I Tracked My Amazon Return for 3,000 Miles and Bought It Back

Have you ever wondered what happens to your Amazon returns?

Earlier in the year, I bought an Amazon Basics gym bag that I needed to return. To find out what exactly happens to these returns and where they go, I stuck an Apple Airtag in it and tracked it over the next 3 months.

Eventually, I tracked my returned bag over 3,000 miles away on the other side of the continent and managed to get it back (complete with the AirTag). Here's exactly where it went and how I found it.

Related Reading: The Seller’s Complete Guide to Amazon Returns

What I Returned and When

I bought this Amazon Basics gym bag and sent it back to Amazon. I had tried out the bag a couple of times and it clearly had been used, but I marked the return as “Unused” when I returned it to Amazon. Why? Because I wanted to see if Amazon at least gives a cursory examination of returns once they receive them and don't just stick clearly used inventory back into stock.

Amazon return
I stuck an Apple AirTag in my Amazon return to allow me to track it across the country.

My initial thesis was that Amazon would either a) stick the used bag back into new inventory or b) dispose the bag. Both ideas turned out to be wrong. Keep reading to see where it did end up.

What Happened to My Amazon Return Over the Next Two Months

I dropped off my return at Canada Post in Vancouver on December 27. Over the next three months, I tracked the return. Here's where it went.

  • December 27, 2023 – Dropped off at Canada Post, Vancouver
  • December 27, 2023 – Moved near Vancouver International Airport to a sorting facility. 
  • December 28, 2023 – January 14, 2024: Moved to this Amazon Warehouse in New Westminster B.C.
  • January 14 to January 20, 2024: Moved to Train shipping yard. Sat here for 4 days.
  • January 20 to January 27, 2024: Moved via train to a warehouse in Brampton, ON (4352 KMs away). is a reseller of used merchandise from retailers such as Amazon
  • January 27 to February 1, 2024: Moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia to ANOTHER liquidator, Mariner Auctions 
  • February 9, 2024 – I win the bid for my gym bag from Mariner Auctions in Halifax
  • April 2, 2024 – Mariner Auctions sends the bag back to me via Canada Post

How I Found My Amazon Return (and Ultimately Bought It)

The first six weeks or so of my Amazon return's journey isn't that interesting. I returned the bag to Canada Post in Vancouver, B.C. on December 27, 2023. It moved to a local Amazon warehouse in New Westminster, B.C. and stayed there for approximately 4 more weeks.

Around January 20, things got slightly more interesting and I tracked my bag 4,300 kms. to the other side of the country to a liquidation company called (ironically) BigTech. This made sense as it's common knowledge that Amazon (and most other major retailers for that matter) often resell their unsellable returns by the pallet to liquidation companies like BigTech. If you've ever seen the show Storage Wars, it works a lot like this: Amazon tells businesses what items are on the pallets but gives no indication of their condition. Some items could be perfectly new, some could be completely trashed, and some could have a blogger's return with an AirTag in it.

About a week later, I could see my AirTag and bag had been shipped to an auctioneer called Mariner Auctions in Halifax, Nova Scotia (1800 kms from BigTech). Presumably, they had bought that pallet from Big Tech and now was going to break it apart and resell each item individually. I'm not quite sure why Marine Auctions would go through another middleman like BigTech. If I were them, I would just buy the pallets directly from Amazon.

I figured at this point that Marine Auctions would sell the item to local bidders, but by some small miracle, I managed to find my Amazon Basics gym bag amongst the thousands of other items Mariner Auctions had up for online auction on this page here. At this point, I realized I could both verify that it was my actual gym bag at Mariner Auctions and get my $40 AirTag and bag back if I won the auction.

I placed a bid and managed to win the auction for my returned gym bag for $17.50 (a full $1.41 less than what I originally paid for it!).

Having the Bag Shipped Back to Me

I won the bid in February. I nearly flew out to Halifax to pickup my bag personally before a giant snow storm swept the Canadian Maritimes and I decided it was both easier and cheaper to have my bag shipped back to me. Mariner Auctions shipped me back the bag, and in 5 days I receive the package.

I opened the box, unzipped the bag, and voila! There was my AirTag (and my Amazon Basics gym bag).

What I Discovered About Amazon Returns

Initially, when I stuck the AirTag in my return, I wondered if the results of this experiment might not have such a happy ending. Perhaps my AirTag would end up with Amazon reselling my slightly-used gym bag as new or disposing it in a landfill. Amazon has gone on record to state that they never throw anything in the landfill, “No items are sent to landfill. We are working towards a goal of zero product disposal and our priority is to resell, donate to charitable organizations or recycle any unsold products.”

Amazon was true to its worth (at least in this case) and  did the right thing and resold the bag to a liquidator where the bag could find a new home. 

Ultimately, this experiment revealed a few other interesting little tidbits:

  • In total, my bag went 4,322 kms. from where it was returned in Vancouver to the liquidator in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
  • It took just 4 weeks from the time I returned my bag in Vancouver to the time it was received in the liquidator's possession on the other side of the country. In other words, Amazon seems to resell returns very quickly.
  • Online auctions attract some crazy bidders. Although I ultimately won the auction for my bag, someone before me bid $15 on a used $18.91 Amazon Basics gym bag.
  • Amazon did not appear to open the box of my returned item. They seemingly saw that the box was opened and resold it to a liquidator.

As for my returned gym bag that I now own (again) it made a perfect replacement for the tennis bag that was stolen from my car earlier in April.

Dave Bryant

Dave Bryant has been importing from China for over 10 years and has started numerous product brands. He sold his multi-million dollar ecommerce business in 2016 and create another 7-figure business within 18 months. He's also a former Amazon warehouse employee of one week.

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  1. This is awesome in many ways. I like the part about you buying your bag from the liquidator. Of course we all know it’s flawed given the amount of used products that wind up back in customers’ hands. You should run another test where you keep the packaging new but defecate inside of it, and mark the return reason as “arrived too late.” Then you can monitor your waste as it’s delivered to another customer.

  2. thanks for the great read Dave! I’d love to see this replicated 10 more times with different product types and locations, also in the US. i’m skeptical still that amazon doesn’t toss stuff in the trash or resell as new.

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