The US’ supply chain woes aren’t going away any time soon.
Shipping ports are already congested ahead of a busy holiday season thanks to a record-level of imports, according to the Wall Street Journal’s Paul Berger. In the United States, ports were expected to handle 2.37 million imported containers in August, per the Global Port Tracker report produced by Hackett Associates for the National Retail Federation,the highest monthly volume since the NRF began keeping data in 2002.
The NRF is also projecting that 25.9 million containers will enter the U.S. in 2021, which would break 2020’s record-setting 22 million boxes.
The import influx means that hundreds of thousands of containers are stuck stacked on ships or in terminals waiting to be moved inland, according to the Journal. When the containers finally do move, they’re subject to additional congestion at warehouses, distribution centers, and freight rail yards, many of which are at full capacity.
Experts say these delays could continue well into next year.
Mario Cardero, executive director of the Port of Long Beach, California, told the Journal that he doesn’t “see substantial mitigation with regard to the congestion that the major container ports are experiencing.”
Container volume usually slows down in conjunction with the February Lunar New Year, when many Chinese factories shut down, Cardero said. In 2022, though, it likely won’t be enough of a break for backed-up US ports before another busy spring and summer season, he said.
“Many people believe it’s going to continue through the summer of 2022,” he said.
Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, Americans have shifted their spending away from services like restaurants and vacations towards consumer goods like home improvement and electronics. These changes created supply shortages in the early days of the pandemic and are now contributing to further delays: port leaders told the Journal they’re also now stocking up on extra inventory just in case.
Logjams might continue until the end of the pandemic, according to Sam Ruda, who is the port director at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
“That’s really what will inform the duration of what we are seeing on the ground today,” he told the Journal.
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You don’t need to be an online shopping veteran to know that it’s a tricky affair – the whole process occurs without you ever seeing or trying the product. To make buying a little easier, many retailers offer helpful policies, like free online returns. Especially with holidays like Labor Day Weekend around the corner, it’s good to know which stores you can easily make returns to.
We’ve rounded up a list of retailers offering free online returns, below.
Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky
Get free online returns on orders at these companies:
Style & clothing
ALDO: Aldo will refund unworn, unwashed, not final sale items returned within 60 days of your purchase.
Allbirds: The buzzy shoe brand allows returns for 30 days with no questions asked, even if you’ve already worn the shoes around. You can return or exchange any shoes for free that aren’t to your liking.
Bonobos: Bonobos includes a pre-paid return label with every order for hassle-free returns. If you make your return within 45 days of your purchase, you qualify for a refund using your original payment method. If you return within 90 days of your purchase date, you qualify for store credit instead.
Bloomingdale’s: You can return an order for free for up to 90 days with a receipt. If you do not have a receipt, you have up to 180 days to receive a merchandise credit of the lowest price for the item.
Everlane: All purchases from the popular clothing brand Everlane can be returned for free for up to 30 days after your ship date. That even includes Choose What You Pay purchases. Plus, you can also return anything you bought at a brick-and-mortar store via mail.
Macy’s: Macy’s offers free and easy returns on most items by mail. Just print a pre-addressed shipping label and send your items back. They’ve also extended their return window from 30 to 90 days.
Neiman Marcus: Almost all merchandise can be returned to Neiman Marcus free of charge if received within 15 days of the delivery date. However, you may want to double-check their return policy as a few items aren’t eligible for free returns, including anything bought on clearance.
Nordstrom: The department store offers free returns in the US via a postage-paid return label. Your return is generally processed within 10-14 days. Plus, if you don’t have a printer, bring the digital return code to select USPS stores for free printing.
Patagonia: Outdoor clothing retailer Patagonia offers free returns on all items, though they’re currently delayed due to staffing and safety requirements. Even better, they also usually offer free repairs on all Patagonia items, though this program has temporarily been suspended due to the novel coronavirus. They do, however, have free DIY repair guides online.
REI: If you’re not satisfied with any purchase from REI, you can return it for up to a full year for free. Return shipping labels come with all invoices. The only exception is outdoor electronics, which can be returned for free within 90 days.
Shopbop: Shopbop is known for designer women’s fashion apparel, which means items often come with a high price tag. Items returned within 15 days after receipt are refunded with no extra cost – though they’ll accept returns up to 30 days after with a $10 fee tacked on.
Sunglass Hut: The Sunglass Hat carries brands from Ray-Ban to Gucci. Shop with confidence knowing you can return items for free for up to 30 days with a printed shipping label.
Urban Outfitters: Returning items to Urban Outfitters is easy. Just start a return online and print a free pre-paid shipping label. Returns made within 30 days of your delivery date qualify for a refund using your payment method; if it takes place after, you may qualify for store credit instead.
Zappos: Zappos has long been heralded as a gold standard for customers when it comes to returns. Return shipping is always free and you have 365 days to do so for all purchases – no exceptions.
Zara: Don’t love an outfit you bought from Zara? The clothing retailer offers a 30-day window to return clothing with free shipping.
Bed Bath & Beyond: Bed Bath & Beyond offers free return shipping on most items. You have a 90-day window after purchase to exchange or return.
Chewy: Pet owners will be pleased to learn that returns to Chewy are easy. If you’re not completely satisfied with your items, you can return them free of charge within one year. Just send a message with your order number to receive a shipping label.
Home Depot: While there are a few exceptions for bigger items, many orders are eligible for free online returns. Once you start a return you’ll receive a free UPS shipping label via email to print and attach to your package.
Target: Shoppers at Target have 90 days to return or exchange items for free. RedCard holders get 120 days.
Walmart: Walmart makes it simple to return items for free. Just log into your account, initiate a return or replacement, and print a free return label. Refunds or replacement items are issued as soon as the store receives the item. You have 90 days after purchase to make a return in most cases.
Williams Sonoma: Foodies and home chefs will like that Williams Sonoma allows for free returns by mail within 30 days for any items under 70 pounds. You can use the form attached to your invoice or quickly print a label online.
Best Buy: Most items are eligible for refunds if you return them within 15 days of receipt. It’s important to note, however, that some items (like cell phones and DSLR cameras) will incur a restocking fee.
Dell: It can be nerve-wracking to buy pricey electronics sight unseen, but you can shop easy at Dell. Ship any items back for free within 30 days of your invoice date for a full refund.
The new TikTok Shopping feature, announced Tuesday, lets Shopify merchants with a TikTok For Business account add a shopping tab to their TikTok profiles and sync their product catalogs to the app and creating a direct link to their online store.
Sellers can also link directly to their products in their videos by tagging them, allowing TikTok users to shop directly from videos, the company said in a press release.
Kylie Cosmetics, a beauty brand owned by Kylie Jenner, is one of the first adopters of this new feature.
“I built my business on social media; it’s where my fans go first to look for what’s new from Kylie Cosmetics,” Kylie Jenner said in a statement released by Shopify. “I have so much fun creating TikTok videos, and I love sharing posts of my fans using the products. That’s why I’m excited for Kylie Cosmetics to be one of the first to let customers shop directly on our TikTok!”
TikTok and Shopify first unveiled their partnership last October to US merchants with advertising on the app. Trying to develop its social commerce and e-commerce strategy, the partnership first allowed merchants to create and manage TikTok campaigns.
Now, by giving users a new way to shop, TikTok hopes to attract new customers.
“TikTok is uniquely placed at the center of content and commerce, and these new solutions make it even easier for businesses of all sizes to create engaging content that drives consumers directly to the digital point of purchase,” Blake Chandlee, president of global business solutions at TikTok, said in a statement. “We’re thrilled to be expanding our partnership with Shopify and making TikTok more accessible than ever for their merchants.”
Currently, this feature is only available in the US and the UK. Canada will be adding in the oncoming weeks, according to TikTok and Shopify.
Since the pandemic, 70% of Americans are shopping more online, according to data from ESET, a global cybersecurity company, Insider reported. Experts expect this trend to stay.
Macy’s has seen an uptick in toy sales during the coronavirus pandemic, and the department store chain is doubling down on the trend by partnering with iconic toy retailer Toys ‘R’ Us, expanding its footprint in the toy market.
Macy announced Thursday it plans to include in-store Toys ‘R’ Us shops in over 400 of its locations by next year with access to the toy giant’s private brands. Toysrus.com, now powered by Macy’s, is currently online with an assortment of toy collections just in time for the 2021 holiday season. The news is especially exciting for nostalgic Millennials, who remember growing up with the toy brand at its peak.
“Our partnership with Macy’s marks the greatly anticipated return of Toys”R”Us in the US,” said Yehuda Shmidman, chairman & CEO of WHP Global and Toys “R” Us. Macy’s partnered with brand management company WHP Global to revive the stores.
During its second quarter earnings call, Macy’s revealed it was reviving Toys ‘R’ Us after seeing a “standout” performance in toy sales at their discounted Macy’s Backstage stores.
Macy’s expects to quintuple the size of its toy business through this partnership, CEO Jeff Gennette said in the earnings call on Thursday.
“Our toy business grew exponentially for Macy’s in the past year,” said Nata Dvir, Macy’s chief merchandising officer. “Our partnership allows Macy’s to significantly expand our footprint in that category.”
You’ve probably heard about the e-commerce company Wish, which has become a power player in the online shopping world. It’s known for its cheap prices, long shipping times, occasional customer service woes, and easy-to-use app.
Here’s a guide to Wish and its mobile app, including what it is, how it works, and if it’s safe.
What is the Wish app?
The Wish app allows customers to shop from Wish, a San Francisco-based e-commerce platform. Like eBay and Amazon, Wish is an online marketplace for buying and selling products; however, one of the key distinctions is its emphasis on cheap products.
While you may not find many prominent brand names like Apple on Wish, you can find smartwatches – among many other popular products – for less than $5.
If there’s a product you want to buy, there’s a very good chance that someone on Wish sells it. For household supplies, you can find pest control devices, food storage containers, and garbage bags. In the Fashion tab, you can buy sundresses, leggings, and bathing suits. And in Gadgets, you’ll see listings for drones, hearing aids, and portable hard drives. It’s like a bazaar in your phone.
However, these low prices and lack of strict guidelines can come with drawbacks, as we’ll discuss later.
The app can also be very pushy when it comes to suggesting products. As you use the service, you’ll be constantly bombarded with potential discounts and coupon opportunities, most of which are styled to make it seem like if you don’t immediately take them, they’ll disappear.
In his review of the Wish website, Insider editor Dennis Green said Wish “takes a gimmicky approach to commerce, trying to make consumers feel special through psychological tricks.”
While you’re shopping on Wish, remember the phrase “You get what you pay for.” If you find a product that’s priced way cheaper than you expect, you might be buying a fake.
You should also be prepared for long shipping times. Most products on Wish are manufactured and shipped directly from China and other Asian countries. In Insider’s experience, it sometimes took a month or more to receive orders, and when they arrived, the packaging was occasionally damaged.
Wish can offer some incredible deals. But be careful while shopping, and do your research before buying anything.
I never thought I’d own a printer. Then the pandemic hit.
In my mind, it was a dusty household staple that my parents owned when I was a kid. As a 20-something living in the digital age, what need did I have for physical copies of anything?
But after a year shut inside my apartment, which followed years of already slowly growing addicted to shopping online, I got fed up. The friction involved in returning something I ordered online was too much – especially when some stores stopped accepting in-person returns for digital orders.
How many times have you lazily put off printing a return label, only for the window to close, leaving you with something that doesn’t fit and your wasted money in the retailer’s pockets? Be honest.
So I pulled the plug, and I bought a $70 HP DeskJet from Amazon, which came with ink cartridges, and a package of copy paper.
It’s made me feel like I can rule the world, or at least lets me more easily get my money back on something I don’t want.
6 out of 8 colleagues told me they didn’t have a printer
As a quick test, I asked my teammates on Slack if they owned a printer. Six people said they didn’t, and two people said they did.
Obviously, owning a printer isn’t a novelty – plenty of people do. In 2019, 62% of American households had one in fact, according to Deloitte.
But I’m likely not the only one who was driven to buy one during the pandemic when stores and offices closed and people flocked in droves to shopping online.
As Bloomberg’s Tara Lachapelle noted in a mid-2020 column about a printer comeback, the surge in online shopping “brought with it the inconvenience of needing to make returns and print shipping labels. That’s something office workers may have tended to do – shh! for I must whisper this part – at the office.”
Deloitte estimated that the home printer market would surge 15% in 2020 to $29 billion. I took a bite out of that market last month when I bought my printer.
I can print labels from my iPhone. It’s so easy.
My HP DeskJet is Bluetooth-enabled, meaning I can print things wirelessly from my iPhone. The HP Smart app helped me easily set everything up and showed me how to insert the ink cartridges.
I buy most things on the internet: shoes, clothes, skincare products. And since I moved recently, I’m also buying bath mats, shower curtains, sheets, and other household items. Not everything looks good or turns out to be what I wanted.
Take, for example, a blue-green shower curtain I bought from Bed, Bath, and Beyond. It didn’t make the cut, so I downloaded the return label on my iPhone and selected HP Smart as my printing option.
Then, with my handy dandy packaging tape dispenser in hand, I attached the label to the package and taped it shut.
I stack the packages by the door and run them to UPS, FedEx, or USPS whenever I’m headed out.
It’s worth noting that some retailers won’t make you return items but will still give you your refund – Amazon has done this to me a couple of times in the past. And also, some – including Amazon – won’t require you to print a return label. They’ll simply ask you to take it to a carrier that will handle that for you (though sometimes for a fee).
But some retailers won’t let you return certain items in-store, only online.
So at the end of the day, it’s nice to have the printer in the apartment, where I can print the label and affix it to the package in one go.
Amazon has become one of the biggest companies in the world by offering quick shipping nearly everywhere in the country. And in most places, “quick” even means delivering on Sundays.
Yes, Amazon delivers on Sunday
Unlike traditional mail, Amazon makes package deliveries every day of the week, Sunday included. These Sunday deliveries are available to all customers where the service is available, regardless of Amazon Prime membership.
If you choose to have your package delivered to an Amazon Locker, there’s a chance that it’ll be delivered there on Sunday too.
Amazon does this by partnering with UPS and the United States Postal Service. UPS and USPS both receive packages from Amazon, and then make the “last mile” delivery to your doorstep. But don’t expect them to deliver any other kinds of packages – Amazon is the only company that they deliver on Sunday for (aside from the occasional USPS Priority mail).
However, there are some restrictions.
Sunday deliveries aren’t available in all areas
UPS and USPS only launched Sunday delivery a few years ago, and it still isn’t available everywhere in the United States. This means that if you live in certain areas – especially more rural areas – Sunday delivery won’t be an option for you.
Amazon doesn’t keep a public list of areas with Sunday delivery; when asked for comment, an Amazon spokesperson simply said it’s available in areas where their “delivery partner and carrier network supports Sunday delivery service.”
If you go to checkout with an order and then see “Sunday” as an option under Review items and shipping, it’s definitely available in your area.
But the surefire way to find out if you’re living in the right area for Sunday deliveries is to call UPS and USPS directly. If you connect to a representative and give them your address, they should be able to tell you if your address is eligible for Sunday deliveries.
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Etsy is expanding beyond handmade “Live Laugh Love” bathroom signs with its acquisition of thrifting app Depop for $1.6 billion.
For Etsy, whose median seller is about 39, it’s a strategic move meant to court Depop’s overwhelmingly Gen Z user base: More than 90% of its users are under 26.
For those of us past our quarter-life crises, here’s the need-to-know on the secondhand shopping platform:
More than 26 million users across 147+ countries buy and sell apparel and accessories.
Revenue, which mostly comes from the commission Depop charges per sale, doubled last year to $70 million.
Depop’s sales grew faster last year than its fashion resale rivals, Poshmark and ThredUp. More than $650 million worth of goods traded hands on Depop in 2020.
Looking ahead…thrifting is expected to get more popular as Gen Z ages into greater spending power and more shoppers favor sustainable products over fast-fashion. But if that’s the glass-half-full take, here’s the OJ-and-I-just-brushed-my-teeth one: Etsy has warned shareholders of impending “possible deceleration” caused by “reopening headwinds.”
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As the second online auction site on the internet, eBay is one of the oldest commercial websites still around. It was founded in the fall of 1995, just months after Onsale.com, the first online auction house.
With age often comes maturity and security, but wondering about the safety of using eBay is a valid concern. Both buyers and sellers frequently wonder about the relative safety of using the site.
eBay is relatively safe to use
The good news is that using eBay, particularly as a buyer, is considered safe. The site has implemented a variety of protections over the years, so the most straightforward problems which victimized early eBay customers decades ago, like fraud, are now largely a thing of the past.
Daniel Foley, a cybersecurity manager for Halcyon London International School and director at Assertive Media, said it’s generally a safe bet for buyers. “Defective products, scams, items that arrive ‘not as described,’ and other issues are all covered by eBay’s extensive buyer protection program,” he said.
Foley said that if a seller refuses to accept a return request, eBay often resolves the case in the buyer’s favor and compensates for the loss, while account termination, fines, and other restrictions can be imposed on the seller.
But eBay’s protections aren’t as robust for sellers, said Aaron Bossig, a former eBay seller. “I stopped selling on eBay about five years ago because eBay changed its feedback policy to offer no incentive or safety to the seller,” Bossig said. In particular, he noted the company’s change to disallow sellers to leave any negative or neutral feedback for buyers as a reason for his leaving the platform.
eBay’s protections for buyers
Over the last 25 years, eBay has implemented and enhanced its protection for buyers in an effort to make the site feel like a safe retail environment. Today, buyers are amply protected through eBay’s Money Back Guarantee.
The eBay Money Back Guarantee covers most transactions on eBay. Excluded items are specifically identified as exempt and generally fall into categories like motor vehicles and real estate. If there’s a problem with an order, the buyer is eligible to get a full refund from eBay for the full purchase price plus any shipping charges the buyer paid. Most of the time, the buyer also needs to return the unsatisfactory item to the seller.
Moreover, buyers are protected when they do the following:
Purchase an eligible item using an eBay-approved payment method, like PayPal.
Pay for the item in a single transaction (you can’t make multiple payments).
Pay using the “Pay For It” button on the eBay invoice page or by clicking the “Pay Now” button on the eBay item page.
If there’s a problem with an order, buyers can make a claim in the eBay Resolution Center within 30 days of delivery (or eBay’s estimated delivery date).
eBay’s protections for sellers
Sellers are also offered some protection, though many sellers contend it’s not as robust as what eBay offers to buyers.
Here are the kinds of protections that eBay offers to sellers:
Negative feedback given by “abusive” buyers can be challenged and removed. Abusive buyers are individuals who make false claims, demand things not offered in the original listing, misuse messages, bidding, or returns, or who refuse to pay for items they committed to buy.
If the buyer damages a product and returns it, the seller can deduct up to 50% of the item’s value from the refund.
Sellers can be refunded the listing fee for an item a buyer won the bid for but opted not to purchase.
If an item arrives at the buyer late for reasons beyond the seller’s control, eBay can remove negative feedback for the transaction.
eBay can be a perfectly safe retail and auction environment, but just like any online activity, you need to be careful and take precautions.
Safety tips for eBay buyers
Never take a conversation or transaction off the site. You’re only protected by eBay by operating within the site’s virtual borders, so ignore requests from possibly unscrupulous sellers to complete a deal elsewhere.
Read the complete product description and item details. Make sure you understand exactly what is being offered, and its actual condition. Beware of misleading phrases or descriptions that imply things without being explicit.
Consider the seller’s rating. Every seller has a rating that indicates how many ratings they’ve received and their overall feedback percentage. Sellers with few ratings or low ratings are less trustworthy than sellers with thousands of happy buyers, obviously.
Safety tips for eBay sellers
Write a detailed and accurate product description. Be sure to include photos you have taken yourself, showing the item’s current condition.
Use PayPal. Tightly integrated into eBay, PayPal makes it easy to demonstrate a full audit trail and transaction history, to ensure payments are complete, and to trace fraudulent buyers.
Keep all paperwork and documentation. Be sure to keep shipping receipts so you can prove how and when you shipped the item.
Wish, the popular e-commerce platform, is known for its affordable products. You can buy clothes, computer parts, furniture, and pretty much anything else you can think of.
However, like any shopping site, you might occasionally have issues with an order. If this happens – maybe an item arrived defective, or you just never received your purchase – there are a few ways to get in touch with Wish’s customer service team.
How to contact Wish customer service
The best way to fix issues with your account, or with multiple orders at once, is to call or email Wish support.
To speak with a Wish customer service representative over the phone, call their customer support number: 1-800-266-0172.
Contact Wish via the app
The Wish app offers a 24-hour support chat feature and support prompts for certain issues.
1. In the Wish app, tap the icon with three lines at the bottom-right of the screen.
2. For general questions, scroll down to the “Support” section and tap “Customer Support.”
3. Tap the prompt that best matches your issue. Options include “Track an item,” “Help with a recent order,” and “Update payment info.” Here, you can also view Wish’s refund and return policy.
4. If you want to get help with something else, or aren’t sure what you need, tap “Contact Support” at the bottom of the page. A chat box with a customer support robot will pop up. You can interact with the robot by tapping preset responses. If you can’t fix your issue here, try the email and phone methods above.
How to contact Wish for help with a specific order
Wish notes that for issues regarding past orders, their app is the quickest way to reach the support team and have your issue resolved.
1. In the Wish app, tap the icon with three lines at the bottom-right of the screen.
2. If your issue is related to a specific item you purchased or an entire order, tap “Order History” in the Account section.
3. Navigate to the item or order in question, then tap “Customer Support.” You’ll be given all the options to contact Wish about it.