Surprise gift becomes a storm in a G-cup

Brian Joss

When Roger Trythall bought a R4 000 bra and panty ensemble to surprise his wife, Jacqueline, on her birthday, it wasn’t an uplifting experience.

Mr Trythall bought the set in pink and ordered another in black from Inner Secrets Lingerie in Sea Point.

“When I tried it on, it did not fit, but I didn’t want to disappoint him, so thanked him and said I didn’t want a second one. Roger had already paid R8 000 and went to collect it anyway. The consultant promised to take it back if it didn’t fit but the store owner said no,” Ms Trythall said.

“I find the attitude of the shop owner unprofessional. Who sells a bra to a husband without the wife trying it on? When he returned to tell them he did not want the second set, they urged him to take it home for me to try it, promising him he could bring it back if it did not fit,” said Ms Trythall who added that the till slip stated strictly no refunds.

The owners of Inner Secrets Lingerie, Dimitri and Penny Parolis didn’t reply but the store’s support staff did.

Inner Secrets said Roger paid for an SP Blush Celine 36G with a size three bottom.

“The next day he brought the bra back to swap for a bigger size but we did not have one in stock. Wahieba suggested she finds similar bras in the same colour and Roger was happy with this. When he returned he didn’t like the selection and decided to keep the initial bra because he preferred the look. Instead, he bought a bra extender to make it fit,” support staff said.

“Roger also bought an SP Delice in a Moonlight colour but asked Wahieba to size up the bra to a 38G so that it fits, and she did so. Roger bought another three-hook bra extender but he didn’t say anything about the Moonlight Delice bra not fitting.

“Roger returned and told us that Jacqueline said the Delice bra does not fit properly and the straps were falling off. Wahieba suggested she to go to their Camps Bay home to do a fitting, a service we offer our clients especially in these Covid times. Roger said he would call Wahieba and suggested he would fetch her. And that was the last we heard until we received your email,” Inner Secrets said.

Ms Trythall said they seem to suggest they would have taken back the first pink bra.

“So why don’t they take back the black bra that I have never worn? I have ended up with an ugly extender in an ugly shade that does not fit. While I accept that they cannot take back the bra that I have tried on, I don’t want another one that will give me the same problems. And I don’t want anyone coming to my house trying to talk me into keeping it. So, no, I don’t accept their offer.”

Inner Secrets said it is normal for men to buy lingerie as a gift for their partners.

“Due to the intimate nature of the garments we have a strict no return policy. Often the partner is already a customer so we have a card which we refer to. Otherwise we encourage them to buy a gift voucher, so the partner can come in for a fitting and make their personal choice.

But if they insist on a gift we try to sell an unstructured garment like a nightie or teddy. Roger brought an old bra but the size had washed out and he was specific about buying Jacqueline a pretty bra. When he returned it, we did not have a size in that style. Roger made all the decisions which led to him purchasing the set in the first place as well as the bra extender as the solution. We found him to be a polite and amicable customer and we were trying our utmost to assist him given the circumstances of not being able to fit his wife personally. We are disappointed she is not taking up the offer of a correct fitting,” Inner Secrets said.

Consumer lawyer Trudie Broekmann of Trudie Broekmann Attorneys in the Bo-Kaap, said according to the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), you have the right to return defective goods, or goods that aren’t fit for purpose.

“In this case, however, it’s a question of the size being wrong. Generally, it’s what the retailer’s policy says.

“The CPA states the consumer has no right of return if for reasons of public health, a public regulation prohibits the return of those goods. There is also no public regulation that prohibits the return of any goods as a result of Covid-19 and the health risks associated with the virus.

“Despite the reason given by the shop in refusing to accept return, there is no public regulation that prohibits the return of underwear.

According to the Consumer Goods and Services ombud, a supplier can also refuse the return of underwear that has been worn, but must specifically draw this policy to the attention of the purchaser, which does not appear to have been done. The fact it does not fit, does not give rise to a right of return, unless the tag on the clothing incorrectly reflects its size. I find the ombud’s approach quite harsh: underwear is often purchased as a gift for a spouse or romantic partner, or as a Bachelorette party gift, and in such case, it seems unfair for a retailer to refuse returns by a consumer who has only tried on the garment once and discovered it doesn’t fit.

“In the case of a bra, like a pair of shoes, one really has to fit the item before knowing whether it’s suitable, which is less of an issue with underwear bottoms. If the consumer had tried on the bra in the changing room at the shop, there would have been no question of returning the item to the rail.

On this basis, in my view, I would urge the retailer to reconsider, and in fact allow the consumer to return both the red and black sets in exchange for a credit note, which would allow the consumer to select something else that would fit her,” she said