Locked in a perpetual retail battle with Amazon and Target, Walmart announced what could be a game-changer on Monday.
The retailer is making it easier to return any unwanted items ordered from its website, with customers getting their refunds even if they throw the item in the trash.
They will be able to get their money back using the Walmart app, with the system going live for Walmart.com orders in early November, just before the crucial Holiday shopping season.
How will it work?
Ever tried to return an item to Amazon? Then you'll know what a time-consuming process it can be.
With Walmart's new service, customers will use the Walmart app, and pick the recently-ordered item they want to return to start the process.
They can then drop off the unwanted item at any Walmart store, fast-tracking through the lines using the "Mobile Express Lane." They scan the QR code displayed on their phone at the customer service desk (pictured at top) and hand the item to a staff member.
Walmart says this will reduce the time of the in-store returns process to less than 35 seconds. It currently takes four times longer than this, not including the time spent waiting in line.
What's more, for certain items the Walmart app will tell you not to even bother bringing it to the store.
For select household goods – shampoos, some cosmetics, perishable items for now, with more to be added – you can get your refund and then throw it in the trash/use it/do whatever you want with it.
As the Associated Press reports, retailers believe they can eat the extra costs of easier returns because being more accommodating to customers can lead to greater sales.
How does it compare to Target and Amazon?
Target: Itsonline order return policy isn't too dissimilar to Walmart's in that you can return online orders in Target stores.
However, you don't have the convenience of doing the refund over the Target app. Instead you need to print off a return mailing label you get from the Target website before bringing it to the store.
You also need to bring the item, original form of payment, as well as your online order receipt to the guest services desk.
In fact, it might be easier to return an order via the mail, because after going through the returns process on Target.com, you can print off the packing slip, pack up the item in its original box, and then drop it off at an authorized UPS location.
You can find more details about how to return Target.com orders here.
But in the main, returns are done via the mail, with customers – like Target – having to print off a return mailing label, pack up their item and then bring it to the drop-off location named on the mailing label.
Without bricks-and-mortar locations it's not easy for Amazon to offer in-store returns like Walmart and Target.
This is why the online giant announced a partnership with Kohl's earlier this year allowing customers to return their Amazon orders in Kohl's stores – though this service is not currently being offered in Minnesota.