Best Buy isn't the only store that punishes shoppers for too many returns — these are all the companies that are tracking everything you return

  • Best Buy, Home Depot, Victoria's Secret, and other stores are tracking shoppers' returns dating back several years and, in some cases, punishing people who are suspected of abusing their return policies.
  • Many shoppers are unaware their returns are being tracked.
  • Home Depot engages in the practice to combat return fraud, which "is believed to be feeding the opioid epidemic," a Home Depot spokesman told Business Insider.
  • Sephora says only customers with "excessive returns" are targeted.

At least a dozen major retailers are discreetly tracking shoppers' returns and punishing people who are suspected of abusing their return policies. 

Best BuyHome Depot, and Victoria's Secret are among the many retailers engaging in this practice.

Most of these companies have hired a third-party firm, called The Retail Equation, to mine their sales data and keep a database of customers' returns to flag potentially problematic shoppers. Customers who are flagged are often barred from making future returns. 

Retailers say they use the service to combat return fraud. Some critics say its raises privacy concerns, however, and dozens of shoppers have complained online about being unfairly punished by the system.

Business Insider compiled a list of all the companies that use The Retail Equation, based on information from the companies as well as recent customer complaints on social media. 

Here's the full list: 

Stores that track your return
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Stores that track your return

Home Depot

Home Depot spokesman Stephen Holmes said the company uses The Retail Equation to combat return fraud, which he said is "believed to be feeding the opioid epidemic."

"And returns fraud is also often the work of organized retail crime rings, thus funding serious crimes," he added. "These efforts not only protect the retailer’s bottom line, but they also help protect the communities where we do business. "

Unlike many other retailers, Home Depot only tracks returns that are not accompanied by a receipt, he said.

"The good news is that it’s pretty easy to avoid a non-receipted return these days because we can look up any card transaction or customers can opt to receive an email receipt rather than try to keep up with paper," he said. 

Photo credit: Reuters

CVS Pharmacy

CVS said it partnered with The Retail Equation (or TRE) last year.

"TRE's return management services are utilized by several major retailers representing more than 34,000 retail locations in the US," CVS said. "Since implementing TRE’s solution last year, approximately .003% (or one-third of 1%) of returns have been declined at our stores."

A customer whose return has been declined can dispute the decision through TRE, which will then initiate a review process with CVS, the company added. 

Photo credit: Reuters


Sephora said it uses The Retail Equation, but only cracks down on customers with "excessive returns."

"We make every effort to accommodate returns, but a small fraction of customers take advantage of our policy, in many cases returning more than twice as much merchandise as they purchase," the company said. "This limits product selection and unfairly impacts other clients. When we identify excessive return patterns, we notify those customers that we may limit future returns or exchanges if no proof of purchase is provided." 

Photo credit: Reuters

Dick's Sporting Goods

Customers have complained on social media about Dick's use of The Retail Equation 

Photo credit: Reuters


JCPenney confirmed to Business Insider that it uses The Retail Equation to help prevent "fraudulent or abusive returns."

"Use of this system does not impact the vast majority of day-to-day transactions," the company said. 

Photo credit: Reuters 

Victoria's Secret

Shoppers have complained online about being banned from returning items at Victoria's Secret. The retailer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.  

Photo credit: Getty

Toys R Us

Toys R Us confirmed that it uses The Retail Equation in a tweet to a customer earlier this month. 

Photo credit: Getty

Best Buy

In a statement to The Wall Street Journal, a Best Buy spokesman apologized to anyone "inappropriately affected" by the policy.

"On very rare occasions — less than one tenth of one percent of returns — we stop what we believe is a fraudulent return," Jeff Haydock said. "Fraud is a real problem in retail, but if our systems aren't as good as they can be, we apologize to anyone inappropriately affected." 

Photo credit: Getty


*If stores that track returns are missing from this list, email

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