Wendy’s “Watch Out” of the Week

Wendy’s “Watch Out” of the Week

Are you one of those people who grabs an item of clothing off the rail and buys it without trying it on? Who’s got the time or inclination to face those changing rooms, right? Well, Wendy Knowler advises that best you do. Here’s why...

Ladies shopping in a mall / Pexels

Listen to the podcast here, or read the details under the audio: 

Who’s got the time or inclination to face those changing rooms, right? Well, best you do and here’s why?

So many people believe they have the right to return anything they’ve bought if it doesn’t fit, or they change their mind for some reason, and that they are entitled to a refund.

The reality is that retailers are not legally compelled to take back anything if it is not defective or not fit for purpose in some way.

Amanda Hardy vented to me this week about a dress she bought at a national retailer last week - without trying it on, because, as she says, her lunch breaks are too short. We’ve all been there!

But later she discovered she’d picked the wrong size. So back she went to the store, only to be told, sorry, the dress has some dirty marks on it, we are not taking it back.

 “I was flabbergasted as I certainly hadn't been the one responsible for the dirty dress,” she said. “Their returns policy states you have 30 days to return the item as long it is in a sellable condition. But now, because of the marks, they won't refund or allow me to choose another product. So I'm stuck with a dress that doesn't fit. Is there any recourse in a situation like this?”

I had to tell her that there wasn’t.

Here’s how it works - a retailer is not legally obliged to take back any non-defective merchandise at all. They have the right to decide on their policy if they decided to take back a non-defective purchase because they are essentially doing the customer a favour.

In almost all cases, that “non defective” returns policy as Ts and Cs which include the need for presentation of proof of purchase, limits the return period to 30 days, and offers the customer a credit or replacement.

So even if there hadn’t been an issue with marks on the dress, Amanda would have been allowed to swap the dress for the right size or get a credit. Very, very few retailers will refund for a non-defective return.

There are two exceptions: if you buy something in response to direct marketing - that is, the company approached you directly, one-on-one, to initiate the deal, either in person or via email or SMS - you have a week’s cooling off period to change your mind for a refund, and the same goes for stuff you’ve bought online.

The lessons: When buying from a store, try on clothes before buying them, and if you can’t, make very, very sure what their returns policy is. Don’t assume you’ll be able to get a refund, because you probably won’t.

And make sure the product is in a good condition when you buy it because it’s impossible to prove later that “it was like that”


So Victoria’s Secret, the racy lingerie brand, is in big trouble - sales have been declining for the past three years and for the first time since 1995, its runway show has been cancelled.

As fastcompany.com said this week, the most obvious reason it's at its core message - that lingerie is a way for women to titillate men - no longer resonates in a post #MeToo era. So now they are trying to reinvent themselves: to go from “by her for him” to “by her, for her”.

That’s a tough task, because it was started by a couple in 1977 because the husband found it embarrassing to buy lingerie for his wife at department stores. And almost all the people running the company are men. Spot the problem.

So the Victoria’s Secret lesson for companies everywhere is to constantly check that you’re remaining relevant to your target market.  Age, gender, language - just with regard to what you’re selling but the way you’re selling it.

Be very mindful about the people and the voices you use in your adverts and the way you talk to customers - “We apologise for the inconvenience” versus “We’re so sorry to have let you down.” 

And here’s an old-school one - if you put magazines in your waiting rooms, are they aimed at all your customers or a narrow niche? Car dealerships and tyre fitment centres, I’m talking to you.

And most of all, does your C-suite - the executive-level managers - reflect your customer base? Relevance and authenticity can’t be faked - get it right or sooner or later your bottom line will go horribly wrong.

And that’s no secret.

 Also read: Are you on shaky ground with your house insurance?

Show's Stories