In the effort to increase sales and drive customer satisfaction many stores have implemented extremely liberal return and refund policies. I understand the premise behind this, make things easier for the customer, trust that they will not abuse your policies and they are more likely to be long-term patrons. Customer service can make or break a business and so balancing the need for making a profit with keeping your customer base happy can be tricky. In the office supplies store I work for we try hard to make reasonable returns for our patrons. A customer may bring back an ink cartridge for a printer without a receipt and explain that they had picked out the wrong one. They may be required to produce a picture I.D. but unless they have completed too many no receipt returns they will be able to get a refund. It’s good business. Many times they will turn around and purchase the correct cartridge. For non-clothing merchandise this can be easier to do than conducting refunds for clothing, whether the customer has the receipt or not. There are customers who engage in something called wardrobing and this fraud can make it hard on store managers to not tighten up return policies. Stores do have one sure method to fight this type of return fraud and that is the use of Alpha Shark Tags on clothing.
What is wardrobing? Why is it so deceptive? What are Alpha Shark Tags and how can they prevent this kind of fraud? Wardrobing is an intentional act of purchasing clothing with the knowledge that the clothes will be worn a time or two and returned for a full refund. It is deceptive because of the intent behind it and those who do it find ways to keep the tags intact on the merchandise. Sometimes the tags are taped inside the clothes for example up the sleeve of a shirt, or hanging inside the collar. In extreme cases the perpetrator will use a swift tag attachment gun to reattach tags to clothing. In this type of fraud the “customer” has the original receipt and all tags match up to it. Alpha Shark Tags prevent this type of return fraud because they can only be removed once and that is by being cut off. When merchandise is purchased these tags are left on the items. The customer gets the item home, tries it on again and if they are sure they want the item, the customer cuts off the tag and wears the item. The store has a crystal clear return policy that lets the patron know they cannot make a return once the tag is removed.
Why can’t the customer who is intent on wardrobing simply hide the Alpha Shark Tag like they do with the manufacturer hang tags? The reason is that the tags are a bright red color so they stand out on the clothing. When properly pinned in a highly visible location such as on a shirt sleeve or pant leg seam the tag can’t be concealed. It becomes obvious to others that the person wearing the clothing intends to return it. The façade of someone trying to look like they have an ever-growing wardrobe is stripped bare.
Does the use of the Shark Tag hurt the retailer who is trying to be flexible with their customers? I don’t believe it does. The customers who are honest will understand the purpose of the tags. The tags don’t negate the ability of a customer to return defective merchandise if a tag has been removed. What they do prevent is someone wearing clothes to a party, getting them stained with food or drink or drowned in perfume or cologne and then getting a refund the next day.
Is a liberal return policy what drives profits? I don’t know that it does. I think what drives sales is great customer service, beginning with a friendly sales staff. Sales are driven when we take time to talk with our customers, learn what they are looking for and give advice on what we honestly think will enhance their purchase or their needs. Honest customers don’t expect a retailer to be the victim of return fraud or to lose money they want fair treatment and usually will reciprocate in kind.
Alpha Shark Tags are important and we can help you with it. Call 1.770.426.0547 now.
I’m going to do something you don’t often see, I’m writing an article about return fraud and sharks, an unusual combination right? Now, I don’t know about you but I really enjoy watching shows about sharks. It may be Shark Week on the Discovery Channel or (I’m dating myself here) The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau and it can even be the movie, “Jaws”. With that information in mind I thought I would share a few interesting facts about sharks from Discovery.com in an article titled, “The 15 Most Surprising Facts About Sharks”, by Anastacia Darby, 06/04/2015:
• The whale shark is not only the largest shark species; they are also the largest fish in the world at over 40 feet long.
• The gestation period for a pregnant shark can last from 5 months to TWO YEARS!
• It has been estimated that the bite of the great white shark is up to 4000 PSI. For comparison a tiger has a bite of around 1000 PSI
• Some sharks can cycle through up to 35,000 teeth in a lifetime.
• The blue shark can give birth to up to 135 pups in one litter!
• Hammerhead sharks’ heads aren’t just for show they are equipped with electrical sensors which makes them superior hunters.
Finally from sportfishingmag.com, February 1, 2017 by Devin Golden, “Tagged Mako Shark Travels Record Distance”; “After 600 days, the mako shark, named Hells Bay, After Hells’ Bay Boatworks, traveled more than 13,000 and broke a GHRI for the shark species in the Atlantic Ocean.” While it may not break any bite pounds per square inch records or distance traveled records, Alpha Shark Tags can help stores break the number of people engaging in return fraud due to wardrobing.
Wardrobing takes place when a person buys clothes with the intention of wearing them on only one or two occasions and then returning them with the tags on them and the receipt in hand. While it may not seem like return fraud in the traditional sense of the word such as when someone steals an item and then tries to return it for a refund, when wardrobing takes place there are several hits a store takes. A salesperson who earns a commission may lose their commission when the item is returned after spending time with the customer trying to help them with the purchase. The items are frequently returned damaged so merchandise is returned at full price paid and then damaged out or marked fully out of stock. An item that was stolen may be returned for a reduced price if it has taken a mark down or a store credit is issued when no receipt is presented. But no salesperson is losing a commission and if a receipt is not provided there may be less financial impact on the store. It is also likely the merchandise that was stolen won’t be returned damaged because the thief wants as much money as possible. When Alpha Shark Tags are used on merchandise it prevents wardrobing because it has to be on the merchandise when it is returned in order to get a refund. The tags are one-time use only meaning that the tag stays on a garment until the purchaser pays and takes the item home. Once the buyer decides to keep the item and wear it, THEN the tag is removed by the customer and the item cannot be returned at that point.
The potential for sharks to be in the water give most of us a pause before we go into the ocean or even in rivers, in some instances. For example bull sharks can and do swim in canals and rivers in Florida. We see videos and pictures in the news and on the computer in websites like YouTube and get a little squeamish about dipping a toe in the water after all. Well, those who participate in return fraud pause to reconsider what they are about to do when they see Alpha Shark Tags being used by a merchant.
Consider using Alpha Shark Tags on your merchandise and watch your profits go up as fraud declines. No shark cage necessary, the only people who need to fear are the con-artists who try to take advantage of retailers.
For more information about Alpha Shark Tags contact us or call 1.770.426.0547
For retailers clothing return fraud has been a problem for many years. Customers come in to find an outfit they like, purchase it and take it home. The customer removes or hides the tags and wears the garments out to an event or just to be seen in public. Often this is to impress their friends and give the appearance that they are purchasing new clothes on a regular basis. After they wear the clothes once or twice the purchaser puts the clothing tags back on the merchandise or if they had taped them up they allow the tags to hang loose again. The clothes are then returned to the store and the customer has the original receipt and seeks a full refund. This type of return fraud is known as wardrobing.
You may be wondering why a store would allow wardrobing to take place. Perhaps you own a small retail clothing shop yourself and can’t understand how someone could let this happen. It may surprise you but if you have been selling clothes for any length of time you have probably been the victim of a clothing return scam and didn’t realize it. Office supply stores and even online sites provide easy access to the purchase of ticketing guns that use the plastic hangers that hold manufacturer hang tags on clothing. It isn’t difficult to take off and replace tags in this fashion. The other trick is simply to tuck a tag up the sleeve of a shirt or jacket or down the neck and tape it against the material to avoid it falling out and being seen by others. Aside from possible stains or odors, when the tags are in place again it can be very hard to know the clothing had been worn. I have often joked that it would be better if stores just rented clothes and it wouldn’t matter if people wore the garments and returned them.
I bring this all up because the other day I saw a commercial for an online retailer that rents clothes out. For a moment I thought that it sounded like a good idea. Then I looked into a couple of similar websites that advertised services that closely resembled the advertisement I had watched on television. I did a little digging and found that what it looks like these retailers do is have customers sign up for subscriptions and then pay a monthly fee or they charge for an item to be rented and an additional charge if it is not returned on time. Some websites even give an option to rent the item for one price or purchase it outright for another price. While this does sound good and could provide opportunities for a person to wear a rented wardrobe I am not convinced it will do any good in preventing wardrobing among the swindlers who engage in the activity.
Here is what I am saying, if someone wardrobes, the perpetrator does not want to pay anything for the clothing they are purchasing. Their mindset is to appear to be buying the clothes and then return them for a full refund. The act of wardrobing is to avoid paying anything at all for the clothing. Therefore, renting clothes online or purchasing a subscription is not going to appeal to people who commit return fraud.
I did find it interesting that at least one of the clothing rental companies I looked up appears to use wardrobing tags on their merchandise. In their FAQ section they remind a client not to remove the “security tag” until they have tried on the merchandise to ensure it fits. If it is removed the client is charged the rental fee when it is returned. This sounds much like Alpha Shark Tags which are one- time use tags that are to be cut off by a customer, not the store. Once cut off it prevents the item from being able to be returned whether it is to a traditional brick and mortar store or an online retailer.
Return fraud is a drain on retailers. From the amount of time a salesperson spends helping the fraudster to the determination of what to do with the merchandise when it is returned. Is the garment serviceable? Are there stains or odors? Does it have to be cleaned or marked out of stock and destroyed? All of these things can cost the store more money. Don’t allow return fraud to hurt your profit line, use Alpha Shark Tags and don’t worry if you have or have not been a victim in the past, you won’t be again.
Need information on return fraud? Give us a call at 1.770.426.0547 now.
Scams, they are all over the place. I think every week I have some generous benefactor that wants to leave a million dollars to me deposited in my bank account. AWESOME! One day I’m going remember not to delete one of these emails and get back to them. A few weeks ago I got a call from the “IRS” telling me I was going to be in trouble if I didn’t pay some amount to them for taxes owed, unfortunately I accidentally hung up and we were disconnected. Hopefully they get back to me I don’t want to owe Uncle Sam any money! Someone every so often tries to call the library I work at and get information so they can bill us for “toner” orders for our printers…I guess they don’t know we have a list of vendors we make payments to for such purchases, they need to get with their supervisors on that. Recently one of the managers on duty at the store I work at received a call from someone who said he was from our company’s HQ. He gave his name and told the MOD he needed his name and employee number because we were going to be receiving a shipment of a new product and were going to start selling it but in a new twist we were only going to permit payments for the new product with gift cards. WOW! when the manager told me I was excited. We don’t even carry that manufacturer’s products because they happen to be very proprietary. Unfortunately when the manager told the caller he would call him back with the requested information and asked for a call back number our MOD was disconnected. I was so disappointed. We are very careful about protecting personal and business information to prevent fraud from affecting our personal lives and our businesses so why don’t we take the same precautions to prevent return fraud in stores? In many cases it could easily be done if stores would use Alpha Shark Tags on softlines products.
I get returns every day, how can I know return fraud from a legitimate return? How can Alpha Shark Tags help stop people trying to do fraudulent returns in my store? I will address the second question first. Shark Tags are brightly colored tags that once pinned to an item can only be removed when the tag is cut off. It prevents a customer from buying an item and wearing it then returning it with all the necessary documentation in order to get a full refund. Who wants to go out in public with a bright red tag hanging from a pant leg or from the cuff of a blouse? All the store manager has to do is require the tag to be attached and intact on the merchandise before taking it back with the proper documentation.
Back to the first question on how to identify return fraud. This can be difficult. One of the ways that dishonest people get fraudulent refunds is to switch the price tags from high priced clothing lines and place them on cheaper brands and return the clothes with a receipt that matches the products. For example, if someone took an Under Armor T-shirt price tag, attaches it to a Hanes t-shirt and then they return the Hanes T-shirt they receive the dollar value of the Under Armor shirt perhaps as a credit on their credit card or debit card OR it is returned on a gift card. This can be prevented but requires the cashier to be attentive to what they are doing but these shysters can be clever and will distract the employee with constant talking.
Another method of return fraud is done by the scoundrel who is wardrobing. This is the person who buys an outfit and wears it on a date or to a party. They return it a day or two later to the store where they bought it. This can be difficult to detect because often the tags are reattached with tagging guns. I saw several regular customers engage in this in the department store where I first worked as a Loss Prevention Associate. These customers were known to have money, but practiced this activity anyways (maybe this is why they had money). Unless a clear stain could be found, the majority of the time the manager would process the return. This is the situation where using the Alpha Shark Tag could be most effective.
Return Fraud can be a major source of profit loss. Reduce the chances of being taken advantage of by these characters. Use Alpha Shark Tags on your merchandise and improve your return process and your profits!
Return Fraud is important and we can help you with it. Call 1.770.426.0547 and let’s talk.
I went shopping with my wife last night. Well, really we were waiting to pick up my daughter from her job and had time to kill so we went to the clothing retail store next to her store and began browsing. We had a gift to look for but that turned to naught so we went to the nightwear section and she looked through the racks for a particular item she wanted in her size. Well she found the style and color of a pair of pajama pants she liked but she wasn’t positive they would fit properly. I told her we could buy them and if they fit and she liked them she could keep them. If not, as long as we had the receipt we could return them. I certainly didn’t need to tell her this as she has a significant amount of retail experience, but as the husband and the one with the Loss Prevention experience, I felt I needed to reassure her that she would not be committing any retail fraud by trying them on at home. I also told her this because I was tired and ready to go. This experience reminded me that there are those who engage in wardrobing and do commit return fraud. A store like this could benefit from using Alpha Shark Tags on their clothing.
Since I mentioned Alpha Shark Tags I need to describe what they are and how they prevent return fraud. Shark Tags or wardrobing tags as they are sometimes called are different than electronic article surveillance tags. These tags are designed in a bright red and are placed in a highly visible location on clothes. They are not created to prevent theft so they never get de-activated or removed at the store. These devices are removed by the customer when they get home and the customer decides they want to keep the merchandise. The tags have to be cut off and once that is done they can’t be replaced. It also means the store won’t accept the item back for return. This means that there is no more buying clothes, wearing them a couple of times to look like the person has a new outfit, then returning the item with the clothing tags and receipts and getting a full refund…a type of fraud known as wardrobing. The bright color of the Shark tags ensures that if the item is worn in public with the tag still on it other people are going to know the intent is that the item is being “borrowed” and will embarrass the person wearing the garment. I should also mention that Alpha Shark tags do not interfere with the ability to try on clothes at home and if the item doesn’t fit or if it is a gift and the recipient doesn’t like the gift, as long as the tag is intact, the garment can be returned.
As a Loss Prevention Manager I did see multiple questionable returns of clothing as well as obvious attempts at return fraud. The problem was determining what was clearly fraudulent and what was not. The second part of that problem was working with the Manager on Duty to determine if we were going to take an item back and what form of reimbursement would we give. Merchandise that has clothing tags on them and a receipt, even if there were some stains, could be hard to refuse. Everything has the appearance of following the company return policies, minor stains or odors notwithstanding, so to refuse the return is hard. It is a little easier if stains are large or the merchandise is damaged but again if the tags are in place it can be tough because some managers don’t want a confrontation. Clear clothing return fraud is when the tags on the clothes don’t match the product. An example is when a perpetrator has a low end brand of jeans and attaches a store price tag and barcode from a high-end, name brand pair of jeans and takes them to the store to get the higher dollar amount back. If an employee is paying attention this fraud can be caught and the return easily denied. Wardrobing Tags prevent the harder returns because they can’t be reattached so the clothes can’t be worn and refunded.
Don’t be the victim of return fraud, it hurts profits because often the merchandise that is brought back has to be reduced in price or marked out of stock. Wardrobing tags help keep profits up and prices for customers down when they don’t have to pay for the losses through mark-ups on clothing. Oh, and that shopping trip…my wife didn’t buy anything.
Need information on Wardrobing Tags? Give us a call at 1.770.426.0547 now.