Bloomingdale's Fights 'Wardrobing,' Worn Returns

PHOTO: Bloomingdale

While most luxury retailers have liberal unlmited return policies, Bloomingdale's is drawing the line on more expensive items to crack down on so-called "wardrobing," the practice of wearing a garment once then returning it.

The New York City-based company has placed conspicuous plastic tags on dresses retailing for $150 and more, preventing customers from returning an item if the tags have been removed. And the tags are in strategic places on the garments, making it impossible to wear them without letting the world know what you are up to.

Marissa Vitagliano Coleman, Bloomingdale's operating vice president, national media relations, said the "b-tags" are in place to reinforce that Bloomingdale's will not accept returned merchandise that has been worn, washed, damaged, used or altered. Bloomingdale's began using b-tags in February.

Dresses, presumably, are obvious targets for "wear it once" returns in a world of trendy and fast fashion.

Companies like Rent the Runway, based in New York City, have capitalized on the urge to wear an item just once by renting out high-end, fashion-forward dresses and accessories in four- or eight-day periods. Rent the Runway touts that it offers fashion from more than 95 designers "for every black tie gala, wedding, date, holiday or night out."

"One of the reasons we started Rent the Runway was that we knew the behavior of rental had existed illegally for decades in department stores with women buying designer dresses for occasions like New Year's Eve and Valentine's Day and then returning them the following day," said Rent the Runway CEO and co-founder Jennifer Hyman. "We knew that by enabling women to rent for these occasions we would legitimize a behavior that already existed and take away department stores' worst customers."

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Department store chain Nordstrom Inc., based in Seattle, has paper tags required for returns on some products, but the company has made a name for itself in the industry by accepting most returned items. The company has 117 stores and 132 Nordstrom Rack locations.

Sporting goods and apparel retailer REI Inc. recently ended their policy of accepting almost any returns at their 130 stores. The company now only accepts items within a year of purchase.

Vitagliano Coleman said under Bloomingdale's return policy shoppers may return or exchange most items, including sale items, at any time after purchase.

Although there's no time limit on returns, there are some exceptions, like items with b-tags attached. Once the b-tag is removed, merchandise cannot be returned, she said.

Store associates and Bloomingdales.com will alert shoppers a tag is attached, she said.

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