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return to sender

My best friend Lindsay here is due to give birth any day now, and she is otherwise totally awesome.  As evidenced by this photo, we are so similar that we often show up at places wearing the exact same outfit, as we did today, at the OB/GYN (for unrelated appointments).  In fact, I’d venture to say that we are similar in most material ways but one.  It’s a difference that drives both of us insane.  And that difference is this: I am capable of  returning things, and she, poor thing, is not.

Once, I ordered $800 worth of suit separates from J. Crew, in different sizes, because the stores do not carry their full line of suits, and I wasn’t sure which pieces would work.  I do this often–I call it “saving time,” or alternatively, “giving my husband a coronary.”  Unfortunately, nothing in that particular batch worked, and I had to take $800 worth of clothing back to the store so they could process my mail order return.  I only recall this story to recount how red Linds’ face got when she threw a tantrum outside the store, and her cowardly refusal to enter the store with me.

As inexplicable as it is to her that I can return with impunity, it is more inexplicable to me that she has clothes in her closet from 2007 with the tags still on them.  Better to burn the money, I tell her.  She never listens.

Maybe you will, though.  Because returning stuff is not a crime.  You SHOULD return, because you work hard for your money, and you don’t need to feel pangs of remorse and recrimination every time you reach into your closet.  Retailers, desperate for your business, understand this.  That’s why they have return policies, and prepaid return shipping labels, and will willingly mail you three sizes of the exact same shoe.

Below, some of my favorite places to buy things, and then return them.

1. Nordstrom: the gold standard.  The urban legend is that the original Nordstrom in Seattle sits on the lot where an old tire store used to be, and that Nordstrom will still take returns on tires.  I’ve never tested that, but I do know that they will take clothing back after you have worn AND washed the item.  Still works after you’ve had the item for, say, a year.  Nordstrom took back a dress after I’d shortened the hem, and disclosed said fact.  I have returned shoes there for the sole reason that they were sprayed with champagne at a wedding.  I have returned half-empty tubes of moisturizer.  For these reasons, I will buy things there when I know I can get the same item at another store, for cheaper, and faster.

2. Zappos: I muse sometimes that I am still re-spending the same $100 I first spent at Zappos back in 2008.  Because that is how many times I have returned shoes to Zappos.  They make returns really, really, easy.  Print the pre-paid shipping label from your computer, package up the shoes in the box in which they were sent, and then leave the item out for USPS or UPS.  If you work in an office, chances are you already have a regularly scheduled UPS person picking up boxes on a daily basis, so you can just take the shoes to work.  Lest you feel guilty about how often you return shoes to Zappos, let me assure you that you will always be able to find the shoes cheaper elsewhere (Endless, Amazon, Piperlime, etc.).  You are paying a premium for the right to return.  Do not waste it.

3. Revolve Clothing: I know the jeans that work for me by brand and style number.  I usually just keep re-buying the same thing (nonetheless, stay tuned for a future post about jeans).  If you are the same, Revolve is the best website to buy your denim.  Revolve has the best selection of denim anywhere, they re-stock popular styles and sizes much more quickly than Shopbop, and you can often find discount codes online (I used “tulip” for 10% off last week, give it a try).  The shipping is free, and it’s 2-3 day.  Return shipping is also free.  Credits are posted within days.

4. ASOS: There are domestic returns, and then there are international returns.  I used to buy a lot of Boden for my boys, but got gun-shy after a return failed to make it back to the UK.  ASOS seems to have it worked out though, because they ship their internationally-designed product to U.S. customers from somewhere in Nevada, and that’s also where they process returns.   ASOS is an overwhelming site, but do what I do: focus on the ASOS house brands (ASOS Collection, ASOS White), which have all the directional, well-constructed stuff you want.  Remember to enter via the US ASOS site, not the UK site.  And remember that when you sort by category, “sweaters” are listed in non-alphabetical order, because, I suspect, sweaters are called “jumpers” in the UK.

Many happy returns.

**I am aware that there is an environmental impact caused by product being shipped and returned by air mail.  Notwithstanding this post, I do generally keep most of the merchandise I purchase, or at least 50% of it.  And because I shop online more than I shop in person, I like to think that I’m saving on gas and other global resources, like time.   It is always preferable to purchase things you love, and to keep them.  But when that isn’t possible, don’t be scared to return!

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. I even return things to grocery stores, You rock Yoona.

    November 10, 2011
    • That’s hardcore, and I salute you. I once bought expired yogurt and wanted to return, but chickened out.

      November 10, 2011

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