The ‘Considerate’ and the ‘Forgetful’

I work on the front lines assisting customers with selecting merchandise and offering up product knowledge. Most of the time, I am successful and make a sale. Fifteen percent of the time; however, customers refuse to purchase the item for a variety of reasons, such as wrong color, no available size, and price.

But when a sale is made, customers leave the store, happy and satisfied with their purchase. However, a few days, or even a few months later, customers return with the items. At this point, customers can be divided into two classes of people: the considerate and the forgetful.

The Considerate: These customers bring back merchandise that still has the tags on them. The items are still sellable. These customers also bring the receipt back, which is in mint condition. These customers are every sales person’s dream. The return is processed successfully. The customer receives their money back. The sales person might be able to convert the return to an exchange or sale, thereby creating a profit from a loss.

The Forgetful: These customers bring back a pair of shoes that have been worn every day for the past five months. Or a shirt that has been washed countless times. In other words, these items are unsellable. To make matters worse, they don’t bring a receipt. Or if they do, it has been run through the washer and dryer and the writing has rubbed off.

Store A has an unofficial policy that it accepts all returns, no matter the reason. Store A emphasizes the importance of customer service. According to them, the customer should never be told no. The customer should always be told yes, yes, of course we can do the return, anything for you. Store A bends over backward trying to satisfy the customer. But at what cost? Dignity? Reputation?

Store B has an official policy that all sales are final. There are absolutely no returns to be made. Customers complain but management stands firm. No, no, absolutely no returns. Again, this policy can help to damage the store’s reputation. Customers are less likely to shop there, which results in decreased profits and sales.

Both situations are extreme. Both situations are not ideal.

Instead, what needs to happen is this: a compromise, a middle ground should be established.

  • Let management establish a return policy. What items can be returned? What cannot be returned? Can items be returned without a receipt? Specify if items have to be in sellable condition in order to be returned.
  • Management should be firm and stand by the return policy. Exceptions can be granted in extraordinary conditions. Again, management needs to be clear on what these “extraordinary” conditions are.
  • Before, during, and after the return, the management and store associates need to establish and maintain a relationship with the customer. Being friendly and interested in the customer’s needs can go a long way toward developing such a rapport.

Having excellent customer service is fueled by good relations with the customer. Get to know your customer  and everything else will take care of itself.

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Hi! I'm Helen and I am a 32 year old biracial millennial mom raising two multiracial children. I am a writer, English consultant, and social media manager. I am a self-proclaimed chocoholic.

9 thoughts on “The ‘Considerate’ and the ‘Forgetful’

  1. I used to work in customer service at a big department store called Dillard’s. One day this lady came in with these sheets all in a wad. She wanted to return them because they had a hole in them. Another associate (not me) looked at the sheets and asked if the woman had washed them because they didn’t have the tell tale creases of fresh sheets. She said yes, she washed them after her guests had slept on them. But she wanted to return them anyway because they had a hole. We told her that we didn’t accept used items for return, even with a receipt. She demanded to see the manager. She was there almost all day trying to return sheets that she used and then washed because they had a hole in them. I am not sure if they gave her any money back, but we associates felt she shouldn’t have gotten her money back. The hole was obviously not so bad that she wouldn’t use the sheets. It seemed more like she needed the sheets for guests, but once her guests were gone she didn’t need the sheets anymore. This was almost 20 years ago.

    Another time I was a customer. Not to be too personal, but I had a very large bustline and had to go to a certain store to get bras that fit. I bought 3. I only wore one before I had my breast reduction surgery. The other two still had tags on them. They were over $50 a piece. I hadn’t even tried them on. I took them back after my surgery to exchange them for the new size I was and they didn’t even give me enough back to cover one new bra because I couldn’t find my receipt. I couldn’t do a direct exchange because I didn’t have my receipt, even though the tags were still on the bras and they had never been worn. I was a little mad about that since I wasn’t asking for my money back, I just wanted something that would fit my new size. That said, I didn’t complain. I took what they gave me and got bras that fit.

    I think some people just feel a sense of entitlement and no amount of policy is going to change that. 🙁

    1. Policies should be reinforced again and again. But, there will be the occasional person who complains and gets upset. You can’t make everyone happy. You just have to do the best you can and hope that that will be enough.

      Thanks for sharing your experiences! I’ve had similar experiences at my job. It’s amazing the kinds of stuff that people return, expecting their money back with or without a receipt.

    1. I can understand people returning items that didn’t fit. Maybe they didn’t have the time to try the clothes on. But returning new items with tags still on is completely different from returning something that’s been worn and was bought six months ago.

      1. I just mean, if you are making the commitment to purchase the item, then just keep it. But that is just me. IN my line of retail they actually faulted us individually for each return we allowed. It really sucked. It counted against our goals and sales statistics (which maintaining our jobs highly depended on).

      2. You make an excellent point but people change their minds. What they want today is different from what they want tomorrow.

      3. Shouldn’t have bought it if you weren’t sure. With me it’s a week long decision to purchase anything…sometimes a month. Once I leave with a store’s property it then becomes mine. Even if something ends up broken I normally have my beef out with the company that distributed it directly rather than the store. If something doesn’t fit because I hate trying it on, that is my fault. And if I just decide all the sudden that it’s the wrong shade of gray for my room, I gift it to someone else who may need it. But I was just raised with the belief that it’s tacky to force someone to give you money back for something you have taken into your home.

  2. I like this blog. You have a nice writing style. The situation with the customer who brings back dingy overused merchandise is hilarious. I have seen that happen before. The salesclerk will say that they cannot take the merchandise back because it is damaged and the customer has the nerve to be upset about it. Hahaha. I laugh because it seems like more times than not, in these situations, the customer is trying to get over on the employees. Just my two cents about that particular situation. I have worked in retail and that is exactly what happened at my store.

    1. Thank you, Kyanna! 🙂
      I currently work in retail. Too many times, I see the management tell the customer yes, they can return the item, no matter what condition the item is in. That is what prompted me to write this particular blog post.
      Thanks for reading 🙂

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