Confessions of a shopping and return addict

Alyssa Pry
Personal Finance Reporter

Michelle Madhok loves to shop and find one-of-a-kind pieces. Keeping them however, is a different story for the shopping-obsessed CEO.  

“I love to shop. I do it multiple times a day. I think I spend around $2,000 a month on shopping, [but] I probably keep between $200-$500 worth of stuff,” she says. “It’s probably more if I went back and looked. I don’t like to think about it much.”

But fortunately for Madhok, she’s managed to turn her self-professed addiction into a full-time career. She is the CEO of, a website that finds sales and deals, and offers tips for budget-savvy shoppers.

“Online shopping has made it so much more of a fun hobby,” she says. “It’s so easy—people call it couch commerce—you can lie on your couch, watch TV and be shopping at the same time.”

Madhok, 46, says she spends hours each day shopping – buying clothes, housewares, gifts – but says it’s less about acquiring things and more about the hunt.  

“I love the skill of being able to pinpoint and find an item at a great price. I love the hunt of it,” she says. “I don’t necessarily like having it because my closets are already bursting.”

Madhok then has to return the endless stream of items that arrive on her doorstep, something she calls “a chore.”

“Returning things is not as fun,” she says. “Boxing things up, taping them, getting the label— that’s a pain and I usually let things stack up for a while and then do it all at once.”

So why buy? Madhok says sometimes she buys items for “a life I don’t even have.” Most of those things go back to the retailer.

“I’ve bought some gowns that were marked down under $100 that had been $1,000 gowns because I’m like, ‘maybe I’ll have a reason to wear this,’” she says. “I have this vision that I’m going to be going somewhere where I could use it but for the most part, I have to force myself to send them back because I’m like, ‘This is not the life I’m living.’”

But if you do need to return, take a few tips from Madhok, who suggests leaving an item in your closet for a week if you’re unsure of whether to keep it.

“If I’m on the fence I’ll hang it in my closet and see if I wear it in a week—if I don’t, that means I’m never going to wear it.”

Madhok also uses credit cards and apps to her advantage. American Express offers purchase protection on all cards, which means even if you’ve missed the return deadline, you can still get money back.

She also uses Earny, an app that scans your email inbox for receipts, and then alerts you to price drops on your purchases. The app will even file the claims for the difference, and the money goes back to you.

According to Retail Dive, retailers will lose $351 billion in sales due to merchandise returns. Despite sending back a lot of what she buys, Madhok doesn’t feel guilty about the returns. She says stores expect a certain amount of returns. 

“I think that’s part of the deal, so I don’t really feel badly,” she says.


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