Back to the future, with parcels
Major parcel carriers UPS and FedEx handle the lion’s share of returned merchandise, and both companies offer a variety of products to make reverse logistics less burdensome for both the shipper and end customer.
FedEx rolled out its Consolidated Return Service in June. The service allows customers to drop off returns at a number of FedEx service centers or participating authorized ship centers. Merchants pre-authorize the return either through instructions on shipping labels included in their shipments or through direct contact from the customer by phone or the Internet.
As soon as a shipment is dropped off, the merchant is notified and has visibility throughout the return process. The shipment is consolidated with other returns and moves by FedEx Ground to a processing center. At the center, shipments are broken down by retailer, sorted by final disposition, and reconsolidated for shipment to as many as four pre-determined dispositions: restock, resale, repair or auction.
In its electronic commerce offerings, UPS offers an Authorized Return Service (ARS) in which retailers include pre-printed UPS shipping labels with merchandise. Customers wishing to return items apply the ARS labels to the package and drop it off at any facility accepting UPS packages. Returns are then taken to a retailer-designated facility.
The carrier’s Call Tag service offers customers the ability to notify the retailer of a return. In turn, the merchant electronically authorizes UPS to pick up the package at the customer’s location.