Amazon extends omnichannel return options, deadlines for holidays

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Amazon is trying to make returning holiday purchases as easy as possible, for as long as possible.

The e-tail titan is allowing customers to return most items shipped between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, 2020 until Jan. 31, 2021. In addition, Amazon is offering a box-free, label-free return option at more than 500 Whole Foods Market stores across the country. This option is also available at locations including Amazon Books, Amazon 4-star, Amazon Fresh grocery stores, Amazon Go stores, UPS store locations, and Kohl’s, no matter the reason for the return. 

For refunds, Amazon says customers making a label-free, box-free return will in most cases receive a refund within a few hours after drop-off. Customers shipping back an item will see their refund processed and issued three to five business days after the item is received back to Amazon.

Once a customer is ready to start a return, they can select the item(s) to be returned and the reason for returning from the “Returns & Orders” page on or under “Your Orders” via the Amazon app. Customers can then choose from a list of return options, including at least one free option, and then drop off their item at a nearby location, in most cases without a box or a label, contact-free. To return a gift, customers enter the gift order number and select the item to return. The type of refund or credit a customer will receive depends on how the gift was purchased and how it's returned.

Customers can also return holiday purchases to Amazon Hub Locker and Hub Locker+ locations in more than 900 cities and towns across the country. The units, which function as automated self-storage units for pickup of online orders, can be found in locations including Whole Foods Market, 7-Eleven, Stein Mart, Blink Fitness, Chase Bank, and Sprint stores. The lockers are also placed in locations such as college campuses and apartment buildings.

To return to a locker, customers start a return on or the Amazon app, and then bring their items in a box or shipping envelope and use the barcode, or six-digit code sent after starting a return to place the item in the slot. For staffed Locker+ locations, customers have the option of either pre-packaging their item, using the free packing materials available onsite, or returning without a box or label.

Amazon says it leverages its scale to make it easier for customers to be more sustainable, helping to reduce the amount of packaging used in returns and in many cases, reducing the number of pickups from drivers. Amazon in also committed to finding a second use for open-box and used items, and offers a variety of ways to purchase them. Customers can also find information about what to do with packaging and how to trade in, recycle, or return Amazon products by visiting Amazon Second Chance.

“During a holiday season that might be more unpredictable than year’s past, our employees want to help customers have one less thing to think about by giving customers more time to return, and by providing a variety of free, convenient, and easy return options this year,” said Libby Johnson McKee, director, Amazon WW returns, recommerce and sustainability. “Our hope is that by offering so many return options—from tens of thousands of drop-off locations to shipping an item back—as well as more time to think about making a return, customers can relax and shop with confidence this holiday season.”