Return it!

I am the queen of the return. It is a great way to un-do bad decisions and save money that would otherwise be wasted. I return on such a regular basis, I have a return shelf in the pantry. As soon as something makes it’s way into the house that shouldn’t, to the return shelf it goes, along with the receipt, so it can be go back from whence it came.

There’s nothing sketchy about it and there is no shame in returning. I shop at stores with excellent return policies and good customer service. For these companies, returns are easily done and never a problem. I shop mindfully and carefully and I expect reasonable quality from the goods I purchase. When this does not happen, the stores are usually more than happy to remedy the situation.

After the jump, everything you need to know about returning, but were afraid to ask. Plus, the greatest return story ever told!

These are the reasons I return items:

1. To keep a bunch of crap we don’t like or need from piling up in the house. I am very particular about what brands I use and which varieties I like. All too often, we accidentally brings home Fat Free or No Salt and those products go back the very next time I return to that store. I can’t stand that build-up of cans and weird mixes  in the back of the pantry. You know that stash of stuff that never gets used but can’t be thrown away. Eventually you pass it off on a canned food drive, but really, does a hungry family want salt-free canned tomatoes either? Probably not.

This is doubly true for kid stuff. There is so  much that comes through here, if it is the wrong size or a strange choice, it gets exchanged or returned. I figure it is so better to have stuff  that gets used than to keep something you don’t really like and probably won’t ever use. I use to keep so many gifts so I wouldn’t hurt people’s feelings, but I ended up with tons of stuff all over my house that wasn’t my taste and it left me feeling crowded and wasteful.

Not sure this toy would make the cut.

2. To un-do bad decisions or decisions made on impulse. Stores are designed to get us to spend more than we realize and purchase things we weren’t planning to buy. This happens to me a lot at Marshall’s, Old Navy and the Rack. I will get on a tear and find some great clothes at great prices. I’m a sucker for my favorite brands and those stores carry the stuff I love most at great prices.

But all those great deals add up and I have literally had my jaw drop at the total at the Rack. More than once, in fact. And we all have had that Old Navy moment where somehow you have spent over $100 on a bag full of $12.99  deals. In those situations, I take it all home, sleep on it for a few days, and then figure out how much of it can go back. It feels good to correct a mistake in a responsible way. I keep the stuff worth keeping and return everything that is meh or just not as cute as previously thought.

3. I expect reasonable value for my money. When I buy quality goods, I expect them to hold up reasonably well. When clothes have holes after a wash or two, I take them back because that is unreasonable, in my opinion. Quality has really gone downhill in the last decade.  These days, consumers expect stuff to break quickly, they almost want it so they can purchase the item again.

It’s this disposible mindset that we have slipped into that bothers me most. I find it expensive and wasteful. That’s why I have stopped shopping at Old Navy. The clothes are such terrible quality, I can’t bear to use an item of clothing for a few months and then have to put it in a landfill like a used  kleenex or paper towell. Thus, I’ll  spend a little more for quality, so things can be used longer and hold up under reasonable use. And if they don’t, they are returned. So, without further ado:

A reasonable return policy

A return policy should give at least 30 days and have money back returns for unopened goods with receipt. I don’t like exchange-only policies,  I prefer my money back. These are stores I frequent because of their excellent return policies: The Rack, Macy’s, Target, Home Depot, Marshall’s, J Crew. Old Navy / Gap / Banana Republic have excellent return policies, but I find the quality so poor, I can’t shop there anymore at all.

Tips for returning

  • Always leave the tags on the item until you actually go to wear the item.  This will help you know what hasn’t been worn and will make it much more valuable when you decide what to do with it later. For example, Mr. Applebum needed a pair of tennis shoes for a trip, so we went to the Rack a day before the trip and found the best pair we could, although they weren’t really his style at all. He took the shoes on the trip, but since they weren’t his style, they never left his suitcase. We brought them home and they remained in the closet untouched. After a month and a half, I took those badboys back. Because the tags were still on and I had the receipt, we got a full refund. Months later he got some good exercise shoes that he wears all the time and they were a better price. Stores with 90 day return policy are bomb, yo.
  • Always good to have a receipt, but many stores can look up the transactions with you rewards card, credit card, etc. I took a bra back to Nordstrom’s when an underwire fell out after 6 months. They found the transaction through my credit card and I got a replacement bra.
  • Always go into it knowing how you would like to resolve the situation. That way, if they offer you a solution you don’t want, you can offer a remedy that does work for you. Also, resist the urge to demand or feel the need to over-explain. I state my case as succinctly as possible (always respect their time) and then listen. It seems counter intuitive, but the longer you stay silent, the more they will keep offering. I discovered this quite by accident, but it really works. Now that I say less, I tend to get better solutions.
  • Don’t go when it’s busy. The best times to go are at the beginning or end of the day. The lines are shorter or non-existent and store clerks are much less busy and more likely to work with you.

A small sampling of things I’ve returned

  1. heirloom tomatos that were inedible
  2. fat-free hot dogs
  3. hair conditioner
  4. leather jacket
  5. pretty much anything Home Depot sells
  6. video camera
  7. double stroller
  8. khaki’s that were stained
  9. moldy grated cheese
  10. bronzer with sparkles
  11. dress shoes for Mr. Applebum that were TOO pointy
  12. socks
  13. gap maternity jeans that unraveled

Related posts by Bonita Applebum

Is it time to lighten your load?

I’m the middle class who is being squeezed out. And I am pissed.

Less is the new more


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jen
    Jan 25, 2010 @ 21:35:12

    I love returning, and I am shameless. One of the reasons I love shopping at Whole Foods and Trader Joes is they have a no questions asked return policy. Bought something you don’t like? Return it! Think those chips are gross? Return it!


  2. runningwithavagina
    Jan 25, 2010 @ 21:53:08

    This is awesome. I bought a Columbia jacket about a month ago and I noticed the zipper splits apart at the bottom yesterday. Erughghghgg. No paper receipt either, so I’m going to have to go appeal to SportChek and see what they say! I would definitely take a store credit over an exchange, so then I can get a Frozen Tundra Approved longer parka. Thanks for this! I’m looking forward to the next entries!


  3. runningwithavagina
    Jan 25, 2010 @ 21:58:18

    Slight update – Columbia’s products are covered under a 2 year warranty (including zippers! Yay!)! You have inspired me to go in tomorrow to see what they can do!


  4. poetactics
    Jan 25, 2010 @ 23:01:41

    I am all about returning things, or talking to manufacturers. My new puppy goes through toys so fast, it has turned into a giant moneypit. It’s ridiculous when a supposedly long-lasting toy for his age & size gets shredded in under half an hour. So I emailed Nylabone and they let me email a picture (didn’t even need a receipt) so they could send a replacement toy that they thought would be better suited for my dog. I didn’t even need to ship back the old product.


  5. gugelhupf
    Jan 26, 2010 @ 03:03:39

    Interesting post! I have a similar system wherein I put stuff I want to get onto a list (or saved in bookmarks in Firefox) and then sit on it. If I still need it a few days later when it’s time to go shopping, then I go get it. Also, I find that by going through a wishlist and adding up the total amount it’s usually pretty easy to weed out the excess/not-as-cute stuff.

    However, I think that Gap has pretty good quality. I like their “real straight”-cut jeans, the black exercise pants, canvas bags, and scarves. They’re very hard-wearing. However, your assessment of Old Navy was dead-on! Terrible quality, terrible fit = not worth buying at all! Except the 2 for $5 flipflops, boy I love them 🙂

    PS I found your blog through a mention on Jezebel!


  6. Jessy
    Jan 26, 2010 @ 14:35:31

    Loved the return story. I have one similar to it! Also, love the chair you’re sitting in, it looks so comfy!


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