We Take It Back

Among other things, one quirk I inherited from my mom was my aversion to return lines. Sure, there’s really nothing to fear about going to customer service and returning a purchase that just didn’t work out, but somehow it made me uncomfortable. In most cases I’d rather just suck it up, consider it my bad for buying it, and call it a loss. Maybe I just felt wrong making the retailers deal with my poorly repackaged item or just preferred to avoid any debate over whether it met their policy.

But then I met Sherry, the self-proclaimed Queen Of Returns, and my relationship with those once dreaded lines completely changed.

Sherry has the exact opposite philosophy. If she buys something that isn’t quite right – because it doesn’t fit, doesn’t match, or doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to – she brings it back without blinking an eye. Maybe it comes from years of working retail on 34th Street in Manhattan and dutifully handing money/store credits to thousands of customers who nonchalantly returned items (even if they had no tags or receipt). Whatever its origin, Sherry’s no-fear approach to bringing things back means that our house is less cluttered with “oops purchases” and it also keeps us from settling on things that aren’t exactly what we want. It also means I’ve gotten a lot better at returning items over the last four years (like the flashcards we got from Barnes & Noble for the office clothesline- we later found cuter ones at Anthropologie so the lesser liked pack went back).

Needless to say that in the last half-decade or so I’ve gotten over my own hesitations about it. In fact, returning items has become an important part of our DIY process. After all, some things just need to be seen or tried in your space to know if they really will work. So whether it’s bringing home an armload of curtain options (like we did for our bedroom a few years ago) or bringing back a surge protector that isn’t Mac-friendly (like we did a few weeks ago) – having a “no fear” approach to returning unwanted items actually saves us a lot of time (instead of hours spent debating and guessing in the store as if whatever we buy must remain in our home forever). And on top of cutting down on unnecessary clutter, returning things that just don’t make the grade saves us money too. Yes we do spend time returning stuff, but we frequent stores like Target and Home Depot so often that we rarely have to make trips just to return things (and we figure that small amount of time spent keeping our house from filling with unnecessary, extraneous things is well worth it).

The goods news is that a lot of our favorite stores make returns easy. While we haven’t memorized every return policy out there quite yet, we can breeze through a Target or Home Depot line in no time because neither need receipts (Target can look things up on most credit cards- and Home Depot can do the same). This is also good news because it means we don’t need to hang on to those receipts, minimizing wallet clutter and all that pesky BPA that everyone from the Washington Post to MSNBC is chatting about (here’s where we first mentioned it back in April).

We can also tell you in our sleep that places like Michael’s do need receipts if you want money back (otherwise it’s a store credit for you) while places like Wal-Mart often have long lines. And Babies R’ Us won’t even look at you if you don’t have a receipt. But at least almost all places will take back items without much need for an explanation, even if they’ve been opened (assuming they’re not things like DVDs or medicine). And if any of them ask why we’re bringing something back, a “we didn’t end up needing it” usually suffices. So much for those elaborate and persuasive tales I once believed I needed to tell. Although Sherry’s a happy-to-chat-with-anyone-girl, so she often elaborates and explains things like “we bought a bunch of pillows to see which ones looked the best in the den, so now we’re returning the ones that missed the mark.” This usually brings on some banter with the cashier about how hard it is to make decorating decisions and sometimes ends in the person at the register declaring that they’re going to do the same thing so they’re sure to find the perfect pillows/lamps/fill in the blank.

So while I still feel a little bad when I see a team of red-shirted Targetians wrangling cart-fulls of returns, I now embrace the return line as an important step in our money-saving, clutter-minimizing design process.

What about you guys? Could you join Sherry on the Queen Of Returns throne? Or would you and my mom have a lot to talk about when it comes to avoiding returns at all cost? Perhaps you work in retail and that makes you hate making returns even more, or reminds you that it’s your hard-earned right? We’d love to hear any and all return-related musings. Spill it.

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