A few months ago, I had a run-in with a pair of pants. I’d purchased a cute pair of on-sale trousers from the Gap in an effort to expand my suitable office pants inventory. Sitting comfortably in my new pants at work, though, I crossed my legs and suddenly felt a little draughty. I surreptitiously peered down to see what was going on. A giant rip, right where you don’t want one. I stood up to see if maybe it was hidden and asked my cubicle mate to verify. “Oh honey,” she said. When anyone says “oh honey” to you in that pitying kind of voice, you know you’re in deep trouble. She supplied me with safety pins and a scarf to artfully tie around my waist for the day. The pants went back to the store that night. I had saved the tags, the bag, and the receipt and graciously received repeated abject apologies from the Gap guy who had sold me the pants.
Anytime I buy something these days I keep the tags and receipts around for at least a month afterwards because you never know. If I buy a clothing item for Dr. G there’s a 46% chance that it will need to be returned. (I know, I know, let him buy his own darn clothes. But even then, same result.)
My sense of good feeling toward a store is often proportional to the generosity of its return policy. My youthful love for Target faded shortly after my wedding back in the day. We had done that registry thing where they give you a laser gun and you go around shooting the things you want people to buy for you. What a racket! I felt heady with power holding that gun, and as it turned out, I got a little rash with where I aimed it. Combine that rashness with the surprising number of people who don’t check to see if someone else has already purchased an item, and we ended up with a somewhat large pile of returns, including seventeen dish towels. (I hereby apologize to anyone who bought us something off the registry that we later said, “Why did we put this on there?”) So you go to Target to return things and it turns out there are different lengths of time depending on the type of item and different documentation requirements and a huge line of people ahead of you and these giant bins full of broken toys and other returned items, and it’s unpleasant all around.
Compare that with REI, for which I feel a rush of affection after stopping by just before closing with our busted water bladder still with the first aid tape on it and the hose detached (the detached hose is why we were returning it). No receipt, no packaging, no nothing. We bought it about three months ago. “I’m one of those annoying customers who has no proof of purchase,” I announced. The clerk assured me that I was not annoying in the least, asked my name, and refunded my money, no questions asked. She also recommended a better water reservoir. Now isn’t that nice?