Americans spend over $70,000 making online purchases they end up regretting

NEW YORK — “Buyer’s remorse” can set in real fast when the things we purchase online turn out to be nothing like what we’re hoping for. A new study reveals this actually happens a lot more than you might think. In fact, the average American wastes over $70,000 on disappointing online purchases during their lifetime.

A recent survey of 2,000 Americans finds people typically spend an average of $899 online each year on disappointing items. That underwhelming shopping list includes clothing (60%), tech (27%), and toys or children’s products (25%). Specific complaints often include the quality of the product (64%), the size (46%), and its color (31%).

One respondent said they bought a leather jacket that turned out to be plastic and another claimed they received steaks that tasted like shoes. However, humans aren’t the only ones feeling retail disappointment.

“I ordered a Cat Cave bed for $60,” one respondent says. “It had rave reviews and sounded like something my cat would enjoy sleeping in. She slept in it one afternoon and was done with it. When she moved around in it, it collapsed, so it was not as advertised.”

Trust the reviews

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Fakespot, the study also examined the impact of product reviews on buying decisions. Of those polled, 51 percent are more likely to trust bad reviews than good reviews when shopping online.

Respondents also believe 20 reviews is the minimum threshold a product needs to hit for them to call the item trustworthy. Two in three say they usually trust those reviews when making a purchase decision. Moreover, the average respondent writes their own reviews for online purchases about four times a month, with 54 percent feeling it’s their duty to do so.

Two in three add they trust product reviews with images or photos more than ones with just text. Additionally, 55 percent think people who post reviews or pictures of products they buy deserve some type of reward.

“Our study found that although people tend to trust online reviews, they don’t always read them,” says Saoud Khalifah, Fakespot’s CEO, in a statement. “Consumers may be uncertain of the legitimacy of the reviews and may want to find out for themselves, or they may have just fallen for a deal that’s too good to be true.”

More than half the poll (56%) return their disappointing buys, while 30 percent just throw them out and 29 percent opt to give them away as gifts. Meanwhile, three in five assume that an online purchase they return will be resold by that company.

When it comes to the environmental toll of packing and repacking all these items, only two in five say they knew that product returns increase carbon emissions. Even though the average respondent is likely to make 314 returns in their lifetime, just 28 percent also knew that returned products will sometimes end up in landfills.

“Product returns aren’t immediately associated with environmental impact,” Khalifah adds. “Increased awareness of which sellers, products and reviews are legitimate can lead to more conscious consumer decisions. That means more online buys that meet people’s expectations, as well as a cleaner Earth.”


  • “I ordered a leather jacket and when it arrived, it was a plastic jacket.”
  • “Steaks that tasted like shoes.”
  • “Supplements to help me lose weight, but I gained weight instead.”
  • “Wrong name on personalized jersey for [my] son.”
  • “An alarm clock — it had only one brightness button and you could not lower the brightness. It was so bright you couldn’t use it.”
  • “A fan that did not blow enough air.”
  • “It was a Nike Air Force 1 shoe, turns out it [was] fake.”
  • “Recliner chair — very uncomfortable.”
  • “I bought a book that I needed for community college and when it arrived, it was only the cardboard shipping container and nothing else. That was disappointing.”

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About the Author

Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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