Forever21 is one of the most popular (and ubiquitous) retail stores for young women. And why shouldn’t it be, when it offers affordable, trendy clothes?

However, shopping at Forever can often be a difficult experience, especially at the big-box locations. As a former employee of the company, I feel there a few Forever-specific shopping tips that need to be shared with the general public. If you’re a regular Forever customer, you may already be well aware of these things, but if you’re not, I hope this list helps.

1) You will never get your money back. Ever. If you’ve ever made it far enough to a Forever21 register, you’ve heard the return policy. For those of you who shop there often, you may know it by heart. Sales associates who work the registers will forever be haunted by the policy, I’m sure: “You have 21 days to return an item with the receipt and tags attached for exchange or store credit only. We do not give cash back. All jewelry and sale items are final sale.”

So, if you buy an item from the store, make sure you either adore it or wouldn’t mind exchanging it for another Forever21 item, because it doesn’t matter how hostile you get with a manager; you will notget your money back.

2) Browse through the accessory sections AFTER you visit the fitting rooms. Because of theft, jewelry and shoes are not allowed in individual fitting rooms. Before you’re given a room, these items will be politely taken away from you by a sales associate and put aside.

Sometimes, the fitting rooms can be an incredibly hectic place and in all of the chaos, accessories on hold are sometimes taken back onto the sales floor or picked up by other customers on their way out. So, if you’d like to avoid this hassle, it’s best if you try clothing on before looking through accessories. There are always mirrors near the jewelry/shoes where you are more than welcome to try pieces on without being bothered.

 3) Clothing can NOT be taken off of a mannequin. This is probably one of the store’s most hated policies, right after the return policy. I can not tell you how much heat I got from customers about this.

The visual merchandisers at F21’s corporate offices dictate what is to be put on a store’s mannequins each week, and it’s a very holy thing no one can interfere with, not even the store manager. Some accessories can be taken off a mannequin if they can be replaced, but clothing can only be put on hold. If you want a piece of clothing from a mannequin and it’s not already on hold, a sales associate will take down your name and number and you’ll be contacted in about a week or so when the item becomes available.

4) There is some method to the madness. In the eighteen months I worked for this company, I overheard tons of complaints about how nothing at F21 is organized. A lot of customers seem to believe all the clothes are just thrown together, with no rhyme or reason. I can totally understand how somebody can think this, but it’s not necessarily true.

If you’ve ever shopped at Forever and found yourself picking up a ton of stuff from one room but hating everything else in the store, here’s why: Each room or section at a F21 store is merchandised to cater to a certain type of girl. There’s typically a tribal and/or boho girl, a laid-back/sporty girl, a clubwear girl, an edgy girl, and a preppy/scholastic girl. The rest of the “girls” are compiled of whatever trends are popular or in season. If you’re having trouble navigating a F21, don’t be afraid to ask a sales associate for help. Tell him/her what you’re into and they should have no difficulty showing you to the room that depicts your style or introducing you to new trends. They’ll probably do it with much enthusiasm, too, since it’ll be a welcome distraction from other sales floor duties.

5) You get what you pay for. Forever is known for its ridiculously cheap basics, like skinny jeans, tees, and tanks. Just keep in mind that clothing is mass-produced and obviously not the best quality.

Those $14.50 jeans are over-dyed and will eventually shrink a size or two, that $4.50 tee will lose its shape after a few washes, and those $2.50 camis stretch like nothing else. Zippers on dresses often break and buttons on jackets have a tendency to disappear. So beware. And, don’t get me wrong, there’s lots of stuff at Forever that’s totally worth the price. Just don’t go crazy on the cheap stuff if you’re looking for durable items.

For the prices offered, Forever21 can be a great place to indulge a shopping urge. I hope these tips make for a more pleasant visit the next time you decide to hit one up. And hopefully I don’t get sued for sharing…

What do you think? Were these tips helpful at all?

This post has gotten such an amazing response on Pinterest that I wanted to re-run it! There is some really great advice here! -Katie