Fancy department store Bloomingdale's is rolling out a new "black tag" program, Bloomberg reports, to combat fraudsters who buy a dress just to wear it once and return it. This kind of fraud, called "wardrobing," cost the retail industry $8.8 billion last year, and it affects 65% of all retail stores. Bloomie's debut of their new loss-prevention program at a key time before holiday parties start — the perfect season to buy a dress, wear it, and then get your money back.
The black tags, which are three inches in length, will be attached to expensive items like prom dresses. They'll be visible on the front of a dress, and if a customer removes the tag, he or she can't then return the item. The practice will probably help the department store stop hemorrhaging money, but it will also turn off customers. Rich Mellor, vice president of loss prevention at the National Retail Federation, told Bloomberg, "it is a delicate balance of loss prevention and good customer service, and the relationship has to be handled with appropriate finesse.” Apparently, some customers are already complaining.
Nordstrom, another retail giant, isn't changing its policy, which is basically, "return anything!" Once, a man successfully returned a set of snow tires to a Nordstrom in Alaska, even though the department store has never sold tires. Nordstrom spokesman Cole Johnson told Bloomberg, “our experience is that if you treat the customer with respect, they respect you back.”
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