Reverse Logistics

Erin Kim / 2019
Yale School of Architecture

Landscapes of Fulfillment explores the mechanisms of logistics that enable entities, such as Amazon, to deliver a product in ways that were not possible only a decade ago. However, this project explores Amazon Return Services in an attempt to understand how a new kind of Reverse Logistics may be able to exploit errors in the system.

Reverse Logistics started with return services, which is an important customer service that addresses problems and issues with delivered items. Reverse Logistics cannot happen without human intervention. There are numerous subjective reasons fo returning an item: Logistical error, subjective opinions, unethical intentions etc.

The research will first illustrate the world of Amazon Return Services, then it will study the change in value at the hand of Reverse Logistics. Finally, it will conclude by testing the limits of the system by adding a human dimension.

The Process

Tradidtional methods of merchandise delivery transport items from the manufacturer to the consumer, occasionally with a supplier like Amazon or a retail store in between.

When items are returned, the manufacturer is not able to recieve the original item, which then allows it to enter into the reuse market. Returned items will either be sent to an overseas remarketer or trader or most often back to the supplier or original vendor.

If an item cannot be resold in its original condition, it enters the liquidation market, where Amazon offloads returned items at a discounted rate regardless of condition.

Case Studies

1. Frustration

Consumers have many reasons for returning items, but most often the item is difficult to operate, or was damaged in the shipping process.

2. Taking Advantage

Occasionally, consumers will take advantage of the returns process to “rent” their items for a short period of time, then purposly damage the items in order to return them for a refund.

Searching for Value

The Reverse Logistics process may open new possibilities for value in damaged or unique items.

Applying Reverse Logistics

The research led me to apply the principles of Reverse logistics, using Amazon Return Services. I ordered a copy of the book, “Letters from a Nut” by Ted L. Nancy.

I proceeded to print a copy of the return label and sent the book back to Amazon.

I recieved confirmation that Amazon had recieved my return (before it could have possibly had a chance to reach them), which prompted me to print another copy of the return label and sent them a treat.