How to make money returning items

Alright, you sneaky internet fiend, you’ve come to the right place. Today, We are going to give you the down-low on one of the most underrated art forms in our consumerist society: returning items and making bank in the process. We are not talking about some shady, dishonest shenanigans, but rather, understanding the policies of businesses and making the most of your rights as a consumer. And that is: how to make money returning items.

Let’s start from the beginning: You’ve made a purchase, something you were super excited about. But, alas, the item is damaged, or it’s just not what you thought it’d be. Disappointed and disillusioned, you decide to return it. You can either lament over the wasted time and money, or you can turn this unfortunate situation into a savvy money-making opportunity.


How to make money returning items

Follow these simple steps to make money returning items:

1. Find out the store’s return policies

Different stores have different return policies, some more generous than others. Take the time to read the fine print before making a purchase. If you don’t, you might be stuck with a shoddy product and no way to return it.


Familiarize yourself with the terms and conditions, the return window (usually between 14-30 days), and whether they offer full refunds, store credit, or exchanges. Some online retailers like Amazon, for instance, have a 30-day return policy, whereas retail giants like Costco have a 90-day limit on returns (though there are exceptions).

2. Keep everything

Store your receipts, packaging, and tags, as if they’re gold because. Nevertheless, some stores won’t mandate returning items with receipts. These little pieces of paper can mean the difference between a successful return and a failed one. Even for online purchases, ensure you have the e-receipt or order confirmation.

3. Report damages ASAP

If you receive a damaged item, report it to the company as soon as possible. Some retailers have specific policies for damaged goods. Amazon, for instance, asks for photos as proof of damage, after which they can offer a refund or replacement. More often than not, they’ll tell you to keep the damaged item, especially if it’s of low value.

4. Leverage the ‘keep-the-item’ policy

This is where things get interesting when it comes to making money returning items. Let’s say you ordered a book from Amazon and it arrived with a damaged cover. You report the issue and they tell you to keep it, while also issuing you a refund or sending a replacement. Now you essentially have two books for the price of one, or even better, a book for free.


You might be wondering, “Cool, I got a free damaged book. Now what?” This is where the money-making comes in. You can sell the damaged item at a discounted rate, perhaps on a platform like eBay, Craigslist, or Facebook Marketplace. Sure, you might not get the full retail price for it, but even a reduced price is better than nothing, right?

5. Arbitrage the returns

Arbitrage is a fancy term for buying low and selling high. It might sound strange in the context of returns, but let’s explain. Some retailers offer store credit for returns instead of cash refunds. Let’s say you bought an item for $50, returned it, and got $50 in-store credit.

You then wait for a sale or a clearance event, buy items of greater value using your credit, and sell them online at a higher price. This can take a bit of time and patience, but if done correctly, you can make a profit.

6. Not happy with the outcome? Escalate

If you’re not satisfied with the store’s resolution, don’t be afraid to escalate the issue. Reach out to the customer service department, explain your predicament, and ask them to reconsider their decision. If that doesn’t work, consider writing a stern but polite letter to the company’s headquarters or CEO, or express your dissatisfaction on social media. Companies often have a more lenient approach when dealing with public complaints to avoid bad PR.

7. Know your consumer rights

In the US, the Federal Trade Commission has laid down laws to protect consumers. If a retailer fails to deliver the goods within the promised time or if they deliver defective products, you have the right to a full refund. In the EU, consumers are protected under the two-year guarantee policy, wherein you’re entitled to repairs, replacements, or refunds if the goods don’t conform to the sales contract. Being aware of your rights can give you an upper hand when dealing with tricky return situations.

8. Don’t abuse the system

While it can be lucrative to make money from returns, it’s essential to remain ethical. Businesses have the right to refuse service to customers who abuse their return policies. Furthermore, repeated returns can lead to your account being flagged or banned. It’s one thing to make the most out of a disappointing purchase; it’s another to intentionally exploit a system in place to protect customers.

If all else fails, or if you’re past the return window, consider selling your unwanted items on platforms like eBay, Poshmark, or Depop. You might not get the full retail price, but it’s better than having a product you don’t need gathering dust at home.

How do companies earn a profit if they keep getting refunds?

Refunds are a necessary part of doing business as they keep customers happy, build trust, and often, they’re legally required. It’s not something companies particularly enjoy, but it’s part of the game. Think of it as an investment in customer satisfaction.

Here’s the kicker though – the total revenue that a company brings in from their sales is typically (and hopefully) much larger than the amount they have to pay out in refunds. This is what keeps them in the green. Like with any business, you have to spend money to make money. You pay for manufacturing, marketing, salaries, office space, and yes, refunds. But at the end of the day, the idea is that you bring in more money than you spend.

Also, the majority of customers who are happy with their products do not ask for refunds. The number of refunds is just a fraction of the total transactions. So even though refunds might seem like a big deal, they’re generally a small part of a company’s overall operations.

And let’s not forget that good customer service, including hassle-free refunds, can often lead to repeat customers. So, a refund today could mean more purchases (and profits) tomorrow.

One more point: companies often have return policies in place that mitigate the potential losses from refunds. These could include restocking fees, return windows, and sometimes, the dreaded store credit.

In a nutshell, companies manage to stay profitable despite refunds because they’re not the end-all-be-all. They’re just one part of a larger, more complex financial picture.


To sum up, making money from returns is all about understanding and leveraging store policies, maintaining a high standard of ethics, and being a bit creative. It’s not about tricking the system, but rather making the most of your rights as a consumer and turning a disappointing purchase into a profitable one.

So, the next time you’re stuck with a product that didn’t live up to your expectations, remember that there are ways to turn that lemon into some refreshing lemonade… or in this case, a few extra bucks in your pocket.

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