Oct 4, 2023 - Economy

Uber launches new shipping and returns feature

Illustration of a dolly full of boxes moving quickly

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Uber has launched a new way to return unwanted purchases just as the holiday shopping season is getting started.

Driving the news: With the new service, consumers can use the Uber or Uber Eats app to skip the trip to UPS, FedEx or the post office to drop off returns themselves.

  • The "Return a Package" feature is available in nearly 5,000 cities nationwide, Uber announced Wednesday.
  • It can also be used to drop off prepaid packages other than returns, including holiday gifts.

The big picture: Returns can cost consumers big money if they forget to send products back or miss return deadlines.

  • Returns also accounted for $816 billion in lost sales, or 18% of total sales in 2022, up from 11% in 2020, according to the National Retail Federation.

What they're saying: "One of the most common friction points in everyday life was just this idea of returns," Wendy Lee, Uber's director of delivery product management, told Axios.

  • "This is a value that we can create by delivering convenience," Lee said.

How Uber's "Return a Package" works

Uber drivers will pick up prepaid, sealed packages and drop them off at UPS, FedEx and United States Postal Service locations during business hours.

  • To start the process, tap the package icon or look for "Return a package" in the settings section of the Uber Eats app.
  • A courier will pick up the packages and drop them off at the location they select in the app.
  • You can choose to use a return shipping label or upload a prepaid QR code to the app.

Between the lines: There is a $5 flat fee for returning up to five packages. It costs $3 for Uber One members, who pay $9.99 a month.

Of note: The service has live tracking where you can see the package's progress in real-time like waiting for an Uber ride.

  • The courier will send a visual confirmation or photo of the receipt when the drop-off is completed.

Holiday returns and return fees could increase

Meanwhile, returns continue to be a pain point for consumers, a 2022 survey commissioned by PayPal found.

  • More than 40% of the 2,000-plus U.S. consumers surveyed said they'd rather sit in rush hour traffic than return a purchase made online.

Flashback: The pandemic-induced online shopping bonanza forced retailers to adopt lenient return policies that cost them dearly.

  • Now retailers are increasingly eliminating free returns to claw back some lost revenue.
  • Earlier this year, Amazon started charging a $1 fee on some returns dropped off at the UPS store, but it's not a fee charged universally.

What's next: "Consumers should be prepared for retailers to continue to impose fees for returns or change their policies," Sender Shamiss, CEO of return logistics company goTRG, told Axios.

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