Personal Reflections circa 1984-1986 by Jayne Wallace
Q: How do you afford the latest clothes as a teenager?
A: By ordering from the Grattan catalogue (without having to pay up front), wearing the clothes with the labels (thin card or paper) tucked inside, then returning them before being charged.
This was very common practice amongst my peers and we didn’t question the ethics of itas I remember – we looked after the clothes (because we knew we had to pay for them otherwise). We would also buy what we could afford so the company was making something out of us. I remember this being something we did at a point when we didn’t have Saturday jobs or much money and it being something that didn’t last when we could afford new stuff – so
it wasn’t preferable to actually owning things. I don’t think this had a ‘name’ in the 1980s, but now it’s called ‘wardrobing’ or return fraud.
This article from 2013 is an example of the ways in which commerce are attempting to counteract this behavior.
The relationship that a customer builds up with a catalogue is different to one that they build with a physical shop. A catalogue is poured over at home, over time – in your own space – letting you order before payment signifies a certain trust on the part of the seller and the foundation of a certain kind of long term relationship between buyer and brand/shop – as does letting you pay in weekly installments. There’s something familial about it. Does it even feel like buying from a shop? Would you even see the catalogue as a shop or something other? Wardrobing from this environment feels more akin to a library or borrowing a dress from a mate or a relative than what is happening in the bloomingdales example.
Thinking through the library model – incremental charges being made if the item isn’t returned on time (i.e. if you have a given period to return it unused within)??? Rather than a stricter form of policing, what would it be like if shops just had your paypal details? What if you just took things home without paying for them with the understanding that you had, say, 5 days before you would be charged for the item? How would this change the relationship between buyer and seller? Would we have a different understanding of ownership of store goods? Would sanctioning this usually perceived illicit behavior of taking something without paying for it feel awkward? Wrong? Would this change over time? Would this rob the shopping experience of something?