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The Payback of Taking Back ‘Defective’ Items

The Payback of Taking Back ‘Defective’ Items

January 31, 2015
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" What if you don’t take any returns? Is it worth upsetting a customer with this day and age of Yelp reviews? The way a customer can vent on the World Wide Web can affect your company in ways that no public relations company can save you from. "

We all love a returning customer but not so much a customer that returns products. Given the nature of our industry, whether you are my favorite bricks-and-mortar kind of store or just work your magic on the Internet, returns have always been a really tricky topic to address. Do you take returns? Does your distributor take returns? Does your supervisor support you in accepting returns from customers? What do you tell a customer who wants to return a product? Will they give you a bad Yelp review because you told them you couldn’t return a product, even after six months? There is certainly no easy answer when it comes to sex toys and returns.

When I had my store, Grand Opening!, I told customers that our return policy was for 30 days for defective items. Now, the term “defective items” is broad enough to apply to something that doesn’t function properly but is it always the product’s fault or that of the owner? Did they know how to use it in the first place? (Believe it or not, that can sometimes be an issue). Were they returning that item because they were simply not happy with it and thought by maybe breaking it, you’d think it was simply a defective item? As you can read right here, there are tons of things to take into consideration whether you take returns or not. Let’s look at a few examples.

But first, let’s look at actually taking in a used sex toy as a returned item. Yes, you can find out if something doesn’t work right away but what if the customer noticed it didn’t work after using it a few times in her beloved snatchland? Or him on his willing (and maybe disappointed) dick or wait, inside his, um, you know. And then the customer comes in your store and tries to return it? Hopefully they have taken the time to thoroughly wash the product prior to returning it (and they do pretty much most of the time). This is what I have done…

Being one to always want to know what failed in a sex toy or anything else for that matter, I actually enjoy getting returned products so I can see what failed, what needs to be improved, if there have been several of the same items returned, etc. but I’m getting ahead of myself. When I worked for a home sex toy party company, we imported products directly from manufacturers in China and I was in charge of quality control, making sure the product we ordered was exactly the same as the sample we received (and I can see your eyes rolling if you’ve ever been involved with doing this because you know what I mean). If we started getting returns for the same product because of malfunctioning, I wanted to know why so I encouraged our reps to have the customer return the product to me so I could inspect it and send the consumer a replacement item.

When we received the product, which 99 percent of the times was clean and carefully wrapped (although not always in the original packaging), I was able to dissect the gizmo with a scientific eye, looking for what might be causing the defect.

I know that some of you reading this are thinking of the ick factor: “You mean, you handled someone’s sex toy that was in their pussy???” Yes, as a matter of fact, I did, wearing latex gloves and handling the toy like it was covered in germs (which it wasn’t because they were usually well washed prior to my receiving them).

And I was actually criticized by the home sex toy party company’s owners by my incessant interest in trying to find out what was wrong with the products we sold. “I can’t believe you are handling sex toys that someone else used,” they bellowed. Well, frankly, I always wore my trusty latex gloves when handling these toys and, truth be told, the owners of the home party company were the parents of two young daughters and I often felt like asking “How many shit-filled diapers have you changed without wearing latex gloves? You can catch a lot more doing that than I ever will wearing latex gloves handling someone else’s sex toys.” Geesh!

I wanted to know what the problem was with these items, why they failed, and if it was the mechanics of the product or simply the owner’s fault. Believe it or not, it was usually the owner’s fault of not correctly putting in the batteries! I simply dropped a friendly email to the customer stating what they did incorrectly and sent them either the original product back or if I felt particularly benevolent, sent them a new one.

But that’s just one situation and we know we are always faced with others. Let’s look at them…

What if you don’t take any returns? Is it worth upsetting a customer with this day and age of Yelp reviews? The way a customer can vent on the World Wide Web can affect your company in ways that no public relations company can save you from. Is it worth it? These are things to consider, for sure.

Many times, a company will back the product with a warranty. Some major manufacturers guarantee their product by “registering” it with them so encourage your customer to do that, as well as hold on to their receipt (their proof of purchase which, while we casually toss it into the trash, is actually pretty important to hold on to, especially if it’s a high-ticket item). Packaging isn’t usually that important to hold on to but the receipt is.

What if your store/website claims “all sales final?” What do you do? Is the customer out of luck if something fails? This is where you really need to be up on warranty information, which varies from product to product, company to company. It’s pretty difficult to stay on top of, that’s for sure. Perhaps a bit of training by the manufacturers or someone at your company can stay on top of these things to share with staffers such as “Company XXX offers a one-year warranty on all of their products.” It would be a good thing to know.

Does the product get returned to you or to the manufacturer or even your distributor? Several distributors have a deal with manufacturers that cover returns because if the distributor absorbs the returns, they sometimes can get a bigger quantity discount from the manufacturer. Sometimes you can have a very cooperative distributor who will gladly accept returns and cover your ass in replacement products or a credit. Some distributors are better than others on their return policy and make sure you familiarize yourself with it when you do business with them.

When I had my bricks and mortar store, Grand Opening!, I would, of course, get the occasional customer who wanted to return a product. If it was a battery operated toy, I would don my trusty latex gloves (there they are again!), and discreetly test the toy at the counter. The overwhelming majority of the time, the issue was simply how they installed the batteries! I would put them in properly and the gizmo would start twirling or shaking, proving to the customer with their own eyes that the product was not defective and it was simply a brain fart on their part. I would point out how to put the batteries in properly and even give them the batteries I installed in their vibe for free. I figured the new batteries cost me only a few bucks (if that) and it left the customer feeling happy that they were able to “save” their toy and I saved the cost of giving them a new replacement product. In the meantime, I was able to save my reputation and continue to create a loyal customer, “defective” product be damned!

So when dealing with returns, remember that a happy customer can tell 10 friends and a pissed off one can tell the whole world. I’d rather have 10 friends become happy new customers knowing that my company did the right thing than the whole world being pissed off. Hope you can agree.

Kim Airs is the founder of sexuality boutique GrandOpening.com. She is a consultant for all aspects of the adult toy industry: training, sales, marketing, etc. She loves her job!


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