Return Shame: You Either Have It or You Don't

Pin it button big

Standing in the return line at the hardware store with $300 worth of various supplies we ended up not using for our project, I turned to my fiancé and said: "Would you rather not to be here for this? It's alright, you can leave." "Thank you!" he yelled over his shoulder, as he escaped to the car.

I actually had no idea that "return shame" existed, until I met my fiancé. His aversion to returning things borders on a phobia, and he will stubbornly hold on to any purchased good, no matter the condition, to avoid the dreaded return process. In fact, he still has a wireless keyboard that broke immediately after he bought it two years ago. He is just now just looking into the return policy.

I, on the other hand, spent a large portion of my young life standing in the return line with my mother. She never hesitated to return something for any reason, whether it was defective, or the wrong size, or she changed her mind, etc., etc. She had zero return shame, and so it is with me as well. People, I bought TWO bathtubs online and returned the one I didn't want. That is how shameless I am.

I decided to ask around to learn more about who had return shame and who did not, and more interestingly, the "why" behind it all. After speaking to several friends and strangers, here's what I found out:

Pro-return people think that:

  • Stores don't mind, otherwise they wouldn't allow returns.
  • Return policies encourage purchases by giving customers peace-of-mind.
  • Sometimes an item just doesn't work and you won't know until you try it.
  • Who is it hurting as long as the item isn't destroyed?
  • Defective? Well, that's a no-brainer.
  • It's better to have extras on hand than to have to go shopping in a crunch.

Anti-return people think that:

  • It's embarrassing, especially when the employees ask what's wrong with it (and nothing is).
  • It's a hassle for the employees.
  • It's a huge inconvenience for the buyer.
  • It could hurt an employee's commission rate.
  • They are not holding up their end of the bargain with the store.
  • Sometimes the returned item can no longer be sold (at least not for the original price), even if it is in perfect condition.

All this was very fascinating, and some of the anti-return sentiments certainly have me thinking twice about my return habits (the commission point in particular).

Now it's your turn! Are you more likely to be found in the return line, or shoving that broken keyboard in the back of your closet? What are some of your most shameful return stories?

(Image credits: Stephanie Strickland)

77 Comments