'Retail Renting' or Stealing? Stores Crack Down

Shoppers who repeatedly buy and return merchandise face tougher policies
By Jim O'Neill,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 22, 2008 5:42 PM CST
'Retail Renting' or Stealing? Stores Crack Down
Customers enter the Best Buy store in Clarence,, N.Y., Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2007. Best Buy Co. said Tuesday its third-quarter profit jumped 52 percent, boosted by an extra week of holiday shopping and sales of higher-margin items such as video game consoles and GPS devices. (AP Photo/David Duprey)   (Associated Press)

It’s called “wardrobing” or “retail renting,” when a consumer buys, uses, and then returns merchandise, and the National Retail Federation says it’s growing more popular with shoppers, the Boston Globe reports. It's also becoming a bigger headache for merchants as the economy tightens and businesses work harder to keep customers. The NRF reports a 10% growth in the practice in 2007.

Portable DVD players, big-screen TVs for the Super Bowl, and pricey jewelry and outfits that are used for a special event and returned are among the more popular items. But stores are combating retail renting with blacklists of serial returners, tougher return policies, and restocking fees that help them recover some of the value an item loses after being returned. (More retail sales stories.)

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