Differences between America & Australia, My LA story, Posts

Returning things (taking stuff back)

The difference between Americans & Australians

I’m starting a new series of differences between Australians & Americans prompted by today’s shopping experience. I’m not talking spelling or speaking but reactions and situations. Join in if you’ve got a story to tell.

Returns Bloomingdale’s style

I bought some candles for a friend whose birthday is coming up. I ordered them online (of course) and opted to pick them up in store because I wouldn’t receive them in time for her birthday dinner.

Cut to the chase I got the candles home and my daughter was snooping in the bag (she is obsessed with candles AND snooping!).

“Ew,” she screamed. “This candle has been lit.”

And sure enough it had. No sign of real lighting action but that wick was not white (or clear) it was black.

So I headed straight back to Bloomingdale’s the next morning so they didn’t suspect me of being the mysterious candle-lighter.

“Oh my god,” said the checkout chick (who is actually a bloke but then I couldn’t use the term ”checkout chick”), “that’s terrible. Ew. Let’s get you another one shall we?”

So off we went looking for the same product—but one that hadn’t been lit. Each time he passed someone who worked at the store he’d call out, “Hey Larry—or whatever their name was—look this poor lady got sent a candle that had been … (gasp) lit.”

“No way,” they’d reply in shock.  “That’s terrible.”

It took us a while to find the same product but he looked up the stock and knew there were some somewhere. So off he went digging out the back to try to find more. And he did. And he sent me away a happy—albeit still shell-shocked—customer.


Returns Australia style

Let’s imagine how this might play out in Australia…

Me: “Hi, I bought these candles online and picked them up here yesterday but one of the candles seems to have been lit.”

Checkout chick (CC): “Oh,” glaring at me sizing me up to see if I hadn’t in fact lit the candle myself. “Do you have the receipt.”

Me: “Yes,” showing her the receipt.

CC: “And when did you say you bought them? Where from?

Me: Politely answer the question.

CC: “I’ll have to speak to someone about this, wait one minute please,” while walking up and whispering to her colleague both looking at me making me feel guilty like I deliberately lit that candle and took it back wanting a new one.

“OK, mam, this is an unusual situation. We won’t give you your money back we can only exchange and since the candle has already been lit then we can only exchange it for exactly the same product.”

Me: “Well that’s good because I want the candle, I got it home and found that it had been lit and it’s a gift and I really want to give them a brand new one, not one that’s been lit by someone else.

“Do you have anymore in stock? I couldn’t find them anywhere.”

CC: “I’m not sure you’ll have to look around and see if you can find another one.”

Me: “I’ve had a look around but can’t seem to see any. I only bought them online yesterday there should be more here somewhere shouldn’t there?”

CC: “You’ll have to wait while I serve this customer and maybe I can check stock for you. Or you might go back online and see if you can find some more.”

You get the picture? I love shopping here and not being treated guilty before being proved innocent. Plus the prices are better and it’s so convenient online!


xx It Started in LA xx


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  • Reply Cristin June 8, 2015 at 2:55 pm

    Ha! I hate to say it, but this is so true.
    A woman (Australian) in a FB group I’m in was just the other day retelling a story about buying mushrooms at her produce market. The “checkout chick” opened the bag and noticed that one of the mushroom stalks had been broken off. She looked alarmed and went to speak to the manager. The manager then came over and asked her if she’d intentionally broken the stem off and inspected every other mushroom in the bag, while scolding her about not meddling with the produce. What?!
    There’s definitely a little air of distrust in the customer/store relationship in Australia.

    • Reply ItStartedInLA June 8, 2015 at 3:42 pm

      A bit embarrassed to say in Australia you’re guilty and rarely proven innocent but mushrooms??? I will miss the American “checkout chicks” being on your side here in the US that’s for sure. I promise not to take it for granted!

  • Reply Fiona Smith June 8, 2015 at 4:46 pm

    It’s that good old American Service culture that we Aussies have never got the hang of. Sure you guys might have to put up with the “have a nice day” that is said verbatim … but I could manage that for just a little bit of service.

    • Reply ItStartedInLA June 8, 2015 at 5:29 pm

      It’s funny, I’m used to the ra-ra-style hellos & how are you doing’s now so I’m all good but the fact that they’re not staring at you like a criminal when you return things is so good. I stopped returning things ages ago at home and I’m still getting into the swing of remembering I can do it here. I even waited the maximum 90 days to return something to Target and they didn’t bat an eye!

  • Reply Natasha Caristo June 8, 2015 at 4:58 pm

    This is so true! Just had a chat at the school gate with a mum that is going to Big W 3 suburbs away because the returns lady at the Big W in the next suburb makes her feel like she is a shoplifter every time she exchanges a purchase for a different size.
    In TV shows and movies, Americans appear to be able to return worn clothes if the tags are still on. Do people do that?

    • Reply ItStartedInLA June 8, 2015 at 5:30 pm

      That’s terrible that she has to do that but it’s so true isn’t it? It’s like it’s their shop & their income.
      I have heard of people leaving tags on wearing things and taking them back but that’s taking it too far I think. They deserve to come across the chick fro Big W–that’d stop them!

  • Reply kerryncoldrey June 8, 2015 at 5:57 pm

    To be fair not all shops or department stores in Australia are like that. I’ve had extremely pleasant dealings when exchanging both with and without receipts.

    • Reply ItStartedInLA June 9, 2015 at 9:53 am

      I’m so pleased otherwise it would be totally embarrassing and I think the department stores are a little better. I remember when I worked at Myer we encouraged people to bring things back (but we did talk about people who constantly bought & returned). Maybe that’s what stops me from returning so much?!

    Why not tell me what you think & comment below

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