Attention, Amazon Shoppers: There’s Now a Fee for Some UPS Returns

A woman smiles as she picks up her amazon package from her front door.
Photo courtesy of Amazon
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Those of us who order stuff from Amazon have really gotten used to its super cheap and easy return policy: If you don’t like whatever got shipped to you, just return it within 30 days — for free. No charge. Lots of people just drop off the item at their nearest UPS Store.

The problem is so many customers are returning purchases these days that it’s costing Amazon serious money. (Yes, we know Amazon has plenty of money.) The company has to pay shipping fees for all that returned merchandise, and it adds up.

So to cut costs, Amazon is starting to charge a $1 fee if you return an item at a UPS location — but only if there’s another option closer to your delivery address. You can also return Amazon purchases for free at Whole Foods, Kohl’s, or Amazon Fresh grocery stores.

Amazon owns Whole Foods and the grocery stores, and it has a partnership with Kohl’s.

Basically, if there’s a Whole Foods, a Kohl’s, or an Amazon Fresh supermarket closer to you than your local UPS Store, you might want to go with one of those other options if you need to return something. Otherwise, you’ll pay a fee for each item you return.

Pro Tip

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Many Happy Returns

Why is Amazon doing this? Because the amount of merchandise being returned went up dramatically during the COVID pandemic lockdown when Americans started shopping online in massive numbers. The rate of returns has remained relatively high ever since.

In the world of retail, this is an industry-wide issue.

Beyond just Amazon, shoppers sent back 16.5% of the stuff they bought in 2022 — $816 billion worth of merchandise, according to the National Retail Federation. At least shoppers are consistent — the previous year, they returned 16.6% of purchases.

For every $1 billion in sales, the average retailer incurs $165 million in merchandise returns, the National Retail Federation said.

Some retailers have reacted to this trend by charging fees for returns, or shortening their return windows, or both.

Amazon is downplaying this new change, pointing out that its customers have other free options for returning purchases.

“We offer convenient, easy returns to Amazon customers, with one or more options for label-free, box-free returns at no cost,” Amazon said in a statement.

“We always offer a free option for customers to return their item. If a customer would prefer to return their item at a UPS Store when there is a free option closer to their delivery address, a very small amount of customers may incur a $1 fee.”

Pro Tip

Some retailers will accept returns up to a year or more after the items were purchased. Here’s our list of 15 retailers with the best return policies.

Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.