problem downstream onto Little Companies.

pstanger11 hours ago

Swiss cheese screws are annoying but trashing Silca's products based on a vague description of screw deformation is both a stretch and a red herring. It's irrelevant to the blatant fraud talked about in that section

manfre1 hour ago

Sometimes fasteners are deemed single use consumables. Softer metals are used so that it will intentionally deform for a stronger/better mating.

compiler-guy11 hours ago

Especially given that the article has lots of descriptions about spare parts and servicability.

And assuming that the scammers take any care at all to do the job right when disassembling for fraud.

loeg10 hours ago

Also, Silca’s stuff is high end. The supposition was completely off-base.

alistairSH11 hours ago

FWIW, these are some of the best pumps available. They last for decades and the company supplies all the rebuild parts (seals and stuff) to keep them running.

I imagine the screws in question just show extra tool marks from being backed out. Not that they’re stripped, just show obvious use.

TheCondor9 hours ago

I like the new Silca and own some of their stuff and I also own a couple legit Silca pumps, they are different organizations though.

yourapostasy4 hours ago

Now if I could only find an industrial pump manufacturer of like quality, repairability and serviceability.

stefan_11 hours ago

"SILCA" are hipsters that bought the brand name in 2014. They haven't been making their pumps for even a sole decade.

flutas7 hours ago

> This is 100% on Amazon, due to marketing things as (...) "Sold and Fulfilled by Amazon".

That... isn't how it's labeled?

They clearly state "Sold by XYZ Company, Fulfilled by Amazon" on 3P sellers. The only time a product would say "Sold and Fulfilled by Amazon" is when it's actually Amazon selling a product.

slaymaker190712 hours ago

I had to use the warranty on my phone and they sent it in a small, no nonsense box that I also used to send the old one back. All it had was a little plastic slip and some cardboard to keep the phone from moving too much. Companies could absolutely design things with reusable packaging.

bayindirh4 hours ago

> It's generally difficult to open products without damaging the packaging.

You're right, but the damage is not squarely due to customer or the packaging design. Some of the boxes arrive at my doorstep (from Amazon or what else) has clear shipping wear on it. It has banged around in the box, thrown around in an envelope, etc.

The box is worn, but the product is not damaged. Even I return the box unopened, the seller can't ship it back out. It needs to be renewed again.

voakbasda11 hours ago

Reading this excellent article has made me decide to stop taking credit cards (or any electronic payments) for my small farm business. The card companies and their online cohorts are bad enough to deal with as a customer, and this story shattered the last of my trust that using these systems is safe as a merchant. I am already losing money on every sale anyway, because my family eats our potential profits (literally). Sales will be cash only from here on out, because these risks are not worth the potential costs.

tlogan10 hours ago

Yesterday, I was talking with one guy doing home inspections. He also refuses to accept CC. The main reason is that after deal does not go thru the people who hire them will file a chargeback.

rightbyte3 hours ago

How is that chargeback granted? The inspector has documentation for doing his job in the property. Does Mastercard etc not even ask him for some evidence?

dawnerd7 hours ago

Had to hire two inspectors in a short time and they both were cash or check only. Same reason.

raverbashing5 hours ago

It would be "fun" if those people that put the chargeback gets sent to collections and a nice entry gets put on their credit report for payment failure

I bet the bank providing their mortgage would love to have that information

fragmede10 hours ago

Will you still accept debit cards then? Not all digital money systems are the same, and if you find cash-only to be too limiting, it would behoove you to find reasons to accept something digital. PayPal/Venmo/Square/Zelle/other each have their own issues, but they're different from credit cards.

minutemad6 hours ago

Debit cards will get charged back all the same. Some fraudsters will "lose their card" just to chargeback all charges since they "lost it".

withinboredom4 hours ago

Debit cards run as debit cards (ie, not through credit card processors like Visa/Mastercard) are actually really hard to charge back, if at all. They go through different processes than credit cards which are much more favorable to the merchant with lower fees.

ChrisMarshallNY2 hours ago
lrem2 hours ago

I'm pretty sure it's not the same. There must be a reason for all those merchants around me who will accept VPay or Maestro, but not Visa nor Mastercard.

minutemad6 hours ago

Chip readers have liability shift. We did an event, and the fraudsters all had "sorry the chip doesn't work, can you swipe it or type it in?" cards. We had zero chargebacks.

sgerenser30 minutes ago

This only protects you from the most egregious form of fraud, where the actual card is cloned/stolen. Using a chip card doesn’t prevent the customer from filing a chargeback for a “failure to deliver” or defective product claim.

gtowey8 hours ago

It feels that way because the credit card companies have never really cared about merchants. Thier customers are the cardholders. They create demand for convenience and therefore the merchants are unwilling hostages to the credit card companies, who can abuse them at their leisure.

hnburnsy4 hours ago

don't banks has cash depositing fees for business accounts and aren't there other cash risks like counterfeits, theft, and leakage?

seibelj9 hours ago

Cryptocurrencies are like digital cash - one way payments that can’t be reversed. You can accept stablecoins on cheaper networks. Check out BitPay or Square for retail.

Gigachad7 hours ago

The only payment system with all the downsides of cash while being even less convenient to deal with.

alpaca1284 hours ago

So far "stablecoins" have to be proven to be anything but stable. And they are not like digital cash as every single transaction is public.

Also I'm not sure getting rid of chargebacks completely makes sense - there's a good reason they were introduced in the first place.

mnd9993 hours ago

There’s always one.

gizmo6868 hours ago

> The other behaviours that they normalized and now all of us deal with are what they call ‘serial returns’ where you buy maybe one of everything and return what you don’t want.

At least for clothing, this behaviour is officially supported by Amazon:

runnerup6 hours ago

This is the cost of removing brick-and-mortar facilities where customers can try out options. Companies save tons of money not needing to support outlets in every major city globally. Then they spend a bit more on returns. Getting rid of both will result in no sales because I'll shop at a competitor.

I recently got a weightlifting coach and was required to buy specialized weightlifting shoes. I live in Houston which serves 7-8 million people, but there was nowhere in town to try on or buy any weightlifting shoe:

- Nike Romaleos - Adidas Adipower - Rogue Do-win / Classic

This is despite there being quite a few Nike and Adidas stores here - standalone, typical mall, and outlet malls. So I bought 3 sizes and am returning two sizes.

For Silca, maybe they have 3 different pumps and there's no way for me to stop by a local REI / bike shop to try them out. Is it worth getting a portable pump and a garage pump or can I just get by with the portable? Who the fuck knows. But I can buy both and return one if the value isn't worth the price.

Or Silca can put a store in Houston where I can try out the products.

Want to reduce return fraud? Make customers bring back items to your local store where knowledgeable salespeople can inspect it at the time of return. My guess is that eating return fraud is a lot cheaper though.

prmoustache2 hours ago

Silca do not have their own stores but they are distributed through regular brick and mortar shops too.

loeg8 hours ago

It’s the only way to buy clothing sight unseen on the internet. If you don’t want to sell sized goods on the internet, don’t, but otherwise people need to try multiple sizes and return some.

rgmerk7 hours ago

Silca sells the odd bit of branded merch but the vast majority of their business isn't in clothing.

They sell a variety of high-end bicycle accessories including pumps, bottle cages, fancy lubricants (including chains pre-treated with hot wax lubricant). It's quality stuff with a pricetag to match.

loeg6 hours ago

I’m familiar with Silca’s products (I have some of their wax) but this thread is more generally about shopping for clothing online.

alpaca1284 hours ago

I wish we had a way to just enter all measurements and filter out clothes that won't fit. Clothing sizes are still in the middle ages, with the same unit meaning something different with each manufacturer and not everyone even uses the same units.

vladvasiliu3 hours ago

Oh man, it's even worse than that. I mainly buy Levi's jeans, model 511.

A few years ago I needed a new pair, checked my size from my current pair, and ordered the exact same off Amazon. My old pair still fit, maybe even a tad big at the waist.

Then, perusing the catalog, I figured I'd also spice things up a bit, and ordered a 501 in a color I don't usually wear, for variety.

When I received them, the sizing was a complete joke.

It was absolutely impossible for me to put on the 511. My upper thighs would not fit inside the jeans without pulling on them, and after that it was impossible to button them.

The 501 was the opposite: much too big, could have probably went two sizes down.

I sent them both back, ordered a single 511 one size above, which was, you guessed, too big.

Frustrated, I sent them all back and went to my local brick and mortar store and ended up with a pair of 514s – one size below my regular one.

MezzoDelCammin3 hours ago
someweirdperson3 hours ago

> I wish we had a way to just enter all measurements and filter out clothes that won't fit. Clothing sizes are still in the middle ages ...

I would go one step further than just filtering. Production is usually still far too much manual labor (cheapest available). With significantly improved automation everything would change. Even just automating the cutting of cloth would allow to tailor to fit, not just standard sizes, with no significant increase in net effort.

Combined with sewing in cheap parts of the world and any kind of returns policy it becomes a logistics nightmare of course.

The solution is even higher automation.

krisoft2 hours ago

> Even just automating the cutting of cloth would allow to tailor to fit, not just standard sizes, with no significant increase in net effort.

I think you are seriously underestimating how big of a change in effort that would be. Just tracing and keeping track of a particular garment through the production would be a huge effort.

throwaway2903 hours ago

I bought numerous pants, shirts, tees, hoodies, shoes of different makers from Amazon and other online shops over the years and I am yet to receive a single item that I would have to return or give to someone else because it doesn't fit, and I wear non-standard sizes (the reason I shop online).

A little research and review-reading goes a long way.

throwaway8152313 hours ago

This is a fantastically good article for people interested in online retail or in payments. I lost the url but there was another article I've been wanting to find and link to, about how the US payment system is so completely screwed up. From a seller perspective, Alipay (used for everything in China) is much better than what we have here. They have an actual dispute resolution process before a transaction can be reversed, instead of reversing at the push of a button.

metadat13 hours ago

What difference does it make if the reversal happens at the beginning or end? The process should account for this and see things through either way.

throwaway8152312 hours ago

The US system purposely disfavors the merchant. Imagine being arrested and having to prove your innocence at trial, instead of the other way around. Alipay from what I understand tries to have a more neutral process. And it means the buyer can't exploit the asymmetry of one button click (to get a refund unless the merchant deals with a mountain of bureaucracy) vs dealing with the bureaucracy. It is better that if there is a disagreement, both have to deal with the bureaucracy.

metadat12 hours ago

Clearly you've never been arrested. "Innocent until proven guilty" is a fantasy in the USA, especially if you're a part of a minority group. 90-95% of cases settle with a plea bargain, because the punishment will be disproportionately severe if you lose the case.

Regardless, any system which inherently favors businesses over individuals is wrong. Businesses have the option of building the known cost of fraud into the products, whereas individual customers can easily get screwed without any recourse. What good is a gift card if the store turns out to be a bad actor?

Ideally neither side should be favored and the process should be impartial and difficult to game. Dunno how to make such a system though, humans are a crafty bunch.

"Better a thousand guilty people go free than imprison an innocent."

chrischen10 hours ago

Businesses building the cost into the product also does nothing to address fraud. It just raises prices across the board due to fraud and consumers don’t even realize that’s the reason why.

notch656a12 hours ago
jsjohnst11 hours ago

> And it means the buyer can't exploit the asymmetry of one button click (to get a refund unless the merchant deals with a mountain of bureaucracy)

You’ve obviously never done a chargeback or are intentionally being hyperbolic and disingenuous. The “buy” part might be close to one click, but the chargeback process certainly isn’t for most (all?) US credit card companies.

notch656a12 hours ago

It's a good point. I had a scammer stole my credit card number. I reported the fraud and the bank instantly removed it, but the scammers just said I was lying and eventually got their money back. Bank backed the scammers and said I must be lying because the scammers produced a tracking number for some arbitrary package that went to my same zip code (but not my address).

As a customer I found getting the charge reversed and then unreversed as not much different experience than the bank telling me to go fuck myself to begin with. It's actually laughably easy for the merchant to fight a chargeback by just providing any arbitrary tracking number to your zip code as full satisfactory proof they fulfilled their agreements. The writings of this article do not anywhere near match the reality I've seen with chargeback process and appeals process, which seam to heavily favor the merchant.

metadat12 hours ago

It depends heavily on the card company. Most of them are user-hostile scum, with Amex being the most cardholder friendly.

I've still been screwed by AirBnB to the tune of $2k even when I used an Amex card. Caveat emptor (buyer beware), I'll never use AirBnB again, got totally ripped off by a creepy and deceptive house host in Pebble Beach who claimed we damaged his house, even though I'd taken pics of a lot of the oddities. Live and learn.

LionTamer11 hours ago

What happened?

blackoil10 hours ago

This could have been protected using OTP or some 2FA good online credit card payments. Little hastle but goes long way to protecting fraud like this.

Zaheer12 hours ago

Wow - was not expecting this level of depth. This is a masterclass in retail / payments from end to end. The title just doesn't do it justice. Thank you for sharing.

bambax11 hours ago

Yes it's a really informative interview, and fun too. Great read.

BSOhealth2 hours ago

Only here to support Silca (as a consumer) but hopefully relevant to HN as it’s just to highlight their product design. After tracking their American “rebirth” I dove in for Silca’s top-of-the-line $500 pump ~5 years ago and the quality and durability is exceptional. If you are, or claim to be, someone who appreciates mechanical watches, “The Design of Everyday Things” type stuff, unboxing and inspecting Apple products, etc. etc., _and_ you are a cyclist, I totally recommend seeing if you have a friend with a Silca pump to check out.

The push-on chuck, beautifully braided and flexible hose, and general height and ergonomics combines for a nearly a zero-to-one improvement over the rest of the market. It removes almost all cognitive and physical friction to getting the job done (filling a tyre), short of just automating it with an air compressor — which has its own complications for filling bike tyres.

Off-topic (but on-topic): REI also has a notoriously forgiving return policy. Generally, just about anything can be returned after years of use, abuse, wear, and tear, and it typically ends up getting sold. I know many REI shoppers who first run upstairs (or wherever) to the “Returns” racks to see what they can find at a discount. Granted, it’s a hit REI is taking, but it’s clearly not a total loss as the “Returns” section turns over pretty quickly.

redelbee48 minutes ago

Actually the current REI return policy has a time limit of 1 year. It changed in 2013:

Before that there was no time limit though. I remember becoming a member in 2011 when I moved to a city with a local REI and that was one of the main benefits they pitched. I don’t miss it because I never returned anything after a year (or even a few weeks).

REI started a trade-in program that serves a similar function and probably manages to foil most of the people who would have abused the system in the past. I think it goes well with their overall “earth friendly” ethos and brand identity as well.

gambiting13 hours ago

Thankfully EU and UK force companies to accept returns within 14 days of purchase(delivery to the customer in fact) for anything sold "remotely"(through internet, phone, by post.....anything where the customer couldn't inspect the item before buying) so companies cannot try to pull this nonsense like here. Refund only for in-store credit? I sympathize with the issues of fraud, but that's not an acceptable return policy for any company selling anything on the internet.

googlryas12 hours ago

Is the idea that companies should just eat an ever increasing proportion of fraud? I'm thankful that a blunt policy isn't enforced on companies where I'm from - as long as I know what the return policy is, I'm fine to make the decision whether it is acceptable for me or not.

The result of that policy will probably just be that European companies are under more fraud pressure and will go out of business sooner than companies that have more tools to combat fraud.

raverbashing9 hours ago

Having to accept returns doesn't mean having to accept return fraud, or things like returns without proof of purchase

(And interestingly, by TFA Amazon actually helps dealing with the frauds - though I'm thinking they should start engaging lawyers on this)

"the result of that policy" this is not a new thing, but yeah, please preach how some basic customer service is bad

googlryas8 hours ago

Clearly one doesn't need to just accept return fraud. I'm not familiar enough with EU laws, but I'm assuming their consumer protection laws are a little stronger than a merchant just being allowed to unilaterally say "this is fraud, no refund for you".

If the company gets dragged in front of a tribunal, or needs to provide evidence, what could they do in the situations where someone received a normal item, pilfered it for replacement parts, and then sent back the rest. How could one show that this is fraud and not the company just sending out an incomplete product? I suppose they could just ban the customer(can they?), but dedicated fraudsters would have no problem using numerous fake identities in order to conduct their fraud.

tgsovlerkhgsel6 hours ago

The company can do whatever, the consumer or a consumer protection agency would then have to sue, so this is highly asymmetrical (against the consumer/fraudster) in the individual case.

A company trying to scam people like this by claiming return fraud would likely find itself in expensive hot water once the pattern became obvious though.

Avoiding the risk of having to deal with this is one of the reasons why people buy via Amazon (aside from convenience and fast+cheap shipping).

withinboredom3 hours ago

> what could they do in the situations where someone received a normal item, pilfered it for replacement parts, and then sent back the rest.

I imagine the manufacturer does some kind of QA, right? This seems like a pretty easy thing to prove. Sure, defective parts happen. But totally incomplete parts, that may be impossible in some cases, depending on the manufacturing process.

netr0ute12 hours ago

If those companies go out of business, then ones willing to follow the rules will fill in the gaping void. :)

jonas2112 hours ago

And they'll charge twice as much for everything to make up for the cost of fraud.

netr0ute12 hours ago

Then cheaper ones will fill in the gaping void, and they still have to play by the rules too. This isn't the car business where cost of entry is high.

barry-cotter12 hours ago

Or the business will become unprofitable and no one will do it.

netr0ute12 hours ago
nrp12 hours ago

Policies like that harm both dishonest companies and honest customers. Honest customers end up needing to pay more to cover the cost of fraud from dishonest customers.

We voluntarily have a 30-day return policy anyway instead of the required 14-day in the EU, but a lot of what the interviewee brings up rings painfully true.

notch656a12 hours ago

I can't imagine 30 days makes much difference than 14 days from the perspective of a fraudster. Assuming they meant to do the fraud anyway, they probably want as fast turn around time as possible.

gaius_baltar9 hours ago

Same thing here in Brazil, but for 7 days. That's a law from 1990, written when "remote buy" mean buying stuff by phone or catalog, but also generically written to allow future technologies. That's up for almost 32 years and have neither prevented online selling from happening nor made stuff unusually expensive nor made the e-commerce environment unprofitable.

I have returned items twice in the last five or so years (one was an obvious packaging error and for the other I'm was never sure if it was an innocent mistake or if the seller tried to scam me ... but the law worked as intended). And I buy online a lot and have no reason to believe other people's experiences are too much different from mine. It just seems the law worked in a societal level.

But I always try to be safe on my side: when receiving expensive products, I always record the unboxing in a full Dogme 95 style, filming from the labels on the sealed box down to serial numbers on the product. I never actually needed to use any of these videos, but if I got scammed for real I will have enough evidence for a lawsuit and stand my ground in the card company questions my chargeback.

minutemad6 hours ago

> Refund only for in-store credit?

They changed their policy, but this won't prevent chargebacks.

Anyone in the US who buys online with a credit card basically has up to 90 or even 180 day free returns.

They just need to say the magic words. Product misrepresented/defective, merchant won't respond, or I don't recognize the charge.

For example, they can poke a hole in the shirt they want to return and do it 1000% legally.

anonAndOn12 hours ago

Thankfully the US doesn't force small businesses to run their business according to lawmakers' preferences for return policies. If a prospective customer doesn't like the return policy they are free to spend their money elsewhere and the market will decide whether the policy is good for business.

gambiting6 hours ago

How has the "market will decide" worked out for American society over the decades?

Rebelgecko12 hours ago

How common is similar fraud in the UK and EU?

netr0ute12 hours ago

It may or may not be similar, but the sellers have to suck it up either way.

ericbarrett11 hours ago

Here's the original forum thread from the article head; it was an interesting read as well:

Owner's first reply (joshatsilca) is page 2, more detail about credit card transactions for direct sales on page 3.

PebblesHD10 hours ago

The returns fraud issue is a difficult one, and still very much an ongoing issue particularly with Amazon, as recently as yesterday when I ordered a used copy of a video game listed as returned to Amazon, and received an amazon warehouse sealed package containing a completely different game with the sticker replaced, so clearly not tested at all during the returns process to ensure it did actually work.

Now, as for a solution, is it too much to expect Amazon to test goods they then go on to sell again? I would previously have assumed they did this, but apparently not.

Luckily, the returns process is quite easy, which both leads to this issue in the first place but makes it easy to resolve.

rmatt200010 hours ago

I think the problem is that Amazon returns are not inspected by someone associated with the manufacture of the product. I suspect that return handlers have to handle thousands of products and can only give a returned product a cursory inspection.

I once bought some expensive eyeglass frames from Amazon. When they arrived, it was pretty clear that they were not factory new. I returned the product and gave the company a bad review. The CEO of the company actually sent me an email apologizing, saying that this was an on-going problem. He said people order new frames identical to ones they currently own, swap out the lenses, and return the old ones. Amazon will often accept these returns, repackage them, and ship them as new, and the company which sells the frames has not control over this.

Ekaros2 hours ago

I saw some video or something and it's the typical hyper optimized process. With the allowed time spend on item including data input being less than a minute or two if not even that.

PebblesHD10 hours ago

Absolutely, I really feel for the brands impacted by these practices that they have limited control over, just as the brand in the article ends up wearing the costs for returns via Amazon and co. It would make me think very hard before deciding to start a hardware company needing to deal with the small section of the population acting in bad faith here.

powerhour11 hours ago

> The other behaviours that they normalized and now all of us deal with are what they call ‘serial returns’ where you buy maybe one of everything and return what you don’t want.

My wife and I do this, although not with small retailers. Very few brick and mortar companies carry clothing in our sizes, so if we want something we have to order a few options to find the right one. It's worse for my wife because she, according to clothing manufacturers, shrinks a full size every couple of years, making it nearly impossible to predict what size to buy.

Do the kids still say sorry not sorry?

hollandheese8 hours ago

Yeah, this is a giant problem with clothing.

I entirely blame the manufacturers and online stores for not having proper measurements for each article of clothing. Just that alone would ensure a lot fewer returns. There are several brands that I can't even trust that a 38/32 will be the same in two of the same "exact" pair of pants.

MBCook9 hours ago

He spells out the pay of this later in the article. It’s about 5 sales to 1 kept. The example he used is if person A buys three things and return two, they have to sell two more things to others just to make up for the loss caused by person A.

That’s a huge drain. Especially with something like clothing that can’t be refurbished and re-sold or stripped for parts.

ilamont11 hours ago

We put a report together for Amazon showing what has happened and if approved, they will allow us to keep the payment as if the item had not been returned and then they are now supposedly putting customers on a three-strike system where Amazon will potentially cancel their account for repeated misbehaviour.

This does not scale. It also isn’t worth it for low margin or low cost items. While it’s nice to hear this brand has a positive experience with Amazon, my experience as a third-party brand much lower down the totem pole is Amazon seldom investigates or respects such reports, and inevitably sides with the customer. ‘Customer delight’ is the dogma they preach 24/7, even though customers make mistakes or sometimes commit fraud.

vladvasiliu3 hours ago

It doesn't scale if you do it for every item, but it can work as a deterrent, as in people may think twice about it if they know they can end up in court over some stupid item.

Also, as an honest customer, I absolutely hate to receive a clearly used / defective / wrong item when ordering new. Sure, Amazon will accept my return and send me a new one, but I still have to go through the hassle of sending it back and waiting for the new one. There's nothing delightful about that.

Making it not worthwhile to engage in shady returns is actually beneficial to "customer delight".

aimor5 hours ago

Recently my credit card has been validating my purchases via SMS OTPs. I'm not thrilled by that, but after reading the article it sounds like an effective way to cut back on a lot of the credit card fraud.

denimnerd426 hours ago

this + theft at retail drive me nuts as an honest consumer

I'm the one paying that 5-10% on their loss!

supernova87a11 hours ago

I wish there were a similar story to read about at an even more "previous step" level, to learn about all the complications and issues that start arising as soon as you begin accepting credit cards for payment, and how to protect against those.

Is anyone aware of such a tutorial for people selling software, online services?

It would be nice to be able to accept payments without having to just take as a cost of doing business all the fraud, customer service headaches, etc. that come with it.

chevman11 hours ago

A good example of the "reverse logistics" space in real life!

Some interesting rabbit holes to explore if you google that phrase.

One of my favorite small(er) Saas ERP vendors has a good 101 on the topic:

js211 hours ago

> Essentially, people buy something, put something else in the packaging and return it for full refund.

I purchased a open-box Apple Pencil from Best Buy a couple years ago. What I got was someone else's returned pencil with totally shot battery. I took it back to BB and showed how the S/N on the pencil didn't match the box and they believed me, but I guess they could've thought I was the one pulling the scam. Anyway, they gave me a new opened Apple Pencil.

Now here's the weird part. The brand new pencil didn't work. I was sure BB was going to think I was scamming them, so when I returned it I asked them to verify the S/N matched the box and that it didn't work, but they didn't care, they gave me another new un-opened Apple Pencil which I verified worked there in the store.

Last year I purchased a 65" Hisense from Best Buy. Got it home, opened the box, before I even get it out of the box I see the upper-right corner of the screen is shattered. Take it back to BB, they swap it out for me. They have nothing but my word that I didn't drop it myself (I hadn't).

Last month I purchased a Westinghouse inverter generator. I was nervous it would be damaged during shipping, so I purchased it from Home Depot and had them ship-to-store. It turns out that they just FedEx it to the store. It doesn't go on a truck or pallet with a bunch of other items, so this doesn't reduce the chance of shipping damage. I pick up the generator at the store and notice the box is pretty beat up, but I bring it home anyway. Take it out of the box and it looks okay outside, but I pull the maintenance panel off and sure enough, the plastic air filter housing is cracked. Back in box, back to Home Depot. They order me a new one, no questions asked. When the new one arrives, I take it out of the box and inspect it at the store. Fortunately, no damage.

Which is all to say: yes, sometimes it's customer fraud. But sometimes the customer, like me, just gets unlucky. Most bulky goods I purchase these days are not adequately packaged.

I'm sure my "customer returns too much" rating has gotten dinged lately.

Edit: on the other side of the equation, customers have to deal with fraudulent merchants:

"8TB External SSD" for $89:

Fake 5 TB drive:

tgsovlerkhgsel6 hours ago

Isn't 3DSecure supposed so solve CC fraud (in the sense of not making the seller be out of money if it does happen)?

minutemad6 hours ago

It adds liability shift, which is what the merchant needs. The card company will eat the loss if you meet the criteria. It's better than not having it, but their criteria isn't without holes, and when it's a feature on the customer's card, you can't expect them to always have it.

danuker11 hours ago

One idea: require invitations from other, trusted by some criterion, customers.

But this would severely slow scaling.

michaelmrose11 hours ago

You could scale it by sharing it between businesses to help them identify the small minority of customers screwing everyone they deal with.

I'm sorry sir we can't take your order because our records show that you already ripped off 6 other merchants in the last 5 years and we aren't willing to deal with you.

benlivengood10 hours ago

We could call it a social credit score and force everyone to positively identify themselves with government identification for every financial transaction.

prmoustache2 hours ago

That would be illegal in some countries.

tlogan10 hours ago

There is a company for that:

They track customer’s returns and calculates a “risk score.”

michaelmrose8 hours ago

I'm familiar from dealing with the employee side of this situation but I mean refusing to sell to the customer in the first place not merely refusing their refund.

michaelmrose11 hours ago

This isn't merely crass and dishonest its a crime. The solution is honestly to start making examples of people.

If someone stole all the parts of a thousand dollar bike start by suing them for the thousand bucks and then add all the employee time burned dealing with the matter. If they don't want to settle burn them for the entire cost of the litigation to recover those funds. If they can't pay then go to court and take absolutely anything that the court will late you take and attach their wages for eternity. Publish their names on a fraud page along with evidence of the crime and how much they paid you this month until its paid off.

Threaten absolutely every person who commits an obvious crime against your company and pick 1 a year and ruin their lives. The obvious fact is even a small crime like a $50 fraud is a multi thousand dollar bill if a lawyer ends up being a required step to collect.

Change the expectation that you will trivially get away with crime to an expectation that you will likely be hit with bill for your misbehavior.

MBCook9 hours ago

First for small things the company is going to have to DIY it in small claims court. For larger items even if they win with treble damages will that pay for their lawyer bills?

It’s a criminal issue anyway. The state should really be prosecuting these people somehow but I can’t see us ever willing to spend the political and financial capital to actually do that in this country.

michaelmrose8 hours ago

Presumably you only actually recover a minority of cases while meeting every single case of fraud with a legitimate theoretically enforceable demand for payment. Joe rando might or might not pay or ultimately be sued but Bob evil committing dozens to hundreds of cases of fraud would be and Joe would be put off just a bit by Bob's ruination.

brewdad8 hours ago

Just like $250,000 fines for downloading Metallica killed online piracy.

michaelmrose4 hours ago

Good point but I believe the issues are dissimilar. With downloading you are dealing with 100s of millions of people who can trivially foil all efforts to stick them with a bill with a few clicks.

Return fraud is orders of magnitudes smaller and as it involves physical goods changing hands spoiling anonymity. A single user committing a single act of fraud might yet retain relatively good odds but a massive portion of fraud as with retail theft is perpetrated by a minority of offenders which could well be correlated by requiring an ID for all returns and dealing with a tiny number of major offenders very harshly.

An environment in which you hear news about fraudsters facing prosecution or financial ruin would be perceived as riskier further dissuading offenders.

lmz10 hours ago

I'm surprised this comment is still visible, considering what the mainstream American opinion is on making examples out of criminals.

michaelmrose9 hours ago

Mainstream America is absolutely vindictive and cruel towards criminals.

abalashov5 hours ago

In weirdly asymmetrical, lopsided ways, where both extremes are simultaneously true. In part it depends on what one has in mind when speaking of "mainstream" America; it seems people have very different ideas of this.

But I've been here almost 30 years, and seen both for-the-top run-amok police-state law-and-order in the red states, AND a passion for doing anything possible to avoid imprisoning repeat (felony!) offenders in many blue-state urban jurisdictions. The official explanation for the latter relates to penal system overcrowding and lack of capacity, and of course, there's something to that. But somehow this doesn't doesn't hinder the law-and-order "red" jurisdictions from "throwing the book" at some poor fellow who had a few too many ounces of weed on him or whatever.

Here in Georgia, that's the difference between, say, Fulton County (which encompasses inner-city Atlanta) and one of the Metro ATL suburban counties, or for that matter, just about any other random county in Georgia. The outcomes vary immensely. You can find both extremes, allowing one to say in the same breath both that the state is cruel and vindictive toward criminals, and has let them run amok.

It doesn't quite make my top 5 list of "things most maddening about America", but it's probably in the top 10.

bsder7 hours ago

> start by suing

Spoken like someone who has never filed a lawsuit in the US. If that fraudster has ANY resources, that case you filed is going to be anywhere from $250K to $500K.

Even if you win, you will bleed money. The opposition can hire a shitty lawyer that does the bare minimum and practically ignores everything while you have to file all the proper paperwork in a timely fashion.

Because lawyers protect one another, that shitty lawyer won't suffer one iota, either.

Yeah, I'm speaking from experience here ...

So, referencing the original company, you can spend the revenue of one thousand pumps (in reality, probably more like the profits of ten thousand pumps) in the hope of getting back the value of one pump, or you can suck it up and deal with it as cheaply as you can.

jackmott12 hours ago

Josh is a great person and the internet is also full of in depth aerodynamic and rolling resistance information thanks to him.

deltree713 hours ago
elteto11 hours ago

If HN is telling you things I suggest seeing a therapist.

Pakdef9 hours ago

You are being a bit dense maybe?