It's like a little alligator chomping my joy.
Like a little black alligator chomping my happiness.

The riot of pink in the picture above is a dress, and that’s my leg, and that big black annoyance hanging from the bottom is the new anti-theft system recently deployed at Bloomingdale’s in Chicago and, I assume, everywhere else. Sorry the picture is reversed — I was trying to get a shot that didn’t get too friendly and was up close enough to allow you to examine the device. I partially succeeded. Sorry, Mom.

Department stores have long used electronic sensors on their garments as well they should. Thieving from a store is not cool and those honks and buzzers that sound at the door when someone tries to take a non-paid-for item of clothing past them have surely deterred countless people from trying to do so. But there’s a new game in town because there’s a different kind of theft the Bloomie’s folks are after: buying something, wearing it, then returning it.

In the ephemeral world of fashion, I can see how this would appeal: wear an item once, take it back, get another, etc., like you’ve got your own little revolving closet. I’ve never considered it because a) it didn’t occur to me, b) too much trouble anyway, and c) ew. But it apparently happens all the time, so the Bloomingdale’s corporation has invented an anti-returning system and though I am hardly a thief, I believe it is the death of shopping. At least at Bloomingdale’s. At least for me.

Here’s how it works: There’s a big black tag on the item you purchase (see photo.) It stays on the item after you pay for it. They don’t take it off at the store like the other sensors — yes, the other sensors are still on the garment, too. When you get home, if you intend to keep the item, you take off the big black tag. You break it off, actually, because you have to twist and pull the top of the bottle cap thingy and it shatters in your hand. Once the plastic is broken you cannot return the item. I’m not sure if you get store credit, but I’m pretty sure you..don’t? I don’t know because I decided to keep my pink dress, but then, I had decided to keep it before. In the store. When I bought it.

Oh, Bloomingdale’s. You so strangely killed my shopping joy. You know how when you lose your favorite bra (don’t ask me how this can happen and I won’t have to tell you) and you have to replace it? In no way is it fun. It was so fun when you found your favorite bra! You bought it! It was like your best friend and you were so happy because you chose it, or it chose you! Then it goes missing and you have to trudge back to the store and find it, or search online and find it, and when you hit “buy” or when you plunk down your money, it’s depressing. The thrill of buying something new is gone.

That’s how I felt with that damned tag. I got home. I was so excited about my dress. Then I saw that tag and instantly, I had second thoughts. Did I really want it? I bought it, but did I really want to buy it? This was for keeps. This was like getting pinned by a boyfriend. The gods were pressing me: Mary, you loved this enough to buy it but do you really really really love it enough to keep it? FOREVER?? 

No! I… I don’t know! It’s a dress! There are lots of dresses! Maybe I should return it! But I was going to wear it! But it’s forever! But! Bloomingdale’s, I hate you! I like this dress but now I hate it!

In my frenzy, I grabbed the tag and twisted and smash! the tag shattered and the dress was really really mine, as opposed to almost being mine before. Total and complete fail, Bloomingdale’s. I fear that all the shops will go this route soon and when you are faced with this, friends, you will understand.

I wore the dress that night but you know what? It drapes strangely on the hanger and it’s never the dress calling to me when I open the door to my closet. Most dresses say things like, “Mary… Pick me… I’m fun…” This one says something more like, “Mary… We’re married and we’re going to visit my mother for the weekend…”

And it’s hot pink! Oh, dear.