I love to buy clothes. Almost as much as I love to buy clothes, I love to return clothes. There is an outstanding reason for each of these activities.
When I shop for clothes, various things happen. One is that Alternate Life Renee takes over. I go into a zone where I approximate the life of someone else on the planet who I have never met. For example, I will pick up a garment and think, “This will be so perfect for those early walks on the beach, where I need some kind of chic cover up that still looks summery and…” You get the idea. So I buy it, totally forgetting that a. I don’t go to the beach and b. when I do go to the beach maybe once a year, I don’t walk on the actual beach in the morning or c. If I ever would walk on the beach in the early morning, I would probably wear a hooded sweatshirt.
There are variations of Alternate Life Renee. There is Alternate Weight Renee, Alternate Height Renee, Alternate Age Renee, and Alternate Finances Renee. All of these result in my bringing home or ordering clothes through a catalogue that have little or no connection to Actual Renee. There is another category which I have never shared with anyone: Red Carpet Renee, in which I believe, when I am standing at a clothing rack at Marshalls or Loehmans, that in the event I am suddenly asked to appear at an awards ceremony accompanied by either Robert Downy Jr or Elton John, that I am prepared.
I know these things about myself, and this is why returning gives me almost as much of a thrill as buying the items in the first place. Returning not only puts money back in my pocket, but it corrects the incorrect buying activity. Buying=irrational; returning=rational. Buying=financially irresponsible; returning=thrifty. Buying=out of control; returning=in control. Returning is like being bulimic but in an acceptable way.
I’m guessing I run about a 50% return rate. This makes me really happy. But I have friends, a daughter, and a Now Husband who look down on this activity. My husband Dan actually told me early on that he was happy to go with me to run errands but he would not go with me to return anything. That lasted only a short while. He now realizes that Life With Renee involves both returning and a cat in residence. He has had neither item in his life before but has become acclimated to both.
In an attempt to scare me to my senses, Dan told me yesterday that Wal-Mart is now banishing customers who return four items. This seems really harsh. I don’t shop at Wal-Mart unless I am on an extended trip to Anadarko, Oklahoma to study American Indian life. But this concerns me. What if other stores institute this policy? Will I be a Shopping Pariah? Will people like me be forced to wear disguises and use different credit cards for each purchase? Will one store tell another? Worse, will catalogues be included?
I do have to admit that there is a downside to all this returning. Sometimes I will carry a bag around in the trunk, intending to return some article of clothing, and I will totally forget about it. By the time I discover it, I’m thinking that TJ Maxx might not want to take back a wool sweater in July. (And, in a non-clothing category of returns, I still have two boxes of “Kosher for Passover” matzoh ball soup mix that I never used and never returned on time. I don’t think Safeway would be happy to see these.) Other times, I will hang something in my closet, leaving the tags on, and every time I look in the closet I am reminded that I am in some kind of limbo about the item. Sometimes, I tear the tags off just to put myself out of my misery. Other times, I put just-purchased shoes on the shelf, leaving them in their boxes. I try them on a dozen times, being careful to stay on the carpet so I don’t scuff the soles. This is no fun at all.
I haven’t shared this fact with anyone, but the reason I enjoy shopping when I am on vacation is because it means that I can’t return what I buy. There is a certain kind of relief to that, like hitting “Send” on an email or leaving a voice mail message for someone. Like both Tiger and John Edwards discovered, there’s no going back. In my case, it’s a good thing.
So, until I am forced to do otherwise by store policy, I will continue my subversive activity. When stores change their policies and there suddenly appear workshops and coaches to help people with their desire to return things, I will change. On the other hand, maybe not. Maybe Oprah will have a show about this newly recognized affliction. If so, can someone get the word out to her that I am available to be interviewed? This will result in my being on Oprah and being able to shop for Meeting Oprah clothes. It’s a win-win.