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
Deal Guru
User avatar
Mar 12, 2005
10579 posts
2450 upvotes
Victoria
I do put a lot of thought into the things I buy. I research them, I spend time on RFD look for a good deal.. etc...

I rarely every return anything. Pretty much never because I have order regret. Last thing I returned to Amazon was an aluminum cup I bought for backpacking. They mailed it in a bubble mailer so it got squished and dented :(
Deal Fanatic
Sep 16, 2004
9779 posts
2027 upvotes
Toronto
The problem is human greed and avarice.
We place our focus on physical and material things to bring us satisfaction which is short lived.
Therefore no amount is ever enough.
It may also be the fact that many are so lucky to be able to afford things they do not need.
Deal Expert
Jan 27, 2006
19517 posts
12579 upvotes
Vancouver, BC
maple1 wrote: Their pricing might be good and the variety of products unmatched but I have made the decision not to shop with them. For me, they represent the destruction of the brick and mortar business. I would rather support the local businesses that aside from offering work in the area, provide a sense of community that online cannot. I think this is even more important given how local businesses have been hit under Covid. When you have a group of stores together, that only helps support an area / community. I do shop online but generally at traditional retailer that happens to have an online presence, it is just easier and frankly, sometimes cheaper but have no problem supporting a local store when I can as I just enjoy shopping in person.
I agree with you for the most part but unfortunately, sometimes it comes down to selection or getting something that is not available anywhere else since the local brick and mortar shops (or even larger Canadian chains) don't carry. Canadian online retailers have to increase their online selection into areas where they have never been before (ie stock parts for things that break or is consumed). A great example would be replacement twines for electric dethatchers! We all know they break and need to be replaced so why doesn't anyone stock them especially for the ones that they sell in store!
Sr. Member
Nov 14, 2012
637 posts
480 upvotes
Amazon is just tip of iceberg

Built-in obsolescence is a real thing. I open things that stop working and try to fix them or at least learn.

The lifespan of electronic devices s becoming shorter, in 2004 about 3.5% devices failed within 5yrs, in 2013 it was 8.3%: https://www.umweltbundesamt.de/en/press ... ng-shorter

This trend is not an accident, it is very careful design. Sometimes the devices are just low quality but often they use time-bomb components.

Computers usually do not need time-bomb because they obsolete fast.

For example AC motors in vacuums, blenders, etc - uses carbon brushes that has only few 1000s hours lifetime. Sometimes even that is not enough, so they use material that wears off faster than others, for example lately was opening the Omnitech shredder and everything was fine, even the brushes were almost new, plastic nylon gears were in great shape, but one particular gear was totally stripped. Someone made a video about it and from 6:24 talks about this very issue:



Many people make their living by scavenging failed gadgets that would normally end up in landfill, fixing and peddling back. And that refurbished appliance may have higher reliability than original because the time-bomb was most likely replaced by regular aftermarket part.
Last edited by ramon2 on Oct 12th, 2020 1:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Deal Expert
Jan 27, 2006
19517 posts
12579 upvotes
Vancouver, BC
ShinNoodles wrote: Is it known what percentage of purchases are returned to Amazon?
According to the CBC article, there was a study in the US about online purchases in general where 30 to 40% of all online purchases were sent back. Now, if you add a little context to that by saying that the vast majority of online resellers (straight online and hybrid) charge for returns (ie the buyer pays for return postage) while Amazon is free, I would say that Amazon probably has a higher return rate than the industry due to the additional cost to the consumer for postage by the other firms.

Amazon returns are such a big deal in the US that a major US department store in an effort to increase foot traffic within the store teamed up with Amazon to set up an Amazon returns desk within each of the brick and mortar stores! Think about the scale of the operation for a sec that it benefits Amazon to team with someone else in order to satisfy the demand to return product.
Deal Expert
Jan 27, 2006
19517 posts
12579 upvotes
Vancouver, BC
ramon2 wrote: Amazon is just tip of iceberg

Built-in obsolescence is a real thing. I open things that stop working and try to fix them or at least learn.

The lifespan of electronic devices s becoming shorter, in 2004 about 3.5% devices failed within 5yrs, in 2013 it was 8.3%: https://www.umweltbundesamt.de/en/press ... ng-shorter

This trend is not an accident, it is very careful design. Sometimes the devices are just low quality but often they use time-bomb components.

Computers usually do not need time-bomb because they obsolete fast.

For example AC motors in vacuums, blenders, etc - uses carbon brushes that has only few 1000s hours lifetime. Sometimes even that is not enough, so they use material that wears off faster than others, for example lately was opening the Omnitech shredder and everything was fine, even the brushes were almost new, plastic nylon gears were in great shape, but one particular gear was totally stripped. Someone made a video about it and from 6:24 talks about this very issue:



Many people make their living by scavenging failed gadgets that would normally end up in landfill, fixing and peddling back. And that refurbished appliance may have higher reliability than original because the time-bomb was most likely replaced by regular aftermarket part.
I don't necessarily blame the smaller companies like Omnitech as they are just following the trend... The problem is the larger mega-companies like Apple which introduced the first cell phone which didn't have a consumer replaceable battery or how when all of the onetime use electronics problems surfaced, they pushed the idea of their earphones which run for about 2 years before the batteries die and the set needs to be thrown out. These are the companies that are fighting the Right to Repair movement which wants to give the product's owners some avenue to repair the product (ie replace the batteries) rather than throwing them out.
Deal Addict
Jun 27, 2006
1880 posts
2115 upvotes
craftsman wrote: I agree with you for the most part but unfortunately, sometimes it comes down to selection or getting something that is not available anywhere else since the local brick and mortar shops (or even larger Canadian chains) don't carry. Canadian online retailers have to increase their online selection into areas where they have never been before (ie stock parts for things that break or is consumed). A great example would be replacement twines for electric dethatchers! We all know they break and need to be replaced so why doesn't anyone stock them especially for the ones that they sell in store!
I hear you. Sometimes, they can be the only option. Nothing is a clear cut, one size fits all situation.
Sr. Member
Nov 14, 2012
637 posts
480 upvotes
The revolution is coming as molecular recycling. Research is currently focusing on plastics but eventually we should be able to recover all 50+ elements used in today's electronics.

In the future, waste will not be an issue. Even your poop can be mined for precious metals: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/spe ... us-metals/
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Deal Addict
Jun 4, 2013
1320 posts
482 upvotes
Vancouver
In my university days I used to work at Wal Mart. And everyday when we get returns back we (I use to work at Sports/outdoor) if the package have been open we were told to destroy it. Reason being a lot of people use buy the products and use it once then return it. So the items is sued, box/package is destroy or you can tell is clearly used. It will be very costly to clean them and then put them on clearence and Wal Mart would take a hit on the button line. So if the products is destroy we can just tell the manfacture the product was defective so the manfacture pay for it. So a lot of times is customer to blame.
Deal Guru
Aug 14, 2007
11915 posts
2894 upvotes
Durham Region
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?
Tell that to Amazon who sent me an obviously used Hakko fr-301 desoldering vacuum that was sold as new. Cost was 379+tax.

Got the new replacement the next day and sending this other one back.
Deal Addict
User avatar
Jul 2, 2001
4992 posts
2614 upvotes
GTA
Totally guilty of this, but until amazon stops allowing free returns people will continue doing it.
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Jr. Member
User avatar
Jan 30, 2014
131 posts
198 upvotes
Montreal
We have see numerous threads here about Amazon returns and how people have been posting the number of times they have returned items to Amazon.

CBC Marketplace did an investigation on what happens to Amazon returns.

Hopefully this will deter users from frequent returns and to think before buying.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/marketpl ... L_hxbD6kU4
Sr. Member
Nov 23, 2018
526 posts
674 upvotes
Underground Bunker
Not acceptable. They should limit this to legitimate reasons. I have 0 returns. But, I get why they are doing it, to have more customers. Moe customers, moe money. And a good solution will be to ban those that abuse this. And they are already doing that so, maybe they just have too many customers that is why we see so many packages ?
Deal Addict
User avatar
Jul 21, 2005
3064 posts
1103 upvotes
Lévis
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.
Groupe SEB (Krups, Moulinex, Tefal, etc.) is commited into repairability (at least on paper)
https://www.groupeseb.com/en/node/442
Pourquoi pas?
Deal Fanatic
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Sep 6, 2002
9774 posts
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Vancouver
Takes a lot of time (And money) to figure out what returned items might be valid for resell, possibly for resale with no disclosure (risky) then on seconary market (less risky ) and total junk.

When incredibly large business do the math on super friendly return plans perhaps they realize the junk yard or whoever is the cheapest.

HMV used to take open CD returns. Then CD burners became cheap. Who’s old enough to remember what they did and how they ended up.

It’s sad I guess but it’s dollars and cents.
Autocorrect sucks
[OP]
Deal Expert
Jan 7, 2002
25141 posts
21591 upvotes
Waterloo, ON
GangStarr wrote: When incredibly large business do the math on super friendly return plans perhaps they realize the junk yard or whoever is the cheapest
Economists call these negative externalities. One way to balance these effects is legislation that forces those who create the problem to deal with the problem. These measures can range from environmental surcharges to the ban of offending items/practices (e.g. plastic bags) to "right to repair" statutes, etc.
It’s sad I guess but it’s dollars and cents
In the end we all pay, one way or another. It's better that those who contribute to the problem, be it the manufacturers, retailers or consumers, pay for addressing those problems.
veni, vidi, Visa
Deal Expert
Jan 27, 2006
19517 posts
12579 upvotes
Vancouver, BC
bylo wrote: Economists call these negative externalities. One way to balance these effects is legislation that forces those who create the problem to deal with the problem. These measures can range from environmental surcharges to the ban of offending items/practices (e.g. plastic bags) to "right to repair" statutes, etc.

In the end we all pay, one way or another. It's better that those who contribute to the problem, be it the manufacturers, retailers or consumers, pay for addressing those problems.
Yep.

Just look at recycling plastics. In most regions across North America, they can't find anyone to take the used plastics off their hands to recycle ever since China stopped taking that stuff. In BC, we did things differently - Why B.C. is better at recycling than most other places. A similar regulation can be done with returns.
Deal Expert
Jan 27, 2006
19517 posts
12579 upvotes
Vancouver, BC
rabbit wrote: This person in Burnaby is selling a bunch of crap that she says are Amazon returns:
https://www.facebook.com/marketplace/it ... 598090491/
I don't believe those are solely returns as it looks like there are multiples of certain items that are BNIB. It's probably a mix of returns and those items that sat at Amazon for long enough that the vendor couldn't be bothered to sell it for cheap on Amazon or pay for shipping back to them.

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