Bloomingdale’s black tags expected to limit “wardrobing”

Have you ever bought a “special occasion” dress or gown, and returned it the day after you wore it?  Or have you ever\r\n\r\nBloomingdales\r\n\r\npurchased an expensive piece of lingerie for Halloween or a special night, and returned it the next day? If you have, you’ve been engaging in a practice called “wardrobing”–the fraudulent return of used, undamaged goods–and Bloomingdale’s is cracking down on your nasty ways.\r\n\r\nAccording to a Bloomberg Financial report, the three-inch black plastic tags are placed strategically on garments,  in places where they cannot be easily hidden.  And, unlike regular store tags, these black tags cannot be re-attached once they are removed.\r\n\r\nThe National Retail Federation hopes that this sort of tagging will be a step towards reducing the $8.8 billion in retail fraud that the industry experienced in 2012.  Yet it is feared that the practice might send the wrong message to customers who spend thousands of dollars on high-end merchandise–that the customer is not to be trusted.\r\n\r\nHaving worked retail, and having turned down customers attempting to return worn, stained merchandise, I completely understand when NRF Loss Prevention V.P. Rich Mellor says “It is a delicate balance of loss prevention and good customer service,\r\nand the relationship has to be handled with appropriate finesse.”   Retailers always fear that one single customer will have a completely deleterious impact on sales by using her own form of negative word-of-mouth marketing.  Already there have been some complaints about the tags on social media sites, but this doesn’t seem to be deterring Bloomingdale’s from sticking to their tag strategy for the time being.\r\n\r\nConsidering that  a recent survey conducted by the NRF found a 4 percent increase in wardrobing–up to 65 percent from the previous year’s figure of 61 percent–“wardrobing” is obviously on the rise.\r\n\r\nThere are, however, different strategies that different stores use in order to track fraudulent return–everything from database customer tracking to specialized inks for receipts.  Some of these strategies are better suited to specialty retailers rather than department stores like Bloomingdale’s, where the returns are restricted to certain types of merchandise.  Still, retailers can also discourage these returns by simply not allowing for the return.\r\n\r\nHowever, in that case, the retailer, once again, risks getting bad W.o.M from customers.  And it is hard to track the extent in dollars that bad W.o.M. causes a store.  To some degree it is easier to track the spread on social media, but the dollars amount is a tough figure to calculate.\r\n\r\nBloomingdale’s is, however, willing to take the risks on bad W.o.M. in order to reduce their return fraud.  Can’t blame them really.  I’ve never understood people who think it’s o.k. to use a retailer like a tuxedo rental shop.  It just isn’t.  If you think “wardrobing” is OK, because all you want to do is look pretty for one night, or because you just want to play around with the clothes, then you might need to consider your particular shopping ethics.  Wardrobing is bad for retail and that makes it bad for all of us.\r\n


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  1. In unrelated news, high fashion embraces layering for fall and winter.\n\nSeriously, this is closely related to similar tricks with the return policies of expensive consumer electronics.

    1. Layering–it never goes out of style…..\n\nAnd I recall the second year that large format flat panel TV sets were available, and Best Buy had to institute a “you buy it, you own it” policy around the Super Bowl. The year before, tons of people rushed in, bought $4k TVs and returned them the day after the Super Bowl. The difference with Best Buy vs. department stores or clothing retailers is that they weren’t afraid to alienate customers. Honestly, what alienates good customers more is bad sales/customer service than policies that restrict returns. \n\nWhen I worked at FoH we had the worst trouble with young women and teens around Halloween. Some would end up crying that we wouldn’t take merch back that was stained or smelled of cigarettes. One got so irate with us. But as I later saw at VS, the customers that get the most irate, and make the biggest scenes in a store are usually the ones who aren’t your worthwhile customers and don’t have that much of an impact on a store’s bottom line.

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