Returns and exchanges

How do you feel about returning things? I’m on the fence.

When it comes to shopping for myself, I’ve learned to become more comfortable with it. Mostly, I don’t want to risk having to go to a store twice so I make sure that I have what I want exactly how I want it before I fork over my debit card. Lately, though, there have been a few instances when I’ve had a change of heart and decided to take something back. There was a book that I thought I’d love until I remembered that it was just a bunch of pretty pictures and that I have the internet for that. There have been a few items of clothing that I somehow thought looked a little more life-changing on the hanger than they did when I got them home. There were a handful of items from Costco that went back shortly after they came home. And that’s all within the last year! Before that, I would have just sucked it up and called it a tax for being impulsive or unreasonable or straight up dumb.

I think my change of heart can be related to the ease with which things can be returned now. Somebody told me that you can take almost anything back to Costco and you don’t even need a receipt. I returned a few things that I bought online this year and it was as easy as plastering a pre-printed sticker on top of a shipping envelope and handing it to the clerk at the post office downstairs. It’s so easy, it’s almost like they want you to take your stuff back!

I don’t know how my mom feels about returning things, but I would guess her comfort level is pretty high. I don’t know that she likes it, per se, but I don’t remember there being a hesitation with her. All my life, I’ve heard her say, “if you don’t like it, take it back.” It never really rubbed off until now.

Kevin would tell you that he is the returner in our house. He feels like he is the guy who is charged with lugging our loot back to the store to explain all the reasons why we don’t want it. And he’s probably right in saying that. But he’s the one who likes people! It’s such an obvious decision for it to be him!

We have a running joke (unintentional play on words, but I don’t hate it) about gifts he buys me from our local Running Room. For several birthdays now, he has picked something out that I have loved, but promptly returned. Most recently, it was a hydration vest (that didn’t have a pocket big enough for a phone on the front straps – what?!?!) and before that, a couple of pairs of shoes (too extravagant for me) and a vest (found an even better one somewhere else.) Kevin and I are close enough that I can tell him and I *think* he understands that I appreciate his efforts in the gift giving department and I can explain why something won’t work for me. He’ll get it.

This Christmas, we were faced with a bigger dilemma. We received a very fancy, very generous gift that was way out of our league. A sous-vide is something that I’d heard of and that seemed pretty intriguing, but then when we got one of our own, we really and truly had no idea what to do with it. We researched it and we still felt like we were in over our heads. We both can cook, but neither of us finds it particularly enjoyable. We cook to live, not the other way around and new gadgets aren’t a high priority for us. One we had a better understanding of what this thing was, we developed new concerns. Part of our hesitation was technical ability, another part was practicality and the third was spatial limitations – could we use it, would we use it, where would we keep it? We were flattered that the giver believed that we had our shit together enough to actually get a handle on the thing, but when we considered all angles, we just couldn’t make good use of it. It wasn’t it, it was us.

I don’t return gifts. This is mostly because the selection and the giving of whatever it is, that’s the real gift to me. I cherish the thoughts behind the things even if I don’t love the things themselves. For me, it truly is the thought that counts.

I’m sure some people have no qualms about telling someone that they want to return a gift and all the power to them. I am not one of those people. The person who gave us this elaborate gift puts a lot of heart into their gift giving and is very thoughtful about their choices. I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by indicating that they had missed the mark, but the price tag on it was just too big to be wasteful about it. So I owned it and said all the things I said above. And they said, “okay.”

I think everyone’s feelings were spared – including the guilt I’d be battling when, three months from now we’d made Starbucks sous-vide eggs five times and nothing ever since. But now we have a hefty Best Buy gift card to spend and it might be just as baffling as any piece of kitchen equipment ever could.

Do you return things often? Are they things that you bought yourself? Or gifts that you’ve received? Both?

One Comment

  1. Oh, I had to laugh! While I am more the impulsive shopper in the house, Rob is not far off the mark. Most things he buys, I am like, “ok, where is the receipt?” as most times, there is something in the bag that isn’t right, doesn’t work the for the purpose he intended and his idea if it doesn’t work, is to just throw it in a box/bin/container and forget about it. Sunk cost and all that nonsense. I am the returner (ironically, mostly of things he picks up on a whim or fantasy of it being the perfect * (insert a variety of options here). I have no issue – I am a consumer. I buy, I exchange, I return. I’m all good with that, no qualms at all. And yes, have even returned alcohol to Costco on Maui. The Costco is right by the airport so en route to the resort we stock up and then en route back to the airport at the end of the vacay, we take back bottles of wine we have not consumed or cases of beer (unopened of course). Costco does have a great return policy.

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