True story: my friend Karen was hankering for a particular style of over-the-knee boots. She found a patent leather pair in her size on sale at Nordstrom and purchased them. They fit well, but she held off on wearing them and ultimately decided she’d prefer the same style boot in suede, which Nordstrom didn’t have. A few days later it went on sale at the designer’s website, so she returned the first pair and ordered the suede version directly from the designer. Unfortunately when they arrived, they were far too large (even though they were the same style and size as the patent leather pair she’d returned). While Nordstrom had accepted the return of the sale merchandise, the pair ordered from the designer’s website were marked as Final Sale, No Returns.
I do a good bit of my wardrobe shopping online for a number of reasons, time and online availability of merchandise in Petite sizes being the primary two. Regrets, I’ve had a few, as the song goes. But I’ve learned to suss out which retailers make returns easy and tend to stick with them when I have options of where to purchase a particular item.
Shipping it back. Some retailers like Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Zappos.com offer free shipping and free returns (within certain time frames). Some retailers will provide a pre-paid shipping label, but deduct a specified shipping cost from your refund. It’s always good to check how much you’ll be dinged for return shipping; occasionally you might save a few dollars by shipping yourself (but be sure you use a method that provides tracking and keep tracking information).
In-store returns. Many department stores and chains will accept in-store returns of online orders. If you have the particular stores close enough, it may be the most efficient way to return. Your refund will often be processed faster too. As a courtesy to the Sales Associates, I always try to avoid bringing in returns during busiest hours if possible. Be sure to have the credit card with you used to place the order. Some will need it, some won’t.
Things to consider. I always read through a retailer’s return policies thoroughly before I order for the first time. Watch out for things like “restocking fees” which will deduct a percentage of the purchase price from your refund (I’ve seen as high as 30% even if returned within 30 days, though I think savvy retailers have mostly dropped these). Do they provide shipping labels (whether for a fee or not) or require you to be wholly responsible for shipping back? Is merchandise being shipped from another country, and will returns be complicated and/or expensive? Is all sale merchandise considered “Final Sale”? (Sometimes this will be clear only once you have begun purchase process.)
Do your part. Be sure to save the original packaging until you’ve made the final decision to keep the items; sometimes there are barcode stickers on the packaging which will help retailers process the return faster. Keep all tags on; some retailers will not accept if tags have been removed. Be sure to include any forms and return authorization codes as per the retailer’s return policy. Be sure the package is sealed properly if shipping back. I’ve never known anyone personally whom this has happened to, but have read that some retailers may put “serial returners” on a list and either prevent them from ordering or returning purchases. I return probably 3/4 of what I order (often I’ll order multiple sizes, especially with footwear), so I think it would probably have to be pretty egregious, but it doesn’t hurt to be mindful.
If you’re removed tags and worn an item, (or it was on Final Sale) but you discover it’s defective or not as described, call the customer service line before attempting to return. Usually a calm, courteous tone and clear explanation of the problem will yield best results. The good news for Karen? She did just that with her “Final Sale” boots and the company agreed to take them back, based on the inconsistent sizing. She’s still without the boots, but at least isn’t out the $$ and stuck with a pair that’s too big.
Do you have any tips or recommendations for handling returns?
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