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Ovation: Bloomingdale’s B-Tag Technology!

09/20/2013

bloomingdales1_Have you ever bought an article of clothing, worn it, and then returned it?  I’ve never done it, but I have been tempted.  I know from my years in high-end retail that it’s done all the time.  Even Blanche Devereaux, in a Season 6 episode of The Golden Girls titled “Miles to Go”, bought a $300 outfit for a special date with the intention of returning it afterwards.  But when Dorothy spilled coffee on it and quickly took it to the dry cleaners Blanche neglected to remove the dry cleaning tag before trying to return the dress.  Laughter ensued.

A survey last fall by the National Retail Federation alleged that as many as sixty-five percent of retailers say shoppers returned used clothing last year and estimates the practice costs the industry more than eight billion dollars.  Upscale giant, Bloomingdale’s, has decided to do something about it.  The practice is so common it has a name … they call it “wardrobing” and it’s illegal.

Tired of customers returning used clothing, the chain has begun to attach clunky three-inch black plastic tags to dresses costing more than $150 dollars and leaving them on after they are sold.  Once the special “B-Tag” is removed, the garment cannot be returned.  They place the tags in obvious locations on the clothes, like the front hem of a skirt or the lapel of a jacket, so that they would be clearly seen if they garment were to be worn.

Some say this might scare customers away but I think it’s a wonderful idea.  Not only will it help the store to reinforce its return policy but it will give customers peace of mind that the merchandise they are buying hasn’t been worn before.  It seems like a simple yet effective solution.

Perhaps the idea could also be used on additional items.  For example, we bought a bed pillow last week that we thought would be comfortable to sleep on.  It was somewhat costly yet, after it turned out to be far too soft and resulted in a restless night’s sleep, we decided that we didn’t want it after all.  But could we return a pillow after we’d slept on it for a night?  “Heck, no!” we thought.  “Surely, they won’t take it back.  And if they did, they couldn’t possibly sell it again … could they?”

Could they?  I certainly don’t want to know.  And the removal of a big plastic tag, or something of the sort, might make shoppers think twice before making many purchases.

What do you think?  Is the B-Tag a good idea?

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11 Comments
  1. If Scarlett O’Hara lived today, she would be doing the Blanche thing rather than making a dress out of the drapes. Of course, now I have that Carol Burnett episode in my brain where they did a spoof of GWTW and she wore the drapes, complete with rod. Have a great Friday. BTG

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    • Classic! I wish they made shows like Carol Burnett’s (or The Golden Girls for that matter) today! They were clever enough to say dirty things without saying dirty words! TGIF to you, too!

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  2. Barneysday permalink

    Some stores, like Nordstroms, recognize that customers will return items, and see that as a cost of doing business. But I believe they don’t put the product back on the shelves.

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    • Some items, I suppose, but certainly not expensive dresses. That’s why they let you try them on and provide so many mirrors before you make a purchase. A pillow, on the other hand, is something you really have to use before you can learn if you like it. (About half of the people that I’ve spoken with so far say they would have returned the expensive pillow expecting the store to return it to the manufacturer for some sort of recycling.)

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      • Barneysday permalink

        Actually, Nordstroms is famous for taking back anything, including expensive dresses. They have had many articles in the business press of some of the abuses they’ve faced from unscrupulous customers because of this policy, including stained and dirty dresses. Just goes to prove that the customer is not always right, nor burdened with honesty or integrity issues.

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  3. I will shop at Nordy’s over Bloomies all day long because I know my money will be well spent. I’m not one to abuse their policy, but it makes me willing to spend far more money at a store if I know the product will 100% satisfy me. I bought a pair of $170 jeans there last year and after about 6 months the button came off- not because they were too tight or I did something, just came off. If I would have bought those pants at Target or Penny’s I wouldn’t have returned them. I also wouldn’t have spent the same amount on jeans. I figure I spend more up front for the guarantee. When I returned the jeans I explained exactly when I bought them and how I felt. I asked if they found it acceptable for such a return and they absolutely agreed $170 jeans shouldn’t lose their button after a dozen wears. So I returned without feeling badly. When I have the money to spend, they get it. Because I know I can count on this service. I’d say they’ll beat out Bloomies because so much of their customer base has this same philosophy. Sure, there’s loss to the scoundrels that abuse the system. There will always be loss in retail – one way or another.

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    • You’re a GOOD customers. Sadly, I agree … there will always be loss in retail. Unfortunately, the good customers end up paying for it in the long run.

      Great comment! Thanks for sharing! (Those must be some nice jeans!)

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  4. Anonymous permalink

    I think it would be a better idea for a big retailer to get with the times! Why not bring in a selection of dresses “for lease” for a day or a week, so women could have something special to wear to their events? These dresses would be available for women to choose & would have to be dry cleaned before being returned. Then women wouldn’t have to stoop to such methods to get themselves a new outfit. This kind of thing would work great for me – I so rarely go out so it’s a big expense for me to get a new outfit.

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    • I’ve seen places that do that … Like those that rent tuxedos to men. Of course, there are many more alterations required to make a woman look her most beautiful.

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  5. Anonymous permalink

    My comments are disappearing! I wrote a beautiful comment about how retailers should “lease” expensive dresses to women. Of course they would have to be dry cleaned to go back into stock. This would be a great way for women to be able to have new outfits without going to a lot of expense or having to wear the same thing to 15 different events to get their money’s worth out of it. For someone like me who rarely goes anywhere, it would be great.

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