Sharp-eyed readers have pointed out that my previous blog failed to account for the possibility of simply returning a costume that doesn’t fit or simply exchanging it for one in a different size.
In a world of “one size fits most,” tighter return policies and online shopping, there’s nothing simple about returns and exchanges. Not at all.
Retailers (online or around the corner) have every right to limit the circumstances under which they’ll take a return where costumes are concerned. For one thing, many adult costumes these days are made to be worn as intimately as an undergarment, and that means a retailer should avoid taking returns for health reasons, but I suspect the reasons are far less altruistic and far more practical. Retailers have, at best, three weeks from today to unload their stock of costumes, decorations and candy before they put up the 40% off signs. They don’t need to recycle the stock. And, given the shelf space, customer behavior and other retail truths, it’s less likely than ever that someone will purchase a previously-opened costume unless they’re completely desperate for one of that model. The timing issue is even further compounded if doing business online, because now we have to factor in the time it takes for you to receive the costume, figure out it’s the wrong size, send it back, have the shopkeeper relist and resell it on his website, then ship it out to the next customer. Halloween costumes just don’t have that kind of shelf life.
Bottom line here is that most retailers will have special rules for the return of Halloween products, especially costumes, and may only take returns if the costume is unopened in its original packaging.
How can your average consumer fight that? If you’re shopping online, seek out a site that provides a sizing chart for its products. If nothing else, it shows that the owner has some understanding and shares some of your concerns about the issue. On the street, it’s unlikely that your local megamart allows trying on costumes. Even if they do, a lot of shoppers would avoid tearing through the sixth plastic package in the dressing room. A lot of specialty stores, however, encourage shoppers to try out sample outfits. If you’re difficult to fit or suspect that this particular costume needs special attention in some way, you might want to try out one of those shops.
Another word on specialty stores. A lot of folks set their Halloween Season Watch by the opening of the retail outlets, the ones that generally take over an abandoned slot in the strip mall or some other retail space, stay for four to six weeks, and disappear until next late-September. There’s certainly nothing wrong with shopping those – in fact, most of them are simply highly specialized, off-site incarnations of stores that are in your neighborhood all year in more permanent locations – but understand going in that the store won’t be around on November 3rd or 4th. They’re designed to be temporary, so you’ll probably need to treat any purchases like they’re “all sales final.” Understand the return policies, buy early (and carefully), and check out your purchases – especially electronic items –- as soon as you get them home.