Policy Abuse
February 4, 2024

Motivations for Policy Abuse

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Customers abuse policies that were written to facilitate their relationship with merchants. It’s an unfortunate fact.

Good ideas that come out of sales and marketing strategy attract new customers and encourage loyal customers to return.
Merchants make smart decisions to set themselves apart from their competitors, and those decisions usually work. The facts of a constantly evolving marketplace means merchants always experiment and evolve their policies. Which is a good thing. It also attracts potential abusers who are always looking for the next weak point in merchant policies that they can exploit.
Policy abuse tends to rise during shopping holidays, like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The chaos created by big shopping days gives policy abusers a jungle to hide in.
More large-scale economic realities can also create environments that motivate greater policy abuse. Realities like economic inflation sometimes encourage people to try and make a quick buck by abusing return and reward policies.

Reseller and Promotional Abuse at Checkout

Customers abuse policies that were written to facilitate their relationship with merchants. It’s an unfortunate fact. We have a few theories about it.

What Motivates Customers to Abuse Merchant Policies?

Causes of Policy Abuse

Some merchants have some ideas about what motivates policy abuse.

  • Factors in the economy, like inflation or seasonal and holiday stress, that tend to impact liquidity
  • Factors involving how people feel, like when customers have bad shopping experiences or bad customer service experiences

Holidays in particular create circumstances that make policy abuse attractive, because it can get lost in the crowd.

  • Returns: Return abuse tends to come from bad customer experiences or just from entering a holiday period.
  • Promo code/loyalty program: Merchants tend to see similar rises in abuses of loyalty programs and promotional codes during holiday periods and after bad customer experiences.
  • Resellers, inflation, and abuse: Inflation seems to motivate reseller abuse, and it seems to be the only form of policy abuse that inflation seems to motivate.
  • Customer experience and policy abuse: On the bright side, it’s always possible to improve your control of customer experience.
All that is to say, it is entirely within the power of merchants to prepare their policies to be both permissive as well as written with smart safeguards, and improve both customer service and approval flow, without compromising legal protections.
Improving customer experiences in every area, from returns to dealing with complaints to the shopping experience itself, will just about always reduce policy abuse.
Merchants always want to lower the cost of doing business, and expenses around handling customers is always a tempting place to cut costs. Replacing designated staff with automated customer handling systems, for example, can be a lot cheaper. Think long and hard about that decision, though. Excellence in customer service might save you a lot of money.

Peak Shopping Seasons and Policy Abuse

Policy abuse, particularly return abuse, rises after big gift-giving holidays. After Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year, merchants tend to see massive increases in returns, and policy abusers use the mess to hide their actions.
But those aren’t the only busy seasons for policy abusers. A lot of policy abuse happens during the summer shopping season. Spring as well.
Policy abusers love any holiday that has gift-giving built into it. Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day give policy abusers a lot of chances to work.