ASK THE SOPHIST: Do I Have to Return a Shirt I’ll Never Wear?

in Hmm Weekly
on July 24, 2020

Dear The Sophist,
J. Crew is in financial trouble. I’m sure they’re counting every penny. And yes, their clothes have been overpriced for years, but they are still pretty good clothes for those of us who can’t afford to go to fancy tailors like we’re Carl Reiner (RIP) in Ocean’s Eleven. Recently, I ordered a J. Crew shirt, but the shirt never arrived. I emailed customer service and they issued an immediate refund (very polite). Two weeks later, the shirt magically appeared. Tried it on. Did not like it. The return shipping fee is $7. I don’t want to keep a shirt I’ll never wear, but also don’t want to pay a return fee. Would it be OK to donate it to a preppy charity?

Don’t Wanna Get Shirty

Dear Post-Prep,
Speaking of clothing sales, I’m going to take a moment here to complain about online promotions that offer “up to” 60 percent off or whatever. There are so many genuine price-slashing promotions in the inbox—40 percent off everything, 50 percent off everything—that the partial-sale “up to” pitch does nothing but generate ill will. If I click that link, any discount I see that’s less generous than the full 60 percent feels like a ripoff. 

I felt justified in taking a little time and space to vent about that because I have almost nothing to add to your entirely appropriate judgment of your shirt situation. J. Crew is not merely “in financial trouble”—it’s in bankruptcy protection. At the moment, it is not even an overpriced preppy clothing business, but a meta-business whose purpose is to rearrange the assets and debts accumulated in the past process of selling overpriced preppie clothes, so that someday it may go back to selling overpriced preppie clothes. This may have had something to do with its inability to send you the shirt on time (though that may also have been a result of the ongoing sabotage of the Postal Service). 

You were not really a customer but a creditor, and you settled up and got your money back. The last thing J. Crew needs under the circumstances is to have to deal with a shirt they had already written off. Even many retailers that aren’t in bankruptcy have quietly given up on the hassle of processing and repackaging returns, so they just send them to the garbage dump instead. Returning the shirt would be a waste of your own money, of the delivery company’s fuel, and of the shipping workforce’s labor. It would be better for everyone involved, and for the planet, if you threw the shirt in the trash. Donating it to charity is, relatively speaking, an act of heroism. 

Remember, grosgrain is also for hanging medals with,
The Sophist

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