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The New Yorker has a good story about reverse logistics, entitled, "What Happens to All the Stuff We Return?"

An excerpt:

"A century ago, the average return rate at Penney’s (JC Penney was a pioneer in the returns business) was probably something like two per cent; before Internet shopping truly took hold, retail returns had risen to more like eight or ten per cent. Returns to online retailers now average close to twenty per cent, and returns of apparel are often double that. Among the many reasons: products often look nothing like their online images - such as a crocheted bikini top that was barely big enough for the purchaser’s cat - and colors and fabrics appear different on different screens."

Returns, of course, are costly, but, The New Yorker writes, "Despite the cost, retailers worry that discouraging returns discourages buying in the first place, driving revenues down. Easy returns are like free shipping: they can be a dealmaker or a deal-breaker when a consumer is deciding where to shop, even though in both cases the cost is ultimately borne by the consumer. Most online mattress sellers offer free returns, in some cases for up to a year; used mattresses can’t be resold, so the loss, usually some eight or nine per cent of sales, is folded into prices."

Really interesting piece, and you can read the whole story here.