I have a secret that nearly 10 years later still makes me feel guilty.
Invited to a disco (the joys of high school, guys) I decided I most definitely needed a new polka dot rara skirt. The only problem was that it cost most of my monthly allowance that I couldn’t quite justify. So on the suggestion of a friend, I bought it, wore it once with the tag hidden and then returned it red-faced and shaking the following weekend.
However listening to a recent episode of podcast This American Life made to feel a little better.
In the episode Get Your Money’s Worth, the team explore the returns policy of US retailer L.L Bean, which they describe “as like Target but for outdoorsy people”. Since it was founded in the early 20th century, the store has prided itself on its returns policy which it calls a “guarantee”.
Watch: People confess the item they spent way too much money on. Post continues after video.
It states that if you are not 100 per cent ‘satisfied’ with your item in every way, you can return it – at any time, in any state. There’s no time limit, no expiry date – the guarantee stands forever. This used to mean getting all your cash back, but it has only very recently been changed to store credit.
It’s not hard to see why. Reporter Sara Corbett spoke to current and previous staff who worked the returns desk as well as spending time their herself to observe what kind of things people were returning.
“You just bring it back and we’ll give you – honestly – give you as much money for it as humanly possible. That was told to me by the guy who trained me,” former employee Jonathon Woodward said.
He recalled an occasion where he had to keep a straight face as someone tried to return a half-eaten cookie. Yes, really.
During her days hovering by the returns desk, Corbett sees used double bedding (the owner had since upgraded to a queen mattress) and threadbare shirts purchased 40 years ago being successfully returned.
Other staff tell her about camping equipment being purchased, used and then returned after a nearby festival, used slippers that "smell like four years of somebody's toes" and dog collars from dogs that had died and were no longer required. All were returned on the grounds of not being satisfied and given their money back.
So what kind of people would do such a thing? Well, everybody as it turns out. Here people share their shadiest return stories - and yes, retail staff can see right through you.
1. Shotgun wedding.
"I was saving to travel but my friend was getting married so obvs I NEEDED a new dress. I bought a dress from a department store and wore it with the tag tucked in. The wedding was held on a beach, so the bottom of the dress was damp and sandy and I ended up spilling white wine (thank god it was white) all over it. (Post continues after gallery.)
"Returned it to the shop the next week and got a FULL refund.. when they asked why I just said I decided not to wear it to a wedding anymore.. Got my full $180 back!"
2. Allergic reaction.
"I bought some very expensive makeup when I was in uni and then realised I didn't have enough money to pay rent so returned it and said I had had an allergic reaction. I have felt bad ever since."
3. One night stand.
"I have done this so many times. I bought one dress that cost me $330, wore it to a ball thing, got fake tan on it, tried to scrub it off...didn't work...so RETURNED IT and said it was because THERE WAS A WEIRD STAIN ON IT. I'm going to hell.
Listen: Monz confesses her secret shopping habit. Post continues after audio.
4. Give them the boot.
"I sucked up my stingy instincts and invested in a $200 pair of boots because I'm trying to buy less things but make better quality purchases. Anyway, within two or three months the heel had completely collapsed and couldn't be fixed. I successfully campaigned the lady in the shop to replace them.
"She was so against it at first but I won her over. Her reasoning was 'Well, they're not really meant to last more than a season.' What the hell?"
"I once wore a pair of sneakers for a whole day and then decided they made my feet look fat and returned them and pretended I'd only worn them around my house."
6. Fancy pants.
"Once I bought a dress 'cause I had no clothes when I started at a new job and needed to go to the fancy head office and wore it for a day and then returned it when I got home because I decided it was not a good colour on me. And I was poor."
And now the retailers confess...
7. Not so graceful.
"I worked at a department store and someone tried to return a pair of ballet flats that were black on the inside from wear and had a hole starting in the top because they were 'faulty'.
"They were so old that we hadn't stocked the brand for two years and she wanted to know why we carried such a crap brand....."
8. Old hand.
"This happens so many times. People would wear it to death then purposely tear a hole in it and say 'oh it's faulty, you have to give me my money back'. I've had people try to return things from several years ago."
9. Caught out.
"A girl brought in a pair of pants she had very clearly worn and wanted to return them. She was adamant that they hadn't been worn", wrote one Redditor.
"She started to make a scene, that's when my coworker showed her that we could tell not only had she worn them, but she'd gone commando when she did..."
They always now. Image: iStock
10. Delayed return.
"I worked for a retail chain that went out of business in early 2002. When we were closing, someone tried to return something to me that was from 1985. I was in preschool in 1985!"
11. Nice try.
"I worked in a designer swimsuit store and we have a 30 day return policy that the tags and the liner on the inside of the bottom must still be attached. So this lady comes in with a suit that is over the 30 day mark, and she claims she has never worn the suit but took the tags off when she packed it for her vacation, but there was a loose thread that she didn't want to cut off.
"I could smell the chlorine as soon as she took it out of the bag. And the thread that was hanging off was just something that is not going to affect the garment. I have a degree in apparel design and tried to explain this to her, but she wasn't having it. So she comes back a couple weeks later and convinced my Manager to let her swap it out."
Image: Broad City.
Do you have a confession to add?