Fraudulent Returns (Day 256)

(photo credit: Nervous? by Freddie Pena on

I had a few returns to make today.

The ones by mail were easy: fill out the form, package ’em up, seal and address box, drop off at UPS store.

The other ones should have been easy.

First I went to Marshalls. Husband had bought something that didn’t fit. He put it in a return pile (for me) that I never saw, so it sat for several weeks before he found it and told me about it. By the time I got the item, it did not have a receipt. It did have its price tag though.

As I walked into the store, I wondered why they changed the line so it is for purchases AND returns. There used to be separate lines. My bag with my husband’s item could easily have been something I found in the store that day, and without a receipt, I worried that the person at the register would think I was trying to get reimbursed for something I never bought. That I was trying to make a few bucks, illegally.

Why I worry about such things baffles me. I knew that I was legitimately returning the item. But no receipt. And I didn’t even have the credit card used to buy said item. If I were a clerk, I might wonder about the honesty of me the customer.

But he didn’t ask questions beyond, “do you have a receipt?” He didn’t give me cash but a gift card, which is just fine since I can always find something new to buy at Marshalls. They have about two hundred different pairs of boots. Just sayin’.

After Marshalls, I went to return a fancy soap-filled dispenser at Home Goods. I’d bought it this weekend since the one in our main floor bathroom was looking pretty questionable and we were having guests over Saturday night. Husband and I spent several minutes trying to turn the top to release the spring so soap could be dispensed, but we failed and gave up. If you can’t make it work, then you should return it. Right?

I had the receipt. I had the credit card used. I handed it over to the clerk and said, I need to return this.

She looked at it. She looked at me funny. I wasn’t imagining it. She walked over to another clerk, whispered in her ear. She grabbed some contraption and came back over to the register. I felt my hands getting sweaty. Why was I feeling guilty? I realized how pathetic this was but still, I felt like I was trying to get away with something. That’s when my clerk turned to the young guy next to her, obviously a new clerk, and said, “if you ever get an item with a price tag ripped off and then re-taped on the package, you need to blah, blah, blah.

I stopped listening because it was making me more anxious. I realized that before we discovered that we couldn’t make the soap pump work, I’d removed the price tag label. Once I made the discovery, I dug the label out of the trash and taped it back on the package.

Ten minutes passed since I gave her the item. As she tried to scan the taped label and failed, she smiled at me. I confessed. The reason I returned the item was because I couldn’t make the soap pump work. I told her how we both tried it several times. She laughed. That happens all the time, I learned. Then, with great ease, she twisted the top of the soap container and made the pump work. In about two seconds. She offered to give it back to me without returning it, but I’d already had the guests over, I’d already figured out a different solution.

She plugged in the SKU numbers and asked me to run the credit card through the machine. While I was running it, she turned to another clerk, who’d come over. She pointed to the guy clerk she’d warned about bad labels and said to the other clerk, “First day and he gets a fraudulent return.” The other clerk nods knowingly. My clerk says that as soon as the other clerk started asking questions, the man trying to make the fraudulent return, made some lame excuse, grabbed his bag of stuff and rushed out of the store.

I asked if that happened a lot and both clerks laughed. All the time, they said. Several times a day. Then she handed me my receipt which indicated that my card had been reimbursed for the cost of the soap dispenser.

As I walked out of the store, it struck me that I have a pretty rose-colored view of the world. Every day this store has several attempts at fraudulent returns. And this is only one store. Who are these people who feel like it is okay to cheat the system? Who are these people who can maintain their composure while lying about ten bucks or twenty or more?

Clearly, I could never be one of them. There are the ethical issues, of course, but if I could find a way past those, I still wouldn’t be able to do it.

I’m the one who gets nervous and sweaty-palmed over legitimate returns.



I write about daily life, arts & culture, food, books, nature, animals, parenting, relationships, self-discovery, & more.

I'd love to hear what you think. Share in the comments section at the bottom of the page.

Please share my posts with your friends by clicking on the FB, Twitter, or email share buttons found below. And if you like what you've read, click on the Facebook like button.

You won't miss a post if you sign up to receive my musings by email (see the sidebar on this page).

Latest posts by Sara (see all)

2 thoughts on “Fraudulent Returns (Day 256)

  1. I can relate to this. It took me years to be able to return anything. And so, it took me ages to make any buying decisions because it felt so Final. Nowadays, I am still surprised by how accommodating clerks are. They really DO want you to feel comfortable returning something, because they want you to feel comfortable purchasing in the first place.

    But these people who try to cheat the system? If only they could use that “talent” for something good. Acting, maybe? Public speaking? I don’t know.

Leave a Reply to Suzanne Stengl Cancel reply