Return Time Leniency in Online Retail: A Signaling Theory Perspective on Buying Outcomes

Document Type


Department or Administrative Unit

Finance and Supply Chain Management

Publication Date



Merchandise return policies (MRPs) have long been an important area of interest for operations and supply chain management researchers, who have identified some key advantages and disadvantages of offering comprehensive and convenient return policies. However, there is a lack of rigorous scholarship on one key dimension of MRPs—return time leniency. Understood as the amount of time that buyers have within which to return purchased items, return time leniency is often considered one of the leading indicators of a retailer's MRP friendliness. In the current study, we extend prior work on MRPs by introducing a signaling theory perspective to return time leniency. This allows us to develop a more nuanced interpretation of the underlying economics associated with extending the window of time during which returns are accepted. We do so by positioning our study in a retail context where such issues are highly important to consumers—online retail.


This article was originally published in Decision Sciences. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

Due to copyright restrictions, this article is not available for free download from ScholarWorks @ CWU.


Decision Sciences


© 2017 Decision Sciences Institute