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Q: I wore a new sweater with the tags still attached. Now I want to return it. Can I?
A: It depends on the store’s return policy. “That essentially sets out the terms of the deal between the retailer and the consumer,” says Chris MacDonald, a professor of philosophy at Saint Mary’s University, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and a business-ethics blogger (businessethicsblog.com). When you make a purchase, you agree to those terms, MacDonald says. So if you bought the sweater from a store that has a “no questions asked, satisfaction guaranteed” policy (such as Nordstrom or Eddie Bauer), you could not only wear it but even tell the salesclerk that you wore it and still ask for your money back without violating your agreement.
But if you take back a worn piece of clothing to a shop that specified up front that an item must be unused and unworn to be returned or exchanged (such as the Gap, Banana Republic, and Bluefly.com), your behavior is dishonest. Keep in mind that you’re also racking up bad shopping karma, says MacDonald: “Eventually costs are always passed along from a store to the customer in the form of higher prices. So you may well be hurting fellow customers―or even yourself―more than anyone else. ―Carrie Sloane
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