Closet Cases: Returning Clothes Is TraumaticOnce I was at a store during a very busy after-Christmas sale. "If I buy this dress for my baby shower in three months and then it doesn't fit, can I return it?" one shopper asked a salesman. No, he said; sales were final. The shopper looked at him like he was crazy. "But I'm pregnant," she said, as if to a simpleton. No question, when it comes to returns, people have gall. According to an item in today's New York Post, the shopaholics at swish Madison Avenue boutiques are experiencing unfamiliar buyer's remorse, and returns have skyrocketed. But they're not the ones doing it: "It's as if the women are too embarrassed, or too upset, to come in themselves. It's too painful for them to part with their recent purchases," said one retailer. "So they make their husbands perform the painful chore." Returns, it's clear, are an emotional issue.No question, anyone who's worked in retail sees it all: people trying to return worn things, stained things, torn things, battered shoes — and generally with a strong sense of self-righteous grievance. I was once at a Gap Body and watched a woman brazenly return a bra that she had obviously worn, washed, and put in the dryer — because she claimed it had shrunk spontaneously. To some folks, I'm convinced this is some kind of deep game: a means of sharpening their using wits and guile. And that's to say nothing of those amoral souls who shamelessly buy, wear to events, and return without a qualm. Others regard buying, trying, deciding and returning as a valid means of shopping — fair enough in a large store, but hard on a smaller establishment's inventory. Then there are the guilty returns: stripped of the glamor of store lights and surroundings or the euphoria of friends' praise, people often blanch at the realization of what they've spent; that, much as they want to be the person in the floor-length velvet coat, they're not; that they have three of the same thing at home. Sometimes, in the cold light of your own bedroom, without a saleswoman's rationalizations, you realize something really is too small, or that the right underwear/judicious hemming/accessorizing really can't work miracles. Or there are those shoppers, initially delighted with a purchase, who return sheepishly the next day, deflated by a husband or friend's disapprobation. I am one of those who finds returning difficult: I am normally a decisive shopper and am mad at myself if I end up with something against my better judgment. I also feel a tremendous sense of obligation to the salespeople who help me and hate to imply they've failed in any way, or admit that I was so weak-willed as to not know my own mind. I have made the best of more than one bad purchase rather than deal with the trauma of a return, and then curse myself again for a neurotic coward. The sad truth is, in any case, that an increasing number of small stores have store-credit only policies, so it can be impossible to undo your folly completely. In my case, too, there's often an organization deficit: I am bad at keeping track of receipts and the mechanics of returning an internet purchase are completely beyond me. The solution is obviously careful and thoughtful shopping, budgeting, and if necessary, prompt and courteous returns. But such is not human nature — and for a real shopaholic, like those in the Post, maybe it's got to be a gradual learning curve; stopping cold-turkey would simply be too painful? That said, however embarrassed I might be to face a clerk, I would be twice as humiliated to have my boyfriend do the dirty work. Even if I had bought a dress final sale three months in advance knowing my body was going to be completely different. Cause, you know, that would be totally reasonable. a href="http://www.nypost.com/seven/11142008/gossip/pagesix/a_job_for_guys_138567.htm">Madison Avenue Stores See Huge Increase In Luxury Goods Returns [NY Post]