Returning an item to a store is a hassle. You have to find the receipts and remember to return within the store’s return policy window. But most of us return for valid reasons – the item didn’t work as expected, we brought the wrong product or we are returning a gifted item.
But the retail industry has been dealing with “returnoholics” for decades – people who buy a high number of products with no intention of keeping them and then returning them to the stores. To be clear, we are not talking about someone returning 5-10 products per year. These returoholics returns a high number of products at different stores – some do it as a hobby to make some money on the side with this hustle.
Retail Equation tracks returns for thousands of stores
The retail industry uses a company called Retail Equation to track returns. Retail Equation is used by almost 40,000 retail stores including many big-box retailers such as Best Buy, Home Depot, CVS Pharmacy, Sephora, and Dick’s Sporting Goods.
The goal of tracking store returns is to track down the 1% who abuse the system. But as with any system, Retail Equation’s transaction history for any given shopper is not perfect and many people who don’t have a lot of returns get tripped up and are punished. Many of these shoppers are surprised to learn that they are banned from returning items to stores.
Return metrics tracked
The company tracks several return metrics – frequency of returns, the dollar value of returns, whether the products were returned with or without a receipt, and purchase history. TRE does not collect age, race, marital status, or nationality.
The company’s algorithm uses the store return data to calculate a risk score for each shopper. If your risk score is below the store’s threshold, your return is likely to be denied. Each store has its own threshold, so it is hard to generalize. Punishment for too many returns includes banning returns for a year up to permanently banning returns at a store.
A store declined your return? What should you do?
When you return an item at one of the stores that use TRE, sometimes, the store can decline a return. The store will provide you with a receipt that has a website and a phone number for you to call. You can call TRE to get understand why your return was declined. You will also be able to get a copy of your return activity report (RAR).
How to get a copy of the return activity report?
You don’t need to have your return declined to request a return activity report. Anyone can get a copy by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and phone number. You can also request your report by mail by sending a request to
The Retail Equation
P.O. Box 51373
Irvine CA 92619-1373
The United States