Consumer Law

Is the Customer Always Right? and other consumer site provide articles and resources dealing with consumers being the victims of fraud and how to be a better and careful consumer. However, on the other side of the coin are the customers themselves.

Customers aren't always innocent. There are many instances when customers are the source of fraudulent behavior and abuse. Here are some of the most common instances of customer behavior, this time from the other side.

Airline Customer Fraud

While there have been countless lawsuits against companies defrauding the public, some of the public have taken part in fraudulent activities as well. For instance, one of the most complained-about service industries, the airline industry, is subject to an endless amount of fraud.

  • When flights are delayed or rerouted, it's typical practice for most airlines to give their customers vouchers to cover their hotel expenses. These are typically for about $100 a night, depending on the city. You may take this opportunity to try to make a quick buck and stay with friends or family and then write out receipts to the airline company for expensive hotel stays. Usually for much more than the allocated $100 per night.
  • Airlines also receive countless luggage-related scams. While it's quite unfortunate and uncomfortable when your luggage doesn't arrive as scheduled, many people use this loss to try to get a quick gain. It's common for people to report that their bags were filled with extremely expensive clothes (fur coats are common), computers and other pricey gadgets.

Even more surprising, some companies report that handicapped passengers traveling with wheelchairs or motorized scooters complain about damage occurring during the flight or transport. After asking the airline to pay for a new device, when these customers are asked to show the damage to representatives, it's not unusual for them to refuse.

Fraudulent Shoppers

In addition to the highly-creative airline complainers, shoppers have a list of tricks up their sleeves.

Many shoppers use a fraudulent technique called wardrobing. This is when you buy a particular outfit for a special event and return it as if it were unworn. This is quite common for occasions such as weddings, where many women buy a fancy dress, wear it, and then return it the next day. Some even try to return the outfit stained and dirty.

Halloween is a prime time for wardrobing. Many mothers buy costumes for their children, only to return it the very next day, knowing they'll "buy" their children new costumes next year. These customers treat these stores as rental shops and return clothes that have been used and worn, claiming they haven't been.

It could also mean buying a lot of clothes, especially over the internet, trying them on at home and then returning some or all of them. This hurts companies providing free shipping and returns since those are paid out of the company's pocket.

In addition to wardrobing, a related concept used by shoppers is "closeting." Closeting is when people buy something they need for a particular purpose, for example video cameras to record a special event, karaoke machine for a child's birthday, a drill to hang some pictures, and then return it to the store after completing the task or the event.

It's one thing if the product is defective, but if it's just because you don't want it any longer, that's not a good reason. These practices affect the stores, who many times can't resell the open item at its full price.

Rude and Crude

As annoying as it can be to receive a customer service or telemarketing call, some people deal with such calls in an extremely rude and offensive fashion. They fail to consider that on the other side of the telephone is a person simply doing his or her job.

Representatives report typical instances of verbal abuse with cursing, name-calling and have even reported customers using racial slurs.

There are ways to correctly stop telemarketing calls rather than resorting to being nasty or abusive.

Is the Customer Always Right? How Can Companies Deal with Customer Fraud?

While many companies refuse exuberant requests for reimbursement and stick to their stated guidelines, customer fraud affects many companies. Especially in service firms, companies want to please their customers and do their best to keep the customer satisfied, following the principal that the customer is always right.

As a result, many of these fraudulent customers get away with these acts, affecting companies and the honest customers who are the ones to purchase already-worn garments or already-opened tools.

This doesn't even include the amount lost in restocking the merchandise, accounting for it as sold, and including the credit card fees paid to banks for the initial purchase, but not the return. These costs are ultimately passed back to other - honest - customers.

If you need a karaoke machine for a child's birthday, you can probably find one for rent from a party store. Need a dress for a special occasion but don't want to spend a lot of money? Check out a resale or vintage clothing store.

You may think you want to "stick it" to companies, but in the end, you're really just creating more costs for yourself and other consumers. In addition to shoplifting, these are some of the biggest reasons stores raise prices.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • Can a store sue me if I try to return used clothing/other items?
  • How does an airline know if I am being honest about my hotel expenses?
  • Can a store refuse to sell items to me if they think I'm going to return it the next day?
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