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shopgrifting

noun [uncountable]

the activity of purchasing something from a shop, using it, and then returning it within a specific period in order to get a full refund

shopgrift

verb [transitive] (usually passive)

'… a Rice University linguistics class project, offers a few marvellous neologisms such as … "shopgrifting" (to use something for 30 days, then return it to store for full refund).'

www.lifeloom.com 2004

'The swindler takes advantage of the store and its liberal return policies. Big screen televisions are shopgrifted to watch major sporting events.'

www.larry-adams.com March 2002

It's a tempting idea: buy the shirt on Friday, wear it to the party on Saturday night, carefully repackage it on Sunday, take it back to the shop on Monday, result: you are seen wearing a new garment, but you didn't spend any money! The thought of doing this crosses many people's minds, and some of us might confess to actually having done it. Well, now we have a term to describe the practice: shopgrifting, sounding alarmingly similar to the illegal activity of shoplifting. Shopgrifting capitalises on the 30-day, no-questions-asked return policy offered by many larger shops and department stores, especially when a purchase is made with a credit card and legal obligations apply.

although shopgrifting is often associated with clothing, another common context is with electronic goods

Although shopgrifting is often associated with clothing, another common context is with electronic goods, as for instance buying a camcorder to record an important event, such as a wedding or birthday celebration, and then returning it immediately afterwards.

The term shopgrifting has spawned a transitive verb shopgrift, usually used in the passive form as illustrated above. Shopgrifter would be the logical form of a countable noun for those who regularly engage in the practice, though there is thus far no evidence of the use of this.

Background – shopgrifting

The word shopgrifting is a compound form based on the noun shop and the intransitive verb grift, an early 20th century American term for 'swindle' or 'cheat someone out of their money'. Shopgrifting bears an intentional resemblance to the word shoplifting, the practice of stealing from a shop. Another recent coinage based on the same word is the uncountable noun shopper-lifting, used humorously to refer to the situation of a store's electronic scanner inadvertently giving a product a higher price than the one listed on the shelves, and therefore cheating the shopper (as opposed to the shop) out of money.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 2nd July 2004.

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