What do you need pantry items

The everyday tricks of the fraudsters : How to bounce Amazon or Zalando

Robert Grün stole the boot: kilos of pasta, glasses of pesto and Nutella, plus several packs of detergent pads. He ordered all of this from Amazon Pantry, the online retailer's digital supermarket. The order is worth 124 euros - he paid for it: Nothing.

The student, who does not want to give his name or his place of residence, has tricked the US company. His tactic: he buys at Amazon Pantry and complains about the order as soon as it arrives at his home. From the start, he had no intention of paying for the package. The business administration student speculates that Amazon will not reclaim the goods complained about because the effort involved is too high - this is fraud. But green succeeds with this strategy. And he's not the only one who can get away with it. Or at least tried to.

68 percent buy online regularly

68 percent of Germans regularly shop online, as a survey by the statistics portal Statista shows. Not only clothing, but also groceries and housewares are increasingly being ordered online. But while there are often clear rules for returns in stationary retail, the gray area on the internet is bigger - and people like Grün try to exploit it.

Friends had given him the idea. Saving money without sacrificing: a tempting prospect for long-term students. A friend of Grün was allowed to keep the goods complained about five to six times, and he also sneaked high-quality dietary supplements such as protein powder. First of all, he had to send his purchase back, a good rate.

Amazon reacts accommodatingly, that is taken advantage of

In order to be able to keep the ordered goods without paying, Grün sent an email to the company's customer center. In it he states that he wants to make use of his right of withdrawal. The customer service responds quickly: "Due to the circumstances and the nature of the article, a return is not necessary in exceptional cases." 124 euros go back to Grüns account, he can keep the purchase. But why does Amazon Pantry Green leave the returned goods?

When asked by the Tagesspiegel, Amazon company spokeswoman Christine Maukel explains only briefly: "The return guidelines for food vary depending on the type and nature of the product." waived, Maukel does not explain. Nor does it provide any information on how often such frauds occur.

It is known that Amazon refrains from reclaiming returned goods for low-priced items. In these cases, it is obviously not worthwhile for the retailer to check the condition of the delivery and to offer the used goods again. Because "a further purchase of returned food" according to Amazon does not take place anyway, the return in the pantry division seems to be even less worthwhile. To the delight of Robert Grün and his college friends.

Fraud on a small scale

But how long does it work? Sascha Berens from the Cologne trading institute EHI believes that the abuse usually works maybe once or twice. Amazon is “very accommodating” when it comes to taking back items, but the e-commerce expert has not yet heard of “large-scale fraud”. According to Berens, complaints about food are generally rare. This is due to the fact that the value of the individual products is very low: "Customers do not complain about their order because the head of lettuce is no longer fresh."

If Amazon users still notice frequent complaints, the retailer can block them for further orders, explains Berens. To do this, the company checks purchasing behavior and excludes customers in case of doubt. Lately Amazon has been using this practice more and more, and long-term customers of the premium service Amazon Prime are also affected, reports the expert. However, the order ban might not be the only consequence for green.

"Fraudulent activity"

The lawyer Arndt Kempgens describes the behavior as "fraudulent machination". Because green has no real intention to buy at any time and is thus deceiving the company, he is breaking the law. Kempgens sees parallels with so-called “wardrobing”, in which consumers order expensive clothing to be worn once and then send it back. According to the lawyer, criminal prosecution is not particularly promising. It was difficult to determine a buyer's intentions prior to placing an order with a click of the mouse.

Fraud doesn't work with Rewe and Edeka

With the German food delivery services, however, such wrong orders are more difficult: Edekas Bringmeister.de and the Rewe delivery service send their messengers directly to the front door. The couriers then take products that are damaged or that the customer simply does not like with them. Complaints only occur in "absolute exceptional cases", says Edeka.

Amazon doesn't just sell long-life food online either. Since last year there has been a service called “Amazon Fresh” that offers fruit and vegetables, meat or dairy products in large cities like Berlin. Couriers deliver the order on the same day and take care of the return. If customers discover damage later, they can have their money refunded by Amazon within 30 days. Customers then no longer have to return the expired groceries.

But at the moment, Grün doesn't even want to order more without paying. The pantry is currently well filled - and he doesn't want to risk blocking his order account.

Buy a prom dress and send it back?

But what about the "wardrobing"? They circulate again and again, the stories of young girls who order their evening gowns for graduation from Zalando or Otto and send them back after the ball. Or the story of the apparently unsuitable tuxedo, in which the senders find the theater ticket in their jacket pocket after the return. That would be plausible, after all, festive dresses cost a lot of money and are only worn very rarely. Do such incidents pile up before graduation balls or before New Year's Eve?

What goes back

No, say the companies. At Zalando, “no particular abnormalities” are found on certain dates. Even at Otto there is no accumulation before certain occasions. In addition, evening dresses or tuxedos are sent back far less often than jeans, T-shirts or blouses. "It's not easy to make the purchase decision here," says Otto spokesman Frank Surholt. On the other hand, customers like to order jeans or other everyday clothes in several sizes and cuts and send back what they don't like or do not fit.

How it goes

Returns are free of charge at Zalando and Otto. However, Zalando expressly states in its terms and conditions that only unworn goods will be taken back. As a rule, customers return the items in perfect condition, emphasizes Zalando spokeswoman Linda Hübner. The goods are then resold as normal. If there are minor defects, Zalando offers the clothing cheaper, for example in one of the outlets. If Otto notices that clothes have been worn and the customer wants to return them dirty or broken, the buyer must keep the goods and pay the transport costs.

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