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Trying on Online Purchases Without Paying Upfront Is the Most Dangerous Game

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Carlye Wisel

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It’s an intern’s dream and an irresponsible shopaholic’s nightmare — and no, it’s not 10 minutes alone in the Vogue fashion closet. It’s Try.com, the newest online shopping service that may actually be onto something.

With the help of a Google Chrome button, Try allows you to order clothing, shoes and accessories from your favorite e-commerce sites without charging your credit card or hitting you with a service fee. Send it back within the 10-day window and you’re golden. Keep it (or more realistically, lapse and forget to return it) and you’ll pay the full fee. With two clicks to order, free shipping both ways and reliable customer service, it’s like Amazon Prime for everything you’ve ever wanted to wear — if Amazon Prime was, you know, $99 cheaper.

Gone are the days of taking a hefty hit on your AmEx because you wanted to see if you could pull off bell-bottoms from the comfort of your own home — or of facing a hold on your account thanks to that nope-not-actually-fraudulent foreign charge from ASOS. Think of it not like a shopping app, like Spring or Wanelo, but more like those services you hear about on podcasts for lazy shoppers, like StitchFix or Trunk Club. Here, the same "you only pay for what you keep!" mentality applies, but what you send back could be Charlotte Olympia heels and Mansur Gavriel bucket bags without your parents’ credit card (ahem) getting a whiff of it.

It’s not just not having to pay up front that makes Try so tempting, though. It’s their button. Oh, that glorious Chrome extension that rolls onto Shopbop’s screen when you’re style-stalking an Instagram celeb’s outfit. You didn’t think you’d buy that dress, you just wanted to see how much it was... but then that button appears, nearly dancing its way onto the page saying "Try For Free" even bigger and prouder than the "add to cart" button itself. You didn’t think you needed a knock-off Chloe sundress, summer’s almost over! But there it is, what could be your ideal summer look, with just two little clicks, all without impacting your bank balance — and if not, a quick walk to the post office.

How is this even possible? That’s what we wanted to know, too — and asked, draped in tank tops we had not yet paid for.

Brothers and founders Arush and Ankush Sehgal channeled their hefty e-commerce and retail backgrounds (and London rag trade lineage) to create a men’s personal shopping service, BRANDiD in 2013. By early 2015, the service had pivoted into Try in response to user feedback — specifically that women wanted to order clothes they liked for free, too, only without the advice. You may not have heard of it because the service is currently invite-only — Racked readers can sign up here or with the code "racked" — but what makes Try possible is revenue from referral links, just like the ones popular bloggers use.

The idea that you can buy clothes, try them on at home and return them without being charged a cent is some sort of freaky, futuristic shopaholic dream.

If you’ve ever held an entry-level job and a credit card, the idea that you can buy clothes, try them on at home and return them without being charged a cent is some sort of freaky, futuristic shopaholic dream. And in truth, Try is really great. But it’s not completely flawless, and parts of that are on both the user and the service. (More on that later.)

Try can currently be used with high-end department store websites (Neiman Marcus, Barney’s), luxury e-commerce (SSENSE, Forward by Elyse Walker), individual brands (Nike, Reformation, J.Crew) and your most-visited online haunts (ASOS, Shopbop). You could essentially order running tops from Nike, a children’s backpack from J.Crew, a confusing bodysuit from Reformation, and boyfriend jeans from Shopbop without getting a MasterCard alert of your insane spending — because, in fact, that’s exactly what I did.

In most instances, I didn’t save much on shipping by using Try, except for at J.Crew, which charges $5 each way. It ends up that free shipping, which most sites now have, isn’t the perk of the service, nor is returning. Two of my purchases required checking in with customer service after encountering issues — you need to give them the tracking number, an annoying extra step — which would have cost me only a few bucks and less strife had I operated outside their service.

Comparatively, you also get an extremely short time — 10 days — compared to the nearly three weeks Reformation allows or the entire month that J.Crew, ASOS and Nike give you to return your purchases. But, then again, a month is an entire credit card cycle and refunds take a while, which means paying for lots and lots things you may not even keep.

Less work, less stress, less spam e-mails about J.Crew’s never-ending sales, you know?

I see the vision, and what makes Try so ingenious. Say you need a pair of mid-height heels for a family friend’s black tie wedding. You could spend all day scouring the mall or the city, tap-tap-tapping on your phone while waiting for salespeople to dig out your size, and taking two pairs home with the intention of returning one when you finally muster the patience to deal with it again. With Try, you could order five pairs from five different websites, without being charged, entering a street address or signing up for the dreaded (!) online store account, all from your bed. Less work, less stress, less spam e-mails about J.Crew’s never-ending sales, you know?

But then, there’s the everyday shopper who wants some new stuff, but doesn’t know what, so she orders a few different things from a few different sites through Try. She tries it all on and isn’t into it, and winds up spending her weeknights taping up packages, typing in tracking numbers, getting new return slips, dragging, and maniacally checking the website to make sure she is returning everything within enough time since it all arrived on completely different days. Not not stressful, either.

Because it’s new, there are some small errors, even after waiting a few weeks to use it in order to encounter less. Yet, there’s an upside again —the customer service is impeccable, and the service is sleek and on top of its game. The Try website looks and operates better than any website, e-shop or start-up I can think of, even if I’m frustrated that I have to check in each time to let them know I’m going to the Post Office.

But then, of course, there’s this: I logged into the website to write this story, and was floored when I was told I had zero days left for my Reformation return. Zero! What! How! While brushing away any implication that I was perhaps not an organized person, I quickly let the website know I’d be returning and sent the goods back, untouched. This will not be The Year Of The Lace-Up Leotard after all! Walking back from the UPS store, I peeked into my e-mail and realized that two hours earlier, I had been sent a "You have five more days to decide!" warning. Hmm. The company response to these hiccups are typically friendly and helpful, but it doesn’t come without an eyeroll or two.

All in all, if the only downside to shopping with someone else’s credit card is letting them know when you’re going to the Post Office, there’s not much to complain about. Try may not be perfect, but it’s damn near close.