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Some stores are making it harder for online customers to send something back

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Online shopping - it's convenient until you got to return something.

ASMA KHALID, HOST:

Yeah, and if you got a holiday gift this year that you don't really want, well, you may find that more stores are charging fees or just making it plain harder for customers to send something back.

MARTÍNEZ: David Swartz is an analyst with Morningstar. He says retailers pay a big price for free returns.

DAVID SWARTZ: A lot of brands are suffering from returns.

KHALID: Stores took back $743 billion in returned merchandise this year. The National Retail Federation says that's almost 15% of the total sales. And Swartz says a lot of that stuff will not go back on the shelf.

SWARTZ: Many products that are shipped back to stores are actually not resold. They're actually destroyed.

MARTÍNEZ: That makes returns costly for stores and the planet, Swartz says, since so many of those goods are destined for landfills.

KHALID: Major retailers like Macy's and Amazon have tightened their return policies. But another analyst, Sucharita Kodali says she won't be surprised if they loosen up again.

SUCHARITA KODALI: I don't see strict return policies lasting for that long. It's a pendulum that swings back and forth. It depends on economic sentiment, consumer confidence, whether or not the retailer is financially well-positioned or not, how much inventory they have in stock, etc., etc.

MARTÍNEZ: And Kodali, who's an e-commerce expert at Forrester, says online shops are much more likely to charge for returns.

KODALI: I generally don't see restocking fees for physical stores.

KHALID: So her advice for the next holiday season? - shop at a brick-and-mortar store, and check the return policy before you buy anything.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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