Hi Lifehacker, I recently bought a discounted bikini online and I want to exchange it for a smaller size, but the company's policy states that sale items cannot be exchanged or refunded. I didn't think simply swapping it over for a different size would be such a big deal, and just want to know my rights before I reply to them as I'm so frustrated! Thanks, Upstream
Bikini picture from Shutterstock
We're afraid there's not a whole lot you can do in this situation. While Australia's consumer protection laws are pretty robust, they don't give you carte blanche to change your mind about purchased goods (which is what picking the wrong size amounts to).
To be legally entitled to an exchange or refund, a product needs to be either defective or unfit for the purpose it was designed for. Unless the bikini was specifically advertised as "one size fits all", it hasn't broken any consumer promises.
In fact. swimsuit manufacturers have been known to get away with quite a lot: earlier in the year, a range of Kmart swimwear was found to essentially disintegrate when exposed to suntan lotion or heated pools. They also became completely see-through when wet. Despite these serious flaws, Kmart technically didn't break any rules as these caveats were all mentioned on the label. (Read the full story here.)
With that said, most brick-and-mortar retailers will agree to exchange clothes that don't fit as a show of good faith. Unfortunately, this practice is less common when it comes to online merchants -- the international shipping costs tend to outweigh any gains in customer satisfaction. Plus, a used bikini obviously can't be refurbished/resold so it's not a matter of simply doing a swap.
This might seem a bit stingy, but try to look at the bigger picture -- if a few hundred customers accidentally choose the wrong size each year, this adds up to a pretty big loss for the company.
You're going to have to (literally) wear this one. The lesson here is that there is still a place for traditional retail, particularly when it comes to clothes shopping. Online prices might be cheaper, but the ability to try-before-you-buy should not be underestimated.
Got your own question you want to put to Lifehacker? Send it using our contact form.