According to a National Retail Federation survey, 65 percent of retailers reported that shoppers returned used clothing last year, costing the industry an estimated $8.8 billion.
This is an illegal form of return fraud called "wardrobing," and stores find it difficult to resell such items if they’re soiled. So this year, Bloomingdale's is fighting back with a new "you wear it, you own it" policy.
Tired of customers returning used clothing, Bloomingdale's has begun attaching chunky, 3-inch black plastic tags to dresses costing more than $150 and leaving them on after their sale.
The special "b-tags," as they are called, are attached to visible places like the front bottom hemline to make them difficult to hide when the item is worn. Once the black plastic tag is removed, the garment cannot be returned.
They will not accept merchandise that has been worn, washed, damaged, used, and/or altered. Online shoppers are alerted on the item’s details tab that the product will arrive tagged. (Bloomingdale's is owned by Macy's.) Other stores have tried to minimize fraudulent returns with tracking, but so far none of them have announced any return policy changes as strict as this. Victoria’s Secret is one retailer that has used a return database to identify customers to refuse by analyzing their return patterns.
Department stores have a higher return rate than other retailers and have been more susceptible to fraud. Not only do they typically have more permissive return policies, they also carry high-fashion evening wear that is more prone to one-time use for special occasions.