As part of their multi-pronged effort to fight the financial Godzilla besieging the world economy, the European Commission today proposed a 14-day no-questions-asked return period for any online purchases made within the European Union. The “two-week cooling-off period” is designed to give consumers a chance to shop across borders for the best prices without worrying about return policies. The practically adorable European decision to respond to a financial crisis with consumer protections made us want to look inwards at some of the onerous return policies Americans face.
Two come to mind: Brookstone and American Apparel.
Brookstone’s return policy is simple:
If a product purchased at Brookstone does not meet your expectations, you may return it with receipt within 30 days of purchase for a refund, merchandise credit or exchange. We will not accept any returns without a receipt.
Sounds fair, until you consider that there aren’t any provisions for gifts. Without the receipt, you’re stuck holding a potentially unwanted gift. Even if you bring the unopened mint-condition item to the store, point to the exact same item on the shelf, and ask to perform an exchange, they will refuse. You have only one option: ask the gift-giver for the receipt, an obviously impossible request no half-decent person would make.
American Apparel can’t even settle on a return policy. If you buy from their online store, they offer a full refund, but if you visit their brick and mortar locations, you can only receive store credit. So if you do your friend a favor and pick up a few shirts, and it turns out you were sold the wrong ones, you’re entirely out of luck and stuck with an unwanted store credit.
Is either policy unique? No. We know there are companies with vastly more farcical policies we want to hear about them. Fill the comments with the worst return policies you’ve seen. And no, “all sales final” doesn’t count.