Store owner who restricts returns from Jewish towns in NJ: ‘I was trying to survive’
LAKEWOOD — The owner of an online retailer that restricts returns from two New Jersey communities with heavy concentrations of Jewish residents says the policy is about money, not religion.
The policy hasn't changed.
After our story ran, owner Shana Laub reached out to explain that the policy was implemented after the business noticed costumers from Lakewood, Passaic as well as Brooklyn, Monsey and Monroe in New York, returning clothes that could not be re-sold.
Customers from those locations can get store credit but not a full refund.
Laub said her policy was not intended to hurt anyone and asked for forgiveness.
"I was merely trying to survive," she said.
"The website provides that RETURNS CAN BE MADE FROM ALL AREAS," Laub wrote. "This return policy was implemented due to the fact that the survival of the business had been threatened by abuse of its return policy among customers in a few concentrated areas. Those customers would place large orders and return all, or nearly all of the items they had purchased, often in poor condition, and only after a substantial delay."
"The website would have an influx of orders, and newly arrived merchandise could be sold out within a few hours for sales to these neighborhoods. However, a few weeks later all, or most of the merchandise would be returned," Laub said.
You can read her complete statement below.
Laub, who is mother of five girls, said that while large retailers such as Amazon and Costco can probably absorb this volume of returns, "a small business such as mine cannot." She added that even those retailers have return restrictions.
New Jersey 101.5's initial story sparked intense interest in the policy. Many commenters on our Facebook page, like Jen Zsomboran, suspected what Laub eventually told us.
"Could it be that there has been a pattern of excessive returns from customers in those areas?" Zsomboran commented on our page. "Why jump to the conclusion it is due the area's majority religious population?"
New Jersey 101.5's Judi Franco also didn't think it was religious discrimination, as she explains in this video. (Article continues below video)
Responding to our story, Cassie Graham Riccioni said "it's not fair" when some customers try to cheat stores on returns.
"What is sad here is the people who live in those areas who do not try and cheat the system," she said.
Many others, like Lois Anne Babcock Kopp, said customers have the option not to shop at a store if they disagree with their policies.
"The best recourse is to stop buying from them. There must be other stores with similar goods that treat EVERYONE with courtesy and do not discriminate based on your address and their assumption that you are Jewish."
Laub said that her policy is "not very different from most of the local shops in the areas that it is implemented." Other stores sometimes refuse returns altogether.
Word of her return policy has also made her the target of what Laub called "vile and vituperative e-mail and phone messages" that Laub said is based on misinformation coming from lawyers and the news media.
SHANA LAUB'S RESPONSE:
I am the owner of Shan & Toad, a company that sells children’s clothing on the internet. Thank you for the opportunity to explain my return policy and its genesis and hopefully repair both any damage done and my reputation. We are currently compiling the numbers, but it will take some more time.
In the recent days I have experienced a firestorm of legal accusations, public humiliation, and a host of the most vile and vituperative e-mail and phone messages, all based on misinformation disseminated, or at least the withholding of vital information, by certain New Jersey based attorneys and news agencies.
The website provides that RETURNS CAN BE MADE FROM ALL AREAS. The return policy stipulates that returns made from certain geographical areas are accepted for store credit. This return policy was implemented due to the fact that the survival of the business had been threatened by abuse of its return policy among customers in a few concentrated areas. Those customers would place large orders and return all, or nearly all of the items they had purchased, often in poor condition, and only after a substantial delay.
Let me explain further. The website would have an influx of orders, and newly arrived merchandise could be sold out within a few hours for sales to these neighborhoods. However, a few weeks later all, or most of the merchandise would be returned. To illustrate, a customer shopping for a 2 year old would purchase multiple sizes of the same item in the hope that one of them would fit. Or she would just like to see the clothes to consider whether she liked them. Frequently, one shopper would do this for multiple children presumably because she had a large family. A shopper could place an order for hundreds of dollars and return all or almost all of the goods. In that time span, the website would be out of stock completely. When the returns arrived back (sometimes in terrible and unwearable condition from the handling, trying on and shipping), it would be weeks later towards the end of the season. In the meanwhile, I had been either unable to fill more legitimate offers or had to restock at great cost. Also, when styles changed or the season ended, the returned merchandise was worth much less.
Perhaps Amazon, Costco and other mega internet companies can absorb this type of risk. A small business such as mine cannot. If I continued to offer returns to these neighborhoods my business and my income would be destroyed.
Furthermore, I have been informed in the last few days by friends, that even the larger internet companies have policies designed to minimize these sorts of purchase abuses and actually profile purchasers and neighborhoods. Obviously, being a small business, I do not have those resources. Besides, it is not uncommon for stores in these neighborhoods to respond to abusive return practices by refusing refunds and many times even returns. Certainly we are all aware of stores with this policy. A business owner has a right to survive. What public purpose is served by putting someone out of business other than to deprive the public of products that would otherwise be unavailable, albeit without return rights.
I am a peaceful and thoughtful person, and I pride myself on offering superior customer service and attention to each and every customer. This past week, I have been threatened, and my colleagues have been the victims of inappropriate and uncalled for banter and name-calling.
If I unwittingly insulted or hurt anybody, I sincerely ask forgiveness now. I had never intended to. I was merely trying to survive.
Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com.