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Couch-potato shoppers beware the "return fee"

Cute shoes dancing around on your computer screen!

Chicago boomer ladies, do you shop from the comfort of your couch like I do? It's so much easier on the feet, isn't it? And honestly, can be easier on the pocketbook. Sometimes just turning down the page corner gives me the experience of having shopped for something - even when I eventually just throw the catalog out and don't buy a thing.

Assuming you do enjoy this experience at least occasionally, I'm issuing a little warning. Don't be misled. Catalog return policies are not all the same. Compare, for instance, Jessica London vs. Zappo's.

Sadly, all the items I ordered recently from the Jessica London paper catalog were disappointing. Colors off. Style not what was represented. Materials not what I expected from catalog photos. Etc. I had to return every one of them.

And today when I received my refund for these items, I noticed a larger-than-expected discrepancy between what I'd paid them and what they gave me back. Hmmm, I said to myself. Let me just check. Turned out the difference was $23.49 that they had not refunded me.

I called their customer service line and got a very nice guy who listened, looked up my account, and said, oh, yes, you're right. The return shipping is only $15.99. He had to search and search and finally he said, oh, I see. They charged you $7.50 for returning the items.

Wait, I said. So they're charging me a fee for the privilege of returning items plus requiring me to pay return shipping? Yes, he said.

Nice, I said.

Compare this to Zappo's, the fabulous online shoe store that offers detailed photos of every view of each pair of shoes, tons of personal reviews by customers about fit, color and style, and free shipping for all shoes...PLUS free and easy return shipping using the same packaging. It's about as no-hassle as you can get.

Jessica London is off my list of couch-potato shopping sources. Zappo's now has a place of honor.

P.S. One little word of caution about Zappo's. Once you start looking it's possible to find yourself spending hours on this site. And once you are a customer you may find yourself face-to-face with photos of all the shoes you were looking at dancing by in a parade of moving ads that appear on the weather site and other commonly visited websites. Would you believe Zappo's carries more than 12,000 models of sandals alone!

All those dancing shoes can be very distracting. And can require a lot of willpower to keep from clicking when you see another cute style go by - "Oh! I didn't see that one last time!"

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