NEW YORK — The fitting room is coming home. Online retailers that sell jeans, eyeglasses and shoes are shipping their products to customers for free to try on at home before buying them.
It's a way for newer online brands to hook potential customers. A credit card is needed, but nothing is charged unless the items aren't returned on time. The limit for how long you can keep items is usually about a week. Shipping is free both ways and there's no obligation to buy anything.
Online retailers say it works for busy professionals who can't make it to a store. "Our customers tend to have more money than time," says Rob Wright, the founder of Bungalow Clothing, which sells high-end women's clothing online and ships boxes of clothes for free for 10 days. And being at home can be more comfortable than an in-store fitting room. "There's no pushy salesperson and no funky lighting," Wright says.
Eric Clark agrees. "Stores are annoying. They try to upsell everything," he says. Clark, who owns Quincy Tutoring in Massachusetts, used to buy his prescription glasses from brick-and-mortar stores. That changed last spring when he stumbled upon Warby Parker, an online seller of eyeglasses, on social media site Twitter. "I had never even heard of them," Clark says.
He gave Warby Parker a try after seeing that the company would send him five pairs of glasses to try on at home for free. When he received the glasses, he snapped photos of himself wearing them and uploaded them to photo-sharing app Instagram. His friends told him which ones they liked best, and he ended up buying two pairs for about $300.
If you plan to try out one of these retailers, make sure you read the rules carefully first. You don't want to keep items for longer than allowed and pay for things you don't want. And if you damage an item, you'll pay for it.
When asked to enter a card number, use a credit card instead of a debit card. Some of the sites will put a hold of different amounts on your account, which is later removed, to verify that your card works. You don't want that hold to potentially bounce a check against your checking account.