Is Retail Renting Ethical?

The Boston Globe has an interesting article in which they attempt to explain the phenomenon of “retail renting” or “wardrobing”–where consumers buy items with the intention of returning them when they’re done with the prom or the meeting or whatever. The article blames a mix of influences, including the economy and celebrities who obviously borrow many of their fancy gowns and jewelry.

Some people don’t see anything wrong with the behavior:

Jimmy Deignan’s first time was with a $500 portable DVD player.

He bought it a few years ago at Best Buy for a Boston-to-Los Angeles flight, knowing he would return it for a full refund when he got back. More recently, in November, rather than spending $600 to rent a LCD projector for a business presentation, the Holden resident purchased one at Staples, then returned it a few days later and got his money back.

The way Deignan sees it, he is just a smart shopper: He gets the things he needs, uses them for as long as he wants, and saves money.

Some shoppers who wardrobe do not think they are doing anything wrong. Deignan refers to the way he buys as renting. To see him through the NFL playoffs, Deignan planned to wardrobe a plasma TV after his set broke in December. But it got fixed in time, just before the first Patriots playoff game.

“There’s lots of times when I buy stuff that someone’s bought before. When I rent something, I’m taking good care of it,” said Deignan, who works as an event coordinator. “And, it made me look good when I saved my company $600 in rental fees for the projector.”

Retailers are responding to people like Deignan with increasingly invasive policies that attempt to weed out the “wardrobers” from legitimate returns. Is “retail renting” ethical? Or is this fraud?

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Retailers Crack Down On Serial Returns [Boston Globe] (Thanks, Sean!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Copper says:

    Er…depends on how you view things as right and wrong. Some people, myself included, don’t see this as wrong because it’s within the return guidelines, it’s playing by the rules. However, it’s wrong in the sense that you buy it knowing full well you’re returning it. Perhaps when a restocking fee is required for items like a computer, one would gladly pay this “rental fee”. I do this it’s wrong in a sense because you know in advance you’re just going to return it, but I wouldn’t feel bad about it because someone else can and will still buy it so the retailer isn’t out any money.

  2. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    Of course it is not ethical!

    If he wanted to rent stuff, go to a place like Rent-A-Center. People like this just cause the return polcies to become more difficult for regular customers, and screw up the bottom line for stores causing them to increase their prices.


    • narc1 says:

      its perfectly ethical, stores markeup stuff by many times, I can’t buy the product straight from the manufacturer in China so I just borrow items until I don’t need them and then back they go to the store. Great idea imo

  3. visualbowler says:

    I work at a retail clothing store and we have numerous who do this all the time because our return policy is especially lax. It drives us insane because we have to take the item back anyway, but once we do, it immediately gets taken into a back room and donated to good will because we can’t sell it anymore. It is not only screwing the company, it screws the customer as well, requiring us to charge higher prices for items so we don’t have to absorb the cost and have slimmer margins.

  4. mac-phisto says:

    there’s a reason they’re called retailers. it’s b/c they sell stuff. if you want to rent, try rent america or rent-to-own, or some other place designed for your needs.

    i get angry at retailers b/c they charge restocking fees or blacklist “problem returners:, but when i encounter folks like this, i understand why the policies exist.

    the more people that do this, the more things will cost & the more stringent the policies will become. thanks for ruining it for everyone, assholes!

  5. Hackoff says:

    This is a stinky can of worms that you just opened up.

    Have I ever bought something, used it and then realized I didn’t like it? Yes…

    Have I ever bought something knowing that I would return it before the end of the return policy? Yes.

    Am I a jerk for doing this? Maybe…

    You see, I bought a camcorder from Circuit City a while back. It never worked quite right so they made me send it in for service. The third time I sent it in for service I asked what the replacement policy was. They told me that it would be replaced if it needed a 4th repair. The 4th repair was the motor on the camera.

    Guess what? They wouldn’t replace it. I owned this camera for 6 months. Three months was the amount of time it spent getting “repaired”. The customer service representative simply suggested that I buy a new camcorder if I wanted to be able to film the birth of my first daughter.

    So, I did. I was pissed off that they jerked me around. That they didn’t stand behind the products they were selling and because they lied to me. So I bought a camcorder, used it for two weeks (during which time my daughter was born) and then returned it on the last day of the return policy. My other camcorder happened to come back from repair three days later which worked out ok.

    So, what do you think? Was this retail renting? Was it justified? If I don’t like something, I will take it back. My wife hates when I take things back. She believes that if I bought it, I should keep it. But she will also rather not eat her dinner at a restaurant rather than complain that her meat is undercooked.

  6. B says:

    Retail renting is unethical, but everybody hates chain stores, so it works out.

  7. cmdr.sass says:

    It may be legal, but it is certainly not ethical.

  8. flamincheney says:

    It is in no way ethical, and it has made it so honest consumers get screwed on honest returns. I do not see how anyone would see this as appropriate.

  9. KyleOrton says:

    I don’t think any of these examples are remotely ethical.

    On the other hand, I have purchased several models of an item (OTA antenna, for example) with the intention of returning the ones that didn’t work. I always chose the open boxes and packed them neatly again. And since I was honest with the workers/managers about my intentions I assume it was fine.

  10. missmicrophone says:

    I wish there would have been an option for not ethical, but I would do it anyway.

  11. Alexander says:

    I have no problem with this as long as it’s stuff like electronics and such. Clothing is something else entirely. Unless I’m buying second-hand, I don’t want to buy anything that has been worn by someone else already but being sold as new.

  12. MissPeacock says:

    Of course it isn’t ethical. When I buy something, I expect it to be in new condition. I don’t want clothes that you’ve worn out to some formal event, and I don’t want to buy a DVD player that you might have somehow messed up while you were “borrowing” it.

  13. LoveNoelG says:

    This is why most stores won’t let you return fancy wear.

    With these tacky turds out there, pretty soon returns will be a thing of the past.

  14. crescentia says:

    I hated it when people would do this when I worked retail. I think it is beyond tacky to do this and if you can’t afford to buy something then don’t flippin’ buy it!

  15. pinkfreud says:

    i work at borders and people do this with books all the time. then they try it with cds and dvds and get burned. once those are opened we only swap for same item

  16. Drarag says:

    Is it ethical? No. Is it wrong? No.

  17. bonzombiekitty says:

    Hell no! Who in their right mind thinks this is ethical at all? They’re not paying anything to use a product for a while, and costing the retailer (and in turn, other customers) money. It’s stealing plain and simple.

  18. Costco used to have a lifetime return policy. People took advantage, and now it is 90 days.

    I bought an LCD about 30 days ago. I jsut found out that Costco is putting a better model on sale on March 10th. I am not sure what the price is going to be yet, but I may return my TV to get the other model.
    In this case, I don’t think what I am doing is wrong. I am returning something, to exchange it for something I think is better, with the full intent of keeping the next one.

  19. siskamariesophie says:

    When my husband was a teenager in the eighties, he bought a $3000 video-editing machine so he could put together some footage from an airshow he went to (yes, he was, and is, a total nerd). He returned it 2 days later, no questions asked. I’m amazed he even had that big of a credit line at age 17.

  20. Murph1908 says:

    People who do this cause higher prices for the rest of us, and force companies to implement restocking fees that screw the rest of us.

  21. Jon Mason says:

    yeah, it isnt ethical. But I have done it back when I was a student twice I bought a boombox to take on vacation with the full intent to return it once I got home.

    I have also done a similar thing where if I have a broken item they will not repair/exchange or I lost the receipt, I have bought a brand new one, swapped the boxes and took it back for a refund as faulty. This I don’t think is as bad – I’ve only ever done it when the product is defective and I still end up with the same product, just a working one.

  22. K-Bo says:

    What I love is that the same people who did this would always bring things up looking for a discount when something wasn’t perfect. Of course it’s not perfect, someone like you already used it. I once had a girl return the dress she wore to a wedding I was a bridesmaid in at the register I was ringing on. It was a small wedding, she knew I had seen her. I had to return it, because her name wasn’t in our stupid book of people who do crap like that yet, but it got put in there for that one.

  23. ludwigk says:

    @Copper: The retailer IS out money. For many product types, they cannot be sold as ‘new’ if they are returned goods. Most retailers will knock about 10% off the price and charge the returnee a 10% restocking fee (net zero), but this ignores the cost of checking the return, the customer service interaction, reboxing, systematically adjusting for it, which all eats up lots of hours of employee time. This does cost business a tangible amount of money. Additionally, some products from specific vendors cannot be sold open box, due to specific mfr relations. So they need to be shipped back, which directly affects operational costs, and wastes gas.

    Additionally, with goods like clothes, the price is very sensitive to time, in that the prices rapidly go down after a new piece is released. In this case, ‘renting’ an outfit is very abusive of a return policy, which is meant to cover issues of satisfaction, or a garment not fitting properly rather than people being cheap and unethical.

    @Hackoff: Your case is special. You had a particularly bad experience and felt that some appeasement was in order, and the retailer didn’t offer any. Then you used two wrongs to make a right. This is all very specific and warrants individual attention. The scope of this article only covers people who buy and return goods because they want the functionality of it for a short period of time, and are unwilling to pay for it. You were willing to pay for it – you already bought the camera!

  24. MeOhMy says:

    This should be an interesting comment thread! The “Celebrities borrowing gowns” excuse is a hoot. Karl Lagerfeld loaning you a gown is a little bit different than “wardrobing” one from Macy’s.

  25. dthigpen says:

    In no way, shape, or form is it ethical. The individuals who believe this are typically the ones with the sense of self entitlement and such that helped get our economy in the same it is in.

  26. Hackoff says:

    It sounds like doing this on a regular basis is unethical and even despicable.

    So are we in agreement that all of the f’d up return policies are a direct result of people being unethical with their returns?

  27. arch05 says:

    He’s a Pats fan. Go figure.

  28. Anonymous says:

    This is what messes up return policies for the rest of us. You idiots who think it’s ok to just go ‘rent’ anything you want for any time you want should be ashamed.

  29. sp00nix says:

    This is why there are restocking and shorter return periods for allot of those items.

  30. I draw the line with clothes. Because I sure wouldn’t want to have my new pants already skankily worn. You can totally tell which pants have been returned, haha.

  31. backbroken says:

    Many times I have come to regret making a purchase, yet did not return the item. I simply try to improve my decision making next time. It’s not the fault of the manufacturer or the store that I made a mistake, so why should they pay for it?

    The only occasions on which I will return an item are when it is defective or clearly didn’t live up to its advertising.

    Retail renting is stealing. Stop rationalizing it.

  32. laserjobs says:

    Morals and ethics do not belong in capitalism

  33. UpsetPanda says:

    This is not ethical, no. It’s screwing with retailers’ business and it’s making it difficult for people who legitimately return items to make their returns, because with every person who buys it only to use it and return it when they’re done with their event, stores tighten their grip on return policies even more.

    This is NOT the same as celebrities who borrow Harry Winston jewelry for the red carpet. Harry Winston allows them to borrow the jewels, and this is not underhanded, like if the jeweler in question did not know the celebrity would return the item for any other reason other than that person had used it and didn’t need it anymore. If it was defective, return is valid. I don’t buy things to use them for a day and return them, especially not clothing. I wouldn’t want to buy something I thought was new, only it isn’t because someone bought it, wore it, returned it.

  34. bohemian says:

    This is why retailers treat all their customers like crap because of people that do stuff like this, or try to “return” things they just picked up off of the sales floor.

  35. Javert says:

    How is there even a question as to whether this is ethical? The store cannot sell it as new when you return it so it loses value. How the guy compares it to renting in the article is a comlete joke since he obtains value from something for nothing and it ends up costing the store money. I would like people to start ‘renting’ from him. I have no issue with returning things that were not needed or not liked but to purposefully purchase something for the trip across the country with the intent of returning it is sick.

    Oh yeah…and thanks for screwing up the retail return policy for those of us who do not do this.

  36. ptkdude says:

    Anyone who does this had better not complain when they get a pair of snail-trailed jeans!

  37. redhelix says:

    Is there even a question as to whether people who do this are complete and utter pricks?

  38. netbuzz says:

    It’s not just unethical, it’s outright stealing. You’re stealing an actual revenue opportunity from the merchant by depriving them of the goods for however long you keep them. The fact that you’re only stealing something for a short time doesn’t make it any less stealing. This one’s not even a difficult call.

  39. Hackoff says:

    It sounds like there should be a thread on “Self Entitlement” instead of retail renting!

  40. starrion says:

    Not at all ethical. This is why the rest of us get nickeled and dimed at big box retailers. These scumballs (who have not gotten screwed as some of the previous posters have) game the system, so the retailer has to tighten the policy.

    electronics often have to be sharply marked down to sell once they are “open box”. This means the retailer loses money when people “wardrobe”. Pretentious a$$hats who think that having expensive things gives them higher status are only impressing the superficial.

  41. savvy999 says:

    ‘Renting’ implies paying an agreed upon fee to the Lessor (the stores) for the use of the product for a specified time. Since the Lessees (scumbag ‘wardrobing’ consumers) fully use the product and don’t expect to pay a thing in the end, that’s not renting, that’s called stealing.

    If you want to wear clothes that aren’t yours for day, either become a celebrity, or go to a Halloween costume store.

  42. astrochimp says:

    For possible solutions to this dilemma, cf. the free rider problem and book II of Plato’s Republic. See also 2400 years of intellectual history which hasn’t come down on one side or the other regarding grave issues of substantive justice, let alone the trivialities of retail renting.

    My hypothesis is that no resolution of the latter will be forthcoming.

  43. UpsetPanda says:

    @backbroken: You must be out a lot of money then, if you don’t return the item you buy and regret. I bought a shirt last week that I thought looked fine, and when I tried it on again a few days later, I realized I didn’t like it as much as I originally thought. Am I going to keep it just because I made a mistake? Nope. I’m returning it because I can, but it’s not unethical because I fully intended to keep the shirt, before I realized it didn’t fit as well as I thought.

  44. astrochimp says:

    In other words, returnable dresses are the new ring of gyges.

  45. amoeba says:

    DEFINITELY NOT ETHICAL! I don’t try on clothes at the store. I know my size and what I like. At home I see if they fit, and if I don’t like it I return it. It is rare for me to return something I don’t like. About electronics, is really hard to find something brand new and seal from factory.

    @Javert: “he store cannot sell it as new when you return it so it loses value.” I would disagree a bit with you. I was looking for a Nintendo DS to buy as a gift for my nephew. Most of the NDS where “returned” and they had the sticker “Open Box” and the price was the same as a new one. So I don’t think the stores will low their prices, if the item has been open and returned within a couple days…

  46. billbillbillbill says:

    I worked for a time at the mall in a sports apparel store. I overheard some guys that were planning to buy jerseys, shorts, and hats for a dance and return them the day after. We had a strict receipt to return policy and imagine that, they couldn’t find their receipt in their bag. Oops

  47. CMU_Bueller says:

    @KyleOrton: So it’s ok to rent electronics to “test” them and see which ones will work for you?

  48. SkokieGuy says:

    If I intentionally buy a product that I don’t plan to keep and plan to use and return, why am I not committing fraud?

    Aren’t I purchasing under false pretenses? Renting an item (which most retail stores don’t offer) would assume one is paying some amount in exchange for temporary usage. Although I would have the benefit of temporary usage, I am providing the merchant no compensation for that usage.

    The fact that this is unethical is completely obvious, but can an attorney weigh in on if it is legal, when someone purchases with the intent to use and return?

    Now – all that being said, I too have used the purchase and return scenario – when a product has been defective. For example, when purchasing an item missing components, typically the retailer cannot assist and you must contact the manufactuer (and sometimes pay shipping charges. Since I feel this is no fault of my own, in situations where I’ve lost the receipt, I’ve purchased the same item and returned the incomplete original. The merchant will return it to the manufacturer as defective and chargeback the mfg. Note that the merchant still has one complete transaction for the product I’ve retained.

  49. sleze69 says:

    I hate people that do 30-day rentals.

    Back when I worked at Microcenter in Customer Service, there was a guy named Avni Gurun. I returned software for him and for some reason (later in the day) I had to look at his purchase/return history. The guy’s first purchase was a 300 MB hard drive (this was a LONG time ago). Every purchase since (about 50 items) was mac software and was returned about a week later. Any questions as to what he was doing?

    Every now and then, I would see an RTV (return to vendor – any open software that got returned) that one of the other reps processed with his name. I would curse his name as he got away with another one. Finally about 2 or 3 months after I first discovered him, a guy tried to return some software and when I looked at the reciept…it was him. AVNI GURUN!

    I grabbed his receipt and software, excused myself and ran back to our awesome service manager, who we called Dr. No., and explained the situation. He had me go grab Avni and bring him into the office. My boss explained to Avni that we will happily return this item, however, he was effectively banned from the store as we were flagging his account and credit card stating not to accept any returns from him.

    A few months later before I moved on to a new job, I checked the system one last time. My return was the last transaction he made. I still get a tear in my eye when I think of him…

  50. BugMeNot2 says:

    Retailers bad, wardrobing good.
    Eff ’em if they don’t like it.

  51. aerocowboy says:

    I’d certainly never do it, but my problem with it isn’t simply ethics.

    I certainly acknowledge that doing this is “within the rules” of posted return policies, as “unethical” as it may be. My concern is that if this becomes a popular thing to do, stores will begin making their return policies much more conservative, which harms the rest of us who aren’t taking advantage of the system.

  52. K-Bo says:

    @Javert: “he store cannot sell it as new when you return it so it loses value.”

    At the store I worked for we couldn’t sell it at all. It got “marked out of stock” and sent to the pile to be given to charity/ trashed. Good thing for the charity, bad for the stores shrink numbers.

  53. Starfury says:

    I don’t do this and think it’s wrong. When I buy something I plan on keeping it; that’s why I’m buying it!

    Clothing is different: For me I try stuff on and if it fits I buy it. My wife buys clothing for the kids and they’re mostly not there to try on so one of us ends up returning the non-fit items.

    A friend worked at Costco for years; he saw customers basically “rent” laptops for 10-11 months at a time.

  54. Bay State Darren says:

    Two words: Snail trail. Multiply that level of abuse by every item you purchase.

  55. Laffy Daffy says:

    When I was younger and jobless I had a job tryout in Detroit … when I got there I realized I forgot my winter coat. This was in March, which is still winter in Michigan. (Perhaps here I should explain that I drove to Detroit and I never ever ever wear a coat in the car … too bulky and interferes with steering etc.) I charged a new coat at JC Penney and wore it for the week but kept all the tags in the pockets. When I got back to Illinois I returned the coat and actually made something like $1.02 because of the difference in tax. I felt kind of bad about doing it but I had no choice. BTW, I didn’t get the job; bastards hired the guy who took my orig job when I got fired by a rival who had just become my new boss. She started cleaning house with me.

  56. Snarkysnake says:

    From a business perspective…
    How about the new car model ? (EG: A steep immediate dropoff in value if it is returned and progressively diminishing value as it skankily ages)

    Any return suffers an immediate 15% haircut,then 1% per day thereafter and no returns at all after a certain number of days.

    Put returned stuff in a special section and make it strictly as is,cash and carry.Or designate it for donation with a certain % of the price as stor credit.

    This could all be done with barcode technology BTW

    This would still probably be more profitable than being taken advantage of by these unethical wardrobers.

  57. JeffCarr says:

    I think it’s unethical in 99 percent of cases.

    I have done it once before however. I purchased a receiver from Best Buy when my stereo was giving me problems during a party I was throwing, to see if it was my receiver that was going bad. Knowing I would return it if my receiver was fine, I picked an already open box item, kept it in perfect condition, and returned it the following morning.

    (The problem turned out to be the 25 foot long S/PDIF cable was acting as an antenna and would pick up electrical interference from the wiring in the house (like when the doorbell was rung), causing the receiver to reset when the signal was corrupted enough.)

  58. Me - now with more humidity says:

    It is fraud. Period.

  59. asphix20 says:

    @Copper: Ok, what part of the word “ethical” do you not understand?

    The question wasnt “is it wrong” thus theres no room for interpretation. You pretty much said it depends and then contradicted yourself.

  60. subodhgupta says:

    Fancy terminology? IT’s no way RENTING. It’s using the stuff for free.

    I figure the stores are actually looking into the trend and implementing a RENTING fee ( 15 % Restocking FEE ).

  61. Jamie Beckland says:

    @AlteredBeast: I agree with you, this is clearly unethical. However, Rent A Center really isn’t a realistic alternative for this type of behavior, because they have weird minimum time frame rules (like 4 weeks).

    For all you entrepreneurs, I think this is a realistic service that people would pay for (they have DVD players for rent in some airports already). Get on that!

  62. Anita Ham Sandwich says:

    I’ve got to say that this one is unethical. It fails the “what if everyone did it?” test. Of course it’s tempting, but I would just feel sleazy doing it.

  63. Echodork says:

    It’s unethical, but I don’t really have a problem doing it. Perhaps I’m just a bad person :)

  64. In principle, I don’t think that renting is necessarily wrong. However, I would hate to be the next buyer of a returned “rental” who pays full price for something that has been used.

    My version of renting has always been a little different. I buy items in stores, mostly higher-end handbags and clothing, then flip them on eBay when I’ve worn them a season or two. The buyer knows what they are getting – a slightly used item for a lower-than-retail price – and I earn the money to repeat the process. It’s a win-win: I keep my closets down to a small collection of classics, and the buyers get a good deal.

  65. friendlynerd says:

    I did it once with a conduit bender at Home Depot. Seriously bent 2 pieces of conduit with it. Didn’t even have to take the tags off. I felt a little bad, but I felt better not having spent $45 on a tool I’d never, ever use again.

  66. deadlizard says:

    Is not just unethical, it’s pretty lame.

  67. gte910h says:

    I want to clear up a couple cases that are NOT what they’re talking about here. Other people have taken issue with all sorts of perfectly legitmate transactions that companies would rather have then not have the sales they generate.

    Buying a bunch of items that you may need, then returning those you don’t is perfectly ethical. (I.e. Film on vacation)

    So is buying multiple types of a high ticket item you realistically have to attempt to use in a non-store setting to see if it is worthwhile. (I.e. cameras)

    In both cases, the store is getting one purchase, however multiple items may be opened up.

    Buying something thinking you *probably* won’t keep it is even ethical (iPhone? A slightly too expensive camera?). The store *wants* the chance to get the sale, irregardless of what your front line sales staff commenters might think.

    The cost to the store (not shrink, which is a metric used to rate stores, but actual cost to the store) is low enough on returned items that have a vendor takeback that it is a win from the perspective from a store, as the vast majority of humanity keeps what they buy. If the return policy wasn’t in place for those buyers, then many sales would be postponed or not made ever.


  68. When I was in college, I worked at electronics retailer “Nobody Beats The Wiz”. I worked on commission, and sold mostly in the stereo department.
    I can’t tell you how many times I spent hours with a customer selling them really good equipment. (I was very knowledgeable, and really sold them the right stuff) I would be very happy at the end of the day to have made a big sale, and see my big commission numbers on the store printout.

    Fast forward a few days ahead. The customer returns everything because he “just didn’t want it”. (ie-he needed the equipment for a big party he was having) and my commission numbers for the day they returned it were negative by a lot.

    It is totally unethical, and it many cases, you aren’t just hurting a big nameless faceless corporation. You are hurting the people who work there.

  69. shufflemoomin says:

    Retailers should just be more firm. If something isn’t broken or damaged, they shouldn’t have to take it back at all. You chose the item, you decided to buy it, unless it doesn’t work or you’ve never opened it or used it in any way or even removed the tags, then you should be refused a refund. Seems simple to me. Buyers remorse or being a tightwad like these people isn’t a good enough reason to want your money back. Don’t want to keep it? Don’t buy it. Simple.

  70. Lemme get this straight: You go into a store. You BUY something. Something you want to use a little, then bring back. Then you want full money, even though you have actually USED it. And the retailer will have to send the item back because you wouldn’t buy this, and they don’t know if you’ve done something to it to make it a problem for your next customer. Uhm, is there any question that your signing the purchase agreement is a fraudulent act? It may not be unlawful, but it’s clearly on it’s way there. If the company sold you something, then came to your house a week later and repo’ed it, giving you a full refund, there would be a 300 post long commentary on Consumerist.

    Meanwhile, in the world of economics, you have maximized your personal utility by getting something for nothing, have put your partner, the retailer, out (think of restocking, now overstocked, inventory holding costs, returns, giveaways, markdowns). And you have put your fellow man at a loss (think of restocking fees, abusive return policies, etc). It’s shady and should probably be looked at.

    Meanwhile, retailers in the neighborhood of Jimmy Deignan should post his picture and his ID, and refuse to sell to him with anything but a clearance return policy. He has abused the good customer service of retailers too many times. When I worked in retail, we had a customer who would buy stuff on his corporate card, get reimbursed, and insist that we refund the purchase to his personal card. After a few of those transactions, we ceased selling him things. We sold him, as a customer, to our competitor. They were welcome to him. If I were a Best Buy and Deignan came in, he would be directed to the nearest Circuit City.

  71. betatron says:

    it’s unethical. It’s (or should be) criminal, it’s theft and frankly, if one uses a credit card to facilitate it, i would support a federal wire fraud charge and felony rap. Or islamic justice, either one works for me. i would respond *very* badly if anyone i knew tried this kind of crap.

  72. snoop-blog says:

    i think this is more of a bad habit picked up from either parents, or friends. but mainly parents. this is something usually picked up from your mother.

  73. Kos says:

    Ethical: No.
    Cheap: Yes.

  74. less_is_best says:

    I will never understand this. It is unethical. Period. There is no grey area. I am amazed at how many people can justify ANYTHING! I wonder how many people have bought nice clothes for a church or religious event and then returned them? WWJD?

  75. enm4r says:

    I have done this a few times with Best Buy to diagnose my PC problems. I do this full well knowing I will return it, and even if the part I’m buying, lets say a power supply, solves the problem, I would buy it for cheaper online.

    I have no qualms because 1) it is within their guidelines. 2) I never lie about the state of the item or imply it was anything but 100% functional and 3) they are just going to repackage and resell as new anyway.

    I feel this is not a black and white issue, because for some items, such as clothes, the company does end up taking a hit, which may or may not change your opinion on the matter.

  76. mac-phisto says:

    @subodhgupta: they’re also developing & sharing shopper blacklists, sometimes utilizing 3rd party companies -> []

  77. Bill Brasky says:

    I work at a retail store, and I’ve said it a million times.
    “This crap would stop, if we charged a re-stocking fee.”

  78. BugMeNot2 says:

    Yes, this is unethical and not to be condoned. As far as the comment “Morals and ethics do not belong in capitalism”, this could not be more wrong. For capitalism to work, there has to exist a system of ethics. It all basically boils down to what is known as the Golden Rule (“do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”) For capitalism to work, both sides of a transaction must reach an equitable agreement. In this particular instance, the retailer’s side is that they will offer product X for a price of Y. The consumer’s side is to either accept X for Y and make the trade, or shop elsewhere.

    When the consumer instead decides to not accept X for Y, he either defrauds the retailer or outright steals from the retailer. This is not ethical, nor is it in the spirit of capitalism.

    As to AstroChimp, perhaps you should change your nick to AstroApe or AstroParrot, as you seem to repeat things without actually understanding what you are saying. The Free Rider refers to things which are generally considered for the ‘common good’, not private transactions. As far as the references to Plato, even he felt that there was something to a person’s sense of doing what was right, rather than what is convenient. In fact, that is in keeping with the parable of the ring that you mentioned.

  79. snoop-blog says:

    this is unethical, but far from criminal. give me a break, criminal? there are FAR bigger fish to fry. i’d like to know what the people who think of this as “criminal” think the punishment should be for returning an item.

  80. SVreader says:

    Add me to the list of former retail employees who saw this happen all the time. Although at my store we weren’t paid on commission, seeing the store give people their full money back on items they had clearly been using for months (often something seasonal, like outdoor equipment during summer), while we were paid so little, was bad for morale.

  81. MercuryPDX says:

    @missmicrophone: choice 3.

    When Harry Winston does it, it’s marketing/advertising.
    When Jimmy Deignan does it, it’s committing a fraud on Best Buy.

  82. ClayS says:

    They could charge a re-stocking fee, or they can pass the costs of renting on to their ethical customers. I suppose most do the latter.

  83. sgtyukon says:

    Years ago, I bought and used a radar detector on a cross-country trip. I would have kept it. I intended to keep it. But it detected every traffic camera on I-95 between New Haven and New York City, every portable construction sign on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and lots and lots of banks and supermarkets all over the United States. Even if it did detect radar, it was useless if it gave off two false alarms per mile. The manufacturer took it back, no problem. That, I think, I was ethical and so was the manufacturer in honoring its guarantee. Wardrobing, I think is stealing.

  84. MOFD says:

    savvy999 got it exactly right: since the retailer is refunding your money, you haven’t “rented” anything. This is theft, pure and simple, and the fact that so many commenters try to rationalize it is just appalling.

  85. CorporateTool says:

    @suburbancowboy: I once used that to return (unused) 4 tires, 3 years after the purchase date. Also I checked them in my luggage on an international flight, but that is another story for another time.

  86. balthisar says:

    I often buy too much stuff at Home Depot just to ensure that I’ll have enough, and take the remainder back. They seem to never have a problem with me shopping there constantly, even when I have another return. I don’t do things like by an expensive table saw to return it, though. I did once buy a generator during a power failure, but the lights were back on by time we got home, so I took it back, unopened. If I’d run it, I’d’ve kept it, and still do want a generator.

  87. spenc938 says:

    @snoop-blog: How is this NOT criminal? A lot of times, the retailer cannot resell it, and therefore they are out 100% of what they originally paid for the item. You are the one stealing that money. It doesn’t matter if you don’t actually get the money, it only matters that you are the one intentionally causing them to lose it.

    Therefore, stealing.

  88. Adam Hyland says:

    Of coruse it isn’t ethical. A company with a no questions asked return policy in this case is forced to basically offer this jerk a no interest loan for the value of the item in question. In other words, he borrows the item and gives it back later for no cost to him (net) aside from his time. That doesn’t even include depreciation or restocking.

    The consequence of his actions impact the rest of us. If the company tires of the problem and implements a flat restocking fee, I need to pay that for legitimate returns where the packaging is undistirbed. If the company doesn’t want to go down that road, they charge the rest of us a little more for his convieneince.

  89. matto says:

    Only someone with the ethics of Jerry Springer Show or Judge Judy guests would think “Retail Renting” acceptable.

  90. @PotKettleBlack: Just to add to the economics- the mark downs caused make the goods cheaper for consumers, albeit at the cost of the retailer and the cost to the consumer for getting used goods.

    I have a feeling there will be less clearance sales at stores that adopt the harshest policy, but that the quality of their goods will increase as well.

  91. Also what about the people who return things that are legitimately broken and/or unwanted gifts? I’m sure most people that return the underwear and socks they get for christmas aren’t pre-using aka stealing them.

  92. damook says:

    I find it hard to believe that we are having this argument. I am, however, consoled by the fact that it has to happen that every once in a while, some jackass who pulls this buys something that they definitely cannot afford, on the theory that they are returning it. Then they damage it, making the return null and void, and themselves screwed trying to pay it off. Whats next…hot date, so you “buy” a hot car at one of those places where you have 5 days to decide, no questions asked, and try to pull this. The fact that this is even an argument shows how despicable the morals in this country have become.

  93. pigeonpenelope says:

    pier 1 imports used to have a lifetime return sucked. we had people return stuff because they didn’t like it after using it for three years. we also had a lady who bought stuff and then returned it a week later. when people do that it hurts our sales for hte day. and that in turn made less hours for us to work so bottom line came out of our paycheck.

  94. snoop-blog says:

    @spenc938: so how does that work when the stores themselves accept it? if you try to return it can you get charged for attempted buyers remorse?

    the stores are the ones allowing this. i agree it’s unethical, but not criminal. how exactly do you PROVE someone intentionally bought something to return it later. you can’t prove intention.

    @SVreader: and as a sales manager, it’s your own fault if your getting a lot of returns. you didn’t sell them on the product completely or they would have kept it reguardless. if your customers are experiencing a lot of buyer’s remorse….it’s usually the salespersons fault.

  95. thelushie says:

    @SVreader: Add me to the list too. It drove me crazy. I worked in women’s clothing and we had this woman come in every couple of months with about 12 reciepts worth of returns (when she had reciepts that is…we were pretty sure she was stealing alot of the stuff from us). IT took about 30-45 minutes to get through all her stuff because nothing was ever sorted. The store became wise to her because when we ran her card for some of the returns, another little slip would print saying that this slip needs to be filed. She asked once and I honestly told her that they were keeping track of her returns and would probably be blacklisted soon. You should have seen the look on her face.

  96. ARPRINCE says:

    No matter what SPIN you may want to put into it, retail renting is flat out wrong. You got to have consumer decency!

  97. Dave on bass says:

    Well, how about this version? Several years ago I had a great Garmin GPS system, and I let it go when I got a car with a built-in Nav. Fast-forward a couple years, and now I am Nav-less again. But, Garmin no longer makes the model I liked, so I want to buy a new one. There *is* no way to “test out” all the various models from various manufacturers, though, and half of them don’t even work on display at [insert local retailer here]…

    So, I went on a roadtrip a year ago, and beforehand bought a GPS. A new Garmin. Didn’t like it very much, though, they’ve really changed their interface for the worse, so I returned it when I got home – gladly paid the 15% restocking. My GF liked it though, so I eventually got one for her, but still I hadn’t found the one for me. I did the same thing again just a few months ago, different brand; didn’t like that one very much either so it went back after a couple weeks.

    So, knowing that I *will* keep the one that ends up meeting my needs and preferences, am I still retail-renting?

  98. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    Restocking fees of less than 100 percent don’t penalize renters at all. They still got to use the item how they wanted. Restocking fees only punish the honest majority. I refuse to buy from retailers with restocking fees, period.

    Yes, “retail renting” is fraud. Good luck proving it, though. If I buy something and there’s nothing wrong with it except it doesn’t work out for the purpose I bought it for, I still reserve the right to return it. Legitimate reasons could be, “The birthday girl didn’t like it,” “It didn’t fit my sewing machine,” “I can’t figure out how to work it so I want something simpler,” and so forth.

  99. pigeonpenelope says:

    @snoop-blog: which is why the only ones who have posted they have done this are guys. but really mom is to blame.

  100. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    Whatever happened to “implied warranty of fitness?”

  101. Kilotonne says:

    Adverse selection – bad behavior drives out the good, and everyone suffers as the result. Maybe we can cut some slack to those in unusual situations, or broke youth, but when a majority starts being freeriders the system dies.

    The real question is why we see more of this behavior now than in the past?

  102. CorporateTool says:

    @pigeonpenelope: How is “Mom” to blame? It seems like these are all adults. I ceased blaming/congratulating my Mom for my life choices a while ago. Take some responsibility.

  103. Michael Belisle says:

    @B: I only retail rent from chain stores and that is my justification.

    Besides, there’s nothing in the return policy specifically prohibiting or even discouraging it. (But caveat etailray enterray: “The Home Depot reserves the right to limit or refuse to accept the return of merchandise at any time and for any reason.” [] )

    It is unethical and makes me a bad person. But as I was told, “that shouldn’t stop you.”

  104. Primate says:

    The retailer is out of money because they will now have to mark this item down, or send it back to the manufacturer. Either way it’s costing them money.

  105. statnut says:

    Here’s a question(and I voted no in the poll). Say you buy a used game from gamestop. They have a 7 day, no questions return policy. Is it ok to return a game then, even if you have played it and dont like it?

  106. pigeonpenelope says:

    @jammadave: trying something out and finding you don’t like it, then returning it is not unethical. you intended to keep the product had you liked it.

  107. manevitch says:

    Gaining benefit, for free, of goods intended for purchase? That’s theft, not “renting”.

  108. matto says:

    @Michael Belisle: I bet you feel justified about stealing music and movies, too. Am I right?

  109. pigeonpenelope says:

    @CorporateTool: if you read that i was aiming it at an individual who said that those folks picked the habit from their mom, you’d then realize i was being facetious.

  110. snoop-blog says:

    i just can’t imagine putting someone in jail for returning an item. which is what would eventually happen. i’d rather save the jail space for real criminals and let the stores themselves straighten this out. my only arguement is that it’s not the governments job to protect those retail stores from their own policy. personally i don’t want my tax dollars going towards court cases for returning a dress that the store accepted back.

    plus, you can’t prove their intention. they may really have a good reason for a return. are you going to give them a lie dector to find out if their reason is legit or not?

  111. Jim says:

    I’ve generally found that if you pause to consider whether something is ethical or not, it isn’t.

    This is renting in the same way someone stealing your car from the parking garage and joyriding all day then returning it before you get back is “borrowing”.

  112. pigeonpenelope says:

    @snoop-blog: i agree with you there. it isn’t something to go ot jail for. but it is something to be blacklisted from a retail store for.

  113. SVreader says:

    @snoop-blog: Uh…did you read any of that? First of all, I wasn’t a manager, just a kid in college. And they weren’t returning items because of “buyer’s remorse.” They would buy an item, use it for long time before getting their money back (example: fly netting for outdoors during summer, and then return it at the end of summer).

  114. @ptkdude: damn — beat me to it

  115. snoop-blog says:

    @pigeonpenelope: stores already have blacklists. it’s just most store aren’t willing to turn down money even if they might get the item returned. i’m sure after years of being in business, they know how much $$ on average get returned to their store. the same way loss prevention is calculated and costs are passed on to the consumers.

    @SVreader: well sorry then. i’ve never heard of losing a commission like that. every sales job i’ve ever worked had a 3-4 day cut off. i did work one that had a 30 day cut off. after that, i was still paid reguardless of if they returned it or not.

  116. Xerloq says:

    @CMU_Bueller: If you have 6 options, and only one will work, but neither you nor the sales staff know which it is, what do you do? It’s perfectly OK to buy one and return it if it doesn’t work. Why not buy 6? If the second one works, you don’t have to open the other four. If the sixth one works, you’ve saved yourself six trips you would have spent anyway.

    The key here is that at the end of the day, he’s actually keeping something, intending to return only those pieces that don’t work.

  117. SVreader says:

    @snoop-blog: It was suburbancowboy who was writing about commissions.

  118. @matto: Oh, and you like paying 20 dollars for a CD that is a load of processed DRM crap and helps fund the RIAA which cries over people sharing legal and free files?

  119. MercuryPDX says:

    @statnut: Depends. Did you buy it with the intention of “renting it” and abusing the policy? Did you finish it to 100% completeness before deciding you didn’t want it? Di you play for 30 minutes, decide it was not for you, and then return it?

  120. Xerloq says:

    This whole policy is why retailers are limiting their return policy, which hurts the ethical consumers. How many stories are posted here where consumers can’t return something because of some stiff return policy? Why are stores starting to keep databases of customers who frequently return items, and blacklisting them from purchasing?
    This ends up being a case of “You can’t have your cake and eat it too,” except the cake is a lie, and we’re all going to die at the hands of the retail combine.

    It’s been a long day… my mind is elsewhere.

  121. @snoop-blog: I agree- let the stores figure out how to resolve this. I generally think a 2-4 week window from time of purchase works, along with a ceiling on the total dollar amount of goods you a returning in a year. That way they limit it to people who legitimately have issues with their products. And if people want to frequent a store with a policy that fits them better, more power to them. I probably won’t make big purchases at Target, unless they are a really good deal, because of the draconian policies they’ve put in place.

    Hey, free markets a bitch.

  122. matto says:

    @HRHKingFriday: If I like the music? Yes? Burn me at the stake!

  123. Geekybiker says:

    Buying an item with the intention of using it and then returning it is absolutely unethical. My mother once bought my brother and I some clothes for a photography shoot and then returned them afterwards. I was horrified.

    However there have been a couple case where I pushed the border. Once I bought a cable modem when mine was acting up. It didnt fix the problem so I returned it. I would have kept it had it worked. Second time was once when I ordered some headphones before a long trip. They didn’t arrive in time so I ran to BB and bought the same model. Returned the new still in blister pack ones I got in the mail when I returned.

    I dont think I’ve ever returned something just because I didnt like it or because I was trying to avoid paying for it.

  124. snoop-blog says:

    @SVreader: whoops i’m now embarrassed. i your comment was right below his, and i clicked you by mistake. now i’m doubly sorry.

  125. disavow says:

    Depends on whether there’s any degradation, like fading/fraying on clothing or crappy repacking of electronics. Very unethical if there is. If not, I wouldn’t call it unethical per se, but definitely sketchy.

  126. snoop-blog says:

    @Geekybiker: thanks you proved my point on the mother comment. so my mom wasn’t the only one.

  127. emt888 says:

    I worked at Barnes and Noble and saw this happen all the time. This was before the new return policy, so as long as it was within 30 days and the book was in re-sellable condition, we had to take it back. Numerous times I did returns where I had to ask the customer if they wanted their bookmark back (it was still in the book). One day I was working out on the floor and a woman came up to me and asked me where the rental section was. When I told her that we were a store and that the books were for sale, she looked at me and said “Well, I can return it within a month, can’t I?” When I said yes, she smirked at me and walked away.

    People should think about this posting the next time they complain about stores adopting stricter return policies.

  128. Super1984 says:

    This is completely unethical, and I’m disturbed by the number of people who say “well, it depends…” People who do this are stealing (item value, lost sales opportunity, staff time and resources to process the return and restock the item) from the retailer, and of course, making it difficult for legitimate returns

    Also, why is everyone calling this “renting”? It’s not renting – renting is where you make an agreement to pay someone for a loan of some item.

  129. pigeonpenelope says:

    @snoop-blog: now i understand your pov a bit better especially when you said it was the store manager’s fault how many returns they got. you may be right that some stores don’t care about blacklisting folks because they want that sale so bad. my experience in retail is slightly different because we did blacklist serious offenders. you really had to be notorious for what you did though.

  130. Frostberg says:

    These people are assholes. They clearly only think of themselves and not the employees or other customers who have to pay more in the end.

  131. pigeonpenelope says:

    @emt888: oh yuck! i hate buying books that look used. i have to have them fresh. and how annoying, people who feel they can bend the rules and return a book. if she wanted to return the book she should have visited her local library.

  132. ak1 says:

    If you can’t afford to keep it, don’t buy it. It’s as simple as that.

  133. fashionablycontrived says:

    The concept of renting clothing disgusts me. After working retail for 8 years I have seen everyhting. The worst are young girls to middle age women that would by clothing to go out in and the return it the next day with sweat stains and a cigarette smell. I literaly had to damage out of stock thousands of dollars of designer denim in the course of a year. I like designer clothes my self but rarely will buy anything from a mass retailer becuase I know that chances are someone bought it before. I either buy online from small botiques with strict return policies or contact a store before an item arrives in stock and have them hold in for me.

  134. starke says:

    My mother (you know, the evil one I am referring to all the time?)  got caught doing this once.  She attempted to return a red minidress she had worn to a party to a *very* posh store once, and the woman processing the return told her she wouldn’t accept the return.  When my mother tried to argue, she said, “I saw you at so-and-so’s 40th birthday bash, and I saw you wearing the dress.  So you can kiss shopping here goodbye.  Now GOODBYE!”  MY mortified mother never shopped at Theodore ever again!

  135. kavitabk says:

    I distinctly remember doing this once, and strangely enough it was at the suggestion of the store employee!  I had to find a “flapper” costume for my high school choir recital, so I went to the Halloween store where the costumes were of course $65 each.  I was thinking aloud, saying “Well i’m not gonna buy a costume I’ll never wear again for $65 just for my stupid recital” and the guy at the cash register said “You could just buy it and then return it afterwards.”  I said, “Um…ok then…”  And that’s exactly what I did.

  136. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    I can do everyone one better.  I used to work in a major craft store.  There were lots of people who would bring back Christmas decorations, lights, and other crap in January, presenting a receipt from November.  It was obvious the stuff had been used.
    Why on earth would people do this (instead of, say, keeping it to use next year)?

  137. Super1984 says:

    @Xerloq: How often does this really happen? Most people can do research (read product specs, search internet guides, call company service lines, etc.) to determine the item that fits their needs. Use your best judgment, and if the item you chose doesn’t work, then return it in perfect condition. Unless it’s an emergency, you don’t need to blindly buy six items at once with the intention of returning five of them.

  138. yesteryear says:

    this is when i wish i believed in karma. the hand of god should spill a gallon of hollandaise sauce on every ‘wardrobed’ blouse on the planet!

    also, the guy in this story does NOT come off as ‘clever’ or ‘frugal’… he just seems like a trashy idiot.

  139. pigeonpenelope says:

    @speedwell: i can top. one day, when i worked at pier 1 imports, this lady returned a coffee table, two end tables, and a console table that had been used for three years… she also returned throw pillows that she had used and smelled like dog and cigarrette smoke… all because she heard of our lifetime return policy and wanted to update her home… pier1 has since changed their return policy…


  140. Michael Belisle says:

    @matto: No and yes. I often use the same punchline. But there are some qualifications:

    No: I stopped stealing music when the iTunes Store came out because I really liked the interface.. But I cursed DRM every time I bought something. Now I buy DRM-free music in quantity from iTunes Plus and the Amazon MP3 Store. And it’s great.

    Yes: The movie industry and some software companies still need additional civil disobedience.

    I’m just standing up for my rights as a consumer. I’m rolling back prices to 1965. What do you think of that?

  141. nardo218 says:

    I wouldn’t want to own something that someone has used and abused and then returned. If I but it from a store, it should be new. Returning stuff that the store does resel is screwing over the next person who owns it.     

  142. KyleOrton says:


    Yes. Why would I want something that doesn’t work?  There’s no other way to test it out.


    Clothing stores have dressing rooms, TVs have demo discs… some things just have to be tested.

  143. @pigeonpenelope: One time, at Linens-n-things I saw someone return a comforter and sheets that were clearly used. I kind of felt bad though because she looked like she’d seen better days.
    I also saw someone returning groceries and exchanging them for cigs and booze. She also had three kids with her, which I’m guessing were her tickets for food stamps or something.
    Anyways, I’m sure there are situations like these that are clearly unethical. But for things like electronics or for shiteous gifts from the inlaws, I hope stores maintain some kind of return policy.

  144. rustyni says:

    This is why we have restocking fees. :)
    When I was an electronics retail slave, people would always jump up my ass about the restocking fees. “I’ll go put it back on the shelf myself if that’s the problem!” No, the problem is, sir, that tacky consumerists take our high end merchandise home, “borrow” it for a one time event (loved the day after superbowl), and then decide to return it. Sorry, we’re not Rent-A-Center, and if you want to rent our shit, you’re going to swallow the margin we lose when we have to sell it as an open-box item.
    Unfortunately, this suck-ass fee gets passed on down to the honest consumers, like myself and others. : /

  145. starke says:

    On another note, I wish I could return everything I ever bought to the gap.  In fact, I could, but I don’t ever want to step in there ever again.  Apparently they’ll take anything back, even if it has been worn for years.  Thoughts about this policy?

  146. notallcompaniesareevil says:

    Once again, the comments here have confirmed my faith in humanity.  Thank you.  Buying something you intend to return is unethical and wrong.

  147. yesteryear says:

    @effingminnow: their way of saying sorry?

  148. descend says:

    If they charged a restocking fee, would most people just break/destroy/rip hems etc. so that they could claim it was a defective product?

  149. Why come it’s OK for celebs to “rent” gowns, jewelry, et al for red carpet events, but not the common man or woman?

  150. modenastradale says:

    Yeah, as a routine practice this is obviously not ethical. However, I think definitely “gray areas” exist.
    For example:
    (1) Retailers use the impermanence of a sale to facilitate the sale — and sometimes explicitly encourage you to “rent.”
    I don’t know how many times I’ve been tempted to buy a leather jacket or a similar item, and have had a salesperson say: “Go ahead, this is a great price. Wear it for a few days and you can always bring it back if it’s not just right.”
    One time, I was eyeing a $300 pair of Bose noise canceling headphones, which I wanted for an upcoming trip in Europe. I knew I didn’t want to pay $300, and said as much to the salesman. He explicitly told me to buy them, use them, and return them after my trip. Of course, I was so hooked that I never did return them — which is exactly what the retailer wanted.
    (2) Sometimes I really like an item of clothing, but I have some doubt about it. In these cases, I will sometimes buy the item and try it out for an evening — if the flaws continue to bother me, I will take it back. However, I openly disclose that I’ve worn the item. I’ve never encountered a problem with this.
    (3) How many of us have purchased something that wasn’t quite right, just to preserve the option of keeping it — and then continued to shop for the perfect item? I have, especially with jeans. I once bought $1,200 worth of jeans from Macy’s, just so I could take my time in the “fitting room” (my bedroom). I neatly folded and returned about $900, and don’t think I did anything wrong in the process — after all, Macy’s got a $300 sale from me it wouldn’t otherwise have had, since its fitting rooms were so awful.
    I suppose, for me, the real ethical question is whether you’re doing something that’s defensibly within the retailer’s interest. Buying something with 100% certainty of returning it doesn’t help the retailer at all — unless the retailer has invited you to do so, banking that you’ll keep the item after all. But buying items when you’re not sure, or only think you might keep the item? I think that’s OK — it gives the retailer a better shot at selling to you. Most merchandise ends up getting cleared in discounts anyway.

  151. sled_dog says:

    @statnut: If you did not intend to return it when you bought it, I think you are in the clear.  If you bought it just to use it at a party tonight, intending to return it that’s wrong.

  152. picardia says:

    This has been going on for decades.  I’d bet anything it’s NOT a bigger trend now.

  153. matto says:

    @Michael Belisle: I think we are in near violent agreement. I haven’t bought a real honest-to-goodness CD in years either. Since I am either an Apple Fanboy or simply appreciate their products (Apple TV, iPod) the DRM on the music I buy from ITMS hasn’t bothered me at all. Aside from that, a few minor issues.


    You say “The movie industry and some software companies still need additional civil disobedience.”


    The only “civil disobedience” that is ethical in this case is voting with your wallet and not purchasing the product. Stealing isn’t a form of protest, it’s a crime. I’m sorry. I happen to have worked in the software industry for a decade or so. I have dozens of friends in the industry. My brother has written code for a living for god knows how long. To top it off, I’m putting myself through film school. Can you explain to me what “social justice” your “act of protest” accomplishes when you steal something that me, my friends or my family do for a living?


  154. coolsright says:

    I’m not reading all these replies. I’m too busy repacking my BOSE speakers I bought from Crutchfield. Can’t stand the way they sound, couldn’t listen to them over the internet and Praise Allah they have an excellent return policy. 


    If people abuse such policies they simply won’t be there for the times when they’re much-needed. Like now, for me, with these shit-ass BOSE speakers.


    I’m gonna get me some POLK AUDIO ones.


    And Crutchfield has a customer for life because of their excellent customer service and the aforementioned return policy. Don’t you ‘renter’s’ screw that up. K?

  155. modenastradale says:

    Celebrities never actually purchase the items in the first place. In fact, the whole process is turned on its head. Designers approach the celebrities, beg, and bribe them to wear their designs to the Oscars or whatever. The designers also usually arrange to have the items custom-tailored to the celebrities — all of which are good for business, since they show off the designs in a flattering way on TV.
    With a lot of these things, the items end up being gifts from the designer. But when they’re really valuable — like a $600,000 necklace from Harry Winston — there will be an agreement, insurance, etc.

  156. universaluser says:

    I’m glad that the majority of comments here are against wardrobing.  Sometimes what I read off of the Consumerist is pretty shameful, but this restored some of my faith here.


    As for the remaining minority, imagine in *your* profession, whatever it may be, your service/product/sale is fully returnable and/or refundable without contract or obligation.  What would you be losing or taking back?  Dishwasher?  Medical exam?  Consultation time?  5 million cell phones?  High rise builiding in midtown Manhattan?


    Imagine all retail stores instituted those same protections and contracts that your business depends on.

  157. UpsetPanda says:

    @ceejeemcbeegee: I highly doubt these celebrities actually buy the $50,000 gown, then return it the day after the Oscars. Celebrities and designers quite often work together on custom gowns or work together through the designer’s collection to find the right one…and that gown is often “rented” to the celebrity… Celebrities are most likely not going to wear the same formal gown

    again, but it isn’t likely to be handed to another celebrity either. No

    one is getting a ‘second hand’ item. it’s a mutually beneficial relationship because most designers like that celebrities wear their fashions. It’s different because the people who retail rent don’t benefit anyone but themselves when they, in effect, steal. It’s uncouth to retail rent clothing, and it’s unfair to other people.

  158. meneye says:

    abuse of freedom like this is the reason it gets taken away in the first place!

  159. elvish says:

    I used to spent an average of 3-5 k annually shopping in Macys. However 2 years ago, i bought a shirt which cost about USD70 for a wedding party. I wore the shirt for half an hour and figured out that i really looked ugly on it. Then i proceeded to return the shirt and was lectured by the sales rep about how unethical this is, what do you want me to do with the shirt etc.. and he even called his supervisor. That was no doubt my first return, or at least my very fist few in the many many years i shopped there. I’m not sure what sparked the rep, but that was the last time i shopped in Macys.
    So it is nothing unethical about returning. It’s about marketing. The business can choose not to have a return policy but it is their risk of alienating customers like me. They proceeded with that strategy, knowing of the risk of returning, and therefore should just live with it.

  160. UpsetPanda says:

    @UpsetPanda:I have no idea why it separated my comment like that…new comment system is wonky with my firefox?

  161. csdiego says:

    It’s not renting if you don’t pay anything for it.  And no, the interest the store makes on your money doesn’t count. 

    It scares me that only 75% of respondents here said “no”.

  162. rolandsherpa says:

    So this gentleman “rented” a projector for a business presentation (something that can be done easily and legitmately). If I found out that an employee, salesperson or prospective consultant had done this, any business relationship would be immediately terminated. Or better yet, hire them, get some good work out of them and then refuse to pay them. Explain that you were just ‘renting’ their services with no intention of actually paying them.


    No amount of rationalization makes this acceptable. There is nothing wrong with returning an item that proves unsatisfactory.


  163. matto says:

    @UpsetPanda: its even worse with Safari :(

  164. modenastradale says:

    I’ll add a fourth circumstance:
    Oftentimes people will agonize over a purchase they know they can’t afford. They’ll go ahead and buy the item, thinking it will give them time to “think things over.” Usually, they keep it. But if they don’t, I don’t see anything wrong with returning the item (in original condition, obviously).
    Return policies aren’t benevolence, and they’re not just there for customer loyalty — retailers know that they’re an important factor in the point-of-sale.

  165. amyltall says:

    Ethical?  No way.  Understandable?  Absolutely.


    A commentor before me asked why we’re seeing more of this type of behavior than in the past.  It’s because we live in a society today that is completely preoccupied with always having the next best thing.  It’s no longer about “keeping up with the Joneses”, it’s about “showing up the Joneses because you got a flat-screen twice the size of theirs for 2/3rds the cost”.


    As much as I love celebrities, they’re indirectly to blame for this trend.  Our unwavering interest in EVERY LAST DETAIL of their lives (whether we should know about it or not) is fueling a financially-crippling need to live beyond our means.  You see Victoria carrying the latest Prada bag, and you’ve got to have one too.  But you know you can’t actually afford it, so you figure, why not just “rent” it for one date?


    For those who suggested rental retailers, that’s a good idea, except that you won’t deter the cheapskates who’d rather pay nothing (after it’s been returned) than something.

  166. victor13 says:

    Learning and living with the return policy of a retailer is very important.  I have carefully studied the return policies of any store i shop in to ensure no nasty surprises if/when i need to return something.


    For example, the several times my xbox has had to be sent in to repair, i have “rented” one from circuit city.  As they are the only retailer around here that did not charge a restocking fee on their xboxes AND also let me keep it for 30 days.  Where as wal-mart only did it for 14.

  167. RulesLawyer says:


    <blockquote>I lost the receipt, I have bought a brand new one, swapped the boxes and took it back for a refund as faulty.</blockquote>

    I did this once with a defective GPS.  Funny thing was, I tried to return it without the receipt, they refused, and I told them exactly what I was going to do.  After I bought it, I went to the returns counter, swapped out the GPS in front of them, then handed it over with the receipt. No problems.


    It’s the “implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose.”  Most manufacturers disclaim this warranty in the paperwork.  Retailers… if you tell them what you’re going to use it for, and they say it will work, there’s nothing wrong with returning it when it doesn’t work for that purpose.


    <blockquote>In this particular instance, the retailer’s side

    is that they will offer product X for a price of Y. The consumer’s side

    is to either accept X for Y and make the trade, or shop elsewhere. When the consumer instead decides to not accept X for Y, he either defrauds … or outright steals from the retailer</blockquote>

    Almost correct; definitely incomplete.  Part of the “product X” that the retailer is offering to the buyer are the conditions around the product. Often, there’s a warranty. Sometimes, there’s an arbitration clause.  In this case, included in the price of product X is the cost to the retailer of their return policy.  There’s no fraud in following the return policy, which is part of the cost the consumer paid.

    Of course, the more consumers who do this, the more expensive the return policy is to the retailer.  That results in increased prices, or more restrictive policies. Unethical? Yes. Fraud? Criminal? Even a breach of contract? Not at all.

  168. shadow735 says:

    This is wrong if you are buying it with the knowledge that you will return in in a few days or weeks. It is not wrong if you bought the item and did not like the item and its preformance. There is a big difference, its called intentions.

  169. says:

    this is why sharper image filed chapter 11 a couple days ago

  170. GhettoGodfather says:

    Having worked retail for about 8 years ending number of years back, we encountered this on a regular basis.  I worked at many places, working on the sales floor both on commission and as an hourly employee.  For those of you who have never worked on commission, or even in retail at all, let me tell you a few ingredients that make for success:

    1. Time management – as wrong as it sounds, if there were multiple customers for me to approach, the one carrying a handful of flyers from different stores was going to get helped last.  Why?  During the few seconds I have to evaluate whether this customer is a “buyer” as opposed to a “shopper”, I make this educated assumption right away.  I’d rather work with someone who’d be ready to buy at this visit if possible (so I make the commission as opposed to someone else getting the benefit of it later at the expense of my work).  This isn’t to say I wouldn’t help a “shopper”, but time on the sales floor is seen by successful commission salespeople as an investment.  If there are a number of customers who need help, there is a selection process made within seconds.  The man with the wedding ring and no wife present is probably going to come second to the family who’s also waiting.  There are many more scenarios, but I’m sure you get the point. Even though this sounds bad, The fact is sometimes everyone can’t be helped right away and even though we’d love to help everyone right away, I’d try to give each customer my undivided attention and help them to the best of my ability.  This is why I wouldn’t just bounce back and forth between customers – I think its poor customer service.  Call this “confessions of a commissioned salesperson” if you want… maybe this sheds some light on how commissioned sales works.  No sale = no check.
    2.  Customer service – be competent (knowledgeable), honest, and sell with integrity.  Match customers up with products that they really need and want.  This serves many purposes.  This first being a happy customer and with that enhances word of mouth advertising and relationship building.  The second being it reduces your returns.  See, I’d rather not make a sale at all than sell something to a customer who comes back and returns it later.  This is a waste of time for both me and the customer. 
    3.  Education and demonstration – when selling things like electronics, specialty, or high ticket (expensive) items that a customer isn’t very familiar with, take the time to show them how it works and explain in simple language the differences between features.  Relate this to how a particular product may or not actually benefit the customer.  Make the customer an informed buyer.  This is probably the biggest way to reduce returns and excel in customer service.  This is what making the customer happy is all about.  You’re much more likely to receive repeat business this way.  This practice seems just about extinct in most places I shop these days but is what I think made me the most successful.
    Now I’m sure most of you readers don’t care one way or another about all this.  I only take the time to post it to put in perspective the impact these “retail renters” have on businesses.  For the most part, most salespeople are honest and care about both the customer and how well of a job they do.  Their job on the sales floor is their bread and butter and the money they make pays their bills and feeds their families.  When a salesperson takes their time to help a customer select a product, answer their questions, and so on, they are earning their paycheck (the commission).  A “retail renter” takes full advantage of this only to come back and return the product (which deducts the commission back from the salesperson’s paycheck) after they are done using it once.  Whether on commission or hourly/salary, returns make the salesperson (or sales team as a whole) look bad.  Make no mistake, this is tracked by almost every company.  You can even be fired by some retailers for having too many returns within a certain time period.  Then of course, there is the time involved (which translates to money and the bottom line for retailers) in processing the return, inspecting the product to determine if it can be resold, re-packaging the product, and then selling it again at a discount.  Guess what?  This ends up hurting all customers as a whole since the retailer has to pass those costs on to someone.
    For those of you who don’t think it’s unethical to do this because you think you’re “sticking it to the big corporation”, you’re hurting not only the company, but also the hard working salespeople and your fellow consumers as well.

  171. weakdome says:

    @ptkdude: hahahaha snail trailed jeans… love it

  172. catnapped says:

    This sort of thing also happens with “collectibles” (especially toys such as action figures and toy cars–ie Hot Wheels). Purchaser buys up whatever is currently “hot”, takes them to either his flea market stand or attempts to flip them on Ebay for a premium. If they sell, he makes a decent profit, but if he finds himself stuck with them for a few months (once the “new/hot” aura has worn off and nobody wants to pay more than retail), he’ll cart them all back to the store to unload it. He’s essentially out nothing (but his time and gas money), while the store may be stuck with something that nobody wants anymore. Many places now either have limits on such returns or forbid them outright because of these people.

  173. ihateauditions says:

    American Express could solve this neatly.

    They could track the percentage of goods that are returned, so stores could offer one return policy to people like me (who only buy when they’re trying to buy), and a second one to people who return 20% of their purchases.

    We don’t have any privacy anyway, it’s about time that lack of privacy did me some good.

  174. MARTHA__JONES says:

    @alexander: Worn clothing cannot be sold as new – if the retailer realizes it has been worn (and they usually do whether the employee says so or not) the item is marked out of the inventory to be donated, or thrown out.

  175. MARTHA__JONES says:

    @ceejeemcbeegee: Because when celebrities borrow (not rent) jewelry & gowns it is an agreement with the merchant. Both parties get something from the deal, the celeb looks smashing with getting stuck with the bill and the merchant gets great press.

    Whereas, when Joe Consumer does this, he does it under false pretenses. He costs the retailer time & inventory without providing any benefit to the merchant. A cost which is then passed on to all other consumers – honest consumers.

  176. forgottenpassword says:

    lol I have been guilty of this only three times. Once, when I was younger, I needed a “full-range” speaker box in the back of my old bronco because the bronco basically came with no speakers (or a decent place to put speakers). So i found one I liked & wanted, but i wanted to try it out before I bought it. So i went to a local “big-box” retailer (NOT some mom’n’pop shop) & bought it just to try it out (it was way too expensive at that particular store)…. I liked it, then returned it. And then bought it MUCH cheaper via mail order. I still have this fullrange speaker box today, but use it in my jeep now.

    The second time… I was traveling out of the country & needed a electical plug converter (so I could run/charge my electronics in england). I was rushed for time to get it so I bought one at radio shack for over $20 (EXPENSIVE!!!!) , used it during my trip & since I would probably never need it again I returned it.

    The third time…. i needed an extra memory card for my digital camera to take more pictures during my trip to england (they were about 100 bucks at the time), so… I went to best buy & bought a sony one (lol, I remember at the time the clerk tried to get me to buy a lexar brand one because it was basically the same one, but cheaper…. but it’s retail package was harder to remove the card from without tearing the package up…. while the card from the sony package could be removed without even opening the package up). I used the sony card in england & after I came back I transferred my pics, erased the card & slipped it back into the sealed package it came in & returned it as an unopened item (full refund).

    Yes, yes, I am a horrible horrible person.

  177. forgottenpassword says:


    dang… I forgot. WHen i was a kid. I would occassionally buy cds from camelot music in the mall, record them onto minidiscs & then return them. Camelot music was just about the only retail place that allowed you to return opened cds.

    At 16 bucks a pop for a cd…. i felt as if I was being ripped off anyway…. so it didnt bother me that I recorded them off & returned them.

  178. mistaketv says:

    This whole thread fascinates me. Of particular interest to me are those who not only refuse to see any gray area, but who claim that this is theft, “plain and simple.” If it is theft, and I don’t agree that it is in any commonly understood sense of the word, it certainly isn’t plain or simple.

    Consider this hypothetical scenario: I am about to leave on a trip, for which I would love to have a fancy new portable media player to keep me entertained. So I go to Ye Olde Big Boxe Shoppe and purchase a PMP device with my credit card, with every intent of returning it after my trip for a full refund, well within the time period established for returns by the retailer. But while I am on my trip, I find it so enjoyable to be able to watch Will Ferrell play the exact same character with a different name in his latest sports-themed movie while I’m on the go, that I decide to keep the item. All that has changed is my intent, and in fact the entire transaction is indistinguishable from a standard pure-hearted retail purchase. So am I still guilty of theft?

    I think not. But then if I were to, in fact, return it after all, would I be guilty of theft then? I still think not. To me, the intent of the consumer is irrelevant in this case. The fact is that the retailer got paid. If they choose to accept a return and provide a refund, that is their prerogative. Getting something for nothing by exploiting a system without breaking any rules or lying does not necessarily equate to theft. It may equate to douchebaggery of some degree, but it’s not theft, plain and/or simple.

  179. clickable says:

    I can’t wrap my mind around why high end stores feel obligated to accept obviously-used garments as returns and give full refunds. I wish Jezzies who work in the trade could explain this to me.

    I can understand accepting brand-new tagged items, of course. I also understand if there’s a serious complaint about an item – the color bled in the wash, the seam had so little selvage that it came open the first time it was worn, and so forth. Even if the customer didn’t wash according to the instructions or whatever, I can understand the store wanting to appease her. Store credit would be more than enough, but that’s not the main issue.

    Do people really sail in with worn clothes – high end clothes, I understand – and demand their money back, just because, and get it, no questions asked? But why?

    And let’s say the stores don’t want to alienate anyone, although I can’t imagine why they’d want these people as “customers,” why not give store credit? Why refunds? For worn garments when there weren’t any problems with them?

    I don’t get it. I really don’t get it, because I wouldn’t dream of such a thing, even though apparently just about anyone can pull it off.

  180. alulim says:

    sounds like you were(/are) a “great” retail sale rep. You’re the guy who fights through a throng of customers to process the guy with a discover card in his hand; only you bitch that he bought a mouse, not the computer (or any high end ticket) he was standing near.

    I think the majority of us can agree that “retail renting” is unethical. The real problem tho, is not so much the “renters” but “big corporations”. Why? Have a look

    1.Return Agreements
    i’ll buy 100 of you pmps (personal media players), assuming, statistically, that 2 will be defective. I however reserve the right to send up 10 back you to you for the full amount (wholesale) i paid for them. The OEM (original equipment manufacturer) isn’t losing 10%, only a portion of its margin menus the value of faulty component (if there is one).

  181. fishiftstick says:

    Of course this is unethical. Returns are for unsatisfactory goods.

    The result is higher prices and a bigger hassle when we try to make legit returns. My experience at a Sears in Canada this week is an illustration.

    This week I returned a shirt to Sears Canada (it was the wrong size). I had the receipt and it was within the return period. The clerk asked me for my phone number. Since this was a cash transaction, the only reason was so they can track chronic returners.

    Although Canada has reasonably good privacy laws, we have no effective controls on telemarketers, so I don’t give out my number. So as usual when asked my number, I replied “No thanks.”

    But then the clerk insisted, saying it was “store policy” to require phone numbers, and that without my number they couldn’t process the return.

    I replied that just because it was “policy” doesn’t mean they are entitled to it.

    The right to return unsatisfactory goods, when applicable, isn’t a privilege; it is a condition of the original sale. Since Canadian privacy laws prohibit companies from collecting private information without consent, they are neither entitled to demand my phone number nor to refuse a return because I withhold it.

    She went to see her manager, who I assume told her that I was right, because she came back and processed my return without any further problem. I am now considering filing a complaint with Canada’s Privacy Commissioner to protect those less aware of their rights.

  182. Superborty says:

    Why is this posted? It is clearly unethical. You are a POS if you do it.

  183. forgottenpassword says:

    People who do this are just using the system to their advantage.

    I recall a story about a rich NY businessman who was going on a trip & needed a place to store his expensive sportscar for a while. So he got a loan for a large amount of money & put his expensive sportscar up for collateral…. the bank took possession & put it in their storage. He returned after the trip, paid off the loan (with interest of roughly under 20 dollars) & took back his sportscar. He only took out the loan so that he could cheaply store his sportscar somewhere while he was away. He used the system to his advantage. That is what other people are doing when buying something, using it & then returning it.

    IMO doing this with clothes or something that is personal (like a waterpik etc. etc..) is just nasty!

  184. CPC24 says:

    I understand why people do this, but it’s just in incredibly bad taste, like not tipping. I always decide whether or not I want something BEFORE I buy it.

    If it’s broken, or totally inadequate, I won’t wait weeks or months; I’ll return it within the next day or two. I recently worked in retail and it only made me more determined on this.

    People would have a broken or wrong item, but still keep it for weeks or months before returning it. Of coruse, they were all up in arms when we couldn’t return it.

  185. forgottenpassword says:

    Sorry, I keep remembering other times I have done this. I used to so this a lot with computer game software. This was a time when software came on floppy disks … I’d buy it, copy it off & return it.

  186. barty says:

    Try being someone working on commission and dealing with these types. It really hurts to have $1000+ of merchandise come back because someone pull those stunts.

    Abuse of return policies are what brought us restocking fees. Items that are returned after being used are exactly that, used. Not new. So even if what I said above holds no water, it still costs the retailer money. A savvy buyer can get a one time good deal on the open box item, but ultimately everyone pays. Even with a restocking fee, items are usually marked down (unless its Best Buy) more than what the restocking fee is, and in some cases, has to be repackaged or even sent to a liquidation store, where it is bought by a liquidator or refurbisher for pennies on the dollar.

    What I never understood was when I was in the business, the same people were always coming in and “renting” the same stuff over and over. They might rotate between stores, but we generally learned who they were. Over time though, they probably spent more time and money than just purchasing and keeping the item the first time around. Sometimes it just doesn’t pay!

  187. sharonlives says:

    This is a fascinating discussion! The question is whether retail “renting” is ethical. Since when are personal ethics a required condition of shopping? Obviously, the stores don’t care about our ethics anyway. That is why they announce their rules for all to follow. They are imposing a set of ethics on us.

    Most stores have their rules clearly spelled out near the check-out registers and I always read them. Some stores require clothes to be unworn when returned. Others do not have this condition. Somebody show me the rule that says the store can analyze my state of mind while making either the purchase or the return.

    If you are making a return and following the store rules, then what’s the complaint? I see no reason for the consumer to make up additional rules to follow on the store’s behalf.

  188. arcticJKL says:

    I refuse to continue this conversation until someone defines ‘ethical’.

  189. forgottenpassword says:

    I want to see a the next poll where consumerist asks if certain business practices are ethical?

    I am willing to bet that the majority of businesses’ are even more unethical than consumers are when it comes to the consumer/business relatioship.

  190. StevieD says:

    High return rates = high prices.

    I have heard all the arguments about merchant greed yada yada yada.

    I am a merchant. Just yesterday I computed the profit margin of a product after adjusting for returns. By my computations I could lower the price by 6% if I eliminated all of the returns. Oh sure I am a greedy son-of-a-gun. I am also practical. I predict that if I were to lower my price by 4% I would increase sales by 18% and if I lowered my price by 6%, I could increase my sales by 25%. Do you, the consumer, want returns or a lower price? I know I want to sell more and make more $. Doing the number crunching right now. I think generous returns are a bad idea.

  191. toddiot says:

    Am I a douche bag for selecting “My opinions are far too sophisticated to be explained by a choice on a stupid poll”?


  192. aro says:

    I wonder if anyone is reading comments this far down but I’ll give it a go

    As many commentors, I worked in retail and saw this crap happen ALL the time. I don’t understand how people had the balls to do this stuff.

    I worked at the Gap in college, and I’ll never forget when this assclown bought one of those fleece hoodies that said GAP across the chest that they had season after season for like 10 years. Anyway the next day he came in with the same hoodie, only it had been through like a million wash cycles and was clearly faded. He tried to return it with the receipt he used to purchased the new same hoodie the day before. He was even smart enough to cut the style-number tag off that contains the year and season (any fellow Gappers know what I am talking about, its a tag inside the regular tag with the washing instructions)

  193. aro says:

    @effingminnow: thats how it was years ago but they have since changed it. You can only return something before 90 days with a valid receipt at the Gap now.

    What I don’t understand is why so many clothing retailers do not require tags to be on any return. This is one reason why so many people get away with wearing stuff and returning it

  194. ninjatales says:

    Always been tempted to do it but never tried it cuz of my conscience.

  195. MercuryPDX says:

    @ceejeemcbeegee: Because celebs are photgraphed and put in People, Us Weekly, etc. etc. so it’s free advertising for Harry Winston, Vera Wang, et. al.

    If Jimmy Deignan was getting a four page spread in House & Garden, sure. Otherwise it’s kinda scummy.

  196. MercuryPDX says:

    @GhettoGodfather: If there are a number of customers who need help, there is a selection process made within seconds. The man with the wedding ring and no wife present is probably going to come second to the family who’s also waiting.

    GASP! Retail profiling! I smell a story for next weeks poll. :)

  197. LAGirl says:

    i worked at a Nordstrom right after high school. they had a very liberal return policy. we had to take back anything, in any condition, with or without a receipt. as soon as customers figured this out, some of them really took advantage.

    the bored, rich housewives were the worst. they’d buy a $2000 belt or $3000 bag for an event, and return it the next day. they did it all the time, and there was nothing we could do. this was especially painful since we worked on commission, and each return was deducted from your sales for that period.

  198. wellfleet says:

    Working at Best Buy, I see this all the time, especially with steam carpet cleaners. People literally buy them for the day and return them, filthy and not fit for resale. Keep in mind, consumers, that while many retailers offer a return policy for the shopper’s convenience, no retail store is obligated to take any item back.

    At Best Buy, we can refuse to return any item at our discretion. Yes, you may absolutely melt our faces, but we still don’t have to refund your money. I had a guy return a vac whose brush bar was so tangled and clogged with hair I almost threw up. Customer said he just didn’t like it. I told him he could take it home and clean it because I would have to send it straight to the trash, It was revolting.

    So, renters, wardrobers, beware.

  199. wellfleet says:

    @barty: OMG! At my store, you will find an onyx grey, unused, open box Samsung electric dryer for $699. That’s $300 off retail because it’s out of the box. Not good enough? How about a $2200 KitchenAid counter-depth, stainless-steel, bottom-mount fridge for $1499? The longer the crud sits on the floor, the bigger the markdown. Just ask!

  200. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot says:

    This is like those people who go scrounging at garage sales and flea markets for used Craftsman tools so they can return them to SEARS and under the Unconditional Lifetime Guarantee walk out with a brand new one.

  201. tallcat601 says:

    That this is happening and had become somewhat common should tell retailers that there is a consumer that they are not servicing. The Renter (to be distinguished from “rent-to-own”, which is basically expensive lay-a-way).

    The company “Bag, borrow or steal” is a great example. They recognized the growth in demand for “IT” bags for occasions/fashion/vanity and built a business model to meet that market.

    Maybe retailers will wise-up and build a short term rental market for the vanity consumer.

  202. Michael Belisle says:

    @matto: That’s a fair question, although civil disobedience is by definition refusing to comply with the law as a form of protest.

    The short answer is that simply not buying a digital product doesn’t send a loud enough message to the people in control. I strongly disagree with the way that some entities treat their customers or unduly exert their influence. For example, the MPAA [1], the RIAA [2], Microsoft [3], and the Catholic Church (32-1965 A.D.) [4] are each notorious for attempting to stifle innovation they don’t control.

    So these are the organizations I vote my negative dollars with, not Steven and Cabel of Panic Inc. If you’re a Microsoft programmer-and I assume you’re not-I’m sorry but I am trying to run your company into the ground. As for movies, the Apple rental store might get me to give up (the occasional) movie theft like I did music theft. It’s promising. But I hesitate because the stingy 24-hour watching period is unconscionable.

    Napster and its progeny, MP3 players, and CD-ripping scared the hell out of the recording industry. Without that perfect storm, it’s quite possible that we wouldn’t yet have the iTunes Music Store, the music industry wouldn’t know that their customers were unhappy, and our discmans would still be skipping.

    [1] Jack Valenti, MPAA, 1982: “The VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone.” Mr. Valenti, as a member of the public, I respectfully disagree and history agrees with me.

    [2] Jennifer Pariser, Sony BMG, 2007: “When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole [one] song.” I disagree again, and I’m confident that history will agree with me in the future, when the past has occurred.

    [3] See Has Microsoft stifled innovation?

    [4] See Reformation. At least the first three don’t light people on fire.

  203. S-the-K says:

    Dittos to those who say “No”.

    Granted, if you follow the store’s policy on returns and return the item in “resellable condition”, then you are following the letter of the law. However, you are violating the spirit of the law!

    You are hurting those of us who return items for legitimate reasons, e.g., it didn’t work as well as advertised or preferred a different model after all. We get punished with restocking fees and getting the Third Degree from the sales clerk because of you.

    When you return stuff frivously, the merchant is stuck with an albatross. Either they sell it as an “open item” and take a loss, or they have it sitting on the shelf while customers pick up unopened items. After all, if I’m going to pay full price for something, I want it in new condition, not something obviously “used” that may or may not have all the pieces and cables in the box.

    If you want to rent an item, go to an equipment rental store, e.g., Aarons, Rent-A-Center, et al.

  204. aka Cat says:

    You want to use something for free? Buy it used, use it, and resell it.

  205. akronharry says:

    I know someone will blast this comment but…tough.

    Several years ago we had a promotion assembly for 8th graders going to high school. This is in the inner city. Everyone dressed up for the event. As I helped one student with a tie, an attached tag slipped out of his sleeve. I mentioned it to him and I was about to pull it off when tears started to form. Embarrassed, he asked me not to tear it off because it was being returned later that day. I just tucked it back under. I am not an overly sentimental person , but on that day my heart did break up a bit. The grandmother was raising the kids and had limited funds. She wanted her grandson to look good.
    SO yes, While I agree that it is not ethical to “rent clothes”, but just sometimes I can see the point.

  206. Erwos says:

    @SuburbanSocialite: That’s not retail renting. That’s buying stuff and reselling it. There’s nothing even remotely wrong or unethical about that.

  207. Erwos says:

    @Michael Belisle: Civil disobedience is _publicly_ disobeying a law. Rosa Parks didn’t make a statement by sitting in the front of the bus and not being noticed by anyone. She made a statement by sitting in the front of the bus and getting punished for it. Ditto for the cafe sit-ins that MLK organized.

    Let us know when you’re willing to break the law in front of an RIAA representative. Otherwise, you’re just stealing and trying to rationalize it.

  208. UpsetPanda says:

    @Michael Belisle: You pay for what you get, that’s the end of story. Theft is not paying anything, you’re getting something that should be paid for in the first place. It’s theft. Apple’s “stingy” 24 hour limit is in place because you do not own the movie…you want to own the movie, go buy the movie from the store. Rental is what it implies, you get something temporarily. Why thieve movies at all? Netflix lets you keep a disc as long as you want. Ohhh, but you are in it for showing these big bad companies what a force to be reckoned with you are…please, you’re justifying your theft when you’re just lazy to actually work for the products.

    There is no justification for theft, there are situations that people can understand theft, but you don’t even have that.

  209. bukz68 says:

    RENTING usually means that a renter is given money (that he can keep) so that the rentee can use a good or service for a limited time. This is not “renting” nor is the guy in the story a “smart shopper.” I’ll hazard a guess and say that he probably wouldn’t appreciate it if people like him “retail rented” his services. I know he’s an event planner, or something like that, so it probably won’t work. But I’m just saying.

  210. barty says:

    @wellfleet: I’m just relating a recent experience at my local Best Buy, where most of the open box items were only a pittance below or were sometimes even the same prices as new merchandise. There have been a few articles here on the Consumerist to that effect as well. Because I value the buying power of my money, I don’t shop there unless someone gives me a gift card anyway. I don’t think your employer adds anything to the experience to warrant prices that are often 20-30% higher than other brick and mortar stores.

    Fact is, I can often get something NEW elsewhere at Best Buy’s open box price.

  211. KJones says:

    Would anyone tolerate someone buying a CD, ripping the songs into MP3s and then returning the CD for a refund? If not, then why tolerate someone using a product for personal benefit without paying?

    I generally don’t side with retailers, but this is unacceptable. When you buy something, you make a legal agreement to purchase the product promised at the price on the tag. Unless the product is not what’s promised or it doesn’t work, you can’t return it just because you don’t like it or don’t want to pay for it.

    The only products I return are those I couldn’t test at the store (e.g. CDs that won’t play on a computer, clothes at stores without changing rooms), products that failed in far too short a time, or food products that are tainted. Otherwise, if I got what was promised and I end up not liking it, tough luck for me.

  212. ShadowArmor says:

    Here’s a unique one.

    I was buying jeans at costco, where there are no fitting rooms. Given the varying cuts of different brands, the sizes were no reliable indicator of what would fit. I had to buy several pairs to try on, fully intending to return what did not fit.

    In college, given what textbooks cost, I had zero qualms about buying books, copying what I needed, and returning them. Ethical or not, most people will not think twice about taken advantage of a policy at a store they feel has wronged them.

  213. bukz68 says:

    @ShadowArmor: I would say that your first point is an example of something that would not be considered improper. You do intend to keep at least one pair of pants and you are merely saving them the trouble of buying a pair, it not fitting, exchanging for another and repeating until you get a pair that fits.

    However, I don’t think your second example has a leg to stand on. You do have alternatives to “retail renting” books. Split the cost with a friend and share, borrow a friend’s and make copies, get the book at a library and make copies, etc. The bookstore has wronged you no more than the company that pumps out a new edition every year to keep prices high or the prof who has given you few other options than having to drop that kind of money.

    Too many people fail to remember the golden rule (including many times these companies themselves). I always try to put myself in the position of these people. I certainly wouldn’t like it if people “retail rented” my services and I feel that nearly every other person on the planet would feel the same if their financial well-being was at stake.

  214. ProjectGSX says:

    Im amazed that this is even presented as a question. Of course its not ethical to purchase something with the intention of returning it after use.

  215. yetiwisdom says:

    This past week I needed a VGA cable for a presentation. Went to Radio Shack and bought one – not with the INTENT of returning it – but guess what – the cable they had was in a battered box and had clearly been used and returned.

    This spurred a conversation among the team – to return or not to return. One colleague that had just returned a power brick that he had “rented” from the same Radio Shack saw no issue with it. Some other teammates said it was unethical. I was on the fence because, since the packaging and item were already “used” I didn’t see any loss in value to Radio Shack by our returning it.

    Anyhoo, the cable remains in the cubicle, waiting for ethical clarity.

  216. Geekybiker says:

    For the people who feel they are merely “taking advantage of the system” and not doing anything wrong- There is a big difference between legal and moral.

  217. Michi430 says:

    Unethical. Plan and simple.

    -The cost of these returned goods ultimately gets past on to the consumer, and anyone who thinks just the retail store takes a lose is crazy.

    -There are companies that make money renting everything from designer handbags to furniture.

    -These are the people responsible for for rigid return policies, and evil customer service reps.

    I worked customer service in a store with an easy return policy when I was in high school. At one point they told me, “we have X number of customer service complaints this quarter and we can’t get another. Just take anything back.” I gave people store credits/money for everything from slippers that had clearly been wore at least a year to 20 pairs of Nike’s that had failed to sell on Ebay or where ever.

    These people give the rest of us who use return policies the way they were intended a bad name.

  218. carolpp says:

    recently, I’ve stopped buying anything (clothing,electronics etc) which cannot be returned. If/when I use these items, I am very careful with them, as with everything else I own, so IF the item does not suite me completely, I return it. No harm, no foul. How many of us have bought “new” items we could swear were used??

  219. TexasBelle says:

    Retail renting isn’t renting at all. The item being “rented” isn’t being offered for rental; it’s for sale only. Buying the item with the intent to return it after briefly using it is stealing. The fact that some retailers charge restocking fees to protect themselves doesn’t change the fact that it’s stealing, and it makes things more expensive for everyone who buys.

  220. UpsetPanda says:

    @ShadowArmor: I had a lot of problems with the cost of textbooks too. Every year meant $250 + in books for me. I chose to buy used instead of copying pages, though.

  221. YoHenYo says:

    It is people like this who make it difficult for people who have a legitimate return to be made.

  222. keith4298 says:

    The poll should have a follow-up for the people that say it’s not ethical: Have you ever done it.

    I admit it. I was going away for vacation and had put off buying a digital camera. So I picked one up from Target that had a good return policy and returned it before I came back from vacation (keeping the pics on my laptop).

    Is it ethical, no…but neither is the way the stores treat you. Perhaps if they were a little more consumer friendly I’d find the ethics argument a little more convicing.

  223. keith4298 says:

    @UpsetPanda: As for school textbooks….I had a great scheme for college.

    Go to the same class the following year and find someone that just purchased the book. Then pay them for their receipt and go return your year-old book as if you just bought it for a full refund.

    I worked in a college book store and let me tell you….school book stores deserve no mercy!

  224. morganlh85 says:

    Doesn’t “renting” usually involve paying SOMETHING for the item you are “renting”? In this case you are paying NOTHING.

  225. murasaki says:

    There are some tacky people out there. I used to work at a “Linens & Things” store in Atlanta, and women would come in with sheets their kids had peed on and return them. One woman returned a comforter that had obviously seen years of use.

    Other people would spend half the day in the store, buying carts full of stuff, and then be back to return most of it a few days later.

    I think there were just as many people making dubious returns as there were actually buying stuff. The store had a very high shoplifting rate too.

  226. lovelygirl says:

    I think that it’s a bad idea if you buy something from a traditional store with the intention to return. This especially happens during Super Bowl season when people buy huge TVs just for the game and then return them. stores are now cracking down on this sort of thing. I misunderstood the story, until I re-read it. I thought that this was anti-borrowing services, not people buying w/intention to return. Sites like are a good idea because you know exactly what you’re getting into so it’s fair and no one gets hurt.

  227. nick_r says:

    The more people do things like this, the more retailers feel justified to jack up their prices, institute draconian return/exchange policies, hassle customers in the store, and so forth. If we want things in the retail world to get any better, we need to stop making them worse.

  228. sue_me says:

    @UpsetPanda: $250? you’re lucky. I spent $1000 this year on books. Of course, none of the used versions were available at the bookstore and I didn’t get the book list until after school started.

  229. UpsetPanda says:

    @sue_me: Yeah, brand new books will kill your wallet. I bought most of mine used, and only after I priced checked them against amazon and other used book sites. A few books I wanted to buy brand new because I knew they’d get a lot of use and the used ones would probably fall apart. The most expensive book to date is a $68 psychology book I had to buy new because it was a pilot class.

  230. UpsetPanda says:

    @keith4298: No, I’ve never done it. It’s still theft, and I think decisions always come back to haunt you, so I don’t “retail rent.” It’s simply wrong, regardless of whether you think the company deserves it or not.

  231. TexasBelle says:

    @keith4298: No.

  232. Michael Belisle says:

    @UpsetPanda: How is does a 24-hour time limit justified with something that instead of ever being returned, is deleted?

    Why can’t I pay a “late fee” to extend the rental? Or credit some or all of the rental price to the price of the full movie through unlocking the file I already have? Or why does it force deletion of the file? Why can’t I pay a fee a week from now, and unlock the file without downloading it again? We have the technology.

    I have no problem with a limited time for an online rental. I have a problem with an arbitrarily short time with a draconian implementation. I’m not yet sure yet if I want to pay into the HD-DVD version of what I want. But I will write a letter to Apple after trying it out.

    Netflix is a reasonable solution for many, but not for me. I’m still waiting for their streaming support on the Mac. I’d rather delete something when I’m done with it, pay per rental, and never deal with a physical disc.

    And the “too lazy to work” accusation just makes you sound like an presumptive ass.

    @Erwos: Nope:

    civ•il dis•o•be•di•ence
    the refusal to comply with certain laws or to pay taxes and fines, as a peaceful form of political protest. [Oxford American Dictionary]

    I have bought music ever since they started delivering products in a way that I like. They responded to Napster in a variety of ways. I’m grateful that one of them was a step in the right direction. As for one of their other responses, I have tremendous respect for the people fighting the Worst Company in America in court and before the legislature.

  233. GOKOR says:

    Ethical to buy and return when you’re done with it? Hell no, you’re an complete tool who deserves zero respect from anyone and has less than zero class.

    However, there’s always shades of gray, just like the way the world works.

    @Hackoff: You are not a jerk in your situation. It may be a bit taboo, and make you come off as pompous, but if your camera keeps having to be sent out to the repair center over and over, they should just replace it for you, especially if they realize it keeps popping up in their shop…obviously something is wrong with it and they know it…granted, I don’t know if it’s your fault or a manufactuer’s error.

    @friendlynerd: You’re a complete tool. If you’re going to buy something, use it, then return it days later because you’re done with it, you’re a loser.

    @speedwell: My favorite “legit” excuse was from working at Radio Shack. We would sell voltage converters for overseas use. I’ve used them overseas, so I know they work, so have co-workers, etc. However, we would sell them all the time with the customer cringing at the price as they buy it. Three weeks later (often known as “after their trip”) they would bring it back saying “it didn’t work.” Or they will buy batteries, open them up and try replacing them with their old AA’s. We just tell them, “sorry, we don’t return opened packs of batteries.” They get pissed, we test the batteries on the spot, find out the ones we test are dead, they leave, pissed as we refuse to return their clearly used batteries. Anything with a serial number is usually up to be checked, making sure it matches the SN on the box too, and receipt if it has it.

  234. UpsetPanda says:

    @GOKOR: They cringed at the price? I got one from Radio Shack a few years ago, it was like $12. I still have it, though it was useless in Prague, as the outlets had this stupid plastic molding around them and the converter prongs weren’t long enough.

  235. drjayphd says:

    @KJones: But would you consider it unethical to buy a CD, rip it, then resell it as used, but at a profit? I’d say it’s fair game, but I might be biased…

    The entire sticking point here is that whatever the item is, it’s being used for free and expected to be resold as new. HELLS NAW. I don’t blame companies that tighten up return policies if they’ve been dinged by these weenies.

  236. modenastradale says:


    I’m not quite sure what type of merchandise you’re selling, but I hope your predicted sales volume figures account for the alienating effect of a no-returns policy. I myself do not buy anything under such a policy unless the item is severely discounted (80-90% off).

  237. gogordo says:

    I do this all the time. However, I buy things, then resell them on eBay. I call it recycling my money, but the term “renting” works just as well.

    I’ve been very successful doing this with computers. I buy a computer, use it for 6 months, upgrade it myself, and break even after selling it. That money goes towards a new computer, in which I do the same thing. This has worked for me for 2 years now. I have paid about $50 in 2 years to continually upgrade my computer.

    I don’t think I will ever stop. If you want to do in retail, do it at Costco. They have the best return policy ever. Just don’t abuse it, or else you will be banned!

  238. Charmander says:

    I think the term is a misnomer considering there’s no “renting” involved since you get all your money back after you’ve used/worn the item/product.

  239. KJones says:

    @drjayphd: But would you consider it unethical to buy a CD, rip it, then resell it as used, but at a profit? I’d say it’s fair game, but I might be biased…

    Me? When I buy a CD, I rip the tracks onto two hard drives (main and backup). When I’m sure the quality is good and I have the files securely saved, I destroy the plastic disk and keep the CD liners. Does it violate the letter of the law? Maybe, but I’m not reselling it nor am I distributing it, even when I copy the files to my MP3 player for my own enjoyment. I have a clear conscience about how I do it.

    @drjayphd: The entire sticking point here is that whatever the item is, it’s being used for free and expected to be resold as new. HELLS NAW. I don’t blame companies that tighten up return policies if they’ve been dinged by these weenies.

    It used to be that when something had a manufacturer’s defect or was dirty from in-store handling, if you pointed it out to a manager and said, “I’ll take it at 5/10% off,” they would often do it. I’ve stopped penny-pinching like that (but I’m not wasteful) so I don’t know if that’s common anymore, but it’s probably not. Nowadays stores are unwilling to take responsibility even for things they know are their own fault.

  240. Squot says:

    Computer’s AC adapter goes out. Take it to get repaired. It gets fixed, I get the computer back, and two days later, the refurb AC adapter blows. Take it back, and ask the people if I can buy an adapter and use it for two weeks or whatever until the new adapter shows up at my house.

    They say yes, and go so far as to open the packaging in a neat way so that it’s excessive package abuse.

    Ta-dah. I have their permission, because they fucked up. Will I return it even though I’ve used it? You bet your butt I will, since the adapter’s 111$.

  241. PeanutButter says:

    people who “wardrobe” bug me. my aunt and cousin do it all the time. it’s just cheap. seriously, if you can’t afford what you’re getting, don’t buy it. don’t be stupid and return it after using it. “wardrobers” make me want to punch someone in the back of the head.

  242. str1cken says:

    Capitalism is inherently unethical. Any way the working people can figure out to buck the system is worthwhile. After all, any way the bosses can figure out to pay us as little as possible, to give us as few benefits as possible, that’s ethical, right? That’s capitalism! So whatever we can do to steal some of our lives back is ethical.

  243. coold8 says:

    If you own a company, and you can’t afford to pay for something you obviously need, then you should seriously look over you companies finances!

  244. the_wiggle says:

    @redhelix: apparently.

    this is not ethical. this is not like being used as a living advert or display by a designer. this is not far from theft.

    big thank you to all the asshats out there pulling this bs & destroying return policies.

  245. Xerloq says:

    @Super1984: Probably not often. The point of the post was that he wasn’t wardrobing because he actually kept something instead of using it and returning it like in the OP.

    @Neecy: This is a selling point for the Craftsman tools. I remember watching the training videos where they pitched the tools that way, “Even if you buy it at a garage sale, you’re covered.” If it happens too much, Sears will change their policy – if they’ve not gone out of business by then.

  246. Xerloq says:

    @str1cken: Hmm… you used ‘capitalism’ and ‘working people’ in the same post, but I shall not call commies on this one.

    I think what you mean is Capitalism is inherently amoral. It is ethical – people who don’t play by the rules get burned by the system eventually. The wardrobers are exploiting a loophole, which will be shut when companies change their policies. That’s unethical because their intent is to manipulate the system at the expense of others.

    Capitalism is not unethical or cold hearted. It’s about fair exchange. Wardrobers take benefit for nothing – which equals theft.

    You are not a slave in your job. No one said you have to keep it. You want better pay, offer better skills, more hours, etc.

    BTW, using stealing as a way to combat perceived unethically merely personifies in you the degradation of society.

  247. PatsyNeedsChanging says:

    As always, the Golden Girls provide the answers to life’s conundrums…
    Dorothy: Blanche, you can’t return something after you’ve worn it- that’s illegal.
    Blanche: It’s not illegal, its just…wrong.

  248. Chase says:

    @snoop-blog: “this is unethical, but far from criminal. give me a break, criminal? there are FAR bigger fish to fry. i’d like to know what the people who think of this as “criminal” think the punishment should be for returning an item.”

    I absolutely agree. Those who state it’s “criminal” are being melodramatic. Save it for your emo blogs and Kleenex boxes, you Pygmalions.

  249. synergy says:

    This is probably what some woman did by returning those jeans that woman bought at Old Navy or whatever it was that had some um STUFF in the crotch. *shudder*

    So. No. Don’t do it.

  250. leslieannelevine says:

    @UpsetPanda: Ha! I consider $250 to be a cheap SEMESTER. My book costs are pushing $1000 for the year, and I haven’t pulled any shenanigans yet.

  251. PryncessLayah says:

    Ugggh – I used to work at Nordstrom – handbags to be exact. It was HORIBBLE in the fact that all of these low class people would buy expensive designer bags and then return them because they know you can return ANYTHING to Nordi’s- regardless of how many years you have been using it. It really sucks for the employee since they work off basic commission so sometimes you would start your day at negative – $2200 (because some pampered soccer mom decided to return her Chloe bag before her husband finds the receipt)….and have to dig yourself out of the hole because of the daily returns. If you go on vacation they actually deduct it from your PAYCHECK! Nordstrom doesn’t seem to care because they know when people come back in they get more business..people buy more crap. And they are such a big retailer that they get stuff from manufacturers at a good deal and absorb the cost a bit…. Oh and I guess they make money from their retail card and the 22% interest that is charged. I don’t think they should have such a lenient return policy.

  252. Anonymous says:

    When renters purchase the item, the retailer is earning interest or whatever on the money you paid until the purchase is refunded. They get their merchandise back but you’ve sacrificed your own earning power on the money you initially paid. I do it primarily target and punish retailers who have given me bad service in the past. Even then, if I rent the same item more than twice, I usually keep it the third time….after buying it from a competing retailer. How’s that for ethics? That should p*ss off the moral (or should I say ethical) majority, I’m sure!

    On the issue of ethics, let’s all agree it’s unenthical, so what?
    I’m a law abiding within the return guidelines. Since when is everyone perfectly ethical in everything they say and do each and everyday? Maybe someone should break into someone’s house and steal whatever they need. It’s not stealing when stores receive their merchandise back. Compare prices between full retail and year-end clearances. They make planty of mark-up.

    Apparently retailers don’t place a value on ethical standards anyway. It’s their stuff, I think they are the only ones privileged to define what is ethical about returned merchandise.