Save The Receipt

December 10, 2010

We’ve all heard of chocaholics and shopaholics and workaholics, but the other day I heard a report about an entirely new kind of ­aholic, a returnaholic. These are people who will buy things with the intention of returning them. I can understand buying something and finding out it doesn’t fit or it doesn’t work or, in the case of a shirt I got several years ago, it turns your entire upper body pale green so you look like an alien from a cheap 50’s science fiction flick, and returning it, but apparently there are people who do things like buy a lot of clothes with the intention of returning some, once they’ve decided which ones fit their wardrobe, which ones don’t, and which ones will make them look like Dropo from Santa Claus Conquers The Martians. A psychologist explained that for these people returning things provides them a thrill that’s akin to gambling. I’m not sure I buy that, and even if I do I’m tempted to return it. Among other things the really lax return policies that many stores have now would seem to be a contributing factor in creating this thrill. Don’t have a receipt? You can still return it! It’s something the store doesn’t even sell? You can still return it, although only for store credit. I once got two pairs of socks in exchange for an omelet at a shoe store. I also have to wonder why we’re only seeing this supposed addiction now, because lax return policies aren’t exactly new. Many years ago I desperately wanted a computer. To give you an idea how long ago this was I asked my father if I could have an Apple for Christmas, and he said, “Hell, you can have a whole bushel!” But that’s another story.

A friend of mine told me about a guy he knew who’d found a broken floppy disk drive in someone’s trash. Apparently this guy was addicted to going through peoples’ trash. The guy had taken it to a store that sold disk drives, claimed it was his and that he’d bought it there and, without a receipt, was able to get a new one. The store probably wrote off the loss, assuming they even knew about it, although you’d think even a large chain that does a huge amount of business would notice the cost of something like a floppy disk drive which, in those days, cost as much as a small car. To get back to the addiction, though, I wonder if this really is a real phenomenon or whether it’s just something that’s being exaggerated because, given the time of year and the annual festival of returns that always follows Christmas, it’s intriguing to think that we might know someone with an addiction that we’re enabling by giving them a scarf that doesn’t really go with any of their coats. I believe that there are real addictions that seriously impair and can even destroy peoples’ lives and provide limitless fodder for the tabloid industry, but, as a culture, we seem to have become addicted to the idea that there are addictions everywhere. There has to be a distinction between an addiction, which requires serious therapeutic intervention, and a bad habit that just needs a little willpower to break. I don’t know where this idea came from, but I think it needs to be returned. Did anyone save the receipt?

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