Shopping Discussion

'The impact is incredible': Hidden cameras and secret trackers reveal where Amazon returns end up

  • Last Updated:
  • Oct 18th, 2020 9:16 pm
[OP]
Deal Expert
Jan 7, 2002
25291 posts
21795 upvotes
Waterloo, ON

'The impact is incredible': Hidden cameras and secret trackers reveal where Amazon returns end up

'The impact is incredible': Hidden cameras and secret trackers reveal where Amazon returns end up | CBC News
A Marketplace investigation into Amazon Canada has found that perfectly good items are being liquidated by the truckload — and even destroyed or sent to landfill. Experts say hundreds of thousands of returns don't end up back on the e-commerce giant's website for resale, as customers might think.

Marketplace journalists posing as potential new clients went undercover for a tour at a Toronto e-waste recycling and product destruction facility with hidden cameras. During that meeting, a representative revealed they get "tons and tons of Amazon returns," and that every week their facility is breaking apart and shredding at least one tractor-trailer load of Amazon returns, sometimes even up to three to five truckloads.

"We're not the only ones. We couldn't handle all of Amazon. There's no way. It is so — it's like cockroaches, it multiplies. It's incredible," said the operations manager...

It's a problem that plagues all e-commerce giants, not just Amazon...

A television investigation in France exposed that hundreds of thousands of products — both returns and overstock — are being thrown out by Amazon. As a result of public outcry, a new French anti-waste law passed earlier this year will force all retailers including e-giants like Amazon to recycle or donate all returned or unused merchandise.

Shortly after the show aired in 2019, Amazon also introduced a new program in the U.S. and U.K. known as Fulfillment by Amazon Donations, which Amazon says will help sellers send returns directly to charities instead of disposing of them.

No such program exists in Canada.
veni, vidi, Visa
81 replies
Deal Addict
User avatar
Dec 20, 2004
2575 posts
1790 upvotes
Vancouveresque
TomLafinsky wrote: We might not need such program if people would not 'buy first, think later'... Sounds familiar???

Btw, 66% of all the food produced in Canada goes to waste. Ain't we a great country?
I think the vast majority of people returning items (with the exception of food) aren't expecting them to be thrown away. The largest corporations on the planet can and should do better than simply junking things rather than attempting to reduce waste.
Nobody cares which exploitative corporations you give your money to every month. Capitalism is a plague on this planet. Get that crap out of your signature.
Deal Fanatic
Sep 16, 2004
9779 posts
2027 upvotes
Toronto
Already happens with many Costco products as well.
In some cases it's now cheaper for the manufacturers to have Costco dump the returned products than have it returned for refurbishing or recycled.
Deal Fanatic
Feb 4, 2010
6072 posts
5310 upvotes
Well that's capitalism for you. Profits at any costs and governments allow this to 'grow the economy'...we still haven't grasped the old adage of "don't sh1t where you sleep".
GeeCee wrote: I think the vast majority of people returning items (with the exception of food) aren't expecting them to be thrown away. The largest corporations on the planet can and should do better than simply junking things rather than attempting to reduce waste.
Agreed but unfortunately this not new information - we found out about this last year (or maybe 2 years ago) so I don't think it's all that "impactful" as the title suggests. People will continue to buy even when they know but this not on the consumer, this is 90% on Amazon and 10% on government and lack of accountability and oversight (I just made up those numbers but may government should be held more responsible.
Deal Expert
User avatar
Feb 11, 2007
18839 posts
21577 upvotes
GTA
We need to tax packaging, tax waste and have huge fines and jail time for illegal dumping.
If the women don't find you handsome, they should at least find you handy.
Deal Guru
User avatar
Jan 9, 2011
14045 posts
18345 upvotes
Vancouver
GeeCee wrote: I think the vast majority of people returning items (with the exception of food) aren't expecting them to be thrown away. The largest corporations on the planet can and should do better than simply junking things rather than attempting to reduce waste.
The way they could do better is to not have such a generous return policy that just encourages people to overbuy. "Hey, I'll order 12 pairs of shoes, keep the pair I like the best, and return the rest." Not a surprise this happens when they let people do that.
Deal Guru
Nov 15, 2008
11745 posts
6689 upvotes
It's not just Amazon, everybody does it. My buddy did a holiday stint smashing up returned and new old stock of power tools with a sledgehammer. They had new models and they did not want to deflate the prices of them by pushing their old stock out to retailers because then people would not buy the new stuff.

There was a big scandal around UK luxury bran Burberry a couple of years ago. Burberry said what they were doing was "environmentally friendly" because they "captured the energy" that came from burning CAD $154 million in goods over 5 years.

Burberry burns bags, clothes and perfume worth millions
https://www.bbc.com/news/business-44885983

So the press jumped on that and discovered everybody was doing it.

Why fashion brands destroy billions’ worth of their own merchandise every year
An expert explains why Burberry, H&M, Nike, and Urban Outfitters destroy unsold merch — and what it says about consumer culture.
https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2018/9/17 ... ke-h-and-m

Now the whole retail fashion industry has collapsed because of COVID, especially luxury fashion.

Luxury fashion is all about new, new, new: they bring out new collections 4-6 times a year, in new PANTONE colours, it's almost instantly stale.

What do you do when the entire luxury fashion industry is sitting on a mountain of new old stock in past designs and colours, they can't advance colour or style trends anymore, everyone only wants to buy sweats because of COVID and may not even wear pants anymore because of Zoom?


1) Give it to the poor so they can all dress up like gangster rappers?

2) BURN IT?
Deal Guru
Dec 5, 2006
12002 posts
7088 upvotes
Markham
hierophant wrote: we still haven't grasped the old adage of "don't sh1t where we sleep".

I doubt those donations program will make meaningful different


We do. That's why a lot those harmful waste will eventually be shipped to developing countries because we "don't sh1t where you sleep"

Already forgot this?
https://www.google.ca/amp/s/beta.ctvnew ... 45295.html
Deal Expert
Feb 7, 2017
21343 posts
19713 upvotes
Eastern Ontario
lecale wrote: It's not just Amazon, everybody does it. My buddy did a holiday stint smashing up returned and new old stock of power tools with a sledgehammer. They had new models and they did not want to deflate the prices of them by pushing their old stock out to retailers because then people would not buy the new stuff.

There was a big scandal around UK luxury bran Burberry a couple of years ago. Burberry said what they were doing was "environmentally friendly" because they "captured the energy" that came from burning CAD $154 million in goods over 5 years.

Burberry burns bags, clothes and perfume worth millions
https://www.bbc.com/news/business-44885983

So the press jumped on that and discovered everybody was doing it.

Why fashion brands destroy billions’ worth of their own merchandise every year
An expert explains why Burberry, H&M, Nike, and Urban Outfitters destroy unsold merch — and what it says about consumer culture.
https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2018/9/17 ... ke-h-and-m

Now the whole retail fashion industry has collapsed because of COVID, especially luxury fashion.

Luxury fashion is all about new, new, new: they bring out new collections 4-6 times a year, in new PANTONE colours, it's almost instantly stale.

What do you do when the entire luxury fashion industry is sitting on a mountain of new old stock in past designs and colours, they can't advance colour or style trends anymore, everyone only wants to buy sweats because of COVID and may not even wear pants anymore because of Zoom?


1) Give it to the poor so they can all dress up like gangster rappers?

2) BURN IT?
Re - Pantone & Fashion

The Pantone Colour Committee meets 2x a year
They have 2 sets of “fashionable colours” ... Spring / Summer and Fall / Winter

Yes the entire WHATS FASHIONABLE ... COLOUR WISE
Revolves around these announcements / releases

It’s a HUGE BUSINESS and effects EVERYTHING we all buy
Not just the Designer Clothing industry

From clothing, to home furnishings, small appliances, and paint
Even automobiles, houses, and flowers in our gardens

The clothing industry is of course the most known
And marks these thru fashion trends
By having FASHION WEEK 2x a year (Spring & Fall)
Showcasing fashion for the upcoming season in the previously agreed upon palette

As to “collections”
Yes Designers & Manufacturers May release their latest outfits in a staggered method
And not all at once ... Spring first ... then Summer
(Which might actually come to stores in waves ... Early Spring, Cruise Wear, Spring, Early Summer, Summer)
But the Pantone colours remain the same ... 2 sets of colours annually chosen about a year in advance

https://www.npr.org/2011/02/10/13363654 ... ion-trends

EDIT / ADD :
Last edited by PointsHubby on Oct 10th, 2020 11:29 am, edited 2 times in total.
Deal Fanatic
Feb 4, 2010
6072 posts
5310 upvotes
smartie wrote: We do. That's why a lot those harmful waste will eventually be shipped to developing countries because we "don't sh1t where you sleep"

Already forgot this?
https://www.google.ca/amp/s/beta.ctvnew ... 45295.html
I meant planet earth as a whole - what happens in one part of the world affects the rest of the world E.g. that a$$hole Bolsonaro intentionally burning down the rainforest affects the whole planet, air and water pollution in one city or country isn't isolate or stagnant, it moves.
Deal Guru
User avatar
Feb 6, 2003
10649 posts
1081 upvotes
Vancouver
It makes perfect sense to do that for a retailer moving that much volume. It is more cost effective to toss it than deal with the logistics of getting a random returned item back up for sale.
<< Public Mobile, Uber Eats, DoorDash, Tangerine, Coast Capital, STACK user >>
FS: Phanteks Low Profile Cooler | Athlon X2 265
MY HEATWARE
[OP]
Deal Expert
Jan 7, 2002
25291 posts
21795 upvotes
Waterloo, ON
Amourek wrote: It makes perfect sense to do that for a retailer moving that much volume. It is more cost effective to toss it than deal with the logistics of getting a random returned item back up for sale.
Some retailers donate returned goods to local charities, especially clothes, housewares, etc. That's a very effective form of recycling since the people who get the goods probably couldn't afford to buy them in the first place, i.e. the manufacturer isn't losing any business as a consequence. If the manufacturer is concerned that their items could be resold on kijiji or eBay then they could insist that labels are removed/defaced before donation.

Doing this wouldn't cost retailers like Amazon much more compared to disposal/destruction. Instead it would garner them some good PR. It would also do some good for this world by helping the less fortunate.
veni, vidi, Visa
Deal Addict
User avatar
Dec 7, 2003
2010 posts
408 upvotes
Toronto
I'm not surprised, I see pallets of amazon returns being sold off on auction sites all the time. Even when I worked at Zellers we would trash a lot of returns. Back then they didn't collect E-waste so it would just all end up in the compactor.

Personally I think a lot of the problem is that nothing is made to be repaired anymore. I bought an outdoor wifi plug from amazon earlier this year for $30. It stopped working after a few months so I contacted the seller who told me that the internal fuse likely blew and rendered the whole thing useless. They had amazon ship me a new one, that one looked used (had scratches on the plastic body) and didn't work. So they sent me a 2nd replacement which ended up working. Of course they didn't want the non-working items back since they wouldn't be fixing them anyways.

I ended up taking them apart to see if I could fix them. Turns out they use a surface mount 10A fuse, which I found on digikey for $2. Soldered in new fuses and lo and behold the two "broken" ones work again.

If the company just used standard glass tube fuses it could be fixed by the end user very easily, but instead if the device pops the fuse one time the whole thing is garbage. So wasteful.
[OP]
Deal Expert
Jan 7, 2002
25291 posts
21795 upvotes
Waterloo, ON
grego9198 wrote: Personally I think a lot of the problem is that nothing is made to be repaired anymore... I ended up taking them apart to see if I could fix them. Turns out they use a surface mount 10A fuse, which I found on digikey for $2. Soldered in new fuses and lo and behold the two "broken" ones work again.
YouTube has many videos that show how to repair anything from a furnace controller board to a 65" LCD TV by replacing a fuse or thermistor. The part is cheap but knowing about its existence, location, specs and how to replace it aren't so easy. Worse the people who service this stuff are taught to either replace the entire module or try to sell a replacement product. Often the cost of the former is greater than the latter. All because of a $1 or $2 part. There's a huge conflict of interest in this because neither option is cheap for the consumer but both are highly profitable for the manufacturer and retailer.
If the company just used standard glass tube fuses it could be fixed by the end user very easily, but instead if the device pops the fuse one time the whole thing is garbage. So wasteful.
They not only have to switch to stuff like standard glass cartridge fuses but they also have to make that part accessible, e.g. by using a screw-in fuse socket. Of course that adds a few cents to the cost of the device. In a world where the price of consumer goods is dropping rapidly that would make such products uncompetitive. That's why we need some regulation either to redirect the interest to remove such conflicts or to force all manufacturers to build stuff to be serviceable.

All of this gets compounded because manufacturers feel compelled to introduce new versions of their products at break-neck speeds. These products also contain a lot of proprietary parts that differ with each new generation. Manufacturers deal with this proliferation of parts by carrying them only for a few years. After that replacement parts are no longer available, or if they are, they come from resellers and salvagers who often charge outrageous prices.

We need to address these sorts of issues on a global level. As others have said upthread, the future of our planet depends on this.
veni, vidi, Visa
Deal Guru
Nov 15, 2008
11745 posts
6689 upvotes
PointsHubby wrote: Re - Pantone & Fashion

The Pantone Colour Committee meets 2x a year
They have 2 sets of “fashionable colours” ... Spring / Summer and Fall / Winter

Yes the entire WHATS FASHIONABLE ... COLOUR WISE
Revolves around these announcements / releases

It’s a HUGE BUSINESS and effects EVERYTHING we all buy
Not just the Designer Clothing industry

From clothing, to home furnishings, small appliances, and paint
Even automobiles, houses, and flowers in our gardens

The clothing industry is of course the most known
And marks these thru fashion trends
By having FASHION WEEK 2x a year (Spring & Fall)
Showcasing fashion for the upcoming season in the previously agreed upon palette

As to “collections”
Yes Designers & Manufacturers May release their latest outfits in a staggered method
And not all at once ... Spring first ... then Summer
(Which might actually come to stores in waves ... Early Spring, Cruise Wear, Spring, Early Summer, Summer)
But the Pantone colours remain the same ... 2 sets of colours annually chosen about a year in advance

https://www.npr.org/2011/02/10/13363654 ... ion-trends

EDIT / ADD :
The demand for fast fashion absolutely has pushed designers to release up to 6 collections a year. They do half of them in colourways from Spring/Summer and the other half from Fall/Winter but don't use every colour from the PANTONE forecast in every collection. The different colourways (subsets of the forecast) selected date the collections and make them stale.

The colour cartel is an absolute racket with the sole purpose of pushing an "expiry date" on colour trends. They have been doing the "colour of the year" thing for 2 decades now. Industry buys the forecasts well in advance of that, MORE than a year, it takes longer to set up manufacturing than that.

They already have 2022 in the bag, you can buy the 2022 colour "forecast" (ahem, "decree") for USD $845 now https://www.pantone.com/products/trend- ... ummer-2022

Then you go to the mall and everything everywhere is being offered in only "Living Coral" (because this was 2019, we need to qualify the fact that we are not talking about "Dead Coral.")

PANTONE is part of the reason retailers are being stuck with so much dead stock that they just cannot move: the colours have "expired." PANTONE is finally losing its grip on the industry because advancing obsolescence finally worked against them in the age of COVID.

Most outrageous video of the year is both a commercial for the PANTONE colour forecast Fall/Winter 2019/2020 and a song written by a 16 year old who sings about having sex with other kid's dads. She played at the DNC too, but that's "off topic."

I am big on colour but PANTONE, smh.

Deal Guru
Nov 15, 2008
11745 posts
6689 upvotes
bylo wrote: Some retailers donate returned goods to local charities, especially clothes, housewares, etc. That's a very effective form of recycling since the people who get the goods probably couldn't afford to buy them in the first place, i.e. the manufacturer isn't losing any business as a consequence. If the manufacturer is concerned that their items could be resold on kijiji or eBay then they could insist that labels are removed/defaced before donation.

Doing this wouldn't cost retailers like Amazon much more compared to disposal/destruction. Instead it would garner them some good PR. It would also do some good for this world by helping the less fortunate.
Clothing brands are arguing they can't do this because they don't want their clothes on the downtrodden, even in Africa, because photos end up online and their brand's desirability/image is degraded.

Clothing can be recycled for fiber though and a lot of the Amazon-branded own fashion labels on their site are made from reclaimed fibers. If you see "space dye," that's what it is. Mixed reclaimed fibers don't take up dye evenly, thus the finish.
Deal Guru
Nov 15, 2008
11745 posts
6689 upvotes
grego9198 wrote: I'm not surprised, I see pallets of amazon returns being sold off on auction sites all the time. Even when I worked at Zellers we would trash a lot of returns. Back then they didn't collect E-waste so it would just all end up in the compactor.

Personally I think a lot of the problem is that nothing is made to be repaired anymore. I bought an outdoor wifi plug from amazon earlier this year for $30. It stopped working after a few months so I contacted the seller who told me that the internal fuse likely blew and rendered the whole thing useless. They had amazon ship me a new one, that one looked used (had scratches on the plastic body) and didn't work. So they sent me a 2nd replacement which ended up working. Of course they didn't want the non-working items back since they wouldn't be fixing them anyways.

I ended up taking them apart to see if I could fix them. Turns out they use a surface mount 10A fuse, which I found on digikey for $2. Soldered in new fuses and lo and behold the two "broken" ones work again.

If the company just used standard glass tube fuses it could be fixed by the end user very easily, but instead if the device pops the fuse one time the whole thing is garbage. So wasteful.
Bought a dirt cheap really nice little garden shovel from Dollarama, made in China, had a crappy weld. We got someone to do a better job on the welding and now the thing is mint, We will keep it forever. In its original condition it was an excellent design but not at all durable and meant to break.

This is really sad to me because I am really going to enjoy my little spade for a long time and everyone else is going to end up cursing and throwing theirs out.
Deal Expert
User avatar
Sep 21, 2010
15185 posts
4626 upvotes
Montréal
Ya, it's pretty disappointing and I wonder what would happen if there was a no-return policy (save for defects and the like)? I always thought it was sickening that ppl borrow stuff from the store and just return when they're done.
Hard work, inheritance, interest on interest accumulating, and stock and real estate speculation. It's all good.
[OP]
Deal Expert
Jan 7, 2002
25291 posts
21795 upvotes
Waterloo, ON
lecale wrote: Clothing brands are arguing they can't do this because they don't want their clothes on the downtrodden, even in Africa, because photos end up online and their brand's desirability/image is degraded.
Arguing, yes. Making sense, not so much. Those same companies created their brand's desirability/image through clever and cynical marketing. Those same marketeers can reposition their brands as being socially responsible and thus more desirable to like-minded people because they've donated surplus goods to the developing world instead of destroying perfectly good garments (and possibly thereby adding to CO2 and other toxic pollution.)

Instead of just vilifying brands like Burberry we should also laud brands like Patagonia who not only pioneered making clothes from recycled materials but also actively encourages its customers to repair rather than repurchase their goods, to resell what they no longer need and even runs campaigns like their Black Friday Don’t Buy This Jacket that actively discourages people from buying their products unless absolutely necessary.
veni, vidi, Visa
Deal Expert
Jan 27, 2006
19781 posts
12889 upvotes
Vancouver, BC
TomLafinsky wrote: Btw, 66% of all the food produced in Canada goes to waste. Ain't we a great country?
The majority of that while perfectly edible isn't due to a 'buy first, think later' philosophy but rather a put to buy and eat only what's 'perfect' and the idea that anything past the best before date is 'dangerous' when there is little known evidence that many of those date have any scientific bases to them. All of that is thrown out. Even food banks are extremely picky in terms of rejecting slightly dented can food which has been shown being perfectly fine.

Top

Thread Information

There is currently 1 user viewing this thread. (0 members and 1 guest)