This weekend Costco really justified its annual membership fee to me with its amazing return policy. Eight weeks ago my wife bought two four-packs of printer cartridges that cost $146. She didn’t realize they weren’t the type of cartridges for our printer before she’d not only opened the plastic clamshell prison in which they were encased, but a cartridge from each package.
CircuitCity.com is back, and it looks eerily familiar. The zombie website is now controlled by Systemax, the same folks who own Tiger Direct. Though the new site may look similar to the old, no doubt part of Systemax’s goal to keep alive a “proud brand that America has grown to count on,” it isn’t nearly as consumer-friendly as we would like…
Tony bought a Tempur-Pedic mattress from healthyback.com last December, and they sent him two pillows as a “free gift.” Tony didn’t want the pillows, but HealthyBack refused to take them back, and assured him they were part of a promotion.
The Walmart in Norman, Oklahoma refused to accept bike returns until a district manager, acting on a reader tip, reminded the store that they were violating company policy. Reader Keia tried to return the “shoddily constructed,” “dangerous piece of garbage” for a bike that Walmart sold him, but an employee, backed by the store manager, explained that since Walmart could repair the bike, their return policy didn’t apply. That didn’t sound right, so Keia went over their heads…
Did you know Guitar Center, Musician’s Friend, and “a few other online music retailers” all share the same centralized distribution center? That’s the explanation a Musician’s Friend CSR gave Mitch when he tried to solve the mystery of the dented, twisted-neck, not-even-from-the-right-store Fender Telecaster. It looks like Guitar Center shipped him another company’s returned item. That’s bad enough, but now Guitar Center says they won’t make good on his order because it’s beyond the 30 day return period. Hey, Guitar Center: What return period? Mitch never got the product he ordered in the first place.
Update: Musician’s Friend has responded with an apology.
I always love to see a fellow Consumer fight back against large corporations. However, when that consumer is trying to return stolen goods – stolen from me, that is – it’s harder to get excited.
Regarding this story, turns out, every year at this time, Target has an internal clash of the titans over whether or not to automatically print guest receipts, according to a former employee.
Some retailers are tightening their returning policies this year, while others are loosening them. ConsumerWorld tells you who’s naughty and nice this year.
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.
Jacob writes, “I have been trying to make Walmart take back an air mattress for two months now, and they refuse.” The store manager at the Walmart on South Duff Avenue in Ames, Iowa (shout out to Leslie Hall!) has started making up new rules on when an air mattress can be returned—including that the federal government limits returns to 15 days “because of the bed bugs, you know.” No, we didn’t know that, Walmart manager. In fact, after thinking about it, we’re still not sure we know it. Because it sounds like you made it up.
A Barnes & Noble insider tell us the new policy limiting returns to 14 days with receipts won’t go in effect nationally until October, according to CEO Steve Riggio’s internal blog.. The policy is currently in testing in New York, New Jersey, California, and Virginia. “The point is to eliminate “customers” who empty their bookshelves of books they’ve owned for years and get store credit. The company line is “to bring our policy in line with other national retailers,” the insider tells The Consumerist. However, “the ability to “extend” the policy beyond the 14 days will be up to the compassion of the store/manager you encounter.” Looks like all you non-VA-CA-NY-NJ shysters have until October to ply your fiendish book return schemes.
Working mom/WSJ reporter Suzanne Barlyn discovered it wasn’t easy to return a busted Tamagotchi. The Journal also tried to return a Target shirt that didn’t make it through the wash, a $13 camera from Toys “R” Us that broke after one use, a broken flat-panel TV from Amazon, a coat that didn’t fit from BabyGap, and an oversize duffel from L.L. Bean. At each turn, they discovered retailers tossing road-blocks in their way.
Who can blame them? Return fraud soaked retailers for an estimated $9.6 billion in 2006, according to the National Retail Federation. Returning stolen merchandise for a refund is the most flagrant offense, affecting 95% of retailers last year. Computer-generated, counterfeit receipts make the practice easier. So-called wardrobing — the unethical practice of returning nondefective, used merchandise — affected 56% of companies. About 69% of retailers have modified their return policies in response to fraud, according to NRF. Changes include shorter time limits, restocking fees and requirements for original packaging.
The Journal recommends making purchases with a credit card (paid in full each month,) since retailers look up purchases electronically. We agree, but for a different reason: credit cards allow you to dispute charges. Tell us about your fun experiences returning products in the comments. — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER
Costco is making its liberal return policies stricter, according to a little birdy. Previously, you could return anything, except computers, at anytime, with or without a receipt.