Friday, May 10, 2013

Unruly Women's Threats, Demands: Criminal Fraud or Postpartum Psychosis?

Crazy Postpartum Moms Make Company Rethink Generous Return Policy

This article began as a comment in response to an article written by Jennifer Moyer about postpartum psychosis.
Reading Ms. Moyer's article left me wondering whether or not a disgusting behavior I've experienced at work far too many times is the product of a sociopathic scam artist engaging in criminal, fraudulent behavior; or a mentally ill woman desperately in need of some help. Prior to reading Moyer's article, I had always presumed that the behavior was the former, never even so much as considering the latter.
I work for a company that sells maternity and postpartum supports (orthopedic undergarments designed to provide physical support to women during and post-pregnancy).
We often receive requests for refunds months after women order a maternity support such as the Prenatal Cradle. The obvious suspicion here is that these women want to have their cake and eat it too, using the product until it is no longer needed, then attempting to return it for a full refund after giving birth.
These women all seem to have one thing in common: a mentality that that they deserve and are entitled to receiving their money back despite our company totally fulfilling our obligation for the initial transaction. It's not like these requests come days or weeks after the orders are placed (we do receive such requests, but these often are eligible for an exchange or refund).
The ones that come months afterward are those to which I am referring. The women will call with a tone-of-voice clearly meant to bully the person on the other end of the line. They threaten everything from writing negative reviews to filing chargeback disputes with their credit card companies (we've yet to lose one when they follow-through on these requests). Each time, it appears as though the woman genuinely believes she's the first to ever think of the idea, and thus should be able to pull the wool over our eyes without any problem.
When informed that requests made so long after the initial transaction are ineligible for a refund, they have been known to become so abusive that the owner of the company ordered all customer service personnel to immediately discontinue such calls when the customer becomes abusive and/or threatening.
Anyway, do you think that this behavior would fall into the category of postpartum psychosis? That certainly would explain this rage-fueled mentality that until now we've only been able to explain by writing them off as lunatics, bullies and/or scam artists.
The question is whether or not they planned to attempt to get their money back prior to giving birth, as that would answer the question of whether or not they are simply scam artists who have realized that they can often have their cake and eat it too by threatening online retailers, many of whom simply give in to such uncivilized behavior. My employer stands firm on principle, insisting that such demands constitute fraud, and has even suggested that the act is criminal in nature.
What is your opinion about this? Are these women really merely suffering from a legitimate mental illness or are they simply dishonest scam artists who have figured out how to abuse the system successfully?


  1. It's not just after pregnancy that people (mostly women, I believe) get this kind of "I deserve it" attitude. I first encountered it when I worked in a retail store in the late 70s. Rich women, mostly, came into the store at the end of summer trying to get refunds on swimming suits that they, obviously, used quite a bit. They would claim that they only put the suits on once or twice and the suits lost their shape. Right. Some of these women did this year after year. Problem is that they got away with it because the manager would look up their buying history and would discover that they had charged over $5,000 in merchandise (a bunch in the late 70s), so they'd let them return a swimming suit or two even though we had to just throw them in the trash.

    Fast forward about a decade, and I worked as a customer service manager in a regional chain of department stores in TX. Lo and behold, the thing of the day was to spend hours and hours finding just the right dress for a special event - from a prom to a wedding - and then return it after the weekend of the big event. The women would claim they never wore the dresses, but there would be sweat stains in the armpits and they would smell of smoke. Thankfully, at that store our store manager told women they couldn't return the dresses without having then cleaned....and then they'd get only 50% back. Most just went away. And when they tried to return a bathing suit, I was allowed to just tell them that state law said we could never take them back.

    I'm not sure why this mentality. In the many times I've worked in retail situations, I've never seen men with the same kinds of attitudes.

  2. I lean towards scams but then, I used to work retail.

    Stores which follow the "shut them up and get them out of here" model of customer service are teaching people to step up their ugliness factor by rewarding bad behaviors. Your customers have learned what works and are applying those lessons to your company.

    It doesn't say much for me that I find some small satisfaction in knowing that there is one place where they don't get their way. There's a little voice in my head saying, "There, take that b****s!"

    Forever ago, I had a friend who told me that in her youth, she would buy expensive dresses and accessories whenever she had a date. She learned how to tuck the tags inside and would return everything to the store the next day for a full refund. She used her family's poverty to justify her behavior. But, it's not like there aren't thrift shops which sell some very nice things for very little. After that, we drifted apart.


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