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What Happens to Amazon (and other) Returns?

We've all had to do it, return an item. Whether it's a pair of shoes, a dog toy, or heaven forbid, a ModMic. There's a lot of reasons for a return, maybe it is defective, maybe you didn't really need it, maybe you found something better. Regardless of the reason, most of us don't really think about the return after we slap the return label on the box and send it off. 

We'd like to shed some light on this process in celebration of the Renewed ModMic program, which we hope will radically reduce waste and save money for you AND us. Read more about our Renewed ModMic program here.

The point of this post is not to dissuade returning an item you don't need, but to simply inform and make everyone stop and think about the impact a return has and to ask companies what they do with their returns. 

Option 1: "Disposal"

See those quotes, we'll get to that in a moment. Sad to say this is the most common result. It doesn't matter if the product is in good condition, most manufacturers simply set their products to be disposed of. The reason for this is the cost of receiving a returned item and checking it, cleaning it, reboxing it, and mailing it back is often so cost prohibitive it is literally cheaper to make a brand new item. This, of course, varies with the cost of the good. The cheaper the item the more likely it will be trashed even if it's never been opened, but also any item with disposable parts or an item that may have been worn or requires sanitation is almost always disposed of.

So why "Disposal" in quotes? Well, Amazon takes this disposal a step further and gives themselves the right to simply... take your trash and resell it. They own sister companies that re-sell "disposed" items. Sometimes they'll even sell it as new. Be on the lookout for any product you get with a barcode sticker that has "LPN" in it, this License Plate Number is a sign that you've got a returned item. Granted, that's good for the environment, but we've always felt it's pretty shady. We've received multiple reports of customers receiving ModMics with parts missing or severe damage sold as "new" by Amazon or an Amazon partner company. Oof.

We put a stop to this by requiring Amazon to return our returns to our new Refurbishment warehouse. Read more about that here.

Option 2: Amazon (And other) Refurbishment

This term means a lot of different things depending on who you talk to. Amazon offers this service as well, but it's so mystically confusing very few manufacturers use it. Essentially this lets Amazon sell your used items to third parties and gives you a cut. Better than their stealing your trash, but how much they pay, what they actually "refurbish" and basically any details about what this really means is hidden to the manufacturer, let alone the customer. We asked every single hardware manufacturer we could and didn't find a single one who had enrolled in this system on purpose.

For Antlion Audio we've decided to use the term Renewed instead of Refurbished for a reason: We're not fixing a broken unit. We're taking the good returns and replacing parts. This way we can be sure what the customer gets works, is clean, and has all the disposable parts. This is why we're so excited to get away from the previous option.

Option 3: Amazon Donation Program

Around 2019 a series of news reports began circulating discussing the scale of Amazon disposals, most famously with a single location in France throwing away nearly 300,000 items in 9 months. In response to the well deserved backlash Amazon introduced a (mandatory in some places, France included) donation program that sends unsold goods or goods about to expire to non-profits. It's still kind of unclear what qualifies, who gets what, or how those non-profits are chosen, but it's admittedly a step in the right direction. 

What happens when you return an item to Antlion Audio?

Regardless of if you return the product to Amazon or to us directly, the product goes to our Refurbishment facility in Illinois to be fully checked, cleaned, and have its parts replaced. If the unit is good it becomes a Renewed ModMic. If it is defective, we harvest the usable parts and recycle or dispose of the broken parts. You can read all about our Renewed program here!

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