USPS Launches Electronic Merchandise Return Service

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The U.S. Postal Service yesterday launched returns@ease, an electronic merchandise return service aimed for Internet retailers.

According to the USPS, the service is designed to make returning items bought online easier for buyers and sellers.

Here's how it works: After a customer alerts an online retailer that they want to return an item, the retailer provides the customer a merchandise return label via the Web that the customer prints and applies to the package being returned. The package can be given to a letter carrier, dropped in a collection box, or taken to the nearest post office.

To use returns@ease, online retailers must obtain a merchandise return permit from the USPS and set up an account at any local post office. The registration application, programming codes, and guidelines for using the service are obtained online at The service is free to customers and does not require additional hardware or software. There is a minimum charge of 30 cents per return, plus postage, for retailers., a Seattle-based online outdoor lifestyle retailer is the first company to implement the new service, but the USPS said that there are 500 retailers currently interested in it.

Chris Doyle, a spokesperson for, said that this is the only solution of its kind in the package-delivery space. When customers use competitive carriers to return parcels, for example, the carriers ship directly to Altrec's warehouse, and the customer usually has to incur some of those costs.

"This new USPS process eliminates the need for people to contact the company directly just to return a product," said Doyle.

Kim Parks, manager marketing and strategy for the USPS' Expedited/Package Services division said "returns are a reality of shopping … this ease-of-use solution breaks down the final barrier to e-commerce."

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