What to wear on a New Year's Eve party 2010/2011 swedish love affairHave you heard of deshopping? It’s when you buy something with the intention of returning it later. For instance, you could buy a new dress and use it once without cutting the tags off and then return it to the store.
I’ve heard about this from a friend of mine who works in a department store, who says that it’s obvious what’s going on, but they cannot do anything about it because of how the return policy is formulated.
But I didn’t realize it was such a big and global issue until I read about it in this week’s The Economist. The article said that the problem cost American retailers 14,4 billion dollars in 2011, an increase of about 50 % compared to 2009.

I have never done this, and I do not consider it to be OK. But I think I can see how these women reason (most of the deshoppers are female). As long as the item is in a satisfactory condition when they return it, where’s the harm? They are still acting within the law and the rules of the return policy, or else the return would not have been possible. What do you think about this?

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37 Responses to Deshopping

  1. janerowena says:

    I think it’s stealing – it’s decreasing the value of the dress. Many years ago, when I started out buying more expensive clothes, I was told to take the cost of an item and halve it for every time it was worn, to see if I was getting good value from it. By that reckoning, a £50 dress that is worn once and then returned is now only worth £25. It may have a small stain on it that can’t be seen at first glance. It may have been pulled a little at the seams. Underarm perspiration and deodorant may have worn away fabric under the arms. I think it’s a horrible thing to do.

  2. Layla_White says:

    Well, i would say it’s question of morality not “poor retailers”, if we’ll think about actual production cost of the item … we’ll be surprise how much we overpaying, so even with this loss, retailers are fine ))). The only loosing is a buyer, i had situations when I wanted to buy an item – it’s the last one in your size and it looks crap!!! An other issue people trying things on with full face of make up … hate seeing foundation and lipstick marks on even not “deshopped” items.

    • Antonia says:

      We do pay a lot more than the cost of production, but that’s the conditions we agree to when we decide to purchase an item. The customer always has an option of not buying.

      I agree about the make-up! Urgh.

  3. Nina says:

    I don’t think it’s stealing, it sounds more like renting to me. Of course without awareness of the retailers! I don’t know, it’s not such a big deal in my opinion, because even with items that haven’t been deshopped, there are many problems. People try them on before buying, so some got stains on them, some got ripped off a little, some lose their shape and fit. They try, and if they like the item and harm it somehow, they put it back, pull an untried one and buy it. I always look really carefully at the things I like, if it looks and smells brand new (yes, I smell them too), I buy it. If it does not, I keep searching until I find an untried one. Except a few items I never try clothes on too. Maybe people need to learn how to try something on and shop? Maybe. But if retailers want this behavior to vanish, they should lower the prices and then complain. Because nobody wants to return something they like and believe that it’s worth what they pay.

    • Antonia says:

      I agree with you about tried items in the stores, Nina! I do the same. And I smell stuff too:)

      However, for those who want to rent something there are always appropriate places to do that. Also, the retailer doesn’t get any considerable profit out of people “renting” (=deshopping) their things like that.

      • Nina says:

        I know there are many places for renting clothes, and I don’t think what deshoppers do is right or wrong, but I think I thought about the subject economically. Let me explain, let’s say there’s a woman with a budget and one day she sees a dress she wants to have, but it’s pricey. There’s nowhere to rent it too, so she decides to buy the dress, wear it and then return it and got her money back. So according to her logic, she gets to both wear the dress and keep her money. Sure, retailers don’t gain anything from this action, but they already appraise the price of their stuff way too high, that thanks to their normal customers, they lose nothing either. So in this situation, that woman only harms other customers who don’t buy stuff to return them. But I think the element which makes this happen, is the retailers themselves. I believe they keep their profit out of one item too high, so as I choose not to buy something that I find pricey, another person comes with a solution like this. I hope I made my train of thought clear :)

        • Antonia says:

          I see what you mean, Nina. However, store managers do in fact lose money because of deshopping. There are costs associated with refunding and restocking the deshopped item, and just to have items in stock costs money, for instance because of depreciation and insurance.
          Then there’s the risk that a customer who would have liked to buy an item comes along while it’s off being deshopped, meaning that it is temporarily out of stock. This situation may seem unlikely, but it is bound to happen more and more as deshopping becomes more widespread.
          As for your claim that retailers only have themselves to blame because they set the prices too high, it goes against basic economic theory. Prices are set in accordance with the law of supply and demand. The trouble is that this law does not take deshopping into account.
          So from an economic perspective the deshoppers acquire value without compensating the store managers for their lost value. In that sense, it is very close to stealing.

  4. Marion says:

    I agree with janerowena. It doesn’t sound right or decent to me.
    Also, (that’s a bit irrelevant but anyway,) I always wash something before I wear it. I have super sensitive skin and I’m very careful about it, even when an item is brand-new, unworn by anyone else. Most massively-produced clothes travel a looong way until they reach the stores. That’s something we need to consider.

    • Antonia says:

      Very good point, Marion! I know a lot of people who wash their new clothes before wearing them.
      So you never try clothes on before buying them? Or is it ok for your skin if you just do it fast to see if it fits?

      • Marion says:

        I try everything on (except for t-shirts) but really fast. I don’t have that much of a problem with skirts of trousers, but I’m very careful with shirts and dresses as my arms, shoulders and back are the parts which is the most sensitive. And if I want some garment to be a bit more loose, I put it on above my clothes

        • Antonia says:

          Ok, I do the same. I try to do it as fast as I can, and if it’s loose I try it on over my clothes. I hate changing rooms, so I try to get it over with really fast.

  5. gabrielle says:

    I think it is a cheap and tacky thing to do. Just another example of people not wanting to take the consequences of their actions. If you bought it, you bought it! Of course there are return policies, but I would consider this an abuse of what is intended as a courtesy to the consumer.

    • Antonia says:

      So in your opinion returning things is immoral in general ? Do you I get you right?

      For me there’s a huge difference between regretting a purchase and therefore returning the item and actually planning to return it while buying it!

      • gabrielle says:

        No, I think returning things is fine, that’s what I mean by it being a store’s courtesy to the customer: we all know, sometimes we can misjudge, are in a bad frame of mind when we shop etc. But to buy with the intention of ‘borrowing’ and then returning I think is wrong, that’s all.

  6. Ilona Opengeim-Cherkas says:

    it’s wildly practiced in Canada, and i find it very practical and convenient…what if you bought something and later on you find out that you’re disappointed with how the dress sits on you, that way at least you can get all your money back instead of burrying that useless item in your closet…

    • Antonia says:

      It’s the same in Sweden. I’ve returned things several times because they don’t fit or if I simply regret the purchase. It is very convenient.
      Deshopping is when you buy something with the intention of returning it. That’s different.

      • Ilona Opengeim-Cherkas says:

        but how will the retial industry know the difference? It’s the same concept. Nobody can be 100% what your intention had originally been before you purchased the thing, right?

        • janerowena says:

          That’s very true – and how fascinating to see all the differing opinions and viewpoints.

        • Antonia says:

          Of course they can’t tell, or at least prove it. That’s why it’s still legal.

          • Kelly says:

            You would be surprised–sometimes they can tell. My sister told me about a family that returned over 400 dollars worth of snow clothing gear. There was dirt on the bottom insides of the pants and she confronted the customer about it. The lady had claimed they never wore the clothing even though it was obvious they had and when my sister pointed out the dirt the woman changed her story saying that she had worn it once but the pants were slipping down the entire time.

            It’s really enough to make you sick to your stomach. They definitely won’t be able to turn around and sell those clothing. I hope the manufacturer can clean it and sell it again or something because it just creates more waste in the world. Ugh.

            • Antonia says:

              Interesting! Yes, one of the points was that they often can tell it’s been used, but can’t do anything about it. Do you know how the story with snow clothing gear ended up? Did they manage to return it?

              • Kelly says:

                Indeed they did. My sister tried to tell her manager about it without being to obvious to the customer (she did so on the head-set as she couldn’t leave the cash register). Her manager happened to be really busy and flustered at the time so she didn’t really respond. She said later that had she seen the merchandise she wouldn’t have accepted the return.

                • Antonia says:

                  Unfortunately, I’m not surprised:( Your sister couldn’t have done more to prevent it, though. Maybe next time these people will think twice before doing something like that! I doubt it, but still.

  7. Anastasia says:

    I could even tell you more about “suffering retailers”, Zara, for example, when you order an item in online-shop, gets rid of it without sorting it back to the stockroom as it’s more expensive than the production costs per article.
    The behaviour of deshoppers isn’t acceptable for me, I always wash new clothes and not only because of hygiene.

    • Antonia says:

      That’s interesting, Antastasia! It sounds like a very un-environmental policy, and morally wrong too. Do you know where I could read more about this?

      • Anastasia says:

        I got the information from a professor at the university, but I guess there might be something in managerial magazines (e.g. Harvard Business Manager).

  8. Bunny Larure says:

    I’ve worked in retail for almost 10 years now. Deshopping is using an item that you have no intention of paying for. That is stealing. Retailers can tell the difference between a legitimate return and deshopping.

    Deshoppers tend to be habitual and often times they don’t stop at just a dress. They deshop the entire look. From makeup to accessories. The makeup has to be destroyed, which is a loss. Some retailers will not resell used shoes. I have seen people returning underwear and bathing suits. Yes, those things get thrown away.

    Every return effects the stores. If a store does not make it’s budget for the day employees get sent home. Employees are called and told not to come in. They loose wages. It really does hurt everybody.

    I have no problem with legitimate returns. Some items are defective. Some cause an allergic reaction. People do get buyers remorse. I really think 99.99% of returns are legitimate. It’s that .01% that’s fraudulent. Those are the returns that hurt.

    • Antonia says:

      Thank you for your input, Bunny! It confirms a lot of my thoughts about the whole concept of deshopping. I’m glad you shared your experience.

  9. Arantxa says:

    I’ve heard of this, the truth is that people show to these things that have very little education, but unfortunately in this world are many pitfalls that can not be controlled.

    On the other hand I agree with you that I do not see where is the waste of money if the item returned to the store in good condition, can not be sold again? Maybe the problem is that when employees know clearly that the product has been used can not put it back on sale, because who wants to buy a dress that has already been used by someone else and pay it like new?

  10. Katrina says:

    I know that I would not do it. Definitely against my moral compass. I know many people who work in retail and things like that do indeed hurt the average person too. It just feels wrong to me. Like I am taking advantage of something…and when you take advantage of something there is always the chance that something is going to go away because too many people are taking advantage. What if stores stopped accepting returns even for legitimate reasons? That would really hurt things.

    That said, I know a lot of stars flag this sort of thing. Oh yes, they keep track of your returns. If someone has returned too many things there are retailers who will get a report and will NOT take back an item. I know this is so at The Home Depot, as this problem is not exclusive to the fashion industry. People will buy expensive tools, use them, then try to take them back to get their money back.

    So be wary if you do this sort of thing often. They may decide you can’t take that item you thought you could take back.

    • Bunny Larure says:

      I’ve known people who have had their credit cards cancelled because of this. It’s credit card fraud. That is illegal.

    • Antonia says:

      Thank you for your comment, Katrina! The article I mentioned says that sports fans have started to hop on the trend too. Apparently they’ll buy a big, HD TV set to watch a big game at home and then return it the day after! So you’re right, it’s not only the fashion industry that’s affected. I wonder what’ll be next?
      I think what you write about stores flagging “serial returners” might discourage some people of deshopping :)

  11. Cinz says:

    What an interesting term, i’ve not heard of it before. You know, i have heard about this practice before and i can’t believe it! It’s so sickening to the stomach. I mean ive tried buying something but then i return it only cause i really had to admit that i didnt fit the item. Plus i never even wore it out!

    And i couldnt believe it when you mentioned the statistics in how much this habit is effecting the economy.

    This is a really interesting view point! I just read the above comment regarding the snow clothing gear, and that is just plain sad. What come to this world? ai yai yai…


  12. Cinz says:

    i mean what has come to this world…oops

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