This startup allows you to return any purchase (from any company) from home
January 2021 press release from the National Retail Foundation (NRF) found retailers were expecting more than $761 billion in merchandise sold in 2021 to be returned by consumers, a burdensome hassle for consumers and brands alike. “This accounts for an average of 16.6 percent of total US retail sales, which soared to $4.583 trillion in 2021,” the NRF reports. Now, there’s a powerful solution to returns thanks to Utah-based startup Oops, which is removing the barriers from the return process. Think Amazon, but in reverse.
Let’s face it—most people loathe returns because they suck valuable time, especially during the holidays. If you’re anything like me (a busy parent), your growing return pile will sit around and collect dust until you eventually gather the items, plop them in your trunk (which may sit there for a month, competing with Costco for precious real estate), and drive them to the nearest Deseret Industries or Goodwill, only to waste more time in a line of cars.
Like many folks, I lose a small fortune each year because my time is money, and I rarely get around to making my returns. When I heard about Oops, I suddenly contemplated, “Why did this broken system of returns go on as long as it did?”
Oops is the brainchild of Joseph Hatch and Jonathan Crawley, lifelong friends who met on the same golf team in high school. The idea for Oops came to Hatch one weekend when his day off was consumed by driving around town and making returns.
“It was a Saturday, and I was in a UPS parking lot. I think I had three different locations I had to take returns to—one was UPS, one was FedEx and one other location. I quickly realized there should be a merchant-agnostic platform where you put it on your porch, somebody comes and picks up your returns, and they go back kind of the same way they came,” Hatch says.
Before Oops, Hatch took an interest in impact investing and joined Intermountain Ventures, the corporate VC arm of Intermountain Healthcare, which he helped build. Meanwhile, Crawley was CFO and an early employee of Collective Medical, a Utah-based company that sold software to hospitals and health plans.
While Crawley was at Collective Medical, the company raised $50 million in Series A and went from a couple dozen employees to a couple hundred. It sold for about $600 million, and after being acquired, Crawley had to stick around for about a year. When his time was up, he and Hatch went on to found Oops.
“When they sold Collective Medical, the two of us were talking and going through a number of different business ideas. We really liked this one because we realized it was an awesome opportunity to flip the model and rethink something that needs to be rethought—and it’s a really large market,” Hatch says.
“Let’s face it—most people loathe returns because they suck valuable time, especially during the holidays. .”
With both Hatch and Crawley having backgrounds in healthcare, the duo was constantly pitching each other healthcare ideas. “Probably because of some of our scars, we were constantly shooting each other’s ideas down,” Crawley says. “The idea [for Oops] took hold in late October last year.”
The pair conducted a lot of consumer research and shortly thereafter decided to formally fundraise, drawing on their experience and networks. Oops went on to raise a $5 million seed round led by Peterson Partners and joined by EPIC Ventures, Maverick Ventures, Pelion Venture Partners, Village Global, and angel investors.
“Using an intuitive website and mobile app for iPhone and Android, Oops solves the pain of making returns by doing all the heavy lifting,” states an Oops press release. “Customers simply schedule a pickup, and an Oops driver in a signature blue van completes the return on the customer’s behalf. Boxes and printed labels are not required, and all returns are insured up to $1,000.”
When you think about a return, it looms over your head, Crawley says. You put the return by your garage door and don’t complete it for ages. Sometimes, you miss the return window. Some people don’t do returns at all because of the headache and decide to keep the items, even if they never use them.
Oops solves pain points like printing and packaging. The company prints the labels, packages the items, and supplies boxes by reusing recycled ones from customers. Next, an Oops driver picks the items up from the doorstep and takes them wherever they need to go.
That’s not all, Crawley says. Oops also picks up donations like couches and bags of clothing and delivers the donation to secondhand stores like Deseret Industries, Savers, and Goodwill—all places that often have long lines of cars.
Hatch says returns are painful for customers and brands, which is why Oops is focused on building the infrastructure that reinvents the way returns happen. “When you’re in our warehouse, and you see what we’re returning and where we’re returning items to, you see how silly the current model is,” he says.
Oops launched in June, serving neighborhoods from Ogden to Spanish Fork. The company is scaling fast and has plans to expand its service areas in the upcoming months.
Crawley compares the $761 billion of gross merchandise returned last year to the $773 billion defense budget, which he says is the equivalent of multiple countries’ GDP. “Like first-world countries’ GDP—that’s how much we just returned. North of 55 percent of items that get returned don’t end up back on the shelf,” he says.
Sustainability is one of the driving forces behind Oops. “If you’re looking at hundreds of billions of dollars worth of retail, that just goes to waste right now. We look at the problem and say, ‘There has to be a better way.’ This is just where we’re starting,” Crawley says. “It’s definitely not going to be the only place we touch regarding returns. There’s a lot of opportunity for us to improve efficiency, the customer experience, and reduce waste and CO2 emissions from people running costly errands.”