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Guidelines or checklist for processing customer returns

Distributor Returns SOP

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#1 jbrosky

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Posted 16 April 2015 - 04:32 PM

Hello all,

 

Does anyone know of a good checklist or set of guidelines for a distributor to process customer returns and move the returned items back into inventory? I'm starting by applying our receiving guidelines, but I'm sure there are at least a few more levels to it, particularly if a customer has actually had custody of the item and did not reject it at the point of delivery. 

 

Thanks,

 

Jared



#2 xylough

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Posted 16 April 2015 - 09:32 PM


Hello all,

 

Does anyone know of a good checklist or set of guidelines for a distributor to process customer returns and move the returned items back into inventory? I'm starting by applying our receiving guidelines, but I'm sure there are at least a few more levels to it, particularly if a customer has actually had custody of the item and did not reject it at the point of delivery. 

 

Thanks,

 

Jared

 

Hi Jared,

 

For food or beverage that has gone out of your custody and control there ought to be a hazard analysis, a risk assessment and a reckoning with the legislative codes and other standards to which your facility is subject.

IMO a checklist or guidelines are too generic to apply to a practice that would be highly specific to your particular products and facility.

 

For all the FDA and USDA facilities with HACCP plans that I have ever worked with, returning product to inventory that has been out of the facilities custody and control was contraindicated as too high a risk or too great a hazard. At a business level there were contractual agreements precluding the possibility of such returns except for destruction. Maybe other members have had a different experience.



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#3 Tony-C

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Posted 17 April 2015 - 05:10 AM

Hi Jared,

 

An instinctive reaction is that there should be no returns unless the returned product was within the control of your organization the whole time such as a rejected delivery via your own transport. Products that have been out of your control would normally disposed of, however, the type of product and level of tamper evidence could be taken into consideration. So what type of product and packaging are we talking about?

 

Regards,

 

Tony



#4 jbrosky

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Posted 17 April 2015 - 01:20 PM

 

Hi Jared,

 

For food or beverage that has gone out of your custody and control there ought to be a hazard analysis, a risk assessment and a reckoning with the legislative codes and other standards to which your facility is subject.

IMO a checklist or guidelines are too generic to apply to a practice that would be highly specific to your particular products and facility.

 

For all the FDA and USDA facilities with HACCP plans that I have ever worked with, returning product to inventory that has been out of the facilities custody and control was contraindicated as too high a risk or too great a hazard. At a business level there were contractual agreements precluding the possibility of such returns except for destruction. Maybe other members have had a different experience.

 

Hi! thank you. we are a distributor of Asian grocery items and what we sell is primarily dry goods and produce. No meats or seafood. My background has been as a buyer for large volume food svc providers, so being on the distribution end is new, especially as we are trying to put procedures together. I was hoping to find an example of what another distributor's guidelines might look like so I'd know where to start



#5 jbrosky

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Posted 17 April 2015 - 01:47 PM

Hi Jared,

 

An instinctive reaction is that there should be no returns unless the returned product was within the control of your organization the whole time such as a rejected delivery via your own transport. Products that have been out of your control would normally disposed of, however, the type of product and level of tamper evidence could be taken into consideration. So what type of product and packaging are we talking about?

 

Regards,

 

Tony

Hi and thank you for your help, 

 

We sell primarily Asian groceries (95% dry goods) and produce. I've read through some return policies for larger broadline distributors (Sysco, et al.) and they seem to allow returns of anything that is refused at the point of delivery, with stricter guidelines for items which have been in the customer's custody. For example, Sysco sets a 24 hour window for meat and other perishables and 14 days for frozen and dry goods. In my past life as a buyer, I have made use of these policies and on more than one occasion, been charged a 'restock fee' for the privilege. I assume from this that returns from customers are actually processed back into inventory. What I don't know is how and by what guidelines.

 

We are a fairly small distributor, but quite busy and growing, so we're trying to get some solid procedures in place now. I think a solid return policy of our own, clearly communicated to our customers, would be a good place to start. i guess what I'm trying to figure out specifically is what happens next - when that return hits our warehouse. We can treat it like a delivery and apply that same screening process, maybe? I'm just thinking there must be some key points or procedures or just general philosophies employed by distributors when it comes to processing returns.

 

Thank you once again for your help,

 

Jared



#6 3esa

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Posted 14 May 2015 - 07:38 PM

Does anyone have any experience with this? 

 

I'm planning to change our haccp plan to include returned product.  We do accept returned product once in a while.  My only criteria has been viable tamper-evident seal.  As long as the product has not been further processed it should be fine.  It is hermetically sealed, stable at room temperature, and within shelf-life.



#7 kristinmaxx

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Posted 05 January 2018 - 04:58 PM

We accept returned products once in a while as well and we also go by the criteria of have a tamper-evident seal.

 

Still trying to figure out an actually policy for this, the criteria for a product to be considered a return, how to go about putting it back in inventory.

 

What if we receive the product and it is damaged, in one instance the product was damaged in the customer knew about it and sent it back anyway.

 

Thoughts?



#8 FurFarmandFork

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Posted 05 January 2018 - 06:35 PM

I think tamper evident packaging is a reasonable evaluation for low-risk products or completely sealed ones. However once the new FSMA food defense rules go into effect, I'm sure this will be seen as a vulnerability that probably shouldn't happen.

 

The other consideration is effective traceability of these items. If a truck turns around and you know what's on it that's gravy. However if a grocer pulls their stock and returns it and you haven't examined it all to get a count of various lots. That's a traceability nightmare.


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#9 Timwoodbag

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Posted 06 January 2018 - 02:07 AM

Always scary to take product back into a facility.  How do you know it wasn't contaminated?  How do you know just the outside of the returned boxes or the pallet isn't going to contaminate raw material in your facility? 

 

There is one customer my boss doesn't trust.  He does a single layer of plastic wrap on the pallet we ship out, and then applies security/tamper evident tape to that first layer before fully wrapping the pallet.  If the pallet is returned and the tape has been tampered with or the whole pallet re-wrapped, we know that they have at least been touching the boxes.  We don't know their hygiene standards, so we would not be able to trust the pallet.  Would be nice to use the same tape on the boxes of product, but that would look a little unreasonable from the customer's perspective (Usually says things like OPENED VOID and other unappetizing things).  

 

Either way the most important thing here is to get the food safety team to do the investigating, not the usual guys at receiving who are only trained on receiving of regular deliveries.  



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#10 kristinmaxx

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Posted 08 January 2018 - 02:05 PM

That is true, you don't know if it was contaminated or not. So you are saying if we do a Hazard Analysis on the option of returning goods and that should be a good indicator as to accept returned goods or reject them?

 

What if the customer that we sent the goods to wants to return them and not dispose of them? Do we have the trucking company dispose of them? Do we?



#11 Timwoodbag

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Posted 08 January 2018 - 08:27 PM

That is true, you don't know if it was contaminated or not. So you are saying if we do a Hazard Analysis on the option of returning goods and that should be a good indicator as to accept returned goods or reject them?

 

What if the customer that we sent the goods to wants to return them and not dispose of them? Do we have the trucking company dispose of them? Do we?

This exact scenario happened to me not too long ago.  I don't know who ended up with the bad product (returning company or trucking company) but we sent the returning company a part of the FSMA Code that stated "re-working product must ensure there is no risk of contamination to other food" and I haven't heard back yet.  Basically we stated we follow Federal Laws, and the law says don't put other materials at risk of contamination, so we refused the delivery coming back in. 

 

From here, the question is how do we prove that the "returned" product is not being sold?  (Food Fraud stemming from rejected returned materials).



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