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Online retailers let you try before you buy

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.

Some companies with try-on clothes, rings, glasses, shoes

Here are some of the companies that offer free home try-on programs:

CLOTHING: Bluer Denim, which sells American-made premium jeans for $98 and up, ships up to three pairs that you can try on at home for seven days; True & Co., which sells bras that average $25, allows women to try up to five at home for five days.

GLASSES: Warby Parker sends samples that don't have the prescription lenses in them. After you send them all back, the company will send you a fresh pair of the ones you want. Rivet & Sway, which sells $169 glasses for women only, has a similar home try-on program. Made Eyewear sends out glasses, which start at $84, with the prescription you need, so you can keep the ones you want right then and send the rest back.

SHOES: Brian James Footwear, which sells its own brand of boots, wedges, flats and sandals that sell for about $98 and up, will give you 12 days to try on up to five pairs of shoes for free.

ENGAGEMENT RINGS: Ocappi, a high-end online jeweler, will send you six replicas of engagement rings or wedding rings, made with cubic zirconia and sterling silver. You can keep the rings for five days, and ship them back. You will be charged if they're not returned, even though they're replicas.

Online retailers let you try before you buy 02/21/14 [Last modified: Friday, February 21, 2014 7:41pm]

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