How One Dress Shirt Set Me Back $300

Today’s post is the story of the worst purchasing mistake I’ve ever made. To be honest, I don’t know if I learned a lesson that I already didn’t know. I hope, at the very least, the story of me and this dress shirt provides some additional insight for you.

To help put things in perspective, I haven’t purchased clothes (outside of one pair of jeans) in the last 2 years. I prefer to wear clothes until not even Good Will will accept them.

This story begins about one year ago today. I was sitting at work when I noticed an email come in from a luxury shirt tailor in Chicago. The email was addressed to me, Matt, and I was surprised since I have not given my information over to any such merchant.

The email was explaining how this particular tailor was having an, ‘appreciation month,’ for all employees at my particular Big4 accounting firm. Great! Who doesn’t love being appreciated, right?

The email went on to say I should come in for a free fitting AND a free dress shirt.

I thought this was too good to be true, so I called in to ask if I needed to buy a shirt to receive the free one. The man on the phone said, “Nope, it’s a free dress shirt.”

“What’s the catch?”

“No catch. We hope you enjoy the shirt and want to come back for more in the future.”

So, I booked my appointment.

Fast forward a few weeks and I’m enjoying free scotch inside a fancy looking shop. As my measurements for the dress shirt are being taken, I’m being asked for my address.

“Why do you need my address?”

“We need to make a profile so we can order your shirt.”

“Okay, the address is…”

The next part of our dialogue was more casual and the fitting was complete. As I submitted the final pieces of my order, the man helping me out asked for my credit card information…

“What? I thought this was a free shirt?”

“The shirt is 100% free, but we need your credit card to complete the profile.”

I took him at his word and the shirt was ordered. It turned out there was no catch, it was a free shirt.

End of the story.

“But, wait…”, you ask, “What about the $300 shirt?”

Oh yeah, so then…

The week after I had my fitting done and the shirt ordered, I received a call from another tailor.

They explained on the phone they wanted me in for a free fitting and they could even set me up for a free shirt.

Wow, this must be my lucky week…or so I thought at the time.

I walked into the fitting and the process was almost the same as I was greeted by a nice woman. Some small talk, measurements, a complimentary cocktail, and profile questions later. I provided my credit card because that’s what it takes to get the order completed. It was almost like the first tailor was playing the long game with this 2nd shop.

When it came time to place the order, I asked if the shirt was free. The person assisting me had no idea what I was told on the phone and started explained all the current deals they had going on.

“Okay, so the shirt is not free?”

“If you don’t like the shirt, we can always return it…”

“So if I order the shirt and don’t like it…?”

“You don’t need to keep the shirt, but I think it’ll be great on you, blah blah”

“Okay, sounds good to me.”

I had the order set up and I looked forward to having my 2nd free tailored shirt. I figured if I ever had some crazy occasion in the future where I would need a 3rd tailored shirt, then I would now have two different options to look back to.

When I got home that night I saw an email with my receipt and a charge to my credit card for $300. I hadn’t spent $300 on clothes over the last 2 years combined, so you can imagine my stomach dropped.

I immediately looked at the receipt and through the details. I saw $300 and non-refundable, so I called into customer service immediately.

Long story short, when I placed the order, the charge was made and there were no refunds. When the woman said I don’t need to keep the shirt, what she really meant was, you don’t need to keep THAT shirt. I can be refitted and opt for a different style or color of shirt, but still get charged for one shirt. It was essentially a store credit.

It’s been almost a year, and I still have the sinking feeling in my stomach for having purchased a $300 tailor made shirt.

The lesson I took away from ending up with a $300 dress shirt will hopefully save me a lot of money when it comes to buying a car or a house in the future: Patiently ask the right questions.

Have you made any purchasing decisions that you later regretted? Even worse, have you found yourself accidentally purchases hundreds of dollars of goods without even realizing it?

Master Distiller

P.S. I went back to posting on Tuesdays this week and I will stick to posting 3x/week. You can expect new posts this week on Thursday and Saturday mornings.

29 comments… add one
  • The Green Swan May 24, 2016, 6:30 am

    Boy that must be one nice shirt to cost that much!

  • Apathy Ends May 24, 2016, 6:35 am

    Wow, what a sneaky way to sell.

    I usually buy 1 nice polo and a pair of jeans every year (that is my “dressing up” for work)

  • Financial Slacker May 24, 2016, 8:07 am

    I am so untrusting because of stories like that. I’ve received similar emails from tailors in Chicago – I used to work and commute there every week. Never did call them. Now I’m glad.

    Have you considered calling your credit card company and disputing the charge?

    • Distilled Dollar May 24, 2016, 1:28 pm

      I spent about an hour with the customer support but the best I could get was a credit towards a future purchase. Once the order was placed, they couldn’t cancel it (even though it was hours later.) At least I took away a life long lesson though.

  • Matt Spillar May 24, 2016, 11:09 am

    Ugh that’s a frustrating situation, and not a good way for earning repeat business. Did the first shirt end up being free?

    • Distilled Dollar May 24, 2016, 1:29 pm

      The first shirt was free.

      If the first shirt had been a gimmick, I feel I would have been smart enough to know and then I would never have responded to that second email. Hindsight is 20/20 though.

  • amber tree May 24, 2016, 12:29 pm

    A shirt that will last long in the memory…

    My biggest lessons was a tourist scam in Morocco that set be back 50EUR in 2003. With hindsight, not too much money for a valuable lesson.
    We were out in town when a guy walks upon us and says he knows us from the hotel. He works there, he claims. He knows a good oil store and wants to show us and makes us taste what you can do with it on bread and butter.
    Long story short, I payed 50EUR for 1 liter of regular, plain vanilla oil.

    • Distilled Dollar May 24, 2016, 1:31 pm

      Yikes! I’ve never heard of that one before but I can see how easy of a trap it would be if they claim to know you from your hotel.

  • Latoya @ Life and a Budget May 24, 2016, 1:13 pm

    That is so wrong and so misleading on their part. Considering the circumstances I would of haggled them and told them I didn’t like the shirt just so I could put them through the trouble of getting a replacement, and I would have dared them charge me again. Petty, yes maybe, but they were flat our wrong!

    • Distilled Dollar May 24, 2016, 1:33 pm

      Ya, I haggled quite a bit with their customer service reps. After about an hour I realized it was a lost cause and lesson learned the hard way.

  • Amanda @ centsiblyrich May 24, 2016, 1:41 pm

    That sucks! What an underhanded way to make a buck! I hope, at the very least, that it is a really, really nice shirt!

    • Distilled Dollar May 24, 2016, 4:39 pm

      Definitely a nice shirt and one that I’ll prolly wear more on fancy occasions.

  • Biglaw Investor May 24, 2016, 3:51 pm

    Wow, $300 for a custom dress shirt is so much money. And this from someone who only owns custom dress shirts. I’m not sure my preferred retailer even sells fabric that expensive!

    Echoing what Financial Slacker said, but I would have called my credit card company and disputed the charge. It’s not okay for a retailer to tell you on the phone that it’s a free shirt and then charge you for it later.

    • Distilled Dollar May 24, 2016, 4:43 pm

      The phone call was with the first place and it was a free shirt. Couldn’t have been happier with that experience.

      I should have called the second place but basically went in thinking it was the same promotional deal. Even when talking to the service reps (in hindsight), they used careful language during their sales process.

      One final lesson I took away has been knowing how comfortable shirts can go. I wouldn’t spend money on it, but the two nice shirts have put my other shirts to shame.

  • Martin - Get FIRE'd asap May 24, 2016, 7:47 pm

    Does the saying “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” ring a bell? I did have a good laugh reading your post, Matt. I bet ya 10 bucks that everyone reading your post will be cringing because they’ve done something similar. I know I have…….but I’m too embarrassed even to share it with you. At least the shirt will probably last 10 years or more so buying quality does have its upsides. Just better when you actually know how much it’s going to cost you in advance. Great post mate.

    • A4L @ Jun 15, 2016, 10:43 pm

      That is true, who knows, maybe the shirt will last long enough that it will be “cheaper” than buying a new $30 shirt every year!

  • The Practical Saver May 24, 2016, 8:44 pm

    Wow, that’s a ton of money. A $300 dress shirt. You got deceived big time. I remember when I first came to Vegas to move, I rented a car and the car salesperson asked me what I was doing in Vegas. I told her I was moving and needed a car for a couple of days. She said that I was required to purchase the company’s insurance because it’s required by law. I was like ‘Ok’. When I was driving the car to do my business, I realized that there was no law in the US that states that. How did I know? I had asked my credit card company prior to coming to Vegas. It just didn’t register me during that time that I didn’t need to purchase an insurance.

    Lesson I learned is that walk away when you are forced to do something that you don’t want to.

    • Distilled Dollar May 29, 2016, 9:32 am

      Yikes, that sounds like a terrible situation. Did you end up fighting it after the fact?

      My struggle after my purchase was saying I didn’t know I had made a purchase but the company just kept telling me once the order was placed, the purchase was made with no refunds.

  • Jon May 25, 2016, 7:53 am

    Wow, that’s very unethical and the good news is that you’re now a little more cynical and will be more cautious in the future! I had a similar situation happen to my family and I with a car rental company and toll charges. To make a long story short, a few weeks after our car rental in Florida we received a bill for over $500 dollars in toll fees for actual tolls that only added up to $3.50 or so. We had not read the fine print and each time you drive through a 50 cent toll, you are charged a $15 handling fee.

    I was furious and embarrassed at the same time that I had been taken advantage of. Well, I decided to take a stand and contacted customer service, contacted the board of directors and started posting on social media networks and airing my grievances. Low and behold, I received a full refund – but no apology. That’s OK, I got my money back and will not make that same mistake in the future.

    Be glad you learned a valuable lesson for only $300, I think the experience will pay you back in spades in the future!

    • Distilled Dollar May 29, 2016, 9:34 am

      Nice to hear you got your money back!

      I’m sure this experience will end up paying me back in the long run. Which reminds me of the line, “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.”

  • Lisa Jun 2, 2016, 12:21 pm

    Talk about a bait and switch! I hope that shirt is incredibly high quality to merit a $300 price tag! Plus free scotch!

    • Distilled Dollar Jun 2, 2016, 5:52 pm

      Tell me about it! Haha, and yes, the free scotch should definitely be added to the overall cost benefit analysis there.

  • ZJ Thorne Jun 5, 2016, 6:30 pm

    Wow. That is incredibly shady. The BBB and yelp need to know about this. This sounds like fraudulent advertising.

  • A4L @ Jun 15, 2016, 10:42 pm

    Dang that sucks! $300 is a lot for sure, but in the grand scheme of things, there’s a lot more money that could have been lost in other types of deceptive cons. Glad you’re going to be more vigilant in the future. I haven’t seen any emails like that come with my firm, but I’ll be on the lookout for them and I’ll know to stay away!

  • Fool Me Once Aug 16, 2016, 9:50 am

    To be scammed by a legit company is the worst. They found the loophole to sucker you in and you feel like an idiot for being fooled. Especially since you (and I do too) seem to have an identity built around being the guy this doesn’t happen to. Personally, I’d be grateful since it’s $300 for a very valuable lesson. One that is probably worth a lot more than $300 in the longer term.

    I was conned out of $5,000 and it no longer hurts but only just. A shady temporary letter living with a very close friend of mine. Perfectly leveraging the existing trust with my friend to take my money at just the right time when I was vulnerable to it. One of those things I never thought I’d fall for but taught me some lessons I’ll never forget. Spend $5000 up front to not fall for something that could cost me a million dollar business in the future.

    (I’ve put a different name for the comment but you can see who I am from the email. Not sure if I want to put this particular story on my blog yet. Maybe I lied when I said it doesn’t hurt, still stings a bit.)

    • Distilled Dollar Aug 17, 2016, 5:48 am

      You should definitely write a post about it! My girlfriend faced a similar situation where she was scammed out of ~$2000. Of course she felt embarrassed and hurt, but she mustered up the memory to share in a recent post. For me, those types of experiences can be extremely helpful for others who are going through something similar. I think we learn that it is more common than we first thought and so it can be helpful to demonstrate a road to recovery does exist.

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