80 retail stores in Jing’an district adopt seven-day unconditional refund policy

By Wang Han Source:Global Times Published: 2018/10/28 18:18:39

The customer is always right

A sign on the cashier's desk of a retail store in Jing'an district, which says the store offers "unconditional refund services within seven days" Photo: Yao Jiaying

With the boom of e-commerce in China, Chinese consumers have become accustomed to the practice of returning products purchased online within seven days for a refund - and without giving any reason.

As long as the returned products are in good condition and the shipping fee is covered by the consumer, pretty much all e-retailers on platforms such as Taobao and JD will offer full refunds.

Rules protecting Chinese consumer rights for free refunds within seven days drafted by China's State Administration for Industry & Commerce came into effect in March of 2017, and is one of the reasons why online shopping has surged this past year.

To win back their old customers, a total of 80 brands in Jing'an district of Shanghai recently started to offer unconditional refund services within seven days. Participating stores include popular domestic and foreign brands Zara, Gap, 73 Hours, Kaikai and Wuliangcai.

The new project, launched by the Jing'an Commerce Commission, endeavors to accelerate the district's march to become a world-class shopping destination. But how do consumers and staff at these retail stores react to the unconditional seven-day refund policy?

No big difference

Some employees at participating retail stores in Jing'an told the Global Times that the new seven-day unconditional refund policy hasn't changed much of their daily work. Some brands have even adopted free refunds or exchanges within 30 days.

Mandy (pseudonym), a shop assistant at female shoe brand 73 Hours, said the policy of free refunds is actually an old rule at her mall. "Consumers shopping at our mall get a receipt which has the seven-day free refund terms printed on it," Mandy told the Global Times.

Likewise, Ben (pseudonym), an employee at Old Navy, said that all of their stores in Shanghai provide free exchanges or returns within 30 days. But in Jing'an district, customers will now see eye-catching signs about the new refund policy at participating brands.

Many of the consumers we interviewed said they are in favor of unconditional exchanges and returns at retail stores. Gu Xuanye, in her 20s, lived in Canada for many years, which has a similar policy. "In Canadian supermarkets, clothing stores or even luxury shops, it is very easy for customers to get an unopened product returned," she told the Global Times.

She was glad to see some stores and brands in Shanghai adopt the new measures, as she thinks it can protect consumers and also promote the participating brands. "Many women are shopaholics and tend to buy things on impulse. But when they bring things back home, they might find they don't need or like the products, and therefore want to return them," Gu said.

Honest and good-natured

Thirty-something Si Yongmei said she doesn't know many retail stores in Jing'an district that have adopted the new free return and exchange policy. In comparison, the shop assistants we interviewed seem to have two-sided attitudes toward the new practice.

Mandy, for example, said seven days makes sense to allow consumers to exchange or return their stuff for free. "Some customers tend to shop impulsively, and it is understandable if they want to return or exchange purchased products within seven days," she told the Global Times.

But Mandy also pointed out that an unconditional return policy tends to make their workload heavier and much busier.

"The policy is a guarantee for consumers. They can buy products with less concern. But for staff, our work gets more complicated," she said. "Our stall is within a shopping mall and we need to negotiate with the mall managers if any customer wants to return a product."

Another concern is that some consumers might return used products, thereby taking advantage of the new rule. Gu, for instance, said some young girls she knew in Canada would buy good shoes or clothes to attend special events or parties, and simply return everything afterward.

Buyer's remorse

But most employees and consumers alike think most shoppers are honest and good-natured and won't exploit the generosity of these participating brands. Ben, for example, said he rarely sees clients returning clothes after wearing; most clients return or exchange products for quality reasons.

Si told the Global Times that, only when shoppers buy the wrong size of clothes or shoes for family members or friends, they might need to return or exchange it. "Or when consumers find a quality problem, they might want to return the product," she added.

Gu said her reasons for returning stuff she buys offline tends to be due to impulsive shopping.

"I recently bought a 4,000-yuan ($576) beauty apparatus at a shopping mall in Jing'an district. But right after the purchase I regretted it," she said. "So I went back to the store, trying to return the product to get a refund. But the store assistant refused."

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