Amazon Tests Return Fees, The Era of Free Returns May Be Ending

John Suder
Apr 19, 2023

Amazon is testing the waters of return fees, possibly upending the era of free returns for customers accustomed to the perk.

The move comes as Amazon and other eCommerce giants try to balance the cost of handling returns with shoppers' expectations. Analysts predict that others may follow Amazon's lead and begin charging for returns.

Returns accounted for $816 billion in lost sales, or 17% of total sales in 2022, up from 11% in 2020, according to the National Retail Federation.

Even though it's not commonplace (yet), there may be a cost if you decide to drop off an Amazon purchase at a UPS location.

Amazon is now evaluating the effects of return fees as part of its efforts to balance managing returns and customer expectations. To reduce the price of returns, more well-known e-commerce companies are thinking of taking similar actions. For now, dropping off Amazon purchases at UPS shops carries a $1 cost. The era of free returns may be coming to an end. Issues raised by Amazon's actions include the necessity of such fees and their potential impact on the user experience.

The Pros and Cons of Charging Return Fees

While customers may not be thrilled at the prospect of paying return fees, charging for returns could benefit retailers and shoppers in some ways. Here are a few potential pros and cons:


  • Charging for returns could help retailers recoup some of the costs associated with handling and processing returns
  • Retailers may be able to offer lower prices on products if they aren't absorbing the cost of free returns
  • Charging for returns may encourage customers to be more thoughtful about their purchases, reducing the overall rate of returns


  • Customers may be deterred from making purchases altogether if they know they'll have to pay for returns
  • Charging for returns could damage customer trust and loyalty

The potential move towards charging for returns marks a significant shift for the retail industry. It's unclear whether customers will be prepared to accept the change. If retailers want to implement this change successfully, they must communicate why these fees are necessary and how they will ultimately benefit consumers.

Ultimately, it remains to be seen whether or not charging for returns will become a widespread practice. Some retailers may continue offering free returns to differentiate their businesses from the competition. Regardless, the trend towards charging for returns is worth keeping an eye on, as it could significantly impact the retail industry as a whole.

If the trend catches on, it could significantly shift the eCommerce landscape. However, the decision may also cause some backlash from consumers, who have come to expect free and easy returns as part of the online shopping experience.

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Photo by Bryan Angelo on Unsplash

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