Just Let Me Return This
Last updated: September 2023
Home delivery of groceries and online shopping became a normal occurrence for many people during the COVID-19 pandemic. As someone with mobility issues because of my spinal muscular atrophy, my life suddenly became easier than it had been before the pandemic. I had access to ordering my fresh groceries and my items online that could be delivered to my door without me having to find a way to get to the store, find accessible parking, and roll myself into the store with my caregiver to help me shop.
The perks of online shopping, with free returns
More stores allowed curbside pickup as well so someone could just pick up my order item without me having to be present in the store and I didn’t have to worry if I had the ability to use a wheelchair-accessible van. Online shopping also came with easy returns, I could just leave anything that was ordered wrong or broken on my doorstep to be picked up and returned to the store as easily as it was delivered.
Independence to do my own shopping
During the pandemic, even though I was stuck at home for the most part, I gained independence which I didn’t realize I needed in my life until it was provided.
Because of my disability, I had been limited to shopping only when other people could help me and suddenly, I gained the ability to do it myself and from my own phone and/or PC from home! Since then, home shopping for groceries and local stores with delivery has become normal.
However, as people were able to go to stores more and more and stores began to need to cut costs to make more profits, some of my accessibility to online shopping diminished.
Returning items no longer easy or free
When I shop at home now, I must risk that everything in my order is perfect and if not and a return is needed, I can no longer do it from my home for free. Amazon is a huge example of losing accessibility due to a company needing to increase its profit margin. For returns on Amazon, I am required to go to a store for returns go to a shipping center, or pay for a prepaid label for pickup. Amazon used to make it easy for me to do returns, I could have someone from UPS pick up my item with a label so I never had to pay for a caregiver to drive to the returned store or pay for a pickup that may cost more than the item I am returning.
Now, the only way I can return something from my home is to pay a fee for a pickup. If I talk to an empathetic customer service rep, they might refund my shipping fee for returns if I explain that I have spinal muscular atrophy and cannot physically go to a returns store and how much it costs to have a caregiver go across town for return, but I still am out a rather large fee for a return which is hard on a fixed income.
Accessibility should be a feature of online shopping
These cost-saving measures for companies are probably needed because of the sheer number of returns they get daily, but as part of a business of online shopping, accessibility should be built in for people who cannot make it to a return store or shipping center. There should be an option for someone to stay at home and return an item without having to pay a large fee just because they are homebound or disabled. Unfortunately, because companies limit their returns to people who have access to transportation and the ability to physically go to a drop-off store, that wonderful freedom of online shopping that I had been exposed to has slowly faded.
Accessibility is good for business
Now, I try not to order anything from a company that does not have a return policy that is easy for me to access from my home. I feel like there should be policies in place to assist customers who have difficulty accessing return centers or stores that make it easier to send back returns without cost to the consumer. Shipping and returns should be part of doing business online that the business pays. Companies need to start realizing that accessibility is good business!
Have you shared your SMA diagnosis story with us yet?