Stuff South Africa

Takealot refused my return because I wrote on its brown box. Amazon is going to eat their lunch

When both my wife and I each bought our son the same box of Lego, I simply returned the product I had bought to Takealot. I hadn’t even opened the brown cardboard box it arrived in. I wrote the return code on the box – I no longer have a printer at home – in large letters with a black koki.

The same day it was collected, Takealot emailed to inform me, “Unfortunately, your return has been declined due to specific criteria not being met in line with our Returns Policy”.


What was the reason given? “Item have a lot of marking pen writings”.

I kid you not.

Included in the rejection email, was a list of Ts&Cs which had never appeared in the original return email. They are:

I replied to ask which of these has been broken and how it relates to the Consumer Protection Act?

The original email approving the return – which was duly picked up that day – had one line of Ts&Cs:

“Please do not mark the original product packaging, and include all parts and accessories (e.g. TV remote, laptop charger, cables, etc.).”

Toby Shapshak takealot box

So, I asked: is Takealot saying that the random brown box that was sent to me to protect the actual product is “the original product packing”? You can’t be serious. But it turns out Takealot can’t differentiate between “original product packing” and the brown cardboard box they put the “original product packing” into for delivery.

They were being serious.

I got a response that same day – last Monday – from another person at Takealot who apologised and promised to look into the issue. “Please accept my sincere apology for any inconvenience experienced,” she wrote. “Kindly note, I’ve written to the warehouse team for further review and feedback regarding your decline.”

And then… Nothing. Or crickets as they say. I replied twice last week to ask if there had been any movement. Again, crickets.

Didn’t stop any delivery

Then, on Wednesday, the box — so badly disfigured by my koki — arrived back at my house. Clearly, the writing did not impede Takealot’s ability to deliver it, because there it was: delivered to my house with the usual delivery sticker stuck over the writing.

I was so astounded at the initial refusal and the patently mistaken reason (since when has the delivery box been considered the “original product packing”?) that I cc’d consumer journalist Wendy Knowler. She was just as bemused as I was at the bizarre refusal justification.

If I thought I was having a hard time reaching someone who had any common sense, she has had a much worse time trying to deal with the largest online e-commerce player in the country.

In the past, she could contact Takealot’s marketing manager directly. But they have outsourced this issue to a PR firm and only one person in particular. If that person is on leave, she told me, then her emails go unanswered until she returns.

Amazon is coming

Naspers-owned Takealot, which made a R413-million loss in 2022, has been talking up its game since Amazon confirmed the open secret it was planning to launch in South Africa later this year. It is widely expected to take a bite out of the country’s R55-billion e-commerce market.

These are not the only headwinds Takealot is facing. In December it stopped delivering alcohol, part of a reported problem with its liquor licences. In August, the Competition Commission found that its marketplace for other sellers is a “conflict of interest,” and must be moved into a separate business.

“Takealot faces a conflict of interest on its site as its retail division competes with marketplace sellers leading to behaviour that has disadvantaged sellers,” the report found.

Naspers South Africa CEO Phuthi Mahanyele-Dabengwa said two weeks ago: “We are well positioned toward being able to deal with whatever could be coming from Amazon,” she told Bloomberg TV. “We are investing a lot more into our businesses.”

In December, Naspers and Prosus group CFO Basil Sgourdos, referring to Amazon, said: “We will take the fight to them because we have things to fight with,” the Sunday Times reported. “We have a fantastic business, and we will invest what it takes to continue to build the business and deliver value – and to differentiate our proposition.”

Not with this kind of service and a profound lack of common sense.


After I finished writing this, Takealot called and emailed to say: “I have been requested by management to contact you and let you know that the complaint related to the decline of your return has our full attention. “We will be in contact with you to advise you on the resolution as soon as we receive feedback.”

That took 10 days from my original email and I am sure the only reason I got a response is because of my title in my email signature – and that I CC’d Wendy Knowler.

Here’s hoping I get my money back.

Thanks, Wendy.

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