Buying a special occasion dress, wearing it, and then returning it to the store, aka “Dress Rental” is a huge problem for stores and ultimately, the customers. Also known as friendly fraud or wardrobing, whatever cute term is used, it is theft.
This is a great way to put your favorite local business out of business. Renters will hide the tags in the outfit while it is being worn or even try to reattach the tags after the event is over. Dresses end up smelling, sometimes stained, and often damaged (i.e. missing beads) that the renter will try to pass off as a normal return. Many of the big box stores accept the returns and pass on the higher costs to customers. Small shops that refuse to return the rental are harassed for trying to stay in business, and often the renter thinks that yelling louder and making a scene will get the refund. Sadly, this is often true.
Even if the dress is returned in perfect condition, someone else missed out on that dress for their event. The store ends up with extra inventory at the end of season. Most stores plan Prom inventory 4-6 months in advance, based on previous year sales. Those returns are factored in and there will be fewer options for next season. This assumes that the store is still in business the following year after many rentals.
If you really cannot afford to buy a new dress of your dreams there are many other options:
- Check out Rent the Runway online dress rental, designed specifically so you can pay a rental fee and return the dress after your event
- Borrow from an older friend or sibling
- Buy a used dress from a consignment store or eBay
- Upcycle a dress – NDAD has tons of suggestions to try!
- Wear dress pants and a fabulous shirt (barring any gender specific dress codes)
- Make your own – many fabric stores offer sewing classes
Here is an excellent article from the New York Post explains exactly how this theft raises prices for regular shoppers and ultimately leads to job loss for retail workers.