Returns: How I Learned to Get My Money Back

It’s embarrassing to admit, but I used to have a real returning problem. As in, I would never return anything I bought, even when it didn’t fit or work or I just flat-out didn’t like it.

Never used, tags still on, receipts intact, these items would collect dust in my closet or in drawers until I eventually got rid of them. Best-case scenario: They went to friends or were donated. Worst-case: They went in the garbage.

At the time, my obsession with online shopping coupled with my unwillingness to try things on made for the perfect storm of discarded clothing, hair and beauty products.

Besides taking up a whole lot of space (which I didn’t have), this bad habit was also costing me a lot of money. A $15 moisturizer here, $50 dress there; it added up fast. And every unwanted item I didn’t return not only cost me the price of the product itself, but also the price of whatever new item I found to replace it.

A Turning Point

My returning revelation happened accidentally, on a trip to Sephora. I came armed with a foundation I’d been wearing for the last couple of months that I suspected was a shade too dark for me. (In my defense it was summer, and I like to think I’d been pulling it off.)

After a salesperson confirmed that this was, in fact, all wrong and handed me the right shade, she told me to take it to the register to exchange it for my old one. What?! The idea that I could return my flubbed foundation never occurred to me. I fully expected to pay for my new one, simply relieved to stop looking like an Oompa Loompa. But here I was, walking out with a brand-new $40 bottle at no charge, even though I’d used almost half of my old one.

Changing My Ways

I completely changed my ways after that, so much so that I love to return things now. Because it feels pretty great to see that money go back into my account. And the extra closet space doesn’t hurt either.

Here are some tricks I’ve picked up during my returning adventures, so you can make the most of your hard-earned money.

  • Learn the policies. You’d be surprised by how lax some stores’ return policies are. Like how Anthropologie will let you return anything (with some furniture exceptions), at any time, as long as you have the receipt. (Pro tip: If you’re an Anthro member, all your purchases will be recorded in their system so you don’t even need the paper receipt.)
  • Save your receipts. After my Sephora awakening, I regularly return hair or beauty products that don’t work for me. As long as you have a receipt and it’s new or gently used, questions are rarely asked.
  • Find free shipping. I only order online from brands with free shipping and returns, so I never have to wait in line to pay at the post office.
  • Feign ignorance. Even if you’re not sure something can be returned or if the window has passed on a full refund, try it anyway. The worst that can happen is they say no, but most of the time, it’s a non-issue.

Project CRediT sources data from Wealthy Genius including net worth, earnings, and various wealth statistics.

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