Worn and Returned: The Truth About 'Wardrobing'
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) She didn't mean to eavesdrop, but fashion blogger Elaine Wiart couldn't help overhearing a questionable comment one woman uttered to her companion while attending an event.
"The woman said, 'Careful not to spill your wine on my dress -- I have to return it to the store tomorrow,'" recalls Wiart, who also works as an image consultant . "And what was worse was that she acted as if this was a perfectly acceptable thing to do."
It turns out that "wardrobing"the practice of returning an item you've already worn or used that's not defectivemight be more common than you think. And while it may seem harmless, the truth is that many retailers are taking notice and implementing stricter return policies as a result. Curious to learn more? Read on to find out who's practicing wardrobing, why it's bad for retailers and how it could impact your own shopping experiences.
Who's Doing Itand Why?
Who exactly are the biggest wardrobing offenders? It seems there's no one-size-fits-all answer.
"There are a lot of people practicing wardrobingpeople you would never expect," says Hitha Prabhakar , chief research officer at AitchPe Retail Advisory. "It ranges from celebrity stylists and wealthy suburban soccer moms to young people who are looking for a job and can't afford to buy an interview suit."
But what drives our desire to try and beat the system? Social pressure may be one factor.
"No one wants to be caught wearing the same outfit on multiple occasions," says David A. McKnight , an image and lifestyle consultant. "I've worn things twice, even though they were styled differently, and I've had someone say to me, 'I've seen that jacket before,' as if it's a sin to wear something twice. Also, in the days of Instagram, a lot of fashionistas are looking to get noticed by posting 'selfies' wearing the latest trends, and God forbid they wear something twice."
Prabhakar says that the state of the economy also plays a factor in wardrobing. "Stores saw a spike in wardrobing during the recession when people weren't spending as much but still had events to attend and interviews to go to," she explains. "You usually see a spike in wardrobing during times of economic downturn."
Is It Legal?
Wardrobing might sound like an innocent thing to doafter all, many of us have returned something we've already worn at least once in our lives. But the truth is that wardrobing is actually considered "return fraud."
"It's technically illegal, but the problem is there aren't any real [legal] consequences," says Prabhakar. "And it's difficult to tell if someone has only worn a garment once."
How It's Hurting Retailers
According to the National Retail Federation's 2012 Return Fraud Survey , which was completed by loss prevention executives at 60 retail companies, nearly two-thirds (64.9%) of retailers said they were victims of wardrobing last year.