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Amazon Just Made Returns Even More Convenient

Can Amazon make product returns even more convenient? Apparently, the answer is “yes.”

This year, shoppers can now make box-free, label-free Amazon returns at more than 500 Whole Foods Market stores, on top of the thousands of other physical checkpoints already available to consumers, including nearly 5,000 UPS Store locations and more than 1,100 Kohl’s stores. Previously, shoppers only could make the box-free, label-free returns at a “select” number of Whole Foods locations, Amazon said.

Additionally, shoppers can return items without a box or label at more than 75 Amazon physical retail stores across the country including Amazon Books, Amazon 4-star, Amazon Fresh grocery stores, and Amazon Go convenience stores, as long as the item is in the original manufacturer’s packaging.

In October, Amazon first announced it was extending the returns window for holiday shoppers, enabling returns through Jan. 31 for items shipped between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31. The extension, which includes sales made during Amazon’s October Prime Day event, added a full month to the initial window of goods shipped to consumers, which traditionally started Nov. 1.

Beyond physical stores, customers also have the option to drop off items using a pre-paid mailing label at nearly 20,000 UPS Access Point locations nationwide, or arrange for a no-cost pickup from their home or office via a UPS driver.

Amazon has also made its Hub Locker and Hub Locker+ stations, which are located in more than 900 cities and towns across the U.S., available for free returns, although they have different policies.

For Hub Lockers, customers bring the items they want to return in a box or shipping envelope and use the barcode, or six-digit code sent after starting the return online, and place the item in the slot. For staffed Hub Locker+ locations, customers can either pre-package their return using the free packing materials available onsite or return without a box or label.

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“During a holiday season that might be more unpredictable than year’s past, our employees want to help customers have one less thing to think about by giving customers more time to return, and by providing a variety of free, convenient, and easy return options this year,” said Libby Johnson McKee, director, Amazon WW returns, recommerce and sustainability. “Our hope is that by offering so many return options—from tens of thousands of drop-off locations to shipping an item back—as well as more time to think about making a return, customers can relax and shop with confidence this holiday season.”

As part of the label-free, box-free return process, Amazon is seeking to make the refund process easier as well. Customers will in most cases receive a refund within a few hours after an in-person drop-off, whereas customers shipping back an item will see their refund processed and issued three to five business days after the item is received back at Amazon.

Amazon has been preparing for the year-end rush. In late October the Seattle e-commerce giant began hiring for 100,000 seasonal workers across fulfillment, distribution and delivery.

The label-free, box-free process also ties into Amazon’s sustainability push as it aims to kill two birds with one stone by reducing the amount of packaging used in returns and in many cases, reducing the number of driver pickups.

In a statement, Amazon highlighted its commitment to “finding a second use” for open-box and used items, listing programs such as its pre-owned and used product offering via Amazon Warehouse, and Amazon Renewed, another pre-owned program with products that have been inspected and tested by qualified suppliers to work and look like new.

The e-commerce giant also is promoting its Amazon Second Chance program, which enables shoppers to find more information on what they can do to improve packaging and how to trade in, recycle or return Amazon products.