How To Return (Nearly) Everything

Madam, this yarn is defective.

If you try returning a product that’s worn, used or out of the packaging, many retailers will say no. Instead of crossing your arms and saying, “Because I said so,” when a clerk asks why you want to make a return, try four simple words.

“The product is defective.” PocketChange says,

“If a manager questions the defect, the fact that it scratches you or digs into your feet (in the case of shoes) could certainly be a manufacturer’s defect. Retailers can’t and won’t call you a liar and will usually take it back without question.”

Sometimes getting ahead just a matter of semantics. The devil could get Mother Theresa to bleach his boxers if he just framed the question right.

Retail Fu Part 2: Words to Shop By” [PocketChange]


Edit Your Comment

  1. castlecraver says:

    This is what we have to thank for getting hassled on legitimate returns nowadays. If your shoes scratch or dig into your feet, you should have spent more time evaluating them when you tried them on before purchasing. Its not the merchant’s fault if you don’t properly scrutinize the quality and suitability of what you’re buying BEFORE you buy it.

  2. homerjay says:

    I didn’t read the article, but by your summation I would think this should be titled “How to EXCHANGE nearly everything” since most stores would only exchange something that has been worn if its defective.

  3. Ben Popken says:

    Exactly Castlecraver, you’re claiming it’s the manufacturer’s fault, not the merchants, which is why the merchant is much more apt to accept this type of return, they get to pass the costs of the return back to the manufacturer.

  4. DeeJayQueue says:

    teaching people how to scam the system only makes them change the system so that it’s harder to scam, therefore more of a pain to actually return something for real.

    How about this:
    Look at the return policy before you buy anything, or ask about it at the time of purchase. If they’re liberal with it, then buy away with no worries but if they’ve got tight pockets then be more careful with your choices. But don’t try to scam the stores into taking back your slingbacks just because you don’t like them.

  5. There’s a cost we have to pay for this pervasive belief that we can’t be held responsible for the things that we buy. When retailers have to eat the cost of our own mistakes, then where does that cost eventually come out from?

    The method described above to exchange everything is a flip on the old restaurant technique of eating 3/4ths of your dish and then complaining that it wasn’t prepared well enough. You can stamp your feet and refuse to pay the bill and the restaurant will usually honor your request (with some teeth gnashing) but at the core it’s unethical.

    Some people would argue that it makes no difference either way. Retail companies will always be greedy bastards and so anything the customer can do to level the playing field is “fair game”. I’m not really sure where I personally stand there.

  6. Triteon says:

    C’mon, we’re in the throes of the Me Generation…there’s very little personal responsibility left anymore.

  7. gwai lo says:

    I worked at different retail positions for way too many years to get myself through school, and you know, despite whatever linguistic trickery you employ, we know when you’re lying. The issue is whether or not we care. Most of us on the lower tier don’t unless there is a hardnosed manager around.

    This reminds me of a catch 22 I was stuck in at one particular job: The higher, or more “in the red” our returns percentage was for the month, the less hours we would get allotted to our weekly budget. Fewer hours given meant fewer employees could be scheduled. Fewer employees meant long lines. Long lines meant cashiers willing to take back just about anything if it will get you out the door faster. And the cycle just spirals down from there.

  8. mechanismatic says:

    My advice is to read the return policy before you purchase and again before you return something. Stores don’t always follow their own policy, but it’s good to know the official word.

    The problem I see with telling people what to say to make sure the return goes through is that it might not be necessary and thus just strains an already touchy relationship retail employees have with the public. This is the same problem with the fact that people have learned that if they just demand to speak to a manager, they can get their way. It may be necessary in some cases, but not always.

    When I worked the return desk at Lowes, I had customers start offering a thousand excuses and even demand to speak to a manager when they stepped up to the returns counter, despite the fact that they had a legitimite return with a receipt. They were just paranoid we were going to reject the return, probably because of a bad past experience.

    My advice about store credit is: don’t take it if you don’t have to. If you have a receipt and the store will give you a refund in cash or put it back on your card, do so. After you accept store credit, it’s nearly impossible to get that credit back as your original form of payment. I don’t know how many times I had people say, “you can just give me store credit if it’s easier.” And then they come back weeks later saying they have no use for the store credit and want their money instead, which by that point is not an option since they accepted the store credit.

    On credit card/debit card refunds: don’t make the return because you’re short on money for bills that day. Don’t expect the money to go back in your account for two weeks. It might be earlier than that, but things take time. I’ve seen a bunch of people come in and complain that they got overdraft charges because they spent money they thought had been refunded, but it hadn’t shown up in their account yet. You should always be checking your account balance anyway.

  9. Amry says:

    Taking advantage of a retailer’s desire to do the right thing for a customer (standing behind their product and taking it back if it’s defective) isn’t smart consumerism, it’s ridiculous greediness. You also seem to have forgotten or are unaware that in many cases, the manufacturer and the merchant are one and the same.

    Also, I don’t want to have to deal with your nasty worn shoes. Do you think they disappear into thin air after I take them back? I have to touch them and everything. Seriously. Gross.

  10. griffinu says:

    I know the author typically creates a fire when they respond to critics, however I wasn’t fully quoted. The line missing is, “Not that you should lie”. Perhaps that doesn’t give due diligence, however this information is intended for fair usage. The same goes for my information on getting discounts on damaged or incomplete items. I am not suggesting that you should always get 10-15% off everything you buy saying that it has damage. When an item is not in brand new and complete condition, then you are entitled to a discount. Some retailers take a “restocking fee” on returns from customers due to missing/damaged items and then try and resell it at full price.