We’ve all been there—wanting to return an item (or items) that we purchased on a whim, usually for an upcoming event that had us feeling especially uninspired by our closets. Perhaps you went home, tried it on, and realized it just wasn’t really right, or maybe you noticed that the fit wasn’t as great as it seemed in the cramped dressing room. Maybe you were even so confident in your choice at first that you ripped off the price tags. So what’s there to do other than hold on to the item, letting it collect dust in your closet? Well, depending on the store’s policies, you still might be able to return it if you follow the below advice to a T. We spoke to numerous retail associates with experience at stores like Madewell, Lululemon, Loft, and Barneys to find out exactly what behavior you should avoid if you want to get your money back.
“People who come in with an elaborate story locked and loaded always come off more suspicious and lead the sales person to inspect the garment more closely,” one associate told us. Remember to keep your reasoning short and sweet.
“While I was working at Lululemon, a woman came in determined to return a tennis skirt that had been ruined underneath the heat of an iron. She was adamant that it was our fault. Unfortunately, when you don’t read the care instructions, it’s your fault,” one associate recalled. Simply put, if there was a warning that you disregarded, you won’t be getting your money back.
A lot of stores have a return policy like Loft’s, in which there’s a $700 return limit within a 90-day period. That means that every time you return an item, its original amount is entered into the system so that if you exceed $700, you will be refused any further returns. To avoid this, and to avoid salespeople recognizing you as a frequent returner, try everything on before you buy it, and shop less on a whim and more with specific intention.
One associate recalled a time when someone threw a complete tantrum over not being able to return everything she wanted: “The woman was screaming and yelling at all of the employees, including our managers, about how our policy was a scam. We did everything we could to try to please her, offering to return half of her items at their current selling price, but she got so out of control, sobbing and cursing us out for at least 15 minutes, that our manager just decided to have security escort her out.” Moral of the story? Throwing a fit will make it much harder for you to succeed.
All the associates we spoke to stressed that your best bet is to keep the tags on and save the receipt, with the receipt being most important, as it’s evidence of an actual purchase. If you do end up removing the tags and/or losing the receipt, the clothes will have to be in perfect condition (no wear and tear, wrinkles, or stretched-out areas) for anyone to consider the return.
One associate told us that the hanger ribbons inside shirts and dresses are the first thing she looks for, as people tend to cut them out before they wear an item. If they’re missing, associates will assume you’ve worn the item and refuse the return.
As mentioned above, make sure that the items you’re returning show no signs of wear. In addition to avoiding the obvious stains or tears, be aware of the fact that anywhere clothing bends on the body (knees, elbows, butt, etc.) will develop noticeable creases if worn. And as one associate pointed out, collars tend to reveal makeup marks that can ruin your case.
One store employee revealed that associates hate when people make in-store returns for items they bought online because it ends up making the brick-and-mortar location suffer. She explained, “Women often order the same item in two to three different sizes or colors, and then they’ll end up returning them all. We’re obligated to take the return, but when we know that you weren’t helped by an associate, didn’t take the time to come in and figure out your sizing, or simply had buyer’s remorse, we get frustrated. Most returns happen earlier in the morning, so it can put us at a deficit for hours. Some days we’ll have more money in returns than in sales, which is not good.”
Now, shop some items you'll never want to return: