Amazon, Best Buy, and Home Depot are tracking your returns through a simple process that could get you blacklisted

  • Amazon,Best Buy, Home Depot, Victoria’s Secret, and other companies are tracking shoppers’ returns dating back several years.
  • Many shoppers are unaware their returns are being tracked, and only find out after they are banned from making additional returns.
  • Amazon conducts this process internally, whereas companies like Best Buy and Home Depot outsource the process to Appriss Retail, formerly known as The Retail Equation.
  • Behaviours that raise flags include too many returns and returns without receipts.

Amazon,Best Buy, Home Depot, and many other retailers are discreetly tracking shoppers’ returns and in some cases punishing people who are suspected of abusing their return policies.

Most of these companies are using an algorithm to mine their sales data, build a database of customers’ returns, and flag potentially problematic shoppers.

Amazon conducts this process internally, whereas companies like Best Buy and Home Depot outsource the work to Appriss Retail, formerly known as The Retail Equation.

Behaviours that raise flags include too many returns, returns without receipts, and a high frequency of returns within a certain time period, according to Appriss Retail. If a pattern of behaviour is deemed fraudulent by the company’s algorithm, then shoppers could get banned from making additional returns.

Here’s how The Retail Equation tracks returns:

“When a consumer wants to make a return, a retailer will scan the original sales transaction receipt and/or swipe the individual’s driver’s licence or government-issued ID card (including passports) to make an identification of the person and his/her unique return behaviour,” The Retail Equation says on its website. “As customers return merchandise, both from in-store and online purchases, the system compares variables such as return frequency, dollar amounts, and/or time against a set of prescribed rules that form that particular retailer’s return policy.”

The company says that 99% of returns are accepted by its system, which relies on “objective, verifiable data to determine whether a return is valid rather than relying on subjective observations and guesswork by sales clerks.”

Many customers don’t know that their returns are being tracked.

Shoppers can contact The Retail Equation to obtain their so-called return activity reports. Some reports date back many years. One report obtained last year revealed returns dating back to 2011, a customer said on Yelp. Another, pulled by a customer in 2013, turned up returns dating back to 2004, according to the Associated Press.

Other companies that have used The Retail Equation include JCPenney,Sephora,Nike, and Bath and Body Works.

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