Neiman Marcus has settled a high-profile lawsuit over its generous returns policy—specifically, the case of a Dallas woman who wanted to return $1.4 million worth of merchandise her husband bought for her from a Neiman sales associate who was also his lover, according to the Dallas Morning News.
While that sounds like a soap-opera plot, what mattered to the luxury retailer was its return policy. When the chain wouldn't take back the $1.4 million in goods, Patricia Walker sued. Neiman's response in an early court document: the suit was "nothing more than the ventings of a woman scorned." Neiman's lawyer argued at a November 2012 court hearing that no written policy on returns existed when Walker's purchases were made and that return decisions were made by individual store managers.
The judge responded, "I find that totally incredible"—and Walker's lawyer produced a printout from Neiman's website that began: "You may return for credit, at any time, merchandise with which you are not completely satisfied." A week later, Neiman had a new lawyer.
A Neiman loss-prevention official who helped write employee training manuals later testified that "the company will accept returns for virtually any reason. That's been our global store policy, again, since Stanley Marcus was around."
Details of the chain's settlement with Walker are sealed, but—like the soap-opera details that sparked the return attempt—they're beside the point. The key question isn't even why Neiman's lawyer would think a major chain didn't have a written returns policy. It's why Neiman would risk its very-high-end reputation, built in part on a whatever-customers-want philosophy, to deny a practical policy that's effectively part of its brand.
Saying no to a big-ticket return probably sounded like a good idea to a store manager in the middle of the recession. Maybe it even sounded right to the chain's management and lawyer. But was it really in Neiman's interest? As the judge said, that's totally incredible.
- See this Dallas Morning News story
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