The Return Fraud Survey conducted this month by the National Retail Federation reports that the most common reason for fraudulent returns is a person wanting money or credit for what turns out to be stolen merchandise. NRF also says that a significant percentage of retailers are fine-tuning their return policies for the 2009 holiday shopping season to head off fraud. Most notably, shoppers are being encouraged to save receipts and to attach price-omitted gift receipts to presents they give.
Attention to receipts might not be enough, though. About 43% of the retailers responding to the survey said that people are using counterfeit receipts. So add another procedure: When someone comes to the returns counter, ask them to tell you the reasons for the return, and then record those reasons along with the person's identification information. Never make this procedure a prolonged inquisition, and always have in mind that it is more important to keep a customer than to keep to a policy.
But your request should be more than the formality of checking a box for the category of reason. It should be a brief interview. As word gets around that you do this, the dishonest consumers become more likely to decide to take their business elsewhere. And that's fine with you, since their business is fraud.
The key to doing this well is to show your honest customers the advantages to them of telling you the reasons for the return. Your staff might say something like, "I know it's a bother to you to have to return merchandise you've bought here. We want to be sure we deal with suppliers who will provide you, your family, and your friends with reliable products the first time, every time."
Then do regularly summarize the reasons and make merchandising changes when indicated.