During my years in retail loss prevention, I dealt with a number of different types of return fraud. In some instances it was a simple case of someone bringing in an item with no receipt. The customer had so many refunds in the store computer system that when the register prompted for an I.D. card, the customer information was entered and they were turned down. There were some fraudulent returns that were more difficult to detect. When I worked for one retailer we had a problem with thieves who were making legitimate purchases of high dollar electronics items and returning the merchandise. The problem was the packaging had been re-shrink wrapped and something was placed in the box, but not the merchandise. Usually the merchandise was replaced with a rock or another item of similar weight to the item that was supposed to be in the box. The solution to this problem was that we started requiring all returns of this particular product to be opened, even if shrink wrapped. In my opinion, one of the most difficult forms of return fraud to prevent was what is known as wardrobing returns. The reason it was difficult to prevent is because this particular fraud is one of those situations that does not necessarily fall into a “criminal” act. The perpetrator makes a purchase and does return the clothing with tags and a receipt. The problem posed by the person who is wardrobing is that before being returned, the merchandise has been worn somewhere. In the first example of return fraud I mentioned, prevention comes from a computer system shutting off a person’s ability to conduct no receipt refunds. In the second example, verifying contents of a returned item prevented fraud. When it comes to wardrobing, the only sure method of prevention is to use Alpha Shark Tags.
When a customer purchases a garment it is reasonable to expect them to take the item home and try it on, not everyone has time to try on clothes in a store. It is also reasonable to expect the clothing item could be given as a gift to someone else. The person who is wardrobing is doing more than trying on clothes and finding out the item does not fit. This person is wearing clothes out at least for one evening, possibly two and then they return it. They are using a retailer as a rental store but they don’t have to pay the rental fee. The people who are engaging in this type of fraud have found ways to keep the clothing tags attached or they have found a method to remove the tags and attach them later. They keep the receipt so all of the store rules are being followed. The Alpha Shark Tags are attached to clothing somewhere that it can’t be covered or concealed. It is also placed in prominent place so it will be visible to anyone the ‘customer’ may come in contact with while they are out. Unlike manufacturer tags the Alpha Shark Tag cannot be removed and re-attached. The tag is cut off by the customer when they leave, so they can purchase and try it on later. The tag does not need to be removed in order to try on the garment it only makes the item unpresentable in a social setting. Once the tag is removed the store return policy should stipulate that the garment is no longer returnable. There is even a refund policy tag that can be ordered with shark tags that warns the customer of the policy.
While wardrobing may not be a ‘crime’ it is unethical and it does hurt others. It hurts the store owner who cannot sell the item at the price it was originally sold for (assuming it can be resold at all). If it is smelly or has stains, in most situations it is not cost effective to have the garment cleaned. And if it is cleaned, it is the business owner who has to bear that expense. If the merchandise is deemed too damaged it is marked out of stock and once more it is the store owner who takes the loss. Honest consumers then get hit with the mark-up prices that owners have to add on merchandise so they don’t incur all of the loss. By using Alpha Shark Tags, business owners can prevent return fraud and keep sales profitable.
For more information on Alpha Shark Tags, contact us or call 1.770.426.0547