E-commerce in the region is booming.
From subscription-based retailers to buy-it-now stores such as Wadi, Noon and Souq, the Middle East’s retail sector is fast adopting more digital-savvy models.
Before the digital era, if you bought something and later didn’t like it, you could simply return it – no questions asked.
This allowed consumers to hold, try, buy, and return products they had bought.
This is called: “Try before you buy (TBYB).”
Fast forward to today and it’s a much more problematic affair that could even see you being banned from e-commerce sites for returning items that you purchased online.
AMEinfo takes a closer look at return policies for Wadi, Noon, Souq and Amazon to find out consumers’ rights actually are.
it will ban you
Amazon proved to be the worst when it comes to returning items.
According to Business Insider, many users who had sent their items back were banned for no reason other than that: they returned an item.
“Amazon has been closing users’ accounts if they make too many returns, sometimes without warning or explanation,” The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported recently.
“By closing these accounts, the company is trying to protect the Amazon experience for all shoppers and prevent long-term abuse of its return policy,” it added “However, many of the users who’ve been banned feel that it was done in error,” Business Insider added.
Several retailers resort to external help to deal with the difficult issue of returns.
Return abuse and fraud can cost retailers billions of dollars per year, the WSJ reported.
Noon proved to be the most reliable and safest when it comes to returning items. Its return policies state customers have 14 days for refunds on products bought
Noon confirmed this to AMEinfo adding it didn’t make exceptions to this policy.
If the package is still original and hasn’t been damaged by the consumer, it will take back the item and refund the money.
AMEinfo asked Wadi the same question, and it said that they couldn’t comment on the matter, however looking through its website, it states the same 14-day return policy after purchase.
So, if delivery of your product is late, customers may find themselves short on time to return it.
Souq was another site AMEinfo checked.
Its return policies had non-refundable items, just like the others, but they had a few extra “criteria”.
The website states that returns must be in their original unopened package while the online shop covers the shipping costs.
But who would return a product without even trying it?
What happens if it’s faulty and/or it doesn’t suit a customer’s needs once they have tried it?
The silver lining here is that unlike Amazon, locals like Noon, Wadi and Souq will not ban you for multiple returns.
“noon does not ban customers or have a maximum allowance when it comes to returns. The only requirement is that the returned product is within the timeframe and in sellable condition,” a Noon representative told AMEinfo.
TBYB: Early beginnings
Companies with such strict return policies may struggle to compete with retailers that implement the try-before-you-buy (TBYB) or even the new showroom models.
TBYB allows customers to order several products online, and return those that they don’t want, paying for only those that they keep.
Showrooms, meanwhile, allow consumers to go into a store and try the product, but not buy it. As Karl Nader, Partner Strategy &, part of the PwC network, states, this model allows for a reduced number of staff than a traditional store.
These also carry a smaller stock and a limited range of distinct, high-value goods, known as “differentiated goods” — the latest branded fashion item, for example.
Importantly, showrooms help retailers solve the problem of returned goods.
In the UAE, these retailers are already popping up, such as Raw Orange, a UAE-based online shopping site that offers shoppers the chance to TBYB when ordering items.
Customers can order items they want and have them delivered to their home to try before they buy. If they don’t like what they order, they can send the order back without paying a single dollar.
Alternatively, you can visit the showroom in Dubai to try before deciding to buy online.
If major online retailers such as Amazon and regional e-commerce websites begin to get a reputation for being less open to returns, they may see sales drift towards their competitors, which use the TBYB and showroom models.