A successful shopping trip usually results in some amazing new purchases. You head home with a bag full of treasures you can’t wait to wear or use. But what happens when you revisit those items and realize that maybe you don’t love them all as much as you originally thought? Or later you've found your groove with a new garment and discover it’s not holding up very well?
Enter the flip (not so fun) side of shopping...
Returns styles vary. I’ve worked with customers who tend to return most everything they purchase and I’ve also worked with women who don’t ever return an item, even if it’s still hanging in their closet months later with the tags on.
Seems the topic of returning is a bit taboo. Women rarely share their views on the subject. However, when I'm not wearing my Anthropologie hat, I am often asked for some honest guidance about how to best return an item.
I’m happy to offer my two cents on the fine art of returning.
My hope is that this information will make you a better shopper and a better returner:-)
First off. Let me assure you that I'm something of a master at returning things.
I'm going to share two personal tales of extreme returns...if you'd rather skip right to the tips, just jump below the next photo:-)
The absent vacuum.
I returned a vacuum cleaner, without actually having the vacuum cleaner with me.
We purchased a vacuum cleaner from Sears. It came with a one-year warranty. We used it for six months and it stopped working. I grabbed the receipt and the vacuum and headed to Sears.
They took it in for repairs. I was told I’d receive a call in a week or two when the machine was fixed. I waited. I called. And waited.
Around the beginning of week four, I called again. I was informed that the vacuum wasn’t fixed yet. That afternoon, I went into the store.
I told the salesperson that I’d like to return the vacuum. She looked at me like I was nuts since I didn’t have the vacuum with me...remember, Sears had it in their repair department.
These were desperate times...Greta’s first birthday was the following week. We were hosting a family party. I needed a working vacuum.
After lots of explaining and demanding...I successfully returned the absent vacuum and purchased a new one. Problem solved.
The empty paint can.
In this instance, I was very noticeably pregnant, which I believe helped my case:-) I purchased a gallon of interior latex paint from Lowes. I don’t recall the brand, but it was “guaranteed to cover any paint color in only one coat”. I had them tint the base a beautiful soft yellow. The perfect newborn color.
I proceeded to paint the room. I was painting over a pale lavender.
The new paint didn’t cover well. At all.
One coat coverage? Baloney.
I painted the entire room. I used every drop of paint in hopes that it would miraculously cover well once it was fully dry. No luck.
I grabbed the receipt and the empty can and waddled back to Lowes.
I requested a refund. The man assured me that the can was empty. I agreed and told him the paint was on the wall. Further explaining that I’d purchased the correct quantity for the room size and the coverage was terrible.
Again, after much discussion and demanding, I was refunded my money and purchased a second can of paint to finish the job.
Here’s what I tell my clients regarding returns:
The very first and most important rule of returning is this...
Only buy what you absolutely love!
The chances of needing to return something are much greater if you don’t love it to begin with. So, if you’re on the fence in the fitting room...don’t buy it! Don’t expect the garment to miraculously improve once you take it home, chance are it won’t.
1. What's the policy?
Know the store’s return policy before you buy. There are loads of different return policies out there. Learn what’s acceptable in your favorite shops.
Anthroplogie? Best return policy in the business!
Forever 21? 21 days to receive store credit only. Jewelry cannot be returned.
So, be certain you can live with your options before you head to the register. And keep in mind, if store credit is your only choice, a store credit at that you’ll later use to purchase something you truly love (or on a gift for someone else)...is far better than an itchy sweater, tags on, in your closet until it goes to Goodwill.
2. Do the work.
Be willing to actually return any item that you aren’t wearing. Don’t waste money by leaving things hanging in your closet when they could be returned for a refund. Errands suck, but schedule and do them in a timely manner.
Two reasons for this...stores appreciate being able to put the merchandise back on the sales floor while it's still full price. If you hold on to an item for ages, chances are it's on sale when you finally return it...thus the store loses money because you took your time with the return. Also, most retailers have a return grace period after which you'll only receive store credit or possibly not be able to return the item at all.
3. Proper information.
Make it easy on the store (and ultimately, yourself). Sign up for a store’s loyalty program. Today’s technology makes it possible for retailers to retain a record of your purchases, allowing them to access your receipt information when you need to make a return.
Back up plan...
I strongly believe you should also keep your receipt. Mistakes happen. The data is only as good as the system or the human entering it. Most often an email receipt is an option at checkout. This prevents you from having to store a paper copy, but provides you with added security.
If at all possible, plan to do your returns when the store is a bit slow. Like when the doors first open in the morning, dinnertime...not Saturday afternoon! The return process will be smoother and more pleasant for everyone if you try to handle it when the store isn't too busy.
For the best results, merchandise should be unworn with the original tags still attached. Sometimes this isn’t possible. But aim for this, as it simplifies the entire transaction.
5. Don't push it.
It's best not to abuse your right to return. As you may have heard, most retailers do in fact flag chronic returners. Customers who return lots of merchandise and do it often can be viewed as a security risk.
I’m a firm believer in returning merchandise that doesn’t perform well.
If a garment falls apart after being laundered according to the garment care tag, I’d return it.
Zipper breaks after normal wear? Take it back.
Excess shrinkage? Return it.
Retailers need to know if their merchandise isn’t satisfying the customer. If faulty items aren’t returned, they can't know that their product has disappointed their shoppers.
Shopping takes time, energy and money. By choosing well initially, you’ll be able to avoid most returns. This frees up your time for more fun...which is awesome!
If you're like me, having a bag full of stuff to return riding around in your car fills you with dread! So gather up the merchandise and the receipts and get it done!
One more thing...
What about gifts you can’t or won’t use?
My belief is this...if at all possible, you should return a gift that won’t/can’t be used. If you have a gift receipt, great. You'll likely receive a store credit in the amount of the original purchase price.
Often a retailer will permit returns without a receipt, if the items are unused. You'll be given store credit or exchange for the lowest selling price.
Not sure where it came from? Try to determine where the gift was purchased or find a retailer that carries the same merchandise, you can likely return it for at least a bit of store credit.
Explain to the salesperson that the gift simply doesn’t work for you and ask what options are available for returning or exchanging.
When we give a gift we should want the recipient to really enjoy the gift. I’d have no issue with a gift I’ve given being returned or exchanged for something the person would enjoy more:-)
And finally, be nice.
A little kindness goes a long way during the sometimes lengthy, difficult return process. Let's be honest, nice goes a long way always.
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I'm sure you have your own return tales.
Tell me! I'd love to hear them.
Thanks for being here. Have a wonderful week.
Hello, I'm Kristen.
As a personal stylist,