Buyer's remorse? Complicated controls? Refusing to read the manual? Whatever the cause, only 5 percent of gadgets that are taken back to the store are actually broken. This comes from a new report by the tech consultancy Accenture. The study found that millions of people each year think that a new toy is broken when, in fact, they just couldn't figure it out.
Here's the breakdown: 68 percent of returned items work exactly the way they should, but don't "meet customers' expectations" – we'll call this the befuddled group. Next comes the fickle group, those who "simply change their minds" about a product – this accounts for 27 percent of returns. Finally, there's the legitimate group – this remaining 5 percent of returns are those in which the products are actually busted.
Regardless of why the items are returned, those first two groups cause a huge headache for retailers. In 2007, $13.8 billion worth of electronics headed right back to the store, according to Accenture. That's between 11 and 20 percent of sales, depending on the type of gadget. Once the items are returned, stores often have to discount the "open box" items – there goes their profit margin – and I bet the used products are harder to sell.
An Accenture executive told PC World that return rates would likely plummet if stores and manufacturers did a better job designing user interfaces, writing instruction manuals, and teaching buyers about the item before they head to the checkout aisle. After all, a 2006 study showed that the average American will give up on a device after only 20 minutes of fiddling with it.
This makes a pretty good case for buying open-box items. Chances are the product works perfectly well, and have only been handled for 20 minutes.