Shoplifting seems an obvious crime: When someone steals from a store, they are charged and prosecuted. So why is it so hard to stop de-shoppers — customers who return an item after wearing it — when it’s cheating retailers out of $14.4 billion a year?
The trend has been hard to curtail mainly because de-shoppers have become highly skilled at beating the system, according to a recent article in The Economist. Some exploit retailers with more than one location — often buying items at one store and returning them in another. Others bully store clerks, hoping that creating a scene will earn them a refund, while still more take their chances with online retailers.
This type of fraud just drives up the cost for everyone. As consumers, we all pay for this because retailers have no choice but to charge more for all goods to compensate for these losses.
Some retailers are taking a stand. Tightening return policies, placing customer desks away from shoppers and even tracking repeat offenders are just some of the tactics retailers are using. One large, high-end department store is even taking a more positive approach — rewarding good customers with benefits, such as a VIP card.
Source: The Economist, March 2012