Is 'wardrobing' thrifty or is it theft?
More and more people are buying, using and then returning clothes. It may not be strictly illegal, but is it right?
Need a hot dress for a night on the town or a sharp suit for a job interview? No problem! Just buy whatever you want, wear it and return it for a full refund.
Or so say those who use a shady tactic called "wardrobing" -- buying something (usually clothing or electronics) that you have no intention of keeping.
"Wardrobing" makes it sound cool and edgy. If you called it "theft," would people still want to do it?
I'm not the only one who finds this questionable. In a Money Crashers post called "Wardrobing on the rise in tough economic times," blogger David Q says it's no different than stealing.
"If money's tight, wardrobing is not the way to use products you need or simply want but can't afford. It's unethical, fraudulent, and makes the rest of us pay for your indulgence," he writes.
An obviously used item cannot be sold as new, according to Joe LaRocca of the National Retail Federation. So if that cocktail dress comes back with makeup on the collar, retailers "are forced to take a loss on the item completely or discount it substantially to move it out the door," he wrote in a post on NRF's blog. Post continues after video.
Honest shoppers inconvenienced
Nearly 62% of the companies surveyed in the NRF's 2010 Return Fraud Survey reported problems with wardrobing. That's up from 46.2% the previous year.
Almost two-thirds of the retailers have changed their return policies, e.g., requiring a receipt and/or photo identification before returns can be made.
"Combating this very costly problem helps retailers keep prices low but can unfortunately involve establishing policies that inconvenience honest shoppers," LaRocca says.
Some buyers see nothing wrong with the practice of temporary ownership. In fact, some of them call it "renting," according to a post at The Consumerist. One man bought a portable DVD player to occupy himself on a long flight, then returned it. On another occasion he bought an LCD projector for a business presentation, then got his money back.
"(It) made me look good when I saved my company $600 in rental fees for the projector," the man said.
Classy. Very classy.
The price of self-respect
In his Money Crashers post, David Q suggests some alternatives to wardrobing:
- Check daily deal sites that specialize in high-end duds, such as I-ELLA or Gilt.com.
- Hit the thrift shops near fancy neighborhoods.
- Watch for designer stuff at stores like T.J. Maxx or Ross.
- Borrow special-occasion clothing from a friend.
- Look for clothing swap websites, or stage a clothing swap party with friends and family.
But you knew you were trying to put one over on the stores -- and the rest of us get to pay for your bad behavior.
David Q says that "you can't really place a price on self-respect, which is something that will surely suffer if you engage in wardrobing." It's likely that the folks who do this don't really care what other people think.
Myself, I believe in karma. Sooner or later your misdeeds are going to come back and bite you on your Gucci-clad butt.
Here's a scenario: You finally get enough money to buy something for keeps. You try it on and it looks great. It's only after you get it home that realize it has sweat stains or a tiny cigarette burn. How good do you think you'd feel wearing someone else's sneaky behavior?
P.S. Don't forget your photo ID when you return the item.
More on MSN Money:
And those who call it a form of "renting" are trying to justify their underhanded behavior. The guy who took back a projector after using it, then saying, "(It) made me look good when I saved my company $600 in rental fees," is yet another example of how people manage to hide their true character underneath their respectable-appearing business attire.
Great comments. It makes me feel better just knowing that there are still decent people out there that have good morals.
I work in an office, so I must maintain a professional look while at work. I buy all my clothing from the clearance racks or when everything is on sale. I spend, on the average, no more than $5-$10 per item. I won't pay more than $20 for a pair of dress shoes either. I am able to piece my outfits together; while maintaining a clean, professional look that my clientele can appreciate. The last thing that you want to do is to out-dress your clientele. That's a bad no-no.
I can go months without wearing the same outfit. I purchase things that can be worn year after year and I stay away from trendy things. I have a pretty extensive wardrobe and I've purchased ths with the same amount of money that would purchase 2 outfits at Talbots or Anne Klein. Imagine that.
Bottom line is this... if you truly can't afford to buy that outfit, then you have no business owning it. Period.
I've done corporate video production for years, many fortune 500 companies. They have all bought items needed for videos and then returned them after the shoot.
These people were all upper management types, thought nothing of it.
I, myself always make sure there is money in the budget for props when I'm the one responsible. Then I sell them at a loss on eBay and return the money to the budget.
It's more work, but much more honest. It's called ethics, anybody remeber that?
"(It) made me look good when I saved my company $600 in rental fees for the projector," the man said.
It made you look good? What kind of "professional" would stoop to this, and what kind of company would admire his trickery? If this clever employee would do this, you can bet he would find ways to cheat on expense reports or steal from the company. This example is theft, as is wardrobing.
If stores would change their policies then it would save them and consumers money because they would not lose money sending used items to salvage. Personally if I could not afford an item I would not buy it and if I am buying from a thrift store then I wash it. Its safer that way.
"Wardrobing" is stealing. Plain and simple. What people who do this do not realize is that doing so takes profits away from the stores they are doing this to, which in turn, cuts down on the pool of money available for raises, benefits, and even payroll itself for the staff who must grin and bear it when these dishonest folks do their business. The customer is always right, indeed.. Can you tell this is a sore spot with me?? Too many years in retail, I guess..
As far as the projector dude is concerned, my only question is, if he works for a company that would condone this behaviour, what kind of other unethical activities are they engaging in (assuming, of course, that he told them how he procured said projector)... Makes you wonder....
If you think about it, it's pretty arrogant of these thieves to think that their enjoyment of a brand new item (which they refuse to bear the cost of) is more important than the actual purchaser's enjoyment of the item (honestly bought for NEW price and PAID FOR).
Arrogant, and dishonest both financially and intellectually. People who are doing this -- you are scummy thieves. Get back to the gutters where you belong, and stop raining on the honest folks' parades by giving their 'new' clothes your stink and germs. Noone wants your cooties.
It's not just clothes. I knew a fellow who would go to a home improvement store prior to starting a contruction project, buy new tools and return them after completeing the job. I couldn't believe how many times he got away with this.
A few years ago we had a severe hurricane in our area. People rushed to the big box home improvement stores to buy chain saws and generators. Three weeks or so later those thieves returned the items and demanded full refunds on the items that clearly had been heavily used. I personally saw some of the items; the chainsaws still had leaves stuck in the guards and the generators smelled of gasoline. Some customers were refused refunds..... and all Hell broke loose so the refunds were issued. I don't know if it is the cost of these thefts which is passed on to honest customers or if it is the righteous indignation of the thieves who were initially refused refunds that irritate me the most.
However, if one learns that a friend/co-worker/boss/sweetheart practices this form of theft it is a quick and easy way to find out what kind of person they are and distance oneself from them a.s.a.p.!
Copyright © 2013 Microsoft. All rights reserved.
ABOUT SMART SPENDING
Editor Bev O'Shea lives and works in the foothills of the Appalachians. A former copy editor for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Orlando Sentinel, she joined MSN Money in 2007. She's a fan of sunsets, college football and free shipping, among other things.
Having worked as a writer, reporter and editor for more than 25 years, Editor Julie Tilsner is the sort of person who can't help but correct grammar in Facebook postings and on billboards. She's written for BusinessWeek, the Los Angeles Times, Parenting, Redbook, AOL and others. She lives in Los Angeles County with her family and loves to drink wine and practice yoga, although not generally at the same time.
A writer for MSN Money since January 2007, Donna Freedman won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. She also writes about smart money tactics for magazines and on her own site, Surviving and Thriving.
Mitch Lipka has been warning people about scams and shining light on questionable business practices for more than 20 years. Mitch, the consumer columnist for The Boston Globe, has also been a reporter and editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer, Consumer Reports, South Florida Sun-Sentinel and AOL. He won the 2010 New York Press Club award for best consumer reporting online and was honored in 2011 for his reporting on child product safety.
Marilyn Lewis is an award-winning writer with a passion for getting readers clear, straight information that helps them stay out of financial trouble. A former reporter for The San Jose Mercury News, she works from her home in Port Townsend, Wash. Contact her at MarilynLewis@Outlook.com.
LATEST BLOG POSTS
Those shackled with student loan debt are increasingly being targeted by scams and shady companies promising relief.