It happens rather often. A model posts in the forums looking for suggestions regarding where to buy wardrobe for shoots, where to shop, how to find great deals, etc. And every single time, a few posts in, it happens. The Bad Advice Fairy pops in. And inevitably, in this case, she waves her sparkly wand and sing-songs, “Just return the clothes after you wear them. Keep the tags on. It’s easy! I do it all the time!”
Sure, in theory, buying something, wearing it for a shoot (tucking the tags in), and returning it is a great way to get a varied wardrobe without spending a lot of money. Tons of people do it for special occasions, to try out new items like digital cameras, and for all sorts of things. And besides, who’s going to know, right? Wrong. There’s a huge problem with it. It’s not only dishonest, but in the retail world, it’s considered theft.
How’s it theft if you’re returning the items?
First, there’s the possibility that the salesperson that sold you the item might lose their commission on the sale. Either that, or the retailer is stuck paying the salesperson a commission on an item they’ll either ultimately take a loss on, or sell twice (thus paying out two commissions on one item).
Sometimes, especially right now, a returned item was purchased at full price, but when returned, has been marked down. So while the item might be in condition to be resold, the retailer has to mark it down, and takes a loss if it gets sold at the marked down price. Provided, at that point, that it can even be sold at that point. The item’s season may have passed, meaning the retailer takes a loss on it and ships the item to a discount retailer (like TJ Maxx or Marshalls).
You might not realize it, but the items returned might be damaged by store standards. Makeup on the collar, strong smells (like body odor or perfume) indicating an item was worn, and small tears caused by not being careful when putting on or removing a garment are all things many retailers consider damage. And often times, items with damage are either marked down a percentage, or counted as a total loss and trashed or sent to discount retailers.
Big deal… who cares anyway?
Big Chain Store loses a few bucks because Cheap Model didn’t want to actually buy wardrobe, and returned some stuff after wearing it for an hour at a shoot. They make enough money anyway, and can handle the measly loss. Right?
No! It is a big deal! Especially when you consider that it’s not just one person doing it, but many many people. I’d even wager to say that more people are doing it now with the way the economy is right now.
Those retailers that take hits on returned items ultimately raise their prices, passing the cost of the loss onto consumers. Some of them even change their return policies, making it more of a hassle for those with legitimate returns. Bottom line is, when retailers start feeling the effects of serial returners, they do what they can to not have to suffer, and that ends up meaning that the honest consumers are the ones who pay for it. Literally.
Shop Around… But Keep It!
So, next time you’ve got a shoot coming up, don’t consider buying something with the intent of returning it. First, what if you damage the item? Then you’re stuck with it, and you might have “borrowed” an item you couldn’t really afford. Then what?
Instead, shop the sale racks, the discount stores, and the thrift shops, or even borrow from your friends. There’s also eBay, Craigslist, Etsy, and even the marketplace of modeling forums you can check out too. And shortly, I’ll be pulling a huge list of online retailers from a resource I have, and posting them to a new page here.
Don’t believe me about returning being considered theft? Here are some articles for you to read.
- Retail Return Fraud Wearing Thin
- Retail Fraud in Criminal Law
- Return Fraud Earns Retailers’ Wrath
- The Biggest Crime You’ve Never Heard of — Return Fraud — and How the Criminals Do It
- Retailers Cracking Down on Return Fraud
- ‘Returnaholics’ Cost Retailers Billions of Dollars a Year (Added 6/2/2010)
- Theft & Fraud: The Bane of Retail (Added 1/6/2011)