TIMES may be tough, but women still need little black dresses to wear to posh parties. So some buy a fancy frock, dance the night away in it and then return it to the store, pretending that it does not fit. To ensure a refund, they may even unpick a seam and complain that the garment is faulty. This is an example of a growing problem. Retailers call it “de-shopping”.
Return fraud, which also includes such things as selling shoplifted goods back to the store from which they were pinched, is becoming more widespread. It cost American retailers $14.4 billion in 2011, according to the National Retail Federation, up from $9.4 billion in 2009. The worst offenders are women returning clothes.
Online stores are particularly vulnerable. Few people will risk buying something to wear without trying it on first, so cyber-retailers need to have generous returns policies. But other scams are gaining popularity, too. Electrical retailers say that some sports fans now “borrow” large high-definition televisions to watch big matches.