Even Costco's Return Policy Has Limits

Costco’s return policy is the stuff of legends, and Alon thought he’d test the limits of the warehouse’s understanding by attempting to return a 10-year-old ping pong table.

Costco laughed off his attempt to exchange the table for a new one. He writes:

So, I keep on reading on this site about Costco’s famous return policy. How it’s supposed to be “satisfaction guaranteed.” Well, I see how a lot of people are just trying to scam the system to get new TV’s and such so they tightened the policy on electronics. This involves an outdoor ping-pong table purchased about 10 years ago. It’s outdoor rated, so it’s supposed to be used outdoors, right? Well, the Florida elements have not been kind to it. The metal frame is completely rusted through and several supports have started to collapse.

I decided to pursue Costco’s highly-touted customer satisfaction policy, and got stonewalled. First off, I called the 800 number to ask what the policy was in general. They told me it was store manager discretion. So I asked again, “So what you’re telling me is that company policy is left to individual club manager discretion?” Their reply: “Yes.” OK, I figured I was in for a battle. So I called the local store (North Miami Beach, FL). I ask for a customer service rep in returns and ask her what the return policy is. She asked what product. I told her it was a ping-pong table. She said, “Oh, then whenever.” I replied how great that was and then went into detail about what was wrong with it and if I could please have her name so I could ask for her when I came in. I made sure to tell her that it was for an exchange, not a return.

She then said she wasn’t authorized to approve it, so she patched me through to a manager. The manager told me there was no way I was going to get an exchange on a 10-year-old item. I reminded him of Costco’s customer satisfaction guarantee. He then said he’d have to patch me through to the club manager. Except he forgot to put me on hold. So I hear a dialog in the background of this manager laughing and telling someone else that “some guy on the phone wants to return a 10-year-old ping-pong table.” The other voice just laughed and said “No Way.” Then I get disconnected. So I followed up with filling out a webform on Costco.com. Here is the reply I got:

“We appreciate you taking the time to email Costco Wholesale. I am glad to help you with your request.

With few exceptions, Costco has a 100% guarantee on all of our merchandise. However, the return does come down to the warehouse’s discretion.

If you would like to contact a member of the warehouse management staff about their decision, you can call them directly at the phone number listed under the ‘Locations’ section of our website at http://www.costco.com.

Thank you for your membership and have a great day.

Sincerely,

Mac

Costco Wholesale Corporation”

So where do I go from here? Am I out of line asking for them to follow through on their “satisfaction guarantee”?

It’s easy to jump on Alan for violating the spirit of the return policy, and I’m sure many of you are ready to to do so, but maybe Costco could be a little more specific with guidelines to avoid such confusion. Your thoughts?