Woman's sneaky clothes swap trick ends in life shopping ban
A woman has been charged with "continual fraud" after meticulously removing tags from Zara clothing - and placing them on older items she then returned in store.
The woman - identified only as "Tania M.A." - is aged in her early 30s.
She has slapped with a six-month jail term and a lifetime ban from Zara stores in the Aragon region of Spain, local media reports.
A Spanish court recently heard the woman pulled off the scam by buying new clothing from the popular retailer from a range of different stores, before removing their tags and putting them on older, pre-worn Zara items already in her wardrobe.
She would then turn up to Zara stores and ask for a full refund, claiming the items didn't fit properly or were otherwise unsuitable.
The woman carried out the scam over 15 months, and committed the fraud so many times staff members eventually caught on and reported their suspicions to authorities.
The judge which sentenced the woman said her rort was so sophisticated she had figured out which barcodes matched certain colours of clothing.
"The fact that both the interior and exterior tags matched and were precisely placed on clothing of similar colour shows the fraudulent mechanism and desire to benefit, so in that way, she renewed her wardrobe at no cost," the judge said, according to The Sun.
She was careful to never ask for cash refunds, as that would need a manager to authorise the process - and as they would have a "greater knowledge of the stock, (they could) detect the returned item didn't correspond to the tags".
Zara, a Spanish company which specialises in fast fashion, is the largest company in the Inditex group, the world's largest apparel retailer.
It is worth almost $US19 billion with stores across the globe.
According to The Mirror, Inditex "reportedly showed six fraudulent operations between October 2017 and March 2018".
However, it's not the only brand to crack down on serial returners.
Earlier this year, a number of retailers - including online fashion powerhouse Asos - revealed they would be updating their returns policy and potentially black-listing offenders in future.
Under the changes, the returns period was extended from 28 days to 45 - but serial returners and those who returned items after wearing them were put on notice.
"We know easy returns are one of the (many) reasons you shop with us, so we've increased the time you can return stuff from 28 days to 45 days," an email sent to customers read.
"If you return anything within 28 days, we'll refund you as normal … and after that (up to 45 days), you'll now get an Asos gift voucher for the amount you spent.
"We also need to make sure our returns remain sustainable for us and for the environment, so if we notice an unusual pattern, we might investigate and take action. It's unlikely to affect you, but we wanted to give you a heads up.
"If we notice an unusual pattern of returns activity that doesn't sit right: e.g. we suspect someone is actually wearing their purchases and then returning them or ordering and returning loads - way, waaay more than even the most loyal Asos customer would order - then we might have to deactivate the account and any associated accounts."