I have some brand-new fleece-lined jeans that don’t fit and need to be returned. That’s a hassle. No wonder Adam and Eve stuck with fig leaves. That these jeans don’t fit is my fault. What a foolish notion to believe that by sitting in a chair with a plastic card in hand, one can click a color photo and actually expect to land in pants that fit like a glove. I know better than that. I simply sold my soul because I didn’t want to take the time to find a store with a fitting room.
In the current issue of Atlantic magazine (November 2021), Amanda Mull has a fascinating essay about the troubling economics connected with our online purchase returns. Last year, Americans returned $100 billion worth of online merchandise, and even though that’s a ridiculously incomprehensible number, it must be close to right.
A large percentage of returned merchandise never gets resold. Repackaging costs, questionable salvageability, labor-intensive restocking, and the effect of time as style trends change all make returns unlikely to end up in another hopeful owner’s hands.
One would think that instead of discarding as much as 25 percent of returned items, retailers would choose to donate them. But retailers have little interest in what’s termed “brand dilution.” That’s the logic that a brand’s perceived value will fall if lots of poor people wear the brand they received at no cost. That concept is too sad to even receive comment here.
I woke up this morning knowing of the need to box up those fleece-lined jeans on the kitchen counter. But an email arrived from a close friend and it changed the day. Who wants to read of stage IV cancer? Then again, who wants to write of their own stage IV cancer? But there it was. Suddenly, I didn’t care if those jeans ever got returned. They hold no value to me in comparison with the greater joys of life’s friendships.
I have a straightforward choice with those jeans. I can either return them or give them away. I suppose I have a similar opportunity with respect to that email I received at 7:21 this morning. I could return that email to my friend and say, “This can’t be true. You must’ve made it up.” Or, I could honor its pain and decide to give away more of the love that this friend has so consistently given to me.
At the moment, giving away sounds like the better option for both the jeans and my friend’s love.