Conscious Consumerism: Return Policies

Thursday, August 1, 2013

It was in high school that my friend initiated me into the world of return policies. Up until that point I hadn’t ever given them much thought–some stores were very lenient and accommodating, others were…less than accommodating. But when my BFF uttered those magic words, “I hate shopping at stores with bad return policies,” my previously latent regard for retailer’s shopping terms surfaced. I was all, “O.M.G! Those are the worst!” And, “where’s my pretty pink lip gloss?” And thus began my conscious avoidance of stores with limited return policies. 

It isn’t that I’m not a decisive shopper; I am. And I’m sure you are as well. It isn’t that I can’t commit to the decisions I make later on, either. And yet. And yet. The savviest among us will still find that sometimes we return home from a shopping trip, rifle though our purchases, and think, “Wait, why on earth did I just buy that?” Or, after trying the item out at home, find ourselves disappointed with how it performs/ plain old change our minds about it. Listen, we all make mistakes!

There are few moments more pit-in-stomach inducing than the realization that you are now stuck with whatever newly acquired thing you’ve just purchased because the retailer from whence it came doesn’t accept returns.

In fact, for some people I know, the bringing of the item home is merely part of the shopping process. It’s quite seriously difficult to navigate the standard store nowadays, to absorb the flashy signs, the sales, the music thwacking and bumping away, the salespeople prodding you with questions while keeping your cool, let alone exerting wise judgments over expenditures. I respect the fact that for some the buying is hardly the end of the line, that the intent all along is to remove the item in question from the overbearing, meant-to-distract you shopping environment and to bring it instead to the quiet, calm of their private space where they may evaluate the item in peace. Quite often, that analysis leads to the conclusion that they don’t actually want to keep the item in question. 

Whether or not you shop in such a manner, I believe in retailers providing you with a contingency plan. There’s something inherently suspicious to me about the fact that Forever 21, and places like it, don’t accept returns. It’s like they know that when you get home and can examine the quality of the garment in natural lighting you’ll come to your senses and want your money back. And so they trap you and your money by only offering store credit.

It seems to me that if what you’re selling is quality, then you would have no problem providing your customers with a generous return policy. It says just as much about the way you treat your customers as how you regard the goods you are peddling.

Whether or not you shift where you shop based upon return policies, I would encourage you all to begin being aware of them, if you haven’t been already. Inquire about the store’s return policy before each purchase to be sure (doubly so if you’re ordering online, in which case I feel purchases made without the option to return are just stupid). That way, at least you know what you’re getting into, and there won’t be any surprises down the line. 

And now, I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter. Do you ask about return policies? Do you use them? Or maybe you never bother with returns? Or maybe you know something I don’t about why some stores can extend the courtesy of returns while others can’t. Whatever your take, leave it in the comments below.

Image credits: RoxyHaute Pink Pretty, unknown, LifeHacker

5 thoughts on “Conscious Consumerism: Return Policies

  1. ashley

    I absolutely pay attention to return policies. I’m not going to invest money unless a brand stands behind its prodcuts. It’s one of the reasons Sephora is one of my favorite retailers.

  2. Heidi J

    It’s hard for me to seriously know if I like a piece of clothing until I wear it for more than a minute in a dressing room. Lately, what’s been working me is to order clothes online (because it way easier than shopping with small children), try them on to weed out the definite “no”s and then wear each item that I think I like for at least part of a day until I’m sure that I like how it wears, then return all the items that don’t work for me. So, yeah, a good return policy is very important. It’s one of main reasons I like shopping from Twice – good quality, used clothes and an awesome free returns policy. It’s my new favorite place to shop – . Any place with free returns gets my business long before someone with a bad return policy.

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