Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Take It Back!

Unused merchandise can be returned for a full refund.  Yet many people throw away, give away, or sell at a garage sale, items which can be redeemed for full price!

I was at a friend's garage sale the other day, and saw that they were selling a set of curtain rods.

I looked at them closely. They were still in the original packaging, boxed up, wrapped in shrink wrap, with the store price tag on them.

"You like those?" my friend said, "We bought them, but found out they didn't fit, so we are selling them in the garage sale".

"Why don't you take them back and get a refund?" I said. My friend looked flabbergasted.

Getting in the habit of taking things back can save you a considerable amount of money. I did not fully grasp the concept myself until I recently moved.

Most modern "big box" stores have generous return policies, although in recent years, they have been tightened somewhat to prevent fraud and abuse.

However, in order to encourage you to buy items for sale, they offer these return policies as an incentive. If you buy something and later don't need it, or it doesn't fit, you can always take it back.

Even without a receipt, most stores will give a store credit for a returned item. So my friend's curtain rod would have yielded $15 in store credit, as opposed to $1 at a garage sale.

Don't get me wrong, garage sales are a fine and wonderful thing, and a great way to get rid of items that are cluttering up your home - and convert them to cash. But if you can get full price for an item by taking it back, then do so.

Home improvement items are a big area where the "take it back" concept can work. When moving recently, I realized I had a lot of PVC plumbing parts that I had bought for various plumbing projects over the years. When you install a sink or whatever, often you end up buying more parts than necessary, as "going back to the store" for one 59-cent elbow is a frustrating experience.

The temptation is to "keep" the extra parts for the "next project" as they are somewhat inexpensive. However, a 59-cent elbow, times 10, is over $5 of stuff cluttering up your workbench.

We put a large cardboard box in the garage labeled the "Take Back Box" and then when we found something we had bought, in the original packaging (or as the case with plumbing parts, with the original bar code on it) we put it in the box. When going to the home improvement store to shop, our first step was to go to the return desk to get a store credit for the take-back items.

In some instances, we didn't remember which store we bought things from. In those cases, I would simply take it to the return desk at one store. If it scanned, great. If not, I would simply take it to the other store.

Surprisingly, we ended up with hundreds of dollars in store credits at various stores this way. We had bought a lot of items for projects and either the project didn't materialize, or the parts were "left over".

I recently bought some lower unit oil for my boat at Wal-Mart. When I got to the boat, I realized that I had already bought the oil last year. Some might say "well, now I have extra", but at nearly $10 a quart, it is a lot of expensive oil to have hanging around, particularly since I was planning on selling the boat. I took it back and got a $42 store credit.

Get in the habit of taking things back and your garage will be a lot less cluttered and you'll have more money in your pocket. Even after a year or more, most stores will take back products, provided they are in the original packaging, in good shape, and the product is still sold at that store.

As I have noted in my other entries, the big-box stores do encourage a very destructive form of shopping - the "unfinished project" shopping. And I know a number of people who go to such stores, buy lots of expensive items with grandiose plans for backyard or home improvement projects, and by the time they get them home, are too tired to even start the project.

This sort of thing can happen to anyone, but some folks are more addicted than others. These types of stores are designed to distract you, and when you go to buy a light bulb, it is temping, walking through the aisles, to say "Gee, maybe we should put in a fancy new sink" or something. Before you know it, your car or truck is full of lumber and cement and parts, and your credit card is sagging hundreds of dollars lower. You get it all home, and it languishes in the garage.

Plan projects you need to do, and do them first. Finish one project before starting another. Resist the temptation to start a spontaneous project based on the merchandising at a big-box store. And if you buy something for a project that is leftover or you never finish the project, TAKE IT BACK!

As I wandered around my friend's garage sale, I noticed a number of other items like the curtain rods - products that were still had the original packaging and could have been taken back for a refund (with receipt) or a store credit (without). Unfortunately, many of the items had been improperly stored (left outside), or broken out of their packaging, and thus could no longer be returned for a refund. Much of these items were sold for pennies on the dollar, which is a sad waste of hard-earned money.

Money takes labor to earn, and unless you want to end up like Sisuphus, perpetually working to no end or purpose. Wasting money is wasting your labor, so it only makes sense to spend wisely.

And if you buy something you don't need.....