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Worth the Return? Millennials and Gen Z Shoppers are Losing Money by Keeping Unwanted Purchases: Survey

A young woman looks thoughtfully at smart phone while surrounded by boxes

We already know that the cost of living is rising and our budgets are stretched thin in 2022, but it looks like many Canadians — especially Gen Z and Millennials — may be inadvertently losing money in another way: by keeping their unwanted items instead of dealing with the hassle of returns.

As reported by CTV News, Canadian e-commerce returns service ReturnBear conducted a survey (commissioned by the Angus Reid Forum) of 3,010 Canadians online. The results? The survey found that 34 per cent of respondents of all ages lost money on unreturned items, while a whopping 46 per cent of younger Canadians said they lost money on unwanted purchases they haven’t returned since the start of the pandemic. 

Related: Over half of all Gen Zers think small daily purchases impact their financial security: study.

Just how much money are we talking about? The survey indicated that 19 per cent reported losing more than $100, while nine per cent lost $250 or more.

What’s causing us to leave our money in our unwanted – yet unreturned – items? A big part of it could be due to the nature of online shopping (of which younger demographics tend to be more prone to partake in). The return process for purchases made online can be complex (for example, it may require printing out shipping labels) and may also involve further costs (such as mail or shipping fees) — which can discourage returns, even if it means we’re losing out on getting our dollars back. 

See also: 10 bad money management habits you need to break in 2022.

“The growth of e-commerce, though wonderful as it is, creates an inherent distance in the relationship between you, the brand and their processes and operations,” Robert Domagala, head of business and marketing at ReturnBear, told

So, if we’re less likely to return things once we’ve bought them, especially if we buy them online, how can we curb this bank account-depleting trend? Spending more time researching purchases before hitting “buy” can help, as well as taking the time to look into return policies before we buy. 


Related: This is the average net worth for Canadians — ranked by age.

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