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deshopper

noun [countable]

a person who buys something with the specific intention of using it and later returning it to the shop for a full refund

deshopping

noun [uncountable]

'They buy a dress, wear it once and then take it back to the shop demanding a refund. They buy a CD to copy it and return it to get their money back. They are the deshoppers – a scam that has cost stores £63 million this year.'

London Metro 8th December 2004

'… although 82% of mass-market retailers and 71% of independent retailers are aware of deshopping, few have taken steps to update return policies, due to the risk of customer defection in today's highly competitive environment.'

press release, Brunel University 1st December 2004

We can all picture the scene on Christmas morning: little Johnny squeals with delight as he opens up his 'robosapien' mechanical robot toy, which is later trodden on by frail old granny, sucked and chewed by baby brother, and smeared with chocolate mess after an encounter with little Johnny's selection box. What is a parent to do as the tears stream down little Johnny's face? Might it just be possible to find the receipt and take 'robosapien' back to the shop in January, pleading ignorance of all its ailments? Someone who does so has in recent weeks been identified as a deshopper, a person who purchases something, uses it, and returns it to the shop for a full refund.

typical deshopping activities include the purchase, copying and subsequent return of CDs and DVDs … or buying a dress to wear once to a party and later returning it for a full refund

The practice of deshopping allegedly cost UK stores £63 million in 2004. Typical deshopping activities include the purchase, copying and subsequent return of CDs and DVDs, perhaps claiming that they did not play properly, or buying a dress to wear once to a party and later returning it for a full refund, sometimes even replacing the original price tags.

So great is the concern about deshopping that a four-year research project into the phenomenon has been undertaken by the Brunel Business School, in association with the British Shops and Stores Association (BSSA). The Brunel study found that 82% of chain stores and 71% of independent retailers had lost up to a tenth of their profits through deshopping. Key traits of deshoppers were the tendency to brag about deshopping victories to friends, and the perception that returning goods for a full refund was like 'winning a battle' against retailers. Researchers claim that in order to reduce the number of deshoppers, this pattern of behaviour must be progressively broken by introducing a more watertight returns policy which makes it much harder for consumers to secure refunds which aren't legitimate.

Background – deshopper

The term deshopper is of course formed from affixation of the noun shopper with the prefix de-, which – when added to verbs and their derivatives – usually denotes removal or reversal, originating from the Old French prefix des-. The term deshopping could be considered a UK variant of the term shopgrifting, a recent neologism originating in the USA for a similar phenomenon, and the subject of a previous BuzzWord article. The derivations of the two variants appear to be at different stages: the term shopgrift is used as a verb but there is as yet no evidence of an equivalent verb deshop, whereas the nominalization deshopper exists but there is to date no significant evidence of an equivalent form shopgrifter.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 3rd January 2005.

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