Borgman: Online shopping is click, buy, return, repeat

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Lori Borgman

I sometimes wonder what my return rate is on the merchandise I buy online.

I’ve been thinking of asking the Amazon truck to wait while I open the box. It could save us both time and mileage.

It’s not my fault they have incentivized returns. In many cases, you don’t even have to package an item for return. You just stand in line at a UPS behind other people returning things. When it is your turn, you toss the item across the counter to the customer service rep. The rep scans a code and you’re on your way home.

To make another online purchase.

I blame online shopping for my bouts of delusion. Look at clothes on models long enough and you gradually grow oblivious to the hard truth that you are not a model, never have been, never will be, but buy the clothes anyway thinking they will magically look the same on you as they did on the model.

Sometimes I can override my delusion with reality, but the success rate is marginal. For example, I can’t wear white. I look sick in white. If I wear white, people say, “How long were you in the hospital?” or, “You should have your iron tested.”

But now and again, a white shirt online calls my name. I try name-calling back but, occasionally, I buy a white shirt.

Then I return it.

The husband is incapable of making a return. He frowns upon returning things. He is of the “if you bought it, you should be stuck with it.”

On the upside, that could also be a contributing factor to why we will celebrate 45 years of marriage this year.

There was a time when making returns was rare and somewhat unpleasant. You didn’t simply take something back and receive a refund; you had to tell the clerk why you were returning the item. If the clerk didn’t like your story, that clerk would get another clerk and you would repeat the story. The two clerks would confer, you would sweat, they would announce their decision.

Five years in prison.

Not really, but shoppers did not casually return merchandise the way we do today. It was frowned upon, not unlike so many things today that we now consider acceptable, but once frowned upon.

We recently did a small home repair and didn’t need all the supplies we had purchased. I mentioned we could take them back.

The better half protested that we didn’t have a receipt. I said we didn’t need a receipt because they can look it up on our credit card. My life-long non-shopper was stunned.

We went to the big box building supply store and I stepped him through the process. “Give her the merchandise and the credit card and she will process a return.”

Steps 1 and 2 went well, but then he started explaining why we were returning the parts. “We have this upstairs toilet that runs sometimes … ”

The clerk did not care.

“I thought it might be the flush valve, or that little … ”

The clerk scowled.

He was still telling the repair story—the part about the float rod—when I took him by the arm and said, “She is not interested, but you can tell me the story again on the way home.”

Some returns are still challenging.

Lori Borgman is a columnist, author and speaker. Contact her at [email protected].