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  • Writer's pictureLisa Lee Freeman

5 ways shoppers can avoid nasty surprises in the mail

I recently appeared on Inside Edition to comment on Amazon and Walmart shoppers who got a shock when they opened their boxes and found moldy shoes, a waffle iron with an old crusty waffle in it, and even dirty diapers. Bottom line: Those nasty surprises aren't too surprising! There were a record number of returns this holiday season as more people shopped online, where return rates are three times higher than in physical stores. Well, those returns are hitting the market. And with so many returns this year, it's inevitable that some stinkers are going to slip through the cracks. Two contributing problems: A surge in return fraud and third-party sellers. What can you do to avoid getting skunked?

  1. Buy it new. The best way to guarantee you won't get used and abused products is to read item descriptions carefully to make sure it's being sold as new.

  2. Go direct. When possible, purchase from the retailer instead of a third-party seller. Look for the words "sold and shipped by" or "ships from and sold by" on the product page to make sure you're buying from Amazon or Walmart.

  3. Get lucky, not yucky. If you decide to buy used to save money—and the environment!—read the description carefully, check seller return policies, be skeptical of super-low prices, look for red flags like misspellings, and review seller ratings on

  4. If you get a stinker, say so! Alert the retailer ASAP to get a replacement. If you can't get satisfaction, don't be shy about going on social media to share your story.

  5. Get a deal! Buying returned products can be a great way to save if you know what you're buying. Check out Amazon Warehouse, Blinq, and eBay for great deals on used electronics, appliances, and a lot more!

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