The Good, Bad & Ugly Of Stores’ Holiday Return Policies

As much as we’d all love to believe that everything we give to our loved ones — and everything we receive from them — this holiday season will be exactly what we want and need, and that it will fit our bodies and/or be compatible with everything we already own. But odds are that a lot of us will be returning at least one thing to a store in the days and weeks after Christmas, so it helps to know retailers’ return policies.

Over at ConsumerWorld.org, Edgar Dworsky has a round-up of return policies and cut-off deadlines for more than a dozen retailers. Here are some of the most important ones for our readers:

THE GOOD
While many retailers, both bricks-and-mortar and online, put time limits on returns, a handful of them have more open-ended return policies. Kohl’s puts no date restrictions on returns, while Macy’s only has time limits for returns on furniture (3 days) and mattresses (60 days).

Costco has an open-ended return timeframe for many products, but puts a 90-day limit on returns for “televisions, projectors, computers, cameras, camcorders, touch screen tablets, MP3 players and cellular phones.” So if you bought a TV as a gift at the warehouse store back in mid-October, the return window is closing.

Among the retailers that put specific deadlines on holiday purchases, Buy.com (Rakuten.com) has the date that is the farthest out, giving customers until Feb. 15 to return items purchased on the site between 11/25/2013 and and 12/31/2013.

THE BAD
Marshalls and TJ Maxx have a very short post-holiday return window, only giving customers until Jan. 7 for purchases made during the holiday season. However, this return window (for both stores) only applies to purchases made between Oct. 20 and Dec. 8, so last-minute shoppers still have 30 days from the date of purchase to make returns.

While Staples doesn’t have a return deadline on office supplies, it does put a Jan. 11 deadline on electronics and furniture purchases made since Nov. 24. We put this in the “Bad” category because most of that covers most of the gifts one would buy at Staples (unless you’re stuffing stockings with printer paper and staplers).

Following last holiday season, Best Buy cut its regular return period from 30 to 15 days for most customers, and its holiday return period has been similarly shortened by nine days to Jan. 15.

THE UGLY
The Toys R Us return policy can be pretty confusing. On the one hand, a lot of items available at the retailer now have an extended holiday return deadline of Jan. 25, but if you made certain electronic purchases — including cameras, camcorders, digital audio players, video game hardware, DVD players — from Nov. 1 onwards, those must be returned by Jan. 9.

Likewise, Sears‘ return policies are quite convoluted and can be anywhere from 30 to 90 days, depending on the product. As Consumer World explains:

Sears shortened its regular return policy for major appliances and vacuums from 60 to 30 days, and excludes them from its extended holiday return period. On the other hand, Sears extended the return period for mattresses to 60 days. Sears continues to impose a 15% restocking fee for missing parts or if items are used. Exchanged items are not eligible for a subsequent refund, only another exchange.

Both Amazon.com and Overstock.com charge restocking fees for some returned items if they have been opened, ranging from 50% to 100% of the retail price, meaning you can return, but don’t expect much in return.

You should definitely check out the whole round-up at ConsumerWorld.org, and be sure to read up on any store’s return policy before buying a gift that might need to be taken back after the holidays have come and gone.