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.
Cait @ Hernando House says
My husband Robert and my dad could totally join Sherry on this one, but I’m a little less prone to doing so.
Laura (Blogging Over Thyme) says
Definitely am a return-happy girl, but I do HATE doing it because, in my case, it usually ends up being a trip literally just to return the thing. I know BB&B does returns, but if you don’t have a receipt, I’m pretty sure it’s just store credit. Anyone else experience anything different?
I’ve also heard that at BB&B if you get those 20% coupons in the mail and don’t have it on hand the day of purchase, you can go on back and redeem the coupon after the fact. Pretty cool, huh?
I will fight Sherry for that “queen of returns” crown! Most of my purchases are premised on which store has the best return policy…just in case. This also impacts my online purchasing, I prefer to purchase from places that have brick and mortar stores as a return option (Wal Mart, Target, certain clothing stores, etc.) My mother teases me all the time about how many things I return.
I’m SO with you, John. I’ve gotten better with age, but I used to hate-hate-hate returns. I feel like it’s my mistake for buying it, so I should suck it up and deal. I have gotten better; a couple of weeks ago I bought some cables I wound up not needing. I took them back to Target and got my $15 back in like 2 minutes, with no hassle. Moral for me: returning is (usually) not that bad.
FYI to people returning to Target – All the Targets (around here at least) will look up ANY credit card for returns. All you do is give them your card and they can swipe it to look up your purchase. I do it all the time!
I’m with Sherry. We work hard for our money so we shouldn’t squander it on stuff you don’t want or need.
I’m also the queen of online shopping returns. With two kids who don’t really care if the black pumps look better than the black flats, I tend to buy several items online (in different sizes and colors if needed), try them on at home and then return the ones I don’t like. I do that with Zappos all the time, Nordstrom, Gap, BR, etc.
Then there’s no pressure, free returns on many sites or you can return it to the store. I love it!!
Oh, my husband HATES to return things and like you did not believe that its usually a pretty easy process these days, especially since they can look up the transaction if you paid via credit card. He also thinks they will carefully inspect the item when all they do is make sure its something sold from their store. We returned some cabinets to IKEA and he took such care to place the item back into the box exactly as it was packed and was shocked to see how other customers were trying to return their items.
heather s. says
I’m also a big returner of pretty much anything. I did a pillow search – one year for outdoor pillows and one year for bedroom pillows – and made around 20 returns for each since it took a while to find the perfect pillow.
I actually just bought a gorgeous rug that I thought would work in my house but I think I’m going to return it, sadly.
Hey – you were in Peoria, IL last year! I used to live there but slowly went mad from being bored. ;)
My husband calls me the exact same thing The Queen of Returns, because everything I buy I realize I didn’t need it in the end and back to the store it went. I even do the same for my two year old clothes, I buy stuff I like and rather try it on at home, because its a war zone between me and my daughter in the dressing room. So at home I can be more relaxed and try the outfits and return what I didn’t end up liking and what I did like but just don’t think I want to keep we would wear with the tag hidden and return later on lol. Yeah he thinks I nuts, and has told people I have an addiction to returning things, but either it sits there and never get used or get my money back.
Babies R Us in our area will happily give you store credit without a receipt.
Target, on the other hand, will only give you store credit for the lowest amount that the item has ever sold for, and will require a drivers license because they only give you a total of $70 in store credit w/o receipts per year. So if you pay with your debit or cash or return gifts, Target is not very friendly about it.
These return policies factored largely into deciding not to register at Target for my baby shower.
I don’t mind returning things as long as I don’t stand in line too long (lines are not very efficient when people don’t have receipts and tags). Sorry, that’s the engineer in me.
I have also been on the other side of the returns and I don’t mind taking back purchases as long as they haven’t been worn multiple times (a lady returned a pair of clearly worn shoes) and you have the receipt. Another lady was returning a pair of socks that she got as a gift and wanted a different pair, same brand. We could only give the lowest price on them because she has no receipt. Needless to say she had a few (well, many) choice words to the associate behind the counter (me) who could do nothing about what the store’s computer system spits out.
I actually work at Bed Bath and Beyond and we will accept anything returned! Which makes me hate returns. Last week I got a 3 year old rusted out shower organizer, a piece of framed art so full of smoke we had to throw it away immediately after the return (it was turning yellow and my hands smelt like cigarettes for a day even after washing, and purelling like crazy! ) Anyways we do let you come back in with coupons and your receipt anytime after you forget coupons! Also, we now have the credit card look up for returned items, so we don’t always have to issue store credit! As long as you are returning items that you didn’t damage, I think returns are an excellent thing, but if you broke it in half yourself, please keep it at home! :)
Guilty as charged! I loathe returns! If I purchase something that doesn’t quite work, I will immediately repackage it, and put it in a bag along with the receipt in the backseat of my car. I’m usually pretty proud of myself for being so on top of the process at this point. Then 30 days comes and goes and the nicely packaged bag is still in my backseat.
My husband gets on my case about this all of the time!
When we last moved, we found a couple of items to be returned in my trunk that were a good year past their date. Oops!
I’m also a fan of online shopping.. Don’t even ask how long it takes me to find the motivation to stop at the Post Office or UPS drop off.
While I love Target, it scares me to know that they are always tracking my purchases and returns. I use my bank card for most transactions and it amazes me that I can go in to buy a birthday card and when I check out, I get a coupon for diapers (based on previous transactions, they know I have a young child).
I return everything, just had to return a whole mess of shorts for the hubs that I bought since he insists that his waist is smaller than it really is. Finally taught him, and made him go try them on in the store when we both went back to get ones that actually fit. What is it with guys and their aversion to fitting rooms??? But yes, I will buy multiples to try at home and then return what I don’t want, like I just bought 3 of the same jacket in different colors at LL Bean and will return the least favorite. I love being able to shop like that, virtually worry free that I am losing out of money
Cindy @ The Flipping Couple says
I’m a returner too, but the hubs really isn’t. I’ve found something buried in a corner on more than one occasion that I thought he’d returned to the store!
Also – Target will look up purchaes on any credit card as well. I’ve used that on more than one occasion instead of digging around for the lost receipt.
Too funny… My husband and I are the opposite! I am the one who puts my head down when returning something and Kevin will return anything and everything… no problem!
Lindsay @ A Design Story
I shop with the thought in mind if it doesn’t work, fit or match I’ll return it. Except I HATE returns I am always afraid to return stuff, like for somereason the cashiers will start yelling at me or something. So I make my husband return nearly everything. He is a good sport about it.
I’m always hesitant to return things that have been opened because I heard that retailers often/usually/sometimes (??) just throw them away instead of repacking them. For instance, we received a baby walker as a gift, and the giver took it upon themselves to take the walker out of the box and remove some of the little attachable toys from their individually sealed plastic bags and attach them to the walker. We didn’t want the walker (as we had clearly informed the giver *before* she purchased it), and I insisted on returning it to Target, but my husband was upset about the whole thing because he was sure they were going to throw that giant heap of plastic away. Not exactly very environmentally friendly….
Does anyone have any more details on how these policies work (i.e. what stores will throw away, what they will keep, etc.)?
From my days in retail, the store I worked at used to resell (or repackage & resell if necessary) things that were returned as long as they didn’t get a defective sticker (ie: if the returning party said it was fine they just didn’t need it, no sticker- if they said it didn’t work properly, it got a defective sticker). Even if it got a sticker they still shipped it back to the manufacturer for them to fix or reuse, etc (the store would never throw it away since they don’t want to have purchased something to sell and then not been able to sell it). Hope it helps!
I am all about the returns. I have a very hard time buying clothes and now that I have kids its virtually impossible. Its not unusual for me to grab some things off the rack to try on at home and then return what doesn’t fit or doesn’t look good. Can’t handle the folks that buy stuff, use it and then take it back. I’ve had a couple of bad mail order experiences lately where I’ve ended up with used, messed up stuff.
just 5 minutes ago I spent over $500 bucks on kids items at lands end….(God help me if we keep all of the items…I mean what girl needs a size 10 and a size 12 of every pant) but with 30% off all kids stuff right now and an easy return policy at the local sears- it is much easier that dragging kids out to try on, get grumpy, cause angst to all shopping excursions!
I volunteer with an animal rescue organization that regularly holds yard sales, auctions, etc. Most of the good quality, high dollar items are actually donated by a big-box store (with awesome return policies) that does not re-sell any returned items. Hopefully other companies that don’t re-sell returns do the same!
I have issues returning items, also inherited from my mother. She was born and raised in Austria, where once you buy it, it’s yours!
I have no problem returning things. My husband is usually the one who is like, “Will they take that back? The package is open/its been a few weeks/etc..” I’m the one who says, its worth a shot and for the most part, large companies will take it back. I keep all our receipts until we know for sure we’re keeping it, just to make it that much easier to take it back. Why keep something that just doesn’t work for you when you can get your cash back?? I love returns!
My husband and I love to return things that we don’t like or need. My mom and dad, on the other hand, will not return anything. Ever. It irritates me because why would you pay for something you don’t need?? They think they will “use it eventually.” But they hardly ever do. And they practically live in Home Depot so it’s not like they would have to make a special trip!
liz @ bon temps beignet says
I used to feel the exact same way. I felt guilty for putting someone trhough the trouble of having to do the return. But, then I realized, this is part of their job. They’re paid to help the dumb customer (me) who bought the wrong size/color/style product. So now I don’t feel so bad anymore.
***On the other hand I absoloutely HATE retuning anything to IKEA. What a pain. Anyone who has tried to do an IKEA return knows exactly why***
Beth - BTW says
“Return” is my middle name! It is a rare shopping day that I don’t buy something – or five of something – with every intention of returning the one(s) I don’t like. Once you have children to wrangle, it is nearly impossible to make a thoughtful decision IN the store, much less attempting to try on clothes.
I have it down to a precise method of returns, too. I do a big “Return Day” every once in a while. I find my receipts and bag all my items by receipt for the various stores that will be paying me back that day. Makes it easy on the employee and a lot quicker for me!
Jessica @ How Sweet says
My mom is the QUEEN of returning things! I am so shameful about it though.
I have no problems taking things back, but then I learned that from my mom. She is the QUEEN of Returns! I kid-you-not, one year she returned a LIVE CHRISTMAS TREE! We were last minute shopping and bought one sad tree at Lowes. On the way home we stopped by a nursery which happened to have the most perfect tree on sale! My dad guarded that tree as my mom returned the original tree to Lowes. My dad says it was in case Lowe’s didn’t take it back… I know it’s because he was embarassed! I went with mom to see the returns dept reaction :)
I used to feel bad for returning things, but my experience in retail taught me that some one else will love what you don’t, return that thing before it gathers dust!!
I have also been known to bring in a recipt with an unused coupon or sale to get the percentage off… Even for less than $5!
I am THE Queen of Returns. My mom and sister almost never return and think I’m nuts. I wonder why? It’s not illegal or against store policy to return. I think they’re nuts for all that money of theirs that is just laying around at their house instead of back in their wallet or their bank account!
I’m 28 years old, but my mom and I have a tradition that dates back to my high school days: Whenever she buys something she ends up not needing, or it’s the wrong size, etc., she’ll give it to me to take back and keep the money or store credit. It’s our little “guilt-free” way of her still slipping me a few bucks here and there, and I love it! :-)
In response to this comment: “Hey – you were in Peoria, IL last year! I used to live there but slowly went mad from being bored. ;)” I live near Bloomington, IL! And yes, it is very boring…haha.
British lady here with a fear and aversion to returning items! Help
I also return what does not work for me, I have never have any issue with that. Lowes, Home Depot, BB&B and Target have a really nice return policy.
I’m also a self declared queen of returns… and I LOVE to contact customer service when I have any complaints at all. I find that if you’re rational and explain your expectations for the product and why it let you down, they are tremendously helpful! Bed, Bath & Beyond also has great returns… especially if you say the magic words: “Wedding registry”. We took a vacuum back that broke a year later without receipts, box, etc and they were awesome about it.
I used to be just like you, John. But then I met my boyfriend who could be King of Returns and have also changed my ways. We often overbuy, especially when working on a project like plumbing where we aren’t sure exactly what parts we will need. Or, like you said, making decorating decisions such as curtains or pillows. I do feel a little bad bringing back bags of little PVC parts and sometimes I get Lowe’s and HD merchandise confused. But thankfully our regular return folks at both stores know our faces and are always happy to help. We love that we don’t need receipts and are happy to accept store credit since we know we’ll be back – probably within the week!
This habit has now carried over to my clothes shopping and I’ll often buy up a few extra things, even if I’m not sure and try them on at home where I’m more comfortable and can walk around in them and see how they really fit before deciding whether to keep or return. This has saved me from regretting not picking something up (and going back later to find it gone) and also knowing I can always return makes buyer’s remorse easy to deal with!
Anyone who is scared of returns should know that most large retailers LOVE returns for two reasons. First, they want you to be happy with your purchase. Second, returns mean foot traffic and, on average, people making returns spend more than the cost of the item they return. This is not a statistic that I made up and most large retailers have it well-documented.
To many happy returns.
My husband is with you on this – I realized a while ago I’d better just start returning things (probably after helping a Hoarder clean up her house for a move). Why? Well, my sister, who works in retail, is all over the return – just like Sherry. I tend to keep my receipts for a few weeks, then get rid of them. And I could tell you the same thing about all those return places! I think long and hard before I buy something at Babies R Us, I gotta tell ya. Their return policy ain’t so great. But Target and Costco have great return policies.
When we pick up supplies for a DIY project we almost always get 10% more than we think we’ll need, then return the extra when the project is done. We’d much rather do that than have to make a home depot run in the middle of working on something.
Sarah @ The Ugly Duckling House says
I absolutely hate making returns! I guess it’s the hassle of making time to return an item that makes me procrastinate, especially if it was an online purchase. I will come up with any excuse I can think of to avoid going to the post office.
Kay Snyder says
I definately am not afraid to return something. It has to happen, no sense taking the loss for something that doesn’t work. I love HD and Target returns,they do take away the fear for not having the recienpt.
Just an FYI – Target can look-up your returns with any credit card and will refund the full amount to that card. I’m with Sherry, I return everything that doesn’t work! I also buy all my cosmetics and beauty products at places like Ulta or Sephora because they will take products back if you use them a couple times and decide the color, texture, hold, whatever doesn’t work for you. This has cut back greatly on the number of half-used hair products filling up my vanity!
I hate returning things. I think it comes from working retail, I had a manager that really hated returns because it takes away from that day’s sales, so she got an attitude every time someone brought something back.
We had a return at Lowe’s recently that was too easy. We bought a faucet that was obviously a previous return (box was all taped up). The person working the desk never asked why we were returning it or anything, just scanned the receipt and credited our card. I made a point to say that it was missing pieces and the clerk just took the box and stuck it in one of the regular bins. I’m sure it ended up right back on the shelves. All the questions and paperwork some places need are ridiculous, but at least ask why it’s being returned!
You’re right on! When Walmart was my closest store I dreaded the return line. But now that Target is my go-to store, returns are a breeze! And Target can look up purchases on any credit card (not just Target card) without a receipt. I was just there last weekend with sheets I had purchased online and had brought the shipping confirmation(not receipt) with me and they had handy computers (same used for registry look up) to look up my account and print a return receipt. Handy!!
I tend to do most of my shopping online, so returns can really be a hassle. You first have to get a return authorization, then package it back up, and then be at the mercy of the post office hours. So, I try to be very careful about what I buy online, because I tend to let it go too long and then a return is disallowed.
It’s so funny that you should have this post now. I had this very thing come up recently because I didn’t want to go through the hassle of returning something. My daughter and granddaughter live in the Seattle area and my granddaughter is starting kindergarten on 9/01. I was helping them out by purchasing my granddaughter’s school supplies. One of the items, glue sticks, proved to be a tough nut to crack. I bought some at Target and they weren’t the correct size (who would have guessed). I later found the right ones at Staples when I was making purchases for my business. Instead of going back to Target for a $7.00 return, I told my daughter to just donate the incorrect glue sticks to the school with my blessings!
Jen @ BeantownBaker.com says
My Hubby calls me a Return-O-Holic. The story he loves to tell is about how I ordered 14 pairs of jeans online on day because there was a great sale at a store I had never bought jeans from. With free shipping, I couldn’t miss the deal, so I ordered a variety of sizes and styles and tried them on at home. 13 pairs went back to the store during my next trip to the mall.
I also love taking stuff back to get better deals if something has gone on sale or if I had a coupon that I left at home.
I have no problem returning things, thank goodness.
I recently took a Colorado Fourteener’s class where we needed a ton of items (pocket knife, environmentally friendly toilet paper, mug, bandana’s, etc.) that I would never use again. I was able to return everything, even the packaged t.p., because I didn’t use it. The lady at customer service didn’t seem to appreciate it too much though, I think I returned 15 plus small items.
I have no problem returning things when they don’t work out… unless I bought it at IKEA. I’ve returned things to IKEA and they are happy to take almost anything back with a receipt. However, the returns at my IKEA take so long it hardly seems worth it. In the time I would have waited in the IKEA return line I could have put on a suit, gone on a job interview, gotten a new job, filled out my employee paperwork, started my new job and collected a paycheck that would have paid for my return ten times over.
That hasn’t stopped me from shopping at IKEA, I just make sure I really want what I’m buying before I leave. Then I get a cinnamon bun.
I don’t mind returning things that are easily repackaged or clothing items. But when it comes to things that I can’t repackage to the way it was before I get nervous.
For instance I bought some linens for our guest bedroom this weekend. I’m still second guessing myself. I need to take them out and make the bed to see it in all its glory – or horror- before making the final decision. Hopefully after this post I can work up the guts to do it and if I need to, return it.
I still get a little embarrassed to make returns, but I’m getting better. I don’t think I’ve embraced the lifestyle change as much as John though.
My husband, on the other hand, orders things all the time, often with the complete intention of returning it. He just wants to “check it out.” He did that recently with these 5 Fingers shoes (they’re like gloves for your feet, I guess, except you can run in them…). I thought that both the shoes and the plan were a little bizarre, but to each his own I guess.
How do people feel about returning something that you used but isn’t as high quality as you expected? My husband will return anything if he thinks it’s their fault they didn’t make it better (like if pants shrink a good bit the first wash even though he follows the cleaning instructions), but I get mortified. Someone above posted about a person returning a rusted out shower caddy. In general, do people feel okay if something like that happens in the first couple of days of owning it since a SHOWER caddy clearly shouldn’t rust? The first month? Where’s the line?