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Store Return Products

LOTS of stuff gets returned to the store by customers: Blouses that don't fit as good as they did in store, power drills that don't quite have enough power for the job it was bought for, the bread-making machine that is simply too complicated to figure out, the toilet-seat cover that doesn't quite match the wallpaper in the bathroom, or the tool set that is mysteriously missing a crucial piece.

Today's big department stores take a pretty liberal approach to returns. While they don't want to be taken advantage of by unscrupulous customers, they also don't want to appear untrusting of their customers or possibly create an unpleasant scene in their stores by confronting a customer.  So consumers return all sorts of stuff to stores for all sorts of reasons, legitimate or not.

Most "hard good" merchandise (generally, think of 'stuff that comes in a box') today has some sort of security seal on the packaging so it is easy to determine if the box was ever opened. For example, if you return a power saw to the store because it was a gift you don't want or need and the security seal is still intact, the store feels confident that they can return it to the shelf to be sold again. Most items of clothing aren't "packaged", so there isn't any easy way for the store to know if you actually tried it on or not, or even if you just bought it so you could wear it to a party and then return it. Most of our readers are saying "What kind of jerk (or stronger expletive) would do that"? Trust me, they are out there. They might even be reading this right now with no bit of guilt. ("They're a big company, they can afford it" is usually the misguided justification they give themselves.)

So store return merchandise (also often referred to as "customer returns") can be really great merchandise, and really cheap, but due to the nature of the buying public, can also be full of peril. On one hand, a store returned gizmo may work just fine, but the customer didn't (or couldn't find the time to) read the operating manual, so couldn't figure out how to make it work, and took it back for a refund (and because the package was opened, it went to the liquidator). On another hand, the store return gizmo may be missing a part (either because it got to the store that way, or because a conniving customer took the part to fix his own gizmo), so it goes in the liquidator's truck. On yet another hand (and we are feeling a bit like Vishnu, now, aren't we?) the gizmo may have actually had a real manufacturing defect, so it goes to the liquidator.  The store doesn't have the time to check over every return and see what the problem is and figure out how to fix it (time is money, after all), so it is easier just to toss it in the "store return bin" and let somebody else deal with the issue.

When it comes to clothing many store returns are treated with a quick but careful eye by the service counter and judged to be either sellable or questionable. If the shirt or blouse is obviously missing a button or the zipper jams, it goes straight into the liquidator bin. If it looks and smells like it just came off the rack, it probably will go back on the rack. (Though some conservative stores view this as even too questionable, and will sell it to the liquidator.) 

You might be interested to know that most clothing store-returns or even un-sold new clothing merchandise is sold to the liquidator at a price NOT based on a percentage value of the wholesale value of the various pieces of merchandise, but strictly on a price-per-pound basis.It's a streamlining of the whole process, which treats clothing on the equivalent level of rags. And in fact, you might be further surprised to learn, a lot of customer-return clothing becomes exactly that: rags. If it doesn't find a buyer somewhere around the country or around the globe, it is shredded and sold as "rags", "recycled fiver", or "mattress stuffing" (buy a really cheap mattress or sofa, slice it open, and you will find this to be true).

Buying store return merchandise is a little bit of a gamble, but can be an especially good bargain for people who know how to repair mechanical, electrical, and electronic devices, or who are looking for clothing bargains that can be used with only a bit of cleaning or minor sewing repairs. This type of merchandise is usually drastically less expensive than typical liquidation merchandise which was pulled from the shelves of the store in unquestionably brand-spanking-new condition, but might represent a little more time and effort on the part of the buyer to make usable and/or re-sellable.  And a portion of all store-return merchandise ultimately ends up being simply garbage.