A report by Dealerscope describes the apparently widespread practice of “wardrobing”, in which customers buy a product with the intent of using it and then returning it for a refund after their need for the item is over. Apparently, this practice has grown in association with a single event: the SuperBowl. Customers “purchase” a large screen HDTV and take it home to watch the Big Game, and then come Monday, bring it back to the store to get their money back. In effect, they get a free rental for the weekend.
This practice is viewed as dishonest by many; the National Retail Federation reportedly characterizes it as “fraud”. There is a significant cost to the store involved. Not only do they have to process the sale and the refund transactions, they also are left with an HDTV that they can no longer sell as “new”. It can be sold as an “open box” item, or it can be “refurbished” by the retailer or the manufacturer, but the bottom line is that it won’t be worth as much as it was when new. And the store bears that loss.
Some consumers have taken this practice to an extreme. As HDTV prices have plummetted in recent years, some COSTCO members took advantage of the company’s lifetime return policy. They would buy a television, use it for a year, then bring it back to “trade in” on a newer, better model. And they’d pocket the difference in the price, to boot! As a result of what many might view as abuse of their return policy, COSTCO changed their terms so that now televisions can only be returned for 90 days, as well as personal computers, cell phones, camcorders, and MP3 players.
The fact is that HDTV prices are going to continue to decline, and in my opinion, consumers need to accept that rather than take advantage of a store’s generous return policy. If you can find the set that meets your needs within your budget, and it performs to your expectations, I suggest that the right thing to do is sit back and enjoy it.
Do you have an opinion about “wardrobing” HDTVs? Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know what you think.