Retail returns and the consumerist mindset

This morning I spent 45 minutes at the post office waiting for a refund on a PO Box I reserved but was never issued on account of certain unusual circumstances surrounding our move back to Nebraska. As I stood at the counter waiting for the postal workers to figure out how to deal with my online reservation, the first they’d encountered, I began to ponder the ties between refunds and a consumerist culture.

If I recall correctly, and I may not, returns and refunds on retail merchandise were not all that common even when I was a kid (ie, the 80s). I’m wondering how much the freedom to return schtuff we schlep home from big box stores, et al, plays into a materialistic and consumerist mindset. It seems to me we might be more careful with how we spend our hard earned clams if we knew we couldn’t so easily take them back.

Instead, we know we can return items to that magical place called Customer Service. We lose sight of our purchasing priorities and buy little bits of this and little bits of those that turn into garages you can’t park your car in which morph into mini storage units.

And Wall Street celebrates.

I’m not necessarily suggesting returns are a bad thing. In fact, it seems to be one of the few outward manners in which businesses still value their customers. I’m just wondering if the option doesn’t exacerbate our problematic consumerist culture.

About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at

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