Are you a serial returner?

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It’s the season of returns, when up to 33 percent of gift recipients return at least one gift they have received. And although that number creeps up annually*, I am here to say: My name is Annette and I am a serial returner.**

That’s right: Throughout the year I buy things and then return much of what I’ve purchased, giving my husband a great headache when we receive a bill from a store where I have to tell him that 75 percent of the item charges were returned but didn’t quite make it in time for the billing cycle.

And I’ve been doing it for decades, prior to online shopping when now all you need is a return label (minus whatever they charged for shipping) and a trip to the UPS store. I schlepped these return items (mostly clothing) back to the actual stores, wasting time and gas and probably adding my own little touch to the increased price of merchandise (from all the paperwork and staff involved in a return).***

Why is this quirk a part of who I am? I look back on my own mother, who did the same thing. We lived in the big city (Philadelphia) where ladies who made their purchases from the big department stores could have them delivered right to their homes by the Gimbels, Lit Brothers, or Wanamaker trucks. (Take that, Amazon!) But then, she would go back to the store to do a return.

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Why we did/do it — got me. Didn’t know what size would fit, so purchased two sizes; thought an item was wonderful when I saw it, but not so wonderful when I got home? Got to thinking about “wants” and “needs”? I’m sure there is a psychological profile I could read about, but I really don’t want to go down that road. (Okay, I did go down that road. Could I be a compulsive shopper, a wardrober, a social media wardrober, or bracketer? I think I am a bracketer, one who purchases multiple versions of a style/item (different sizes, different colors, etc.) with the intent to return most of them, essentially turning their bedroom into a dressing room. Because e-commerce has made it so easy for shoppers to be indecisive without shouldering the financial burden, 40 percent of customers engage in some form of bracketing. ***)

Am I the only one who does this? I haven’t seen MeetUp or AA-type groups for serial returners. But my guess is that I am not alone. So, for 2023 I will try to minimize my returns. Frankly, it’s too much trouble. I’ll be more thoughtful in holding an item up and determining if I love it and will wear it. (Too many items in my closet still have tags on them, having been purchased pre-Covid). 

Join me in my effort!

A UPS study predicts a 23 percent increase in returns compared to the 2020 holiday season, and the carrier says it’ll handle more than 60 million returns. Returns have increased for eight consecutive years, with 27 to 33 percent of adult Americans expected to make a return before the end of January. UPS says 21 percent of adults made a return before Christmas day.




About this Author

Annette Kurman

A native of Philadelphia with baccalaureate degrees in journalism, nursing, as well as an MBA from now defunct Daniel Webster College, Nashua, her endeavors in various roles and industries — as well a very supportive husband — once again bring her to the question of “What do I want to do when I grow up?”