Which Store Has The Worst Return Policy?

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.

EU to expand e-shoppers’ rights [BBC]
(Photo: theogeo)

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  1. Roclawzi says:

    I’m not exactly sure how this applies, nor do I know the exact wording of the policy, but I’ve always enjoyed when I buy something from Best Buy and it doesn’t work, or breaks within a couple days. On two occasions, I returned it to the store and told them I wanted my money back because I wasn’t going to take a replacement on something of dubious quality, and they told me that even with a receipt, they could only offer me a replacement. However, if I told them I didn’t like it or it didn’t work with my computer or something, they had no problem returning it, even if it was broken. I was prompted by return desk to tell them it was an unwanted item rather than a broken one so they could technically return it.

    • queenofdenial says:

      @Roclawzi: and then they probably put the broken item right back on the shelf and re-sell it.

    • mzs says:

      @Roclawzi: Yeah it took me half an hour of talking before best Buy would take back a broken TV. It took even more than that since i had to wait in line three times. (Once to get help brining in the TV, another to wait in line at customer service, then a third time at the Geek Squad line for someone to decide that it was broken.

      I think they wanted me to say it was not broken so they could sell it as an open box. But after the TV warmed-up for half an hour it started flashing and wobbling again and they could no longer deny it was not broken. It was very annoying for me to have to wait for it to warm-up enough that it showed the breakage. I guess I was not clueful enough to notice the hints that they just wanted me to say I did not like it.

    • HogwartsAlum says:

      @Roclawzi:

      I bought some software at BB yesterday. *ducks* I went to Circuit City first but they didn’t have what I needed. It was a desktop publisher that would work on both my machines (one has XP, one has Vista). I asked if it didn’t work could I bring it back, and they told me they could only do an exchange, not a refund on opened software. I didn’t know what to think, but I bought it anyway.

      Luckily, it installed with no problems, except I didn’t know how complicated it is and don’t know how to use it. :P Thank God it came with a big fat book!

  2. sleze69 says:

    WRT to returns without a receipt. What is there to prevent someone from buying an item at store A and returning it at store B? What is there to prevent someone from taking a product off the shelf and then walking straight to customer service and attempting to return it?

    Having worked at customer service, I have seen both things attempted.

    • chatterboxwriting says:

      @sleze69: Wal-Mart has been working to prevent the second scenario you mentioned by giving their door greeters scanners and having them print a UPC label for each item you bring through the entrance. If you get to the service desk and don’t have a sticker, they won’t give a refund/exchange because they think you may have taken the item right off the shelf.

      • emilymarion333 says:

        @chatterboxwriting: I do have to say..I avoid Wal-Mart at all costs but I did buy some chains for my car about 3 years ago and did not use them on my trip so I returned them. The person at the door just stands there doing nothing…. ..the greeter saw me get in line and yelled at me for not getting a little sticker from her…but I am pretty surprised she even noticed me come in..

    • HFC says:

      @sleze69: Why should it matter if I buy a movie at Best Buy but return it to Circuit City? If both stores stock the item, they should accept my return.

      • evenkevin says:

        @HFC: Because Best Buy still gets the profit while Circuit City has to bear the loss and/or administrative costs of dealing with your return.

      • redbess says:

        @HFC: Because it’s not a public library. If you do this, you are one of the reasons return policies are so ridiculously strict.

      • witeowl says:

        @HFC: A friend once made quite a few dollars by abusing Target’s generous return policy. She would buy a product at Wal-Mart for $10 and then return it to Target for $15.

        I wasn’t surprised when Target later changed its return policy.

  3. FrugalFiend says:

    What is the problem with buying at one store and returning at another? I do this all the time at Costco when I buy at the outlet near my work and then return at the one near my home (or vice versa). They’ve never even hinted that this is problematic for them. Of course that may be because Costco has the most troublefree return policy I’ve ever encountered, but even at Fry’s, a notoriously horrendous store for returns, this has never been an issue.

    • drdom says:

      @DukePolyhymnia:

      Agreed. Costco is the best for returns. I just hope people don’t abuse it and force them to change.

    • regenerator says:

      @DukePolyhymnia: It’s not a matter of buying at one store location and returning to another (of course this is very common!) The problem is purchasing from a company A store and returning to a company B store. Which I don’t see an intrinsic problem with… if a relative on the other side of the country sends a present purchased from a chain we don’t have around here, but I’ve seen the same item sold somewhere else, it’s worth a try to return it to the second store. This can be ethically muddy, and I don’t think it’s right to do this to profit… aka buy something for $5 on sale at one store and return it for $10 at another store.

  4. schweetzy says:

    Forever 21′s in-store return policy is awful. Exchanges or store credit only, within 21 days of purchase. No refunds, period–even if the item is defective and the store no longer supplies the item. A good reason to shop at Charlotte Russe instead.

    • boomshakla says:

      @schweetzy: Was just about to mention them, first thing that came to mind. At least I used my “gift card” before they got rid of their men’s section.

    • kaylabear says:

      @schweetzy: I was just going to say Forever 21. I think they’re so stingy about their return policy because their goods are so ephemeral; they’re meant to sell fast to make room for new merchandise.

      I still buy from F21 and cheap stores like that though, but I make sure to buy the most ‘expensive’ (which isn’t actually expensive) option they offer because their super-cheap stuff like their $4 crew ts are of horrible quality (the seams quickly run askew as they failed to accurately establish the ‘grain’ along the fabric – I took a few classes on Apparel Design). I think F21 is just hoping that the limited returns time period will pass before you realize you bought cheap stuff that’s already starting to fall apart.

    • SOhp101 says:

      @schweetzy: I don’t even shop there and that’s the first store that popped in my head.

    • h3llc4t, breaker of office dress codes says:

      @schweetzy: Yep. Mom bought me a horrible shirt from there as a gift. Hated it, went to return it with full tags and receipt 3 days after purchase, and received a gift card in return. I had literally never set foot in that store before that day, and haven’t gone in since. I think I still have that $20 in credit around here somewhere.

    • sponica says:

      @schweetzy: Granted I haven’t been there in years, but it used to be you got a refund if you paid in cash. However if you paid with credit/debit it was store credit only

  5. CyrusOpeth says:

    Burlington Coat Factory is store credit only as well.

    • loueloui says:

      @CyrusOpeth:

      Previously they would not give returns or exchanges for any reason even with a receipt. I got stuck with a jacket with a broken zipper. Because of this I won’t shop there any more.

      I can only guess how fun the poor mouth merchants will screw over gift recipients this year. They’ll probably require a notarized affidavit in addition to a receipt. I’m still pissed off at Target for changing their returns policy a week after Christmas. Bastards.

      • ManiacDan says:

        @proskills: Sorry, I’m also in the group where I disagree about Fry’s. They have time and time again sold me broken crap and refused to accept returns. One time I argued with the manager for 2 hours trying to get an exchange (next day, with receipt) and when he finally granted it to me it turns out he had put the same defective item in a new box. Morons.

        However, I do have a tip for you: The Uniform Commercial Code gives you the right to inspect any product before purchase. Insist on opening the box before you pay for it.

    • dweebster says:

      @CyrusOpeth: Ugh, Burlington Coat Factory. Bastards had a return policy – *BUT* – even though I turned up within the return window WITH my receipt and my credit card, they refused to credit it back because my VISA number had changed (stolen wallet). They refused to credit it to the new card OR the old number, putting me in a catch-22. Not even the manager of the store could be trusted by their corporate HQ to be honest enough to credit my card back – it had to be the old ladies in corporate – via another trip or two. For fifty friggin’ bucks.

      I might have just taken a store credit as I shopped there often enough – but BCF were being such a*holes about returning my money that I swore I’d severely limit my spending there after what they put me through. And, those stupid “store credit” slips are much easier to lose than an immediate credit back to my VISA. The little old lady beancounters at Corporate won their little battle and dragged the incident out for a few weeks before crediting me back, and for their reward their stores lose a couple thousand dollars a year in sales from me and my family.

      Handling exchanges and refunds in a nasty way isn’t helpful to a store’s bottom line, but some places just don’t understand that.

    • wildwhuck says:

      @CyrusOpeth: i think this has changed. i was in there a couple of months ago and noticed a sign that said they now offered refunds.

    • BeThisWay says:

      @CyrusOpeth:

      Burlington does now accept returns, otherwise I’d never walk in the place.

      Of course their stores are a mess and they never have enough cashiers. They also have only about twelve carts, all of which are full of merchandise on their floor.

      If not for their baby section I’d never go back. As it is it’s only once in a blue moon.

  6. Jackasimov says:

    Brookstone does however offer “gift receipts” on purchases. So, if you buy someone a gift and send along a gift receipt the store will exchange it. That seems like a standard practice to me and not too big an inconvenience. As far as not issuing store credit for an exchanged item, that’s kind of rough. There’s so many scams operating these days I’d almost have to take the store’s side on this one. At best you should probably only get an exchange valued at the lowest sale price the item has sold for.

    As for returning a gift and wanting something of equal value, I think those salad days are nearly over. Christmas comes only once a year, and it’s on the 25th, not the 26th or 27th when the malls are packed with people armspiledhigh with junk they want to trade in.

    Not saying my logic is completely straight here but maybe you could find a better example, like stores that won’t offer returns at all, or will only give store credit (like American Apparel as you mentioned). If I paid with a credit card, and you still stock the same merchandise in your store, I should get a full refund charged back to my card.

  7. kaylabear says:

    I can’t say anything about American Apparel’s return policies but I will say I’ve stopped buying their stuff because I quickly realized how poorly constructed or designed they actually were. Their plain t-shirts, for example, skew and get stretched out of shape quickly because of poor fabric grain location (I think I mentioned that somewhere else here). I’ve had Hanes ‘Beefy Ts’ that look better, longer.

    • Nunya B says:

      @kaylabear: That’s odd, I’ve had excellent luck with their t-shirts. Dov Charney and the cumbersome return policy have forced me to reconsider spending my money there all the time, but their shirts are well-made enough, especially the nylon-blend model.

    • rodeo40 says:

      @kaylabear:
      I have had great luck with AA T-shirts…especially the organic cotton shirts. They are tapered through the waist…not like the Hanes shirts which are the same width from the shoulders on down…AKA Fat-Man shirts.

  8. UrbanaKolder says:

    As someone from the UK I have to say most US stores seem to have a better return policy than store here. Apart from a few exceptions stores here will not give refunds/exchanges/credit for any item unless it is clearly faulty.
    If you buy something at a store, that’s it. It’s yours. If you change your mind, tough.
    From comments here it seems many US stores will give at least store credit for many reasons.
    (Online sales already have a 7 day refund policy, this proposal just extends it to 14 days.)

    • mushroom104 says:

      @UrbanaKolder: It would seem to me that the US policy is better for companies because it promotes sales. If I could not return something if I changed my mind I would think a lot longer and harder before I bought it. If I thought about it that long I might decide that I didn’t need it. Most people are too lazy to return things anyway.

      See how that works?

  9. KerryCestrinus says:

    I used to work at Brookstone, and the return policy used to be different: A person could potentially return a 10 year-old product that they are unsatisfied and get an exchange at whatever price the product was last at. If you had a receipt, it guaranteed the price. However, people really abused this policy be returning things that they had obviously misused, or things that had cease to use because of ordinary wear-and-tear. I mean sure, if you have a weather-proof hammock for 20 years and you leave it out all year long, of course the rope will deteriorate. They changed the return policy because people weren’t being responsible and taking care of their products. I hated working for Brookstone, but I honestly understand why they changed their policies.

    • autoclavicle says:

      @KerryCestrinus: I used to work there too, but after they changed their policy. It was fun to tell people obviously trying to abuse the system.

      Another thing is that just because the product’s box says “Brookstone” on it, doesn’t mean they bought it from a Brookstone store. At the airport locations, there were other stores that sold the travel-oriented items and people would try to return those to us all the time. We couldn’t return something that was never sold from a Brookstone store.

      With the boxes, if there was a barcode printed on it, it wasn’t from one of the stores. The stores always made poor schmucks like me put stickers on everything.

      I hate Brookstone, and am not trying to stand up for them at all (especially because they screwed me over many times), but as a consumer myself, most of the outrage from customers over the return policy was completely unnecessary.

      • Anonymous says:

        @autoclavicle: Ditto on the used to work there. Went from the best return policy to the worst.

        It’s a shame, I used to love their stuff too. Now with their new CEO from a few years back, it went from Brookstone to B’Stone Discount Auto.

        Bring back Sharper…

  10. proskills says:

    While it is somewhat understandable, it really annoys me that electronics giants (Fry’s NOT included, they have a great return policy!) don’t take back open cameras, laptops, or other stuff from behind the counter.

    • rubberkeyhole says:

      @proskills: what do you mean “from behind the counter”?

    • rdwarrior says:

      @proskills:

      You’re crazy. Fry’s sucks with returns. They treat you like a criminal and they have the strictest return policies ever. If it even looks like you’ve might have broken it, they won’t take it back. And on top of that, I hate how 90% of everything has that sticker that says it has been returned. I will not buy stuff that is returned.

    • dakotad555 says:

      @proskills: Are you serious? I hate Fry’s return ‘policy’! I bought a defective graphics card from them and they argued with me for thirty minutes about how it was my fault the card failed. (It wasn’t, I bought two identical cards from them, one of which worked just fine) and then tried to refuse the return because they said the box was an item (it wasn’t). The whole process made me so mad that I now consider them about as bad as Best Buy.

    • dweebster says:

      @proskills: Fry’s totally sucks. They won’t even handle returns from Frys.com – you gotta deal with the website people. And the return area makes the TSA look efficient. Chaos.

      I love just walking through their stores and seeing all the overpriced crap (“Your best buys are always at Fry’s”??), many of them with stickers indicating they’ve been returned but without any correlating price break like any other place on earth. What a crazy, crazy store.

    • mzs says:

      @proskills: Frys is the worst. I bought a DVD VCR DVR combo and they would not accept the return from me. I thought it could record to DVD-R but it could only record to VHS tape. The label on the shelf said DVR and compatible with DVD-R (and a whole bunch more). They said that the DVR was true since DVDs are digital and the VCR was the video recorder part of it. It was very strange to me. Then next weekend my wife went to Frys and had no trouble with the return of the same item.

  11. juri squared says:

    Target once told me to go get a receipt from a gift-giver, because they “couldn’t be sure” the item was actually from Target.

    The item in question, some baby bedding, said TARGET EXCLUSIVE on the package. Way to go, Target.

    I will admit that as much as I dislike Wal-Mart, their return policy is very generous. I had a friend receive a video game (no receipt) and he took it to Wal-Mart for an even exchange for a different game. No muss, no fuss.

    • SableHemlock says:

      @jurijuri: My friends did that. They won some random Sex and the City game at a residence hall thing. They knew they would never play it, so they took it to Wal-Mart and returned it and got a game they actually wanted instead.

    • dweebster says:

      @jurijuri: Yeah, Target used to have a very reasonable return policy and I felt safe buying there. Fortunately, a few years ago they moved to that Nazi return counter attitude and it’s saved me a hell of a lot of money because I rarely go there anymore to shop. It’s convenient and slightly less evil than MallWart, but still a silly, egotistical store with little unique to offer.

    • mzs says:

      @jurijuri: I’ve seen ‘Target Exclusive” toys at KB Toys at steep discounts. I think that after they cannot move the toys anymore some stores off load them to smaller ones. Nothing would prevent me from buying the toy at KB Toys and trying to get store credit at Target then. Also how would the store know that you are not returning something after half a year of use without a receipt.

      I have also seen Target exclusive lego sets at the store outside the Star Wars ride at MGM in Florida. I do not think every Target store does this, the one closest to me has clearance endcaps at the back of the store for this stuff but I could see some stores doing this for a lot of merchandise after Christmas.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      @jurijuri: Someone I knew went to a yard sale, found a new lamp still in its original box that he knew came from Wal-Mart, bought it, took it to Wal-Mart and got $15 refund for it.

  12. ajlei says:

    In this day and age, a smart consumer would not buy any gifts without a gift receipt. I too work in retail and have seen far too often people take things off the shelf and try to return them, which is why my place of business (Borders) has recently decided that all returns must require receipts, either original or gift. If the recipient has such a problem or aversion with the purchase and they were not given a gift receipt, eBay or Craigslist it. Or use it for a white elephant gift.

  13. ToddC says:

    “ask the gift-giver for the receipt, an obviously impossible request no half-decent person would make”…

    Really? I always get a gift receipt for any gifts I’m giving.. and if I don’t, I keep the original receipt for the ‘giftee’ in case they need it. I think it is a completely reasonable policy they have.

    • Roclawzi says:

      @ToddC: While you may not feel awkward giving someone the receipt to exchange/return what you got them, they indeed may feel it’s rude to “disapprove” of a gift by exchanging it, and not want you to know.

    • Zulujines says:

      @ToddC: I do the same thing. I’ve often just put the receipt in a sealed envelope marked “Receipt” and put it in with the gift. I don’t care if they return it, and it may be defective, so I figure it’s a lot easier that way.

      • HogwartsAlum says:

        @Zulujines:
        That’s a good idea. Then if they don’t want to return it, the receipt is sealed up so if they don’t want to see how much it was (reason for not including it) they don’t have to look. And if they need it, it’s there. Sometimes you don’t get a gift receipt, but this way they have it.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      @ToddC: I had a wedding shower in which I received a particular item I really had no use for, and the giver asked whether I wanted a receipt. What was I supposed to say? Yes? I mean, I didn’t want to lie, but I told her (with gritted teeth, I think) that I loved the gift.

      I think I’ll sell it on Craig’s List.

  14. MissPeacock says:

    Carey, the name of your photo here is “So_Sad_My_Last_Cat_Photo.jpg”…is today your last day? We all love you!

  15. FLEB says:

    If you really don’t want to be tacky, but the store requires a sales receipt (and no “gift receipt” option is available), why not just put the receipt in a small, labeled and sealed envelope along with the gift. If they like it, they need not ever open the envelope. If they don’t like it, the faux-pas of seeing the price is secondary to the convenience of returning it. If they are the type that secretly like to find out what people paid, you just granted them that much more pleasure.

    (Admittedly, I’m inclined to the latter, although opposite to common motives– I’m a cheapaholic, and lay praise and respect at the feet of those who managed to get me a gift below retail.)

    • SJActress says:

      @FLEB:

      I’ve never understood the point of gift receipts. If the giftee actually DOES return what you gave them for something else,

      THEY’RE GOING TO KNOW HOW MUCH IT WAS!

      They’ll be there, in the store, looking at the same item in a different size, or at the very least, they’ll be told the amount of their credit to choose something else.

      Gift receipts don’t make any sense.

      Am I missing something here? Seriously?

      • shanoaravendare says:

        @SJActress: Gift receipts don’t usually include the price of the item on them. They are a way of connecting that particular item to a specific transaction number within the store system.

        Sure, once you return it you know how much it was because you get that amount in store credit (usually), but that only happens once the giftee returns the item.

  16. LaurenShooter says:

    Who cares about the worst return policy. How about listing the best – L L Bean; Lands’ End; Costco.

  17. Outrun1986 says:

    I would like to mention that gift receipts are a scam sometimes, Sears only allows you to purchase another item in the store (basically store credit) if you give the person a gift receipt, they need an actual receipt to refund the purchase in money. No good if you don’t want anything from Sears. I was in the line last year after Christmas when many people were complaining about this policy so I thought I would let you all know.

    For the smart gift givers, give the ACTUAL receipt, we are gonna know how much you paid for it anyways when we go to exchange the product.

    I am not sure if there are any other stores that don’t give a refund with a gift receipt, but you guys might want to look into that or give the actual receipt.

    Stores should at least have an exemption for after Christmas sales (this is for all stores), because there is a huge segment of the population that still doesn’t give receipts. I think that items should be allowed to be returned within a week of December 25th without a receipt, giving those people at least a chance to get some store credit for an unwanted gift they do not want to ask for the receipt for. Its just good customer service. What little the store loses they will make up for in Customer Service. Maybe hire an extra door greeter or do the Wal-mart tag thing to make sure stuff isn’t being pulled off the shelves and then returned.

    • Zulujines says:

      @Outrun1986: I’ve noticed a lot of stores do that with gift receipts–you only get store credit, which is their way of making sure the money stays in their store. If you get a refund you’ll take the money and spend it somewhere else, and they don’t want that.

      One time that happened at a clothing store and I couldn’t find anything else I wanted. For the next year, I went in there periodically hoping to find something I could use my store credit on. It took almost a year until I found something, the bastards.

      • Outrun1986 says:

        @Zulujines: This happens to my family and I a lot with clothing stores, we can find nothing in the store we like (and in some cases, nothing that fits due to non-standardization of clothes sizes in the US). Fortunately no one is stupid enough to give us gift cards to clothing stores or clothing as gifts unless they know for sure we will wear it or its somewhere that we shop at least once a month.

    • Zorantor says:

      @Outrun1986: I agree with you on that returns should be more lenient post-holiday.

      I used to work at a record store called Newbury Comics, and there was a somewhat strict return policy most of the time, though exceptions could always be made, of course.

      From Dec. 26 to Jan. 10, though, the return policy was “if it scans in the registers, full cash refund, no question.”

      I thought that was a pretty cool thing to do.

  18. AgathaHizeck says:

    TARGET is the WORST!

    If you don’t have a receipt you are allowed 2 return per year UNDER $35.00. it makes no difference if you just want another size or color of the exact same item.

    I watched a woman try to exchange an unopened box of diapers and they refused.

    And, of course, they just hand you a 800 number if you dare to complain.

    • h3llc4t, breaker of office dress codes says:

      @AgathaHizeck: Interesting, I’ve had amazing luck with Target. I returned a dress once when I found it had ripped along a seam after wearing it for a few hours. No receipt (sitting in the garbage can at home), and they returned it for full credit. The dress was $40.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      @AgathaHizeck: What? I’ve never had any experience like this. I had a few times in which there was no receipt (it had been thrown out) and I got my refund without any problems. They can look up the purchase if you made it with a credit card, perhaps it is different with cash?

      • shanoaravendare says:

        @IHaveAFreezeRay: I know the target in my area has the same policy as the one AgathaHizeck described. Half the time they won’t even take a return with a gift receipt at that store. But they are still better than Wal*Mart any day.

    • edosan says:

      @AgathaHizeck: I’ve never had a problem returning things at Target.

    • TertiaBelus says:

      @AgathaHizeck:
      @AgathaHizeck: I’ve had similar problems at Target. I tried returning a Roomba because I wasn’t satisfied with it. The manager came out and said they would only take returns if it was unopened and unused. If I was not satisfied with it or it was broken, I would have to contact the manufacturer directly. I spoke with the manager and all they did was give me a 800 number to call to complain.

  19. PerryBusiris says:

    I’ve just always have told people if their gift doesn’t work out for any reason just to ask me for the receipt. That way they know you’re cool with being asked for a receipt. I started telling people about this after watching a friend lost their receipts in the mess of a wedding shower.

  20. JStrulleh says:

    I’m sorry, but this isn’t exactly true. I just started working at Brookstone, and a lady came in just the other day with a toy she received as a gift. No gift receipt, just a broken toy, and we replaced it no problems. Now maybe this isn’t what corporate policy dictates, but there are good people working at this company.

  21. DeeJayQueue says:

    Toys R Us has a horrible electronics return policy.

    I went in there looking for, well, toys; and I happened across a speaker set from iHome that I thought would be kind of neat. The thing is though that I’m picky about speakers. I want to make sure they sound good before I spend money on them, especially the kind of money they were asking for this particular set.

    I asked the guy behind the counter what the return policy was for electronics and he said that even unopened, with a receipt, I could only even-exchange for the same thing. No store credit, no refund.

    He wouldn’t let me open one in the store to listen to it either, so I told him that his store’s return policy cost them a customer, and that I’d tell his manager the same. I wasn’t all pissy pants about it, or screaming, I just said in my normal cadence that since they had an arcane policy for returning electronics, that I wouldn’t be spending my money there that day or any other day.

    I doubt he cared.

    • mzs says:

      @DeeJayQueue: I bought a GBA game at Toy R Us once and they would not accept a return. It was unopened, it just happened that I went home and read the universally bad reviews. I needed to do an exchange for another game. That threw me for a loop, I did not expect that I could not return an unopened video game. They told me that people buy them, open them, take the game out, and then shrink wrap them again. This still did not explain to me how it addressed the problem they were using as a pointless excuse.

      Anyway, they treated me like a criminal so I stopped buying video games from them.

    • EvelynClytias says:

      @DeeJayQueue:
      Explaining your extreme dissatisfaction and intent to boycott a store to the person working at the cash register or on the sales floor making min wage is nothing more than puffing your bruised ego after rejection. You know they have nothing to do with the policy, you know they are so low on the totem pole that they have no more opportunity to contact the people in charge than you do, and even if they could they would be ignored. If you were a bigger person you wouldn’t hassle them for the temporary relief you get from shitting on someone else, you would take your complaint to an effective outlet. The same could almost be said for managers but they understand that hearing your complaints is part of thier job so they will at least listen patiently. And the fact that it isn’t the policy that is upsetting you but rather your own denial is evident, because if the manager ignores the rules and does what you want, you will be satisfied despite the fact no policy change was made and the vast majoprity of the population will be denied. But the phonec all you should have made to speak to people who actually matter just got cancelled, because you got what you wanted.

  22. xman31 says:

    This totally depends on the area of the country/person at the counter. For example, in Raleigh/Durham, NC about a week ago my friend returned (for a store credit) a hard drive to Best Buy that he purchased SEVEN MONTHS AGO. That crap would never fly in Chicago.

  23. Lilija says:

    Barnes & Noble doesn’t take returns without reciepts either. Sucked for me, when two thoughtful awesome friends bought me the same exact graphic novel. I tried to return the one that was mint condition, still wrapped in plastic, and they wouldn’t take it. I wound up regifting it.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      @Lilija: I once bought a travel book from B&N but then decided I wasn’t going there after all. I took the book back to B&N and they accepted it with no problems at all. Their only stipulation was that because you didn’t have a receipt, they’d give you the price that was in the system, whether it was sale or full price.

      • Lilija says:

        @IHaveAFreezeRay:

        I’ve done the same, at that same B&N, so it was pretty discouraging/confusing. I wasn’t obnoxious about it or anything, I just assumed it was some kind of new policy.

        Looking back, I suspect it was the individual behind the counter, who looked like she would say “no” to the Pope.

    • FoxintheSnow says:

      @Lilija: Graphic novels are stolen all the time from my store, so I can understand them being tough. The new policy is to deter all the return abusers, but sometimes regular people get the shaft. I’ve told everyone, “gift receipt!”

  24. Wolzard says:

    I can tell ya for a fact working in customer service that return policies are NEVER set in stone. They serve as guidelines and a reference for customers but that’s mostly it.

    If you are very friendly and ask the CSA of a reasonable request, IMHO it should be granted.

    If you come into the store pissed off, acting rude, and seem to stink of a sense of entitlement, I’ll gladly point to the sign and the back of your receipt and no you to death.

    It’s all about behavior.

    • James says:

      @Wolzard:

      This. Our return policy where I work says you can’t return a camera after 30 days or that you can’t return it with a broken screen (when it’s clearly your own damn fault) and yet I’ve seen both happen when the customer was polite the entire time.

      The rude customers are told “Sorry but our policy is…” and shown the door.

    • Jesse says:

      @Wolzard:

      I have to agree that attitude is everything in many cases. Once I took a vacuum I bought at Target back because I didn’t like it. Technically the return should not have been allowed. However, I stayed calm, was polite and the lady at the return desk just said “I’ll just mark it defective” and gave me my money back.

    • Amethyst02 says:

      @Wolzard:
      Totally right. Treat people with respect and you will get far. However if one of my cashiers calls me over and you’ve just gotten through yelling and swearing at them, no way in heck am I going to go out of my way to help you.

  25. eskimo81 says:

    Wizards of the Coast for their Magic Online program.

    Their documents that lead you into a game state that if a tournament crashes, your entry fee will be refunded.

    But in order to file for a refund, you have to go through their customer service online form, which forces you to agree to receive a coupon instead of an actual refund.

    This coupon then expires in 30 days, and cannot be converted back to cash.

  26. soloudinhere says:

    I work at a clothing retailer and we take back ANYTHING. It’s a little nuts.

    I had a woman come in with a tank top yesterday that was obviously worn, to the point that the straps were torn off. She left with a new tank top, and we didn’t even put it into the computer.

    I’ve taken back things that have been washed and worn, things that were intentionally damaged, things from 3 years ago. The manager always says “just take it back.”

    So I guess that would be a good return policy?

    • Corporate-Shill says:

      @soloudinhere:

      ah yes, good ole consumer renting.

    • Zulujines says:

      @soloudinhere: It was like that when I worked at Sears, and people blatantly abused the policy. We took back everything, things we didn’t even sell anymore, or things that were so old they were simply worn out. If a person wanted a refund, they got it. I don’t know how much money they lost that way–I thought it was a terrible return policy.

      • finite_elephant says:

        @Zulujines: I worked at Sears once upon a time as well. We had some regulars who we were pretty sure hit garage or estate sales looking for Sears merchandise to return. Toughskins jeans, Craftsman tools, Botany 500 suits, etc. One guy got banned after the manager got tired of handing out money for his never-ending stream of well-worn student-sized Toughskins. He was not “student” sized.

    • h3llc4t, breaker of office dress codes says:

      @soloudinhere: Sounds like Hot Topic’s policy. When I worked there we returned items with stains, rips, smells, you name it. If it wasn’t too gruesomely ruined, we just spritzed it with FeBreze and put it back on the floor as per our managers’ request.

  27. CharlaTweedy says:

    I don’t see anything odd about the difference in American Apparel’s in-store and online return policies. When I in a store I have the chane to touch, examine, and try the stuff on. When I shop online I don’t get to see it until it arrived. I’d be furious if they wouldn’t take it back no-questions-asked. That being said, I think the store policy should always offer money-back with a receipt, and always exchanges without a receipt.

  28. justcatie says:

    Motherhood Maternity. It’s AWFUL. I was a manager for that chain for a year. When I worked there, the merch had to be unworn, tags still attached, and for store credit/exchange only. Intimates, swimsuits, and anything deemed special occasion were final sale. No returns on intimates due to state health codes, but tell that to a 2 week postpartum woman who really needed a bigger size nursing bra RIGHT THAT MINUTE. SIGH…

    We even had to explain the return process at the POS and have them initial the receipt to show we had explained and they understood that you WOULD NOT get your money back.

    Of course I didn’t want crying pregnant women hunting me down in the mall and throwing soft pretzel bites at me for not being able to return t-shirts that shrunk in the wash, so I would routinely reattach tags if the person was nice enough to me. One lady went all the way to corporate after I had her removed from the store for verbal assault because she came in cussing me out and almost came over the counter at one point, and she still didn’t get her exchange.

    The only way to get a true refund was very morbid. You could get one, but they made it really hard and it was only for women who lost their babies. They had to bring the clothes to the store, I had to ring up the return, fill out forms, send them to home office, and then they would determine if the return would be credited.

    just a crap company all around.

    • Zulujines says:

      @justcatie: WOW. That was a bad company.
      But the soft pretzel bites thing was funny.:-)

      • jakesprincess says:

        @Zulujines: Urgh. Motherhood Maternity. They have a captive audience for the most part. And they use that to their advantage, but not in a good way. I purchased a shirt from them when I was pregnant. The shirt shrunk so badly after one washing I could no longer get it on. Ithad been very loose before, as I bought it with the intent to grow into it. I knew I could not return it. So I just spent my maternity clothes dollars elsewhere.

  29. CharityEscardon says:

    A lot of stores have return policies as something to point to when they need to say no. Just because a store has a draconian return policy on the wall doesn’t mean the store is nasty about returns… The sign is a minimum, not a maximum.

    I know I had a retail job where I didn’t really know our return policy because we didn’t follow it. The only times we refused cash* returns were a) if we thought you’d stolen the product you were returning, or b) if we genuinely couldn’t figure out what you needed.

    People brought in six-month old products (I think the policy said three months) and we took the return (this was a drugstore, by the way, so even three months is a LONG time to come back in with some tape). They brought in part of a product, no box, no receipt, and we took the product. But I think our policy actually said three months with a receipt and probably that we had the option to give you store credit. I don’t think that’s draconian, for a drugstore that mostly sells consumables and low-ticket items, but it’s a lot stricter than our practice.

    So a draconian posted notice and an extremely customer-friendly actual policy are not at all incompatible.

    *Well, if you paid by credit card we’d put it back on the card… But that’s still money in your pocket, not store credit.

  30. NinoRattlesnake says:

    Although not technically a “store”, my vote is for Ebay/Paypal. Where else can you buy an item from a “reputable” seller, (either not receive it or receive it damaged) and be unable to return/cancel the order because of draconian paypal rules.

  31. SparklyJ says:

    We stopped going to Eddie Bauer a few years back just because of their return policy. Hubby tried to return a shirt given to him for Christmas. Even though he had the original purchase receipt, the store would only give him store credit for the item’s current sales price. Since it was the day after Christmas they had almost everything on sale and this particular shirt was marked half off. We’ve never purchased anything from there again.

  32. grandzu says:

    ANTonline will not take anything back if its opened, regardless of if it ever worked or not.

  33. scoli83 says:

    Montblanc Boutiques have a horrible return policy.

    You can only exchange for store credit, with a receipt, within 14 days of purchase.

    No returns….

  34. sam-i-am says:

    The worst return policy in the world is Circuit City. Despite what it says in big letters up on their wall, they did not accept a return on a defective item on the SAME DAY I bought it with a receipt. I got a router and when I plugged it in it just repeatedly power cycled. Took it right back and they said no way – claiming that if they took it back they would “have to eat it.” I said “why should I have to eat it?” and the girl didn’t seem to care. Absolutely no returns.

    The sad thing was it was one of the only times I ever paid cash for something, so I couldn’t even invoke my CC’s buyer protection rules.

    I may or may not have taken matters into my own hands and gotten my value out of the deal in the end through questionable or non questionable means.

    • Spin359 says:

      @sam-i-am: I once had to use questionable means to get my money back from a “best buy” type place, the would not allow me to return a hard drive i purchased from them. It never worked and i had it a whole day. I even had the receipt. I went through there display laptops and removed a key file or two for every laptop. there local people didn’t know how to fix them, nor did there “Techie” area. no physical harm was done.

    • clickable says:

      @sam-i-am: I’ve never had a problem returning items to Circuit City. But I’ve only ever returned brand-new items in unopened packages, within the return period, so I don’t know what would happen if I had to return something that had been opened.

  35. docrice says:

    Any bridal store sucks, because they don’t take anything back…ever. “Sorry your fiancee left you, all sales are final” Not even cheap accessories…sounds like a great place to work, since the biggest pain of retail is returns.

    Also, Circuit City’s policy sucks for certain things…they have a standard 30 day policy on most items, but on GPS units, camcorders, etc., it’s 14 days plus a 25% restocking fee, and rarely doe an employee tell you that…

  36. mcreigh says:

    Gamestop issues refunds with receipt in the first 30 days after purchase as long as the item is in its original plastic wrapping and completely pristine. This makes sense for video games, but also applies to consoles and other equipment. Defective hardware, if unwrapped, can only be exchanged for a like item, and if I recall correctly it has to be within seven or fourteen days of purchase.

    Last year I was shopping for a DS Lite to give for Christmas and discovered a hard-to-find bundle at my local Gamestop, but I had to pass it up because of this return policy. The only way to know if a DS is defective (dead pixels, sticky buttons, etc) is to open it up and turn it on. In opening the box you forfeit your chance for a refund and commit to store exchange only. With policies like that, why would anybody buy video game hardware from Gamestop when Target and Walmart will accept returns for refund with no questions asked for 90 days after the purchase?

  37. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    I just had to say:

    NOM!

  38. GastonNardwuar says:

    I work for Bath and Body Works, and right now you can return anything…used, not used, stuff we don’t carry anymore…with or without a receipt. Without the receipt, we can only give you the last known sales price, which sometimes is like 87¢, but still not bad for 7-year-old perfume!

    That’s all going to change soon. Every few months we have a group of women who come in and return more than a grand in products. We barely sell that much on weekdays. This is not limited to only my store. I’m not sure when, but sometime in the future you will have to have a receipt to get a refund of some sort.

    So, yeah, I see these other “strict” return policies and I totally see why they are necessary. People take advantage otherwise.

  39. minneapolisite says:

    Flipside of the coin: I had a fantastic experience with Verizon this weekend. I bought a phone there a month ago and the microphone seemed a little wonky. I had dropped the phone a few times (I’m accident prone) and it had a few scratches/chips on it. The customer service department exchanged it for a new phone, no questions asked. The customer service representative noticed the chips and instead of accusing me of fabricating the janky microphone story, she suggested I get a silicone case for my new phone to protect it. By treating me with respect and using her powers of observation for good, rather than evil, she managed to up-sell me to one of their overpriced accessories. To top it off, the Verizon system automatically applied my 18% corporate discount to the accessory as well.

  40. ScramDiggyBooBoo says:

    Knock me all you want, but thats why i do most of my shopping at Wal Mart. You could have the item for two years and as long as the store can scan the item or find the item in the store if you dont have a box, at least they will give you store credit. I’ve returned countless items from there with no receipt or proof whatsoever that i even bought the product there! (but yes, i did..i’m no thief..)

  41. fett387 says:

    Target is the worst in my opinion.

    Tried to exchange a $20 toy that someone gave my son for his B-day. He got two of the same thing w/no reciept.
    They would only offer to exchange it at their clearance price (even though they were selling it at full price) minus $5 extra dollars! Also, I could only exchange it for something in the same department (which was fine in my situation but it’s still a stupid rule). Insane!

    I went to Walmart. They sold the toy for less than Target so I got less back in the exchange than what the gift giver paid for it, but it was way more than Target was willing to exchange it for.
    Then I proceeded to buy about $70 in supplies while I was at Walmart that I was planning to buy at Target.
    It’s simple Target, make customers happy and they keep buying things from you…even if you happen to lose a little in a refund or exchange. Otherwise they just stop coming back, like me.

  42. ManiacDan says:

    I was actually going to write this up as a completely separate tip, but I guess it fits into this category as well.

    My wife got some things from the Gap as a gift, none of which were any good (she was allergic to one of them, and the other two didn’t fit). So she went to the Gap and exchanged them all. She got $70 in store credit, and purchased $70 worth of products in exchange. On top of that, she also purchased a $65 jacket, all in the same transaction. So, to summarize:
    -$70 exchange
    +$70 new purchase
    +$65 new jacket

    She decided she didn’t want the jacket after all, and attempted to return it. The Gap manager processed the refund to the credit card, we swiped the card, and the screen showed “approved.” Then the manager said “oh wait you did an exchange? I have to re-do this.” She proceeded to void the refund to the card and issue us a store credit slip.

    So be warned. If you have an exchange at the Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, or any of the other stores owned by that mega-corp, do the exchange on a separate receipt with ONLY the items you know you will want permanently. Do any other purchases separately.

  43. Elvisisdead says:

    Home depot has changed, but not gotten worse. They’ve started to request the credit card you paid with first, and then credit the purchase back to the card, rather than issue store credit. Only for items with no receipt. If you bring it back with receipt, then it comes back to you as whatever form of payment you used to buy it.

    It’s interesting, as I never keep receipts unless it’s over $100. They used to just blindly issue store credit with your driver’s license. I always use my card, so no sweat off my back besides a few extra transactions in Quicken.

    Works out fine for me, as I usually buy one more widget than I need knowing I can take it back. Like caulk – tough for me to know exactly how much I’ll need, so I buy two and take one back if I don’t need it. Box of screws, rolls of tape, etc.

  44. IcarusAgaiN says:

    Wal-Mart baffled me the other day. I had a few items to return that I had bought on various occations. I had receipts for some of it but not others. Turns out the receipts were past the 90 day return period. They would give me store credit for the things I didn’t have a receipt for, and absolutely NOTHING for the items which had a receipt. I was tempted to throw away the receipts right in front of them, walk back up and say, “Hi, I have a few items to return but don’t have the receipts, can I have store credit?” Totally stupid.

  45. JoeWaiver says:

    USPS!!

    Have you ever tried to exchange a stamp or label that didn’t print? Takes a papal bull to get six bucks back from a package you never mailed.

    USPS < all others

    • clickable says:

      @JoeWaiver: Ha! You just confirmed what I always suspected, that if anything goes wonky in the print-your-own-label process, it would be like pulling teeth to try to get your money back. That skepticism – which turns out to be well-founded – is the reason I will only print shipping labels with no postage, and then I use the automat at the post office to finish the transaction.

  46. HogwartsAlum says:

    One time I went into a tobacconist/t-shirt/used-to-be-head-shop type store in CA and bought a t-shirt. I went down the street and found the same shirt for half the price.

    I took the shirt back (I’d had it for like AN HOUR) and asked if I could return it, saying I’d changed my mind. The punker behind the counter said “No.” I tried to explain that I had just bought it, and he screamed at me at the top of his voice “NO RETURNS ON GARMENTS! SEE THE SIGN UP THERE? [I hadn't seen it, really] CAN’T YOU READ?!?”

    I was so upset at being screamed at that I was about to cry. I asked for the manager and he came out, and I explained what happened. I told him I shopped there a lot for jewelry and imported smokes, and I didn’t want to have to go somewhere else, and that no one had ever treated me that way there, ever. He said they usually don’t take returns on shirts, but because of the employee’s behavior, he apologized and gave me the return.

    When I went back in a week later, the punker was gone.

  47. ShameFree says:

    A boutique where I occasionally shop in Louisville has a no return policy and in order to exchange or get a store credit you have to do it within 7 days of your purchase. No exceptions. Seems a little severe to me…

  48. Phydeaux says:

    Wal-Mart’s return policy on electronics is absolutely broken.

    High-failure rate products like the Xbox 360 Wireless Headset that even if you follow the instructions on how to use and care for it to a T, it’s average life is about two months. It’s horribly engineered, you have to use a USB port to charge it and not a power brick, etc.

    So when buying one of these and failing within their 90 day replacement period, they’ll happily replace it. But if that second unit fails, they won’t touch it. They’ll tell you to ship it off where MS will lose it or reject it. Apparently that “swap out” where you get a new receipt doesn’t count as a purchase where you’re covered under the 90 day warranty.

    So, honestly? Maybe I’m a bad consumer, but to avoid getting nailed by this again, I’m just buying and returning headset after headset every 29 days because of their stupid policy and MS’ stupid product. Why don’t I use a different brand? Yeah, why don’t we ask MS why they don’t support Bluetooth in their systems. I’ve got about a dozen BT headsets some as old as four years old that still maintain their charge after daily or every couple of day use.

    I’m so pissed at both corporations right now, I can’t tell you.

  49. junip says:

    My parents ran into a snag at Best Buy one time with a GPS system my brother had given them for christmas. They would never have used it so they wanted to get something else there. They had all the packaging, and the original receipt from my brother, but they wouldn’t give them store credit. They said they could ONLY refund the amount onto the credit card it was purchased with.

    Either their return policy sucks, or they got a real jerk at the help desk. Either way they ended up just having the refund put on my brother’s cc, and settled on not having a gift.

  50. Phantom_Photon says:

    Future Shop / Best Buy have totally respectable sounding return policies, but collecting on them is difficult and upsetting.

    Twice I have tried to return items to Future Shop (with receipt, in original packaging), and both times I had to be escalated up the chain of command to a manager who was accusatory and rude on the subject. Both times I had to settle for store credit.

    Best Buy is much the same.

  51. h0mi says:

    Fry’s used to accept returns without receipts but I have had no luck with that in the past year. Walmart only allows 3 such returns in a calendar year. I’d gotten some blu-ray discs for Xmas that I didn’t want and Fry’s would not accept them without that label printed on them (“How do we know it was bought here at Fry’s?”), nor would Walmart (but I’d already returned some other gifts at walmart 3 times by then).

    I never considered Target or Best Buy since AFAIK they don’t accept returns without a receipt.

  52. RedwoodFlyer says:

    Target annoys me with their policy of giving you the lower of two prices (the current vs. the one on the receipt)

  53. opal says:

    Piperlime has a no returns policy posted on their website for clearance/sale stuff, but once I shipped back some shoes that I regretted, and they processed the refund anyway, to my delight. I really just need to be more careful/rational when buying online.

  54. Zorantor says:

    Brookstone is absolutely awful. I was in there once, chatting with someone I knew who worked in the store.

    An old man came into the store, in a wheelchair. The man was clearly quite old, and it was apparent that getting out to go to the mall had been somewhat of a chore.

    He had bought something (a lamp, if I recall) a few months prior and it had broken through normal use, still within the time frame of the return policy. Though he did not have his receipt, he had obtained a copy of a credit card statement showing the date, time, and amount of his purchase. He also, of course, had the box for the lamp, all the packaging and literature, and even the Brookstone bag in which it had been handed to him.

    Naturally, the person working made no effort whatsoever to engage him in any communication beyond various ways of telling him “Sorry, but NO”. This unfortunate old man left without anything to show for his efforts other than the broken lamp he lugged all the way to the mall.

    I later asked the girl working at the time, who was sort of a friend of mine, about the whole issue. She then proceeded to tell me numerous stories about “obnoxious” and “ridiculous” customers, who in fact sounded to me like reasonable people with reasonable requests.

    With an absurdly unhelpful return policy like that, it seems to me like the company is just trying to minimize returns on their overpriced and mostly useless merchandise.

  55. ManiacDan says:

    I was shopping for a camera bag a few years ago and went into Stuyvesant Photo‎ in Albany, NY. I spent about an hour talking to the salesman (he was long-winded, I don’t take an hour to pick out a camera bag). When I got to the register there was a sign that said “no returns, no exchanges, no exceptions. This isn’t wal-mart” I looked him right in the eye and said “oh, this isn’t a wal-mart? I’d better leave then” and walked out.

  56. Monty says:

    Brookstone Nightmare:
    Received a gift from Brookstone at Christmas. They purchased it from the Bellevue Square store, and while the gift was a nice gesture, it did not work. So, a week after Christmas we went into the Bellevue Square store to find that they closed shop. We asked the folks at Bellevue Square where we could find another store, and they said their were none.

    A couple weeks later (first week of January) we noted they had a store at Northgate Mall, a considerable distance from our home. We went there to exchange the product and they refused. Why? Because we didn’t have a receipt. (WTF?)

    We went back to the person who gave it to us and got the receipt (oh yes, that is embarrassing) to take it back to Northgate again. This time we were so upset that we asked to be refunded, but it was the 17th of January, and they could only cover it through the 15th. End of story – no exceptions. It did not matter to them that they opened a store at a mall and immediately closed it before anyone could exchange defective product, or that we had to go well out of our way twice — they would have nothing to do with us.

    As for the statement that “other stores” sell these Brookstone boxed items — um, so what? It is still Brookstone and it is still their product, so why the hell can’t they even do an exchange without a receipt? Unless I am pulling a Hotel for Dogs move of tossing rocks in the box, I think they are pretty safe.

    I worked in retail for a decade, and I can not imagine ever treating customers this way in a situation that clearly was a problem they created. Oh well. The lesson for me is never shop there and warn all friends and family not to buy anything there.

  57. pattican says:

    My Mother recently bought me a comforter set @ Garden Ridge as a housewarming gift. After washing it, as the directions said you could, it fell apart. I tried to exchange it @ the Lewisville, Tx store but because I didn’t have a receipt, they refused to replace it even though it was their defective merchandise. Why would I have a receipt for a gift?!?! What happened to “The customer is always right & let’s keep the customer happy” Now my Mother is out $75.00 & I have no comforter. I will never shop at Garden Ridge again & neither will my family & friends.