When I was a senior in college I needed a new boombox something bad. My old one had broke, and if I was going to pull off these epic parties coming up I had to get a replacement STAT.
So I did what every college student does: I rushed out to Walmart, picked out the biggest most ridiculous looking stereo I could find, and brought it home with $75 less to my name – even though I only budgeted for $50 (priorities!).
Two months later I was baskin’ in the glow of these parties, knocking off my last remaining credits so I can nab that sexy degree, and still bumpin’ those sweet tunes from that hideous boombox…
Only problem, I was broke.
All that partying and mismanaging of my money had me scrambling to pay for food and real necessities, and long story short I ended up hightailing it back to Walmart to try and return the stereo when I learned they had a 90 day return policy. And there were still TWO DAYS left!!
You can see if I was successful here — Confessions of Clothes Returners — but needless to say it was one of the most embarrassing moments of my young adult life. And from that day forward I made a vow to pay attention to this stuff more and never have to come crawling back sheepishly again.
I was reminded of all this when I got the following email from a “Joe” who reads the blog:
What is your, or your readers, view on returning items? Stores like Bed Bath and Beyond take items back more than a year, and at Costco you can return 95% of merchandise even after they’re 12 years old and used.
I understand the ethics involved, however, if it’s the store policy and no laws are being broken is it a poor decision to return items using the store policy after years of use rather than throwing the items away and getting back your money? Or is it mindful of your money and merchandise when you shop at these places which offer returns no questions asked?
I wrote back that it does really come down to ethics and what you’re comfortable with, but no – I wouldn’t return anything anymore unless it was broke or didn’t work as expected or I ended up changing my mind (with tags still on/etc). But there was a time when I did, and fancied myself pretty clever for it ;)
I also mentioned that there’s plenty of ways you could discard of an item other than just throwing it away – like re-selling it or donating it and getting a tax write-off, which is kinda a happy medium? – but that I can’t speak to what my lovely readers would say and perhaps one day I’d ask (get ready for it!). I further agreed that it’s certainly not illegal to do anything within store policy, though my guess is you could only get away with it so much until they eventually catch on and blacklist you.
Shortly after, he wrote back:
Thanks for the reply…
I wanted a unbiased opinion as I moved and just couldn’t throw out my bedroom set that was in perfect condition and 10 years old. Because of a generous return policy, the store that I purchased at, Costco, took it back. I felt weird about it, but it was one less thing I had to deal with when moving and received my original purchase price… Ethical, no, but within the rules.
C’est la vie
WOW does that guy have balls! Makes my story look amateur up in here! :)
But that last part summed up my thoughts perfectly: Ethical, no, but within the rules.
Only you know deep down what you feel is okay and what’s not (and certain situations exacerbate it at times, depending on how badly you might need the money), but by and large we all have that little person inside of us trying to lead us in the right direction. Sometimes we listen to ’em, and other times we don’t, but either way we’re the ones who have to live with it and there’s no point in carrying around any unnecessary burden. Whether emotionally or financially.
So, dear readers, thoughts? You ever return something you’re kinda sorta ashamed of but still did it anyways? Would you have returned your bed set to Costco after 10 years of use?
No right or wrong answers here, but feel free to comment anonymously if it makes you more comfortable ;) The only request our guy Joe here had was that he prefers not to get any death threats, haha… I told him I couldn’t promise! We get pretty riled up here with our budgeting!
But seriously, keep it civil please :)
PS: A quick tip on returning stuff – any time you buy something and KNOW it was a mistake, put it in your trunk right away along with the receipt. That way you always have it on you whenever you remember to return it! (‘Cuz you know you’ll forget and/or get lazy)
[Photo cred: robertmontalvo]
Jay loves talking about money, collecting coins, blasting hip-hop, and hanging out with his three beautiful boys. You can check out all of his online projects at jmoney.biz. Thanks for reading the blog!