Gadgets become the new socks

The Christmas present most likely to be returned to the shop to be exchanged for cash is not socks after all, according to the latest research by Accenture.

The consulting outfit thinks that people are more likely to take back consumer electronics than ever before.

In 2011, U.S. consumer electronics manufacturers, carriers and retailers will spend $16.7 billion to process returned merchandise. Which is a fair bit to have to spend on repairing, reboxing, restocking and reselling products that someone’s gran thought they wanted.

After all, there are those certifiable people who insist you can really use an iPad for anything more than stunning a turkey before taking its head off.

Accenture pointed out the amount spent on returns represents six percent of revenue for manufacturers and 2-3 percent of sales for retailers.

Between one in ten and one in five gadgets will go back to the shop, with 58 percent of gadget retailers reporting higher return rates than previous years.

Over 68 percent of the gear will come back with “no trouble found,” meaning that the customer believed there was a defect but testing the product against industry specifications failed to detect a problem. “Buyer’s remorse” accounts  for another 27 percent of returns.

That means that although five percent will be returned because there is a fault, 95 percent come back because the user hated them or could not get them to go.

The figures were worked out by updating product return research from 2007 with sales data from the Consumer Electronics Association and conducting an online survey of about 100 manufacturers, carriers and retailers. You then divide by your shoe size.

Included in the survey were mobile phones, computers, digital video recorders, high-definition TVs, gaming consoles and computer software.

Accenture thinks that the problem is customer service.  Basically, the students doing a holiday job to raise money to maintain their pizza and beer diet now that the government has clamped down on giving grants, are not up to the task.  A punter wanting to know if this CD player is going to play their old vinyl tracks should not be greeted with a grunt.

Most people who buy consumer electronics are essentially clueless and need help to set up and use their devices, the report says.  Others need to be told that not everyone in the world wants something from Apple, there are some people that like technology.