Borders Tells Me Returns And Exchanges Are The Same, I Can Do Neither

Quadmama wanted to exchange a pair of books she received as gifts, but the manager stonewalled her because she was 60 days outside of the return window. When Quadmama reiterated that she wanted to exchange the books for replacements, not return them for money, the manager told her that for the bookstore’s policy purposes, a return is the same as an exchange.

She writes:

Borders thinks returns and exchanges are the same thing.

When I was 9 months pregnant with my second daughter, a friend bought us some books from Borders. Two of the books were ones my daughter already owned, but since we had the gift receipts I thought I would just go exchange them for new ones. The next couple of months were a little busy to say the least. I finally got a chance to take my 2-year-old to Borders this past weekend to let her pick out new books in exchange for the two she already owns. I looked at the receipt to make sure there weren’t any time frames I needed to adhere to in order to make the exchange. Everything printed on the receipt mentioned returns needing to happen within 60 days if you had the gift receipt. Exchanges were mentioned, but only for items like audio books, music, videos, etc. not regular books. I thought, “Great, I’m covered since I only want to make an exchange of regular books.”

When I got to Borders, I went right up to the counter and explained that I wanted to exchange two books for new ones since we already owned them. The Borders employee said that she didn’t think she could exchange them since it was past 60 days. I told her that I checked the policy on the receipt and it doesn’t mention anything about exchanges of regular books, only returns. She said she’d call a manager over to see if there was anything they could do. I don’t know about you, but the last time I looked it up, returns and exchanges were different things. In the case of a return, you receive a refund when bringing merchandise back. When you’re exchanging something, you do exactly that; exchange one thing for another and pay any price difference. Their policy even differentiates the two, but they don’t make any mention of exchanging regular books.

A manager came over and reiterated what the employee had said, but then he added that, “When it says ‘Returns’ it means ‘Exchanges’ too.” Then why doesn’t it say that? I was just about to argue back when he said it wasn’t that big of a deal and they could give me store credit for the two books I brought back. Whew, crisis and angry customer with squirmy toddler leaving very unhappy averted. Perhaps Borders should brush up on their vocabulary and print their Returns and Exchanges policy in a way that actually differentiates the two and mentions regular books.

Here is the full text of the policy as printed on their receipt:

“Returns of merchandise purchased from a Borders, Borders Express or Waldenbooks retail store will be permitted only if presented in saleable condition accompanied by the original sales receipt or Borders gift receipt within the time periods specified below. Returns accompanied by the original sales receipt must be made within 30 days of purchase and the purchase price will be refunded I the same form as the original purchase. Returns accompanied by the original Borders gift receipt must be made within 60 days of purchase and the purchase price will be refunded in the form of a return gift card.

Exchanges of opened audio books, music, videos, video games, software and electronics will be permitted subject to the same time periods and receipt requirements as above and can be made for the same item only.

Periodicals, newspapers, comic books, food and drink, digital downloads, gift cards, return gift cards, items marked ‘non-returnable,’ ‘final sale’ or the like and out-of-print, collectible or pre-owned items cannot be returned or exchanged.

Returns and exchanges to a Borders, Borders Express or Waldenbooks retail store of merchandise purchased from may be permitted in certain circumstances. See for details.”

It would be helpful if Borders was clear in its policy about exchanges counting as returns.

If you’ve managed to exchange a book at Borders after 60 days, let us know how you made the magic happen.


Edit Your Comment

  1. rdclark says:

    The poster is trying to split hairs that don’t exist and she’s lucky the Borders manager chose to be generous. A bookstore is not a lending library. You can’t exchange something without returning it. She never had a case.

    • NarcolepticGirl says:


    • c!tizen says:

      Well, if you’re looking at it in philosophical terms, you’re correct… you can’t exchange something without returning it first, but Nietzsche didn’t write the return policy, Boarders did. In retail there is a very distinct difference between a return of goods (in which a type of currency is given back to the original purchaser) and an exchange of goods (in which a product is replaced by another product). There is also a refund in the case of non-tangible services, but that doesn’t apply here.

      Even their own policy above thinks enough about it to differentiate the two.

      • c!tizen says:

        … a little preemptive flame retardant here:

        I’m not agreeing with the OP, she was lucky they exchanged it. I was commenting on the “splitting hairs that don’t exist” comment. No hair splitting needed… they are two different hairs.

        And to all of those who tried to reply to me and call me out on it before my explanation, I laugh at your inability to post a comment right now.

        • TheUncleBob says:

          You know, I’ve worked retail for 10 years. We do a return via the register the exact same way we do a exchange – except at the end of the “exchange”, we then sell the new item.

          • RvLeshrac says:

            Did you code your PoS and Inventory Control systems?
            Have you worked with the vendors who contract to sell products to your chain, as well as contract for the return of unsold or defective product?


            Then that explains why you don’t understand the difference between a Return and an Exchange.

            • Destron says:

              When I worked in retail, it worked the same way. You returned the item and sold an item in the same transaction, even if it was an even straight across exchange for the same item. You pressed a button to put the register in return mode, you scanned the item, it added the item to inventory, then you hit the exchange button and ring up the new item – removing it from inventory. That second item could be anything, the register just charged the price of the second item. So using the example above of a Blu Ray and DVD, I would “return” the Blu Ray and ring up the DVD and pay the customer the difference in cost. Im not saying the OP is right she is clearly wrong, but most POS systems work this way now.

      • Jacquilynne says:

        In my experience, an exchange is only an exchange if the new product is closely related to the previous product. Exchanging a blu-ray for a DVD of the same title because you don’t have a blue-ray player? That’s an exchange. Exchanging a pair of pants for the same style of pants in a different size? That’s an exchange. Exchanging a book for a completely different book? Not an exchange.

        • Kitamura says:

          In the world of retail, an “exchange” can happen when two items have the same SKU in the retailer’s computer system, because their net inventory of said item remains the same when the transaction is complete.

          DVD for a Blu-Ray would be a return and repurchase because they have different SKUs, and probably different prices. The retailer would be adding 1 Blu-Ray into inventory and subtracting 1 DVD.

      • DanRydell says:

        Their policy only differentiates between returns and exchanges in the context of being more restrictive about certain products – certain products may ONLY be exchanged. Every other product is covered by the return policy – whether you return and buy another product at the same time, they treat it as a return. I doubt many major retailers have separate time frames for returns and exchanges. Borders doesn’t – for the products they specify that are exchange-only, they say the time period is the same. It defies reason for her to assume that books have no time limit on returns or exchanges.

      • Charmander says:

        And the 60-day window applies to both.

    • herbie says:

      This. Getting a book for another book is a return and a purchase – an exchange is one item for the same item.

      • TerpBE says:

        It even specifically says, “Exchanges…can be made for the same item only.” So why is there even an issue here?

    • sleze69 says:

      Call the Waaaaambulance. The poster clearly had enough time to read the books and then return them for something else. Borders is a bookstore, not a library.

      • kjs87 says:

        I can see how it would be impossible to read two books intended for children two years old in under half an hour; I think the return policy on those should have been an hour (for the slow reader) just to prevent this from happening. Or, giving birth and then dealing with a 2 year old and an infant at the same time can leave very little time for things like returning a pair of books. I’m more inclined to go with, “The OP is evil and was treating Borders like a library!”

        Though she is being unreasonable. An exchange and a return is basically the same thing, unless you’re doing an even exchange. The original employee did the right thing to try and resolve it quickly, to the point of getting her manager involved (and anyone who doesn’t understand the risk of getting your manager involved when it’s over a simple policy issue has never worked retail; my boss can breathe flames if I call on her for a customer who won’t believe me about our return policy). She got store credit. I don’t know why she’s complaining, unless she really just wants a language change on the receipt. Borders might as well start a publishing company of its own, given the length of the receipts already. Let’s make them longer?

    • Blackadar says:

      Totally agree with rdclark.

      The OP is trying to split hairs here. Frankly, Borders went over and above in trying to satisfy this customer.

      +1 for Borders
      -1 for the customer who is too lazy to get to the bookstore in two months to return the books (this ain’t an exchange, lady)

    • Conformist138 says:

      Agreed. Exchanges were clearly meant to swap one product for an identical replacement in cases were packaging would have to be damaged or removed to discover a defect. This is just someone who was “too busy” for over two months to make it to a bookstore for 5 minutes (just a refund, shop another time). Yeah, preggers with a small child, it is tough, but plenty of parents (single or couples) manage. Humans have raised wailing poop-machines for our entire existence on Earth. If something like going to a store is too hard, we’re lucky we didn’t die off on day one.

      We love to jump to “It’s just confusing” or “This is the policy, but I don’t think it’s fair” whenever we, the customers, mess up. Neglecting our obligation to return merchandise in a timely manner means we give up our refunds/exchanges. Being a mommy makes no difference.

  2. TinaBringMeTheAx says:

    The exchange policy clearly states it is “for the same item only.” Meaning an exchange for a defective item. Since books are quite rarely defective in that sense of the word, there is no need to differentiate between a “return” and an “exchange.”

    You can return the book withing 60 days and take the money and exchange it yourself for a new book, or just spend it elsewhere.

    Borders is not to blame.

    • skylar.sutton says:

      I disagree. I’m EXCHANGING one book for another book… just like I EXCHANGE this red polo shirt for that green t-shirt. Exchange does not imply defective in any sense of the word. A return means you want out of the transaction, an exchange means you want to stay engaged in the transaction but want different merchandise (be it same style or different).

      • craptastico says:

        actually, they specifically say that it’s only for the same item. reading comprehension fail for you.

      • stevenpdx says:

        But that’s not what the words mean in retail lingo.

        If you purchase an item that proves to be defective and want it replaced with the same item, the correct term is “exchange”, as in, “I exchanged this non-functioning iPod for a new one”. You don’t go back to the store and exchange the iPod for a digital camera. You return the iPod, get a refund or store credit, and make a new purchase.

        I didn’t find an ambiguity in the Borders return policy. Returns must be done within 30 days with an original receipt or within 60 days with a gift receipt.

        For exchanges, they only allow certain opened items to be exchanged, and must be replaced by the same item only (so, their definition of exchange is the same as I stated).

        Some items cannot be returned.

        What’s unclear about it?

      • coren says:

        They specify for the same item only. Since they specify that, let’s think about why would I want to take my copy of a book I just bought and switch it for the same book from the store? The only reason I can think of is the item I got was somehow defective. Maybe pages are missing, there’s a misprint, or whatever – but outside that, I can’t think of a logical reason to swap one thing for another copy of the same thing.

    • ajlei says:

      This woman is a bitch, and we get tons of people like her in every day. We’ll get someone who brings in a horribly damaged book, wanting to return it. No cashier at my store would ever sell someone a damaged book without a) a damaged discount or b) notating it on the receipt.

      An exchange is for the same item only.

      Ugh, I just woke up but people like this woman need to get a reality check.

    • pdj79 says:

      Not trying to be an ass because I totally think she is in the wrong, but the Exchange policy you’re referring to isn’t for books. They actually don’t even mention anything about exchanging books. Now, be that as it may, it is quite obvious that the return policy is also an exchange policy. To quote another poster…you’re splitting hairs at this point.

    • MaxPower says:

      The “same item only” is only for audio books, cds, etc., not for paper books. I think she actually has a case because in some of the policy it says returns, sometimes exchange, and sometimes both. Obviously if they are using both at once they see them as different events.

    • jefeloco says:


      problem exists between OP and receipt.

      I agree with others that and exchange is a return, the only difference (as far as reality and the store’s inventory are concerned) is that one gives you money/gift card while the other lets you get an extremely equivalent item (same product family).

    • bwcbwc says:

      I see what they did there. The explicit exchange policy is for ” opened audio books, music, videos, video games, software and electronics”. It doesn’t mention books at all. So there is no explicit statement of the deadline to exchange (as opposed to returning) a book.

      OTOH, as rdclark mentioned, “You can’t exchange something without returning it.” The policy about exchanges for the specific items is to clarify that you cannot return those items for refund, not to imply that there is an undisclosed policy for returning books.

  3. JJJJust says:

    I, personally, think of an exchange as taking a defective/incorrect/wrong color/non-fitting item back for the same item but working/as you desire it… and anything else (such as taking back a book and getting a totally different book) is a return and new purchase.

    I do agree some clarification is necessary, and in Googling, I see it’s not the first time this has happened.

    • tamaracks says:

      I agree with this. I think it’s pretty common these days that taking an item back to the store and getting a different item instead is really a return.

      It wouldn’t hurt for them to spell it out better, but I also think it’s crazy for someone to read that policy and assume you had unlimited time to take back books and get different books. Exchange, return, whatever, why would you think one gets unlimited time and one not?

  4. de4d5y says:

    I don’t really think Borders is out of line here. It clearly says returns must be within 60 days. Unless I’m confused about exchanging things, I’ve always thought exchanging meant switching something out for the same item. Not switching it out for different items. If she was exchanging them for the same books because of a problem I would understand her side of the story, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. I think 60 days is pretty generous of Borders for returning things, considering you could easily read a book a few times in that period.

  5. macdude22 says:

    No offense intended (ok some offense) but returning a book after 60 days seems a bit excessive, i.e. Borders is not a library. On the bit of policy quoted I don’t see where it says they will do anything after 60 days, regardless of the semantic games you want to play.

  6. the Persistent Sound of Sensationalism says:

    As far as books go, a return or exchange after 60 days might as well be the same thing. If you wait 60 days to exchange a book, any reasonable person is going to assume you’ve read it already. I see no problem with their policy.

    • greeneyedguru says:

      You can tell if a book has been opened/read by whether or not the spine is cracked. If it’s still pristine, the book is still new. Just saying.

      • mrstu says:

        Unless it was looked through a few times on the store shelves, or you read the first few pages and didn’t like it but left it open, or…… seriously, 60 days is plenty of time, it’s too bad they need a policy like this, but if you really believe that unlimited returns on books wouldn’t be horribly abused, you’re fooling yourself.

  7. Skeptic says:

    By “exchanges” Borders seems to mean exchanges for defective merchandise since you can only “exchange” for the **same item**:

    “Exchanges of opened audio books, music, videos, video games, software and electronics will be permitted subject to the same time periods and receipt requirements as above and can be made for the same item only.

    Borders does not appear to use the term “exchange” to mean return for credit or return to get new items of the same price.

    The receipt language could be clearer, but it does seem to support the manager’s position.

  8. fantomesq says:

    This is absolute nonsense. So the OP believed that she had an unlimited amount of time for her exchange? The exchange she was seeking was a return – she brought them books and got a gift card, so it falls under the (very generous) return policy. Otherwise the OP is free to resell on eBay or the like. The manager makes an exception and gives her exactly what she wants and she STILL complains? There is no pleasing some people!

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      So the OP believed that she had an unlimited amount of time for her exchange?


      Everyone’s arguing over whether an exchange is a return when in my mind it’s a moot point. 2 months is more than reasonable and even if it doesn’t explicitly say that’s the period for exchanges that doesn’t mean they’re obligated to have a longer window for exchanges than they do for returns.

      If the window for exchanges was for some reason smaller than the ones for returns and the OP had brought it back within one month only to be told they’re out of luck, then I’d agree that the receipt was confusing.

      As it is, there is absolutely no reason to think you have more time to do anything than the longest time period given on the receipt. Worst case scenario would be to say that you don’t know what the exchange policy is since it’s not explicit.

  9. Corinthos says:

    I side with Borders. Years ago when I worked at retail it would annoy me some of the things people would return out of the period. Of course I worked at Sears so management would be push overs if anyone would make a fuss.

  10. Skellbasher says:

    I think this distinction is clear.

    A return is taking something back with the intention of getting back cash, store credit.

    An exchange is taking something back with the intention of getting back the same item due to a problem with the original product.

    It seems clear to me that the OP wanted other products, therefore it’s a return ,therefore outside the 60 day return window. Borders is not responsible for modifying their return policies because an individual is ‘busy’.

    Frankly, a 60 day return policy on a book is VERY generous. As people have said, they’re not a library.

  11. Enriquez the Water Bottle says:

    Yeah, OP is really barking up the wrong tree here.

  12. blandname says:

    I really want to feel sympathy for the OP since she was pregnant and busy, but expecting an exchange more than two months after you received a gift is unreasonable. The policy was a bit badly written but did not imply that OP had an infinite amount of time to exchange a product.

  13. Kishi says:

    An exchange is for the same product- if you’re looking a different size or if there’s a defect. She wanted to return them for store credit. And the manager let her do that, even though it was past the 60 day limit, so why is there a complaint?

  14. quadmama says:

    Wow. I didn’t know everyone would be so opinionated. Thank you for your comments. I can see both sides now and see how some might say that this was a return and a new purchase, not an exchange. Nonetheless, Borders policy does seem a bit ambiguous.

    As to those that made mention, “busy” was a huge understatement. Maybe you’ve never had children and had a close family member pass away at the same time, but busy doesn’t even begin to describe what we were going through and why returning/exchanging books was not at the top of my “To Do” list.

    I understand that some people may take advantage of the system, but these were children’s books that my daughter already had, it’s not like I read two novels and wanted to return them like you would with a library.

    Again, thanks everyone for the comments and I’ll now re-evaluate what a return vs. an exchange is.

    • herbie says:

      It’s understandable that you’re busy, but you seem to think that as a result, businesses should just wait until you’re ready, whenever that is? Or maybe moms should get special treatment? I can’t really tell what your point is about repeating how busy you were. Hmm.

    • curmudgeon5 says:

      No one is saying that you weren’t busy. But that doesn’t mean you get a special exclusion from a store’s policy. You’re busy, you make choices, you deal with the reasonable consequences. There’s no special mommy exception.

    • TerpBE says:

      From the receipt text:

      “Returns accompanied by the original Borders gift receipt must be made within 60 days of purchase and the purchase price will be refunded in the form of a return gift card.”

      “Exchanges … will be permitted subject to the same time periods and receipt requirements as above.”

      I don’t see any ambiguity at all. Returns and exchanges with a gift receipt must be within 60 days. If you were beyond 60 days, this post should be praising Borders for bending their rules to help you out.

      – parent of a 19-month-old who has “taken the loss” because I was also too busy to return something on time.

      • quadmama says:

        You might want to quote the whole thing:
        “Exchanges of opened audio books, music, videos, video games, software and electronics will be permitted subject to the same time periods and receipt requirements as above and can be made for the same item only.”

        When it calls out specific products, it does not mention regular books. Just wanted to point that out = ambiguous as to what to do with regular books. What if I did want to exchange a regular book that was defective for one that was the exact same title? Where would that fall under their policy?
        My main point is that in one instance they say “returns” and other times they say “exchanges” but they never actually mention regular books specifically.

        • TerpBE says:

          – All merchandise in “saleable condition” be returned within 60 days with a gift receipt.
          – Non-book media that is *opened* (therefore not in “saleable condition”) can only be exchanged for the same item. Same receipt/time requirements as above.

          Now it doesn’t specifically mention “defective books”, probably because:
          1) It’s probably very rare to have a “defective book”
          2) Common sense dictates that if they sold you a book that was somehow “broken”, they’d let you return or exchange it within 60 days at least. If they didn’t, you’d have a valid submission for the consumerist.

        • Oddfool says:

          The identified items under the Exchanges portion only applies to the identified items (opened audio books, videos, software, CD’s, etc.) due to copyright laws. The store is unable to do a regular return for those. Too easy to copy and distribute, and simply return the item.

          Periodicals, newspapers, comic books, food and drink, digital downloads, gift cards, return gift cards, etc, are identified as non-returnable or exchangable.

          Everything else, not listed in either of those two sections, are covered as returns.

        • common_sense84 says:

          The receipt does need to have any info on it. They put some info on it to stress certain things. But their policy should be available by asking an employee or online.

          It doesn’t matter if the receipt doesn’t mention something, that does not give that item an unlimited return window.

        • It'sRexManningDay! says:

          I find it strange that in both of your replies, you fail to recognize the underlying reason so many posters are not really “on your side” on this one. It’s because regardless of how the receipt was worded, Borders’ manager made the right call and gave you what you were asking for, the store credit to purchase another item. You won! And yet you still frame the scenario negatively.

          It’s unreasonable to expect companies to predict every scenario in which a person might be asking for something not explicitly covered in their policy. In those instances, good companies do right by the customer and bad companies don’t. You got your money, and really without much of a fuss at all. The complaining after the fact is what’s rubbing us the wrong way.

    • qwickone says:

      I don’t think Borders does exchanges from gift receipts. You MUST return it if you don’t want it. You can purchase something at the same time if you want, but Return is the only option. That’s how I read it.

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      but these were children’s books that my daughter already had, it’s not like I read two novels and wanted to return them like you would with a library

      I’d think they’d be more reluctant to make an exception with children’s books than the other way around.

    • common_sense84 says:

      It doesn’t matter what you claim. You cannot prove they were not read. Also your busy life is not a reason to get special treatment. Everyone has a busy life.

      If you wanted to return it, you needed to go back within the return window. It’s as simple as that.

      I am sad for you, since everyone is going to mock you for being dumb. The consumerist should have never posted this.

    • rdclark says:

      What rubs me the wrong way is that nor only were you wrong, but that the Borders manager went out of his way to generously let you return the items anyway, against store policy — and yet you saw fit to take time out of your busy busy life to post a critical message anyway.

      This is what they get for being nice to you? IMO, you should be doing a lot more than just equivocating “well maybe now I see both sides.” You should retract and apologize.

    • kjs87 says:

      I think it comes from the fact that Borders did, in fact, give you store credit.

      I completely understand your position. Life was difficult for a little bit, there was a lot going on, and the last thing you had time to deal with was a return to Borders. Childbirth is draining enough, on top of having another young child to parent and a death in the family. Money also gets tight with more children, and when the receipt seemed to mean you had time to exchange books, you were able to promise your daughter new books; it’s hard to then turn around and say, “No, we can’t really buy books today.”

      As someone who works retail, I immediately read that receipt the way Borders meant it to be read. To me, it seems like common sense that if an item can’t be returned, it also can’t be exchanged. But if I hadn’t, and if I’d made that promise to my daughter, I would’ve been upset if I hadn’t been able to exchange the books for other books. I’m glad that the manager gave you store credit; that’s what I would have done in that situation (if my manager had let me and the books fit the bill in every other part of the policy). To me, though, this sounds like a question of the store doing right by you, and it comes across as bitter and ungrateful(that seems to be more on the editorializing of it).

      I think it would have been within their rights to deny you store credit based on the wording of the receipt, but I’m glad they didn’t.

    • Sparty999 says:

      I got your back… I think Borders has lost sight of what is important. People can say what they want about the policy, and whether Borders was right in the letter of the law, but they lost a few points in customer service. They made it seem like they were doing you a huge favor, and you still didn’t leave 100% happy. That is THEIR FAULT. They are a single choice among numerous choices… their job is to get you to come back, but will you? Did they do their job?

      • rdclark says:

        Apparently it’s not possible to make some people happy. If Borders can’t make her happy by giving her store credit for old books, I think maybe being unhappy is her choice, not something the store is responsible for.

  15. DanGarion says:

    Where is the confusion here? It clearly states that returns, which is what an exchange is before you exchange the item for another item, are allowed in the first 60 days. Does the OP just think that exchanges are somehow magically accepted forever?

  16. QrazyQat says:

    I rarely kick the customer, but this is an exception. She is in the wrong.

  17. aloria says:

    60 days is more than generous for returns OR exchanges for books, otherwise tons of people would start treating bookstores like their own personal library. Sorry that you were so busy with your new kid, but that really isn’t Borders’ problem.

  18. PunditGuy says:

    Phil has got to be the unluckiest editor at Consumerist.

    • herbie says:

      Or maybe he just makes lousy choices and writes terrible posts? It’s possible.

      • common_sense84 says:

        What is sad, is this the best stuff they get emailed? Are stores that great today, that no one has real problems with them any more?

        That is the only reasonable conclusion if the consumerist is filling in white space with stuff like this.

  19. parsonsdj1 says:

    The consumer here is in the wrong. If there is any doubt in your mind, replace the “just outside the 60 day period” timing with 5 years. Now does it sound ridiculous?

  20. 44Wadeable says:

    An expired receipt in as expired receipt, and they have expiration dates because people manage to scam retail establishments in every way possible — all the time. It sucks to have an expired receipt, but that’s the way it is.

  21. Kyle Nichol says:

    Even if it was an exchange the receipt clearly says that exchanges are subject to the same time period as returns. Borders is totally in the clear no matter how you look at it.

  22. skylar.sutton says:

    I won’t shop Borders after what they pulled last year the day after Christmas: no exchanges what-so-ever without a receipt.

    I received a gift (which had a Borders UPC sticker on it) which I had just bought for myself on Amazon the week prior. I figured it being Christmas and all they would understand when I didn’t have a receipt and issue store credit for the $10 book.

    I picked out about $60 worth of books (i.e. they were going to get $50 out of my pocket on this transaction) and went up to the counter. They flat out denied to do any kind of exchange without the receipt. I left the $50 worth of books on the counter and high tailed it out of there. I emailed Amazon with the story and they volunteered to take back to one with the borders sticker on it. Now THAT’s customer service.

    • TerpBE says:

      The “receipt required” policy makes sense to prevent people from scamming them. Let’s say Borders sells a book for $10 and amazon sells it for $5. I decide to buy it from both. Then I return my “amazon” copy with my Borders receipt to get $10 back. The next day, I go back with my “Borders” copy (it even has their bar code!), and want to return it without a receipt. If they give me credit for it, Borders has now given me $20 credit when I only spent $15 ($10 with them and $5 with amazon).

      Sure, most people wouldn’t do this, but they have to institute policies to prevent it from being done. As a consumer you have to understand that if you don’t have a receipt, you probably won’t be able to return something. If they let you, consider yourself lucky.

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      You bought it from one retailer and tried to return it with another.
      That’s stealing, no matter how you look at it. You returned it to the rightful vendor and got your money back.

      • JMB says:

        Can you read? He bought the item (from Amazon) and received it as a gift (from Borders). He tried to return the Borders item, but was told he couldn’t without a receipt. Amazon took the Borders book back and gave him a credit for it.

    • syzygy says:

      Are you kidding? You want to have Borders compensate you for merchandise you can’t prove you actually bought? Yeah! Let’s just ditch the whole receipt idea altogther! Nothing could go wrong there.

      Seriously, they’re better off without you.

    • ajlei says:

      We have a return window after Christmas where there’s usually some leniency when it comes to no-receipt returns.

      However, we are required to ask every. single. person. for gift receipts during the holidays. I do it year round. And if a customer indicates that it’s a gift, we always explain that we require receipts with returns. There’s really not much more we can do. I’m sorry you had a poor experience but that is not the norm.

      • skylar.sutton says:

        Normally I would fully understand the receipt required policy… but for the last 25 years or so retailers across the country have ignored that policy for the week after Christmas. You know, something about the largest gift giving holiday of the year and all.

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      The employees at Borders had no proof that the book was actually purchased. What if you carted it back from a shelf under your jacket so you could get a free credit? Lots of thieves do small time theft because they think it is less obvious, then they buy something because they think it will make it less obvious.. Then, they do a return a few weeks later at a different store and get all of their money back. Happens all the time. But you should get the benefit of the doubt because you are special huh?

  23. Hi_Hello says:

    It doesn’t say you can exchange books at all, so why would you assume you can? It does say return and exchanged maybe be permitted in certain circumstances. See for more details. doesn’t have an exchange policy…not that I can find…

    So I would assume you can’t exchanged anything except for the opened audio books, musics, videoes, video games, software…bla bla bla SAME TIME PERIOD and SAME ITEM ONLY.

    OP got lucky, border didn’t have to do anything for her. She should go back and thank the manager.

    “Exchanges of opened audio books, music, videos, video games, software and electronics will be permitted subject to the same time periods and receipt requirements as above and can be made for the same item only.

    Returns and exchanges to a Borders, Borders Express or Waldenbooks retail store of merchandise purchased from may be permitted in certain circumstances. See for details”

  24. anime_runs_my_life says:

    There is a way to get around this, though most managers won’t admit to it at Borders: exchange the title for a like item. The husband and I have come across titles we thought we didn’t have and found out we do a lot (happens when you move and don’t unpack right away).

    Most of what we’ve exchanged have been manga titles. The managers know us at our local Borders and let it go, seeing as we end up usually spending something to the tune of $100/mo each (that’s each person, mind you) on books (we do read normal stuff besides manga) and other items. Sure, it’s not a lot, but we’re regular customers and there are enough releases each week with manga that we tend to spend a lot.

    • syzygy says:

      What you’re doing is not exchanging, at least not as it is typically defined in store policies. An exchange is typically defined as returning an opened/defective piece of merchandise for another copy of the same product, not just a similar product, as you’re doing. It’s nice that you have an arrangement with the management at your local store, but I don’t think it was unreasonable for the manager in the OP to attempt to enforce their return policy in this case. In fact, I find it extremely praiseworthy that the manager decided to accommodate this woman, despite her blatant disregard for the store’s return policy. I have no idea why she chose to complain. Well, I do, but I’m going to opt for decorum.

      • anime_runs_my_life says:

        Six of one, half dozen of the other. As long as we’re not buying it, reading it and returning it like some manga cows do (and yes I’ve seen it happen, and have picked up some obviously read and returned items – the spines are broken on them), then I don’t see the issue.

        Now if it they want to start tracking our purchases by the rewards card we have, then there might be an issue.

  25. COBBCITY says:

    Not sure how this got posted since Border’s is 100% right and the OP is 100% wrong. When you EXCHANGE merchandise it is RETURNED to the store and new merchandise is take from the store of same value She also had no right to be an “angry customer”. She should have thanked the manager over and over for breaking the rules for her.

  26. sirwired says:

    She’s not exchanging at all; she’s attempting to return for payment in store credit.

    In any case, even if she was just wanting another copy of the same book due to a printing error, I’d still deny the return. It takes a pretty tortured reading of the policy to get it to imply that there is no time limit of any kind for exchanges.

  27. curmudgeon5 says:

    Is anyone else thinking, based on his posts, that Phil Doesn’t Get It when it comes to what consumerist is supposed to be all about? Or at least used to be all about? It’s not just about bitching about everything companies do. It’s about a more thoughtful approach.

    • COBBCITY says:

      “that Phil Doesn’t Get It when it comes to what consumerist is supposed to be all about?”

      This has been an issue for a long time. Many long time members have also pointed out things are put up at odd hours, like the middle of the night. Having experience with freelancers, I assume he is one and is paid by the post.

      NO IDEA why Consumers Union, a very well regarded company, has not read remarks about the Consumerist post quality falling and taken action.

      • Rectilinear Propagation says:

        NO IDEA why Consumers Union, a very well regarded company, has not read remarks about the Consumerist post quality falling and taken action.

        Because they probably aren’t reading the comments here and the commentors don’t bother e-mailing anybody their complaints.

    • herbie says:

      Ah, the ongoing Phil problem… I see more people are starting to take notice. This is a good thing.

    • NarcolepticGirl says:

      Phil might be playing the game.
      Maybe he’s picking the “bad consumer” posts on purpose.
      They get the most comments and page views.
      Plus it shows what kind of shitty consumers are out there.

      I think there’s a 20% chance he’s doing this on purpose. a 70% chance that he’s not and a 10% he doesn’t have a choice what article he covers.

      • syzygy says:

        If he’s doing this on purpose, the title of the article should be, “I Chose To Flout Borders’ Return Policy, And Was Accommodated By Friendly Manager”.

    • corrinavatan says:

      Yeah, a lot of his posts seem like mindless “OH A STORY! POST IT NOAW!”

      I don’t remember how many times I’ve seen the story and read it, then thought “Shouldn’t this be on ?”

  28. NOS says:

    OMG…. get over yourself!!!

    Borders is in no way at fault for anything. I would like to know why this post was even created.

    There are return/exchange rules for almost all stores out there. You follow the rules, you get a positive result. You expect a store to go FARRRRRRR beyond the rules and you should be let down.

  29. nbs2 says:

    I’d suggest the alternative to what the OP suggests. If the exchange policy is not clearly spelled out as distinct from the return, then it falls in line as the same. The exchange policy for media is indicated as being a rider to the return policy – that is, exchange for the same item is the only possible option.

    In the end, though, sometimes we need to stop and use a bit of common sense in reading policies. Trying to read between the lines to get ahead results in companies having to tighten up the language and reducing flexibility in iffy situations.

    In this case, I would have acknowledged my failure to return on time and simple asked that it be treated like a no receipt return, which the last time I returned something to Borders (Star Wars SE trilogy on VHS) was to offer the lowest sale price in the last 90 or 180 days – it’s been a while, so I’m not sure which. She would have gotten something and Borders would have been protected from a potential arbitrage scenario.

  30. Doubts42 says:

    As many others have stated, why does the OP think she can treat borders like a library. They would go out of business real quick if I could go in , but $50.00 worth of books, and just bring them back and exchange them whenever I wanted to.

  31. calchip says:

    I agree that the OP is trying to split hairs that don’t exist, and honestly, only people looking for loopholes would read and interpret the policy the way the OP did.

    I don’t thnk Borders honestly needs to clarify their policy, since I think almost nobody but the OP would read it the way she chose to. I do think what they’ve said about exchanges could be clarified, (“Borders does not accept returns for the following items, but will exchange them for identical items if defective”) but it clearly is not intended to alter the overall return policy other than to narrow it.

    The store manager was indeed kind to allow the returns. I probably would have done the same thing were I in that case, simply as a customer accommodation, but even after he did so, this OP still wasn’t happy, so I guess it just goes to show that even when you try to accommodate someone, they will STILL go and bitch about it.

  32. Big Mama Pain says:

    Borders used to have such an awesome return policy, but as is usually the case, a few bad apples spoiled the barrel. From people sitting around Borders all day reading magazines and books for free, to people outright trying to scam, to people treating book purchases like rentals, Borders had to do what it had to do. You can still treat the store like a library-60 days is more than generous with a return policy. One scam that was common (mostly perpetrated by employees) was to buy a book that was discounted at one Borders and exchange it for store credit at a Borders that did not discount that book. So you’d get 10 or 20% more in store credit than you spent on the book. That’s why the employees got their employee “discount” in the form of gift cards every month, rather than a % off at the register.

  33. brinks says:

    When you do an exchange, you’re RETURNING one item and buying another. It’s the same thing whether or not you just take it back for cash or a store credit or you leave with something else.

  34. kerrington.steele says:

    just pointing out a problem with the post itself (not the OP’s issue): she is not “60 days outside of the return window,” she is “outside of the return window of 60 days.” the first statement, written by Phil, means the return window expired 60 days before she tried to return the item, which (as far as I can tell) is not what happened here. an(other) example of how sloppy writing and copy-editing can cause confusion …

  35. qualityleashdog says:

    People with children that use them as excuses like this, I tell ya… They think coming in and blaming their lack of time on the children is the miracle excuse that absolves them of never having to fulfill their side of a contract or adhere to a policy.
    We all have things we need to do, or would rather be doing, but when I have a gallon of milk that went bad before the expiration date, I make sure I return it to the store before that date. It’s rather lame to come crawling in claiming, “yeah, it’s past the date, but I assure you it was bad before the date as well, but your store just wasn’t on my way, and I had to mow my yard and go to work…”
    I don’t work those excuses, being a good consumerist means playing corporate rules to your advantage, not using your children to get away with playing outside of them.
    Bet she had time to dump the kids on a babysitter and go out for dinner and a movie before that 60 days were up.

    • brinks says:


      I’m also entirely sick of people using their children as an excuse. I should go get knocked up so I can get a free pass in life.

      Kids are a hell of a lot of responsibility, which is why I have chosen not to have them. Just because you make that choice doesn’t mean you get a free pass to flake out or miss deadlines. The rules still apply to you.

      • qualityleashdog says:

        THANK YOU. Blogger Mommy is a little self-righteous. God knows I never experienced the passing of a loved one, a serious illness in the family or a car accident. So surely the funeral home told you “it’s on the house” and the hospital said “don’t worry about the bill” since you have so much more to worry about than the rest of us. At least you have people buying you luxury items such as books instead of having to scrounge freecycle for bassinets and carseats like many in this economy. And I am also childfree by choice. I would hate to have my hand stuck out to strangers or friends and relatives to support a child I chose to bring into this world.

        • quadmama says:

          You’re too funny. I’d like to know why you assume I’m a Blogger Mommy? Just curious.

          • qualityleashdog says:

            Blogger Mommy is what you were called by someone else earlier. Didn’t hear any objections, so I took it to be an agreed upon term. Actually, it was “self righteous over self important mommy blogger!”

    • quadmama says:

      Wow. Perhaps you should have read my follow up comment before you posted this. I absolutely adore my children and therefore spent all of my time with them (especially in the wake of their grandfather’s unexpected passing) instead of remembering about the books. Perhaps I should have shirked all of my other responsibilities as a good parent and a good wife to be a good consumerist? Right, the 60 days were spent living it up and going to the movies and out to dinner instead of consoling my husband and helping manage the estate of the deceased while raising a newborn and a toddler (total sarcasm, but you might not get that). Please don’t assume you know anything about my life.

      • Brunette Bookworm says:

        But surely you had time to get to the grocery store and buy necessities, right? Or maybe your husband could have exchanged the books for you in that time since you were busy having a kid and recovering from it? 60 days is a fairly generous time to exchange the items. I don’t know how far you live from Border’s but neither you nor your husband drove by it in those two months, ever? You got the exchange, after the time period to return books was over. You didn’t interprete the policy the way most do, you undertand it now, you got new books, you aren’t out money. Be happy instead of complaining. Thanks Border’s for working with you when they really didn’t have to. Those of us who have been in retail know that there are people who abuse the return policies so to prevent that, there has to be rules.

  36. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    I think the OP was trying to find a distinction that doesn’t exist. The fact that gift receipts allow one to get a gift card indicates that all returns are exchanges if you want to dig deep.

    She had a lot going on, the manager was able to override, all good! She should have started out with that approach and asked for slack. Otherwise she sounds like a self righteous over self important mommy blogger!

  37. EverCynicalTHX says:

    The Borders policy sounds perfectly reasonable to me.

  38. BStu78 says:

    OP is making a rather a bizarre reading here. Like most others, I see no lack of clarity on the part of Borders. She was trying to do a return for store credit and insisting on calling it something else so she could feel it was okay to do. The store defines “Exchanges” in a reasonable and very common fashion.

    Frankly, this is a “Store did good” story and I’m a little annoyed its not reported as such, but rather chastising the store for some invented semantic squabble that doesn’t really exist. The consumer tried to return merchandise after the store’s return period and the store accepted them. Yay store!

  39. MarkSweat says:

    Try another Borders, this time without the receipt. Just tell them it was a gift. Hope for better results.

    • syzygy says:

      So, if you can’t subvert the return policy one way, try, try again? That’s some ethic you’ve got there.

      • brinks says:

        A polite customer with a hard-luck story might sway a manager to make an exception. It’s certainly worth a try. Just don’t hold your breath.

    • BStu78 says:

      Borders already DID accept her return. See, people are reading the incredulous complaint and failing to see that the store made an exception in her case and allowed the return for store credit. Borders already DID a favor for the OP but because the OP was hung up on feeling wronged, that’s getting totally lost here.

  40. The Marionette says:

    The hell does her being 2 months pregnant have to do with the—– oooooh my mistake those are brownie points they tack on to put a lil more sympathy in their story.


    “Returns and exchanges to a Borders, Borders Express or Waldenbooks retail store of merchandise purchased from may be permitted in certain circumstances. See for details.”

    So people must have selective reading. It clearly says about the exchanges on there, MAY be permitted in CERTAIN circumstances. And it says to look at their site. It may not have the details on the receipt about exchanges, but it says their site does. If they were to print the exchange policy and make the receipt 3 ft long then there will be people bitching about the size of the receipt (like the “articles”s on here about shipped boxes being a few inches too big). Point is the receipt says about exchanges/returns, the customer didn’t bother to read into until the last minute and attempted to use a loophole, it happens a lot out there and it’s very sad when they customers get caught trying to do that.

  41. greeneyedguru says:

    Just take the books to Barnes and Noble, unless things have changed recently, they will let you return them without a receipt if they are new.

  42. meg99 says:

    Exchanges of opened audio books, music, videos, video games, software and electronics will be permitted subject to the same time periods and receipt requirements as above and can be made for the same item only.

    This is absolutely crystal clear in their printed policy ” subject to the same time periods and receipt requirements as above” The customer wanted an exchange outside of the time period.

    If they accepted exchanges after months and months, people would use them as a library.

    Why is this an article here?

  43. common_sense84 says:

    Borders is clear. Why would you post this. No one is going to agree with someone who wants to return a book after 60 days. Hell, considering how fast you can read books, I am amazed borders lets you return anything after 14 days.

    Borders clearly has an extremely generous return window. This lady is nuts for thinking you could return something over 2 months later.

  44. ap0 says:

    Another entitlement/victim mentality post. Come on.

    • RvLeshrac says:

      I’m still trying to figure out where all the anti-business articles are coming from. It shouldn’t be hard to be pro-consumer without whining about reasonable policies, most of which are implemented to keep costs from sky-rocketing. :(

  45. FS1 says:

    Having worked at Borders as a manager, i can tell you that the 60-day window is pretty generous. The manager will often make an exception on an outdated receipt, so that is even more generous. Funny enough, I’ve seen customers bring books back to the store for a return, saying they bought them “a while ago” and forgot about them, but don’t need them any more. I’ve seen such with a receipt marked two years ago, and another one without a receipt, but with Borders stickers on the back that indicated they were received in store inventory five years before.

    I made lots of accomodations and exceptions, but there are so many people perpetrating fraud in many forms, or just trying to pull a fast one these days. There is a limit.

  46. Amnesiac85 says:

    This article title is pretty misleading. Not only was the OP in the wrong, but Borders catered to her even though she was in the wrong. When a company does something right, and even breaks their own policy to appease a customer, it’s not so bad to say “Good job Borders, you went the extra mile.”

  47. Mary says:

    An exchange is when you change the same merchandise for the EXACT SAME merchandise. It’s usually because of defective merchandise or something of the sort.

    She was doing a return, where she returned some books for store credit and bought some other books with that credit. Even if she did the entire process at the same time, it’s a return.

    That said, when I worked at Borders the policy was that without a receipt you got store credit, so she should have just gone in sans receipt and taken the credit. It also was our policy to pretty much take back anything still in sell able condition for store credit, no matter the length of time or even if it had stickers on it proving they bought it at an competitor. If we thought we could sell it again, we would take it back and give credit for the least amount of money that particular book had sold for. With DVDs we would sometimes check to see if we had sold any of that particular dvd in the last year, and if not we wouldn’t take it back.

    But for the most part, we would do whatever would make the customer happy and wouldn’t hurt us.

    You can tell management has changed a LOT at that place in the few years since I left. I saw this kind of thing coming, which is why I left.

  48. UniTonsil says:

    So the OP misunderstood the receipt. I can see how that happened. The store manager was very accommodating by giving her store credit and she should have been happy it was done. She was just trying to warn people because she still didn’t understand the meaning of the receipt language. It’s not like she was writing to Consumerist to get more from Borders; in fact, she just wants Borders to make it more clear to people who aren’t as super smart as some of the commenters here.

    Some people take return to mean “get money back” and exchange to mean “get another item at the store so they still make profit”. If someone has never worked retail, they may not understand that it’s processed nearly the same way if you’re not exchanging for the exact same item.

    Can’t we all just get along? Here’s a Kirby dance to cheer us all up…


  49. Lali says:

    I worked for Borders for 6 years (2000-2006). At that time, the exchange/return policy was 30 days with a receipt (we did not have gift receipts back then). If you did not have a receipt you could still return or exchange an item (as long as it was still in good condition) for store credit. The catch with this though was this: The item would be returned or exchanged for a gift card with the book being valued at the lowest price the book had sold for in the last year (we didn’t know how much someone paid for the book and didn’t want to give people back more than they paid so it was fair). By the time I left Borders it was using a Wal-mart policy for returns, meaning they’d take it back no matter what (pissed me the hell off because people knew it and took advantage of it a lot). I’m actually glad to see that they’ve become stricter on their return policies. My guess is that the manager was going to take the books back anyway, he just was reiterating the rule so that the OP wouldn’t think she could use the store as a lending library.

  50. EcPercy says:

    You write a consumerist story because you were 60 days outside of the return window… Seems pretty silly to even post this story to be honest.

  51. Gaambit says:

    Gonna have to add my voice to the group that the woman is in the wrong here. I also work at a bookstore, and this kind of thing happens, not all the time, but often enough. Just last week I had someone come in with a book with a NOTICEABLE crease in the spine and a receipt for it from early May, and somehow she was angry when I explained to her that we couldn’t exchange it. She kept asking if we still sold it, and when I said we did she repeated, “Well, if you can still sell it, I don’t know why you can’t take it back!”, even after I explained how we can’t resell it (she actually ended up just leaving it with us out of disgust).

    Just because you have a receipt that’s old doesn’t entitle you to create your own return policy.

    • Sparty999 says:

      I’m sad that you are more worried about being right than retaining customers… Bookstore and Coffee shot employees are right behind airline employees for the worst customer service. Is your ego that bruised that you need to act like you are better than your customer? Sorry the English degree didn’t bring you the millions you thought you would be getting, but learn how to treat customers with respect or get out of the customer service business.

      • Brunette Bookworm says:

        What? You think stores should take back clearly used items just because? A bookstore isn’t a library. A good customer doesn’t try to abuse store policies by using an item for what they wanted and then trying to return it when they decide they are done with it. If they want to do that, there are places like libraries were you can borrow and item and return it.

      • kromelizard says:

        Customers who feel entitled not to pay for the product they have used are customers no business needs.

  52. Sparty999 says:

    Maybe that’s why their stock is at $1.29 a share, and 10 years ago it was over $40… poor customer service, loss of company focus… what a sad, sad story Borders has been…

    • corrinavatan says:

      Yes, and this has to do with Borders. Has nothing to do with the fact that ALL book stores have had their stocks drop in the past ten years (Barnes and Noble dropped 50 dollars per share in the past 5 years, just as one example). Has nothing to do with a burgeoning internet, less people buying physical books, more people getting their news and “magazines” online. Yes, looking at the fact that EVERY major specialist book retailer has had their stock drop, this is obviously the result of Border’s return policy and a woman who waited over two months to do a return.

    • corrinavatan says:

      Yes, this must be it. Let us ignore the fact that Barnes and Noble’s stock ALSO dropped (over $60 six years ago to less than 15 today) during the same time frame, this has to do with bad customer service, and has nothing to do with changing market trends and the burgeoning internet and the availablity of free information and literature.

  53. redwing41 says:

    What a moron.

    Aside from the fact that return and exchange are the same thing, you shouldn’t be allowed to do either at a bookstore. I think this lady was looking for the library.

  54. SJPadbury says:

    They must have changed their policy recently, as I’ve in the past (maybe a year ago) taken in books without a receipt, in saleable condition, and been handed a gift card for the lowest price the product was sold in the previous either 6 months or a year.
    Since they were gaming books, that were never discounted by Borders, this wasn’t really a problem.

  55. kromelizard says:

    Is he point of this update to be an object lesson in how not to act at the bookstore?

  56. Link_Shinigami says:

    Wait, he said exchange is the same as return, but gave her store credit, which is essentially a return… My head hurts

  57. libwitch says:

    Following posted policy is hardly cause for complaint – the no return/no exchange policy is posted in the store and on receipts. As someone who worked for Borders for 12 years, I was so *happy* when they finally made that a policy (along with no receipts, no return or exchange) – there was more then a “a few bad apples” spoiling it – we had Barnes and Nobles sending people over to do returns at our store because they wouldn’t take them. It was a nightmare. the fact is that after 60 days, the chances of a book selling (this is past the date a book is first released) drops dramatically, so the store will be most likely, loosing money by taking that back.

  58. HogwartsProfessor says:

    It’s perfectly clear.

    Exchanges of opened audio books, music, videos, video games, software and electronics will be permitted subject to the same time periods and receipt requirements as above and can be made for the same item only.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      Fark. Meant to add (but page went wonky) that even though it doesn’t specifically say books, if I saw that the exchange/return period was the same for all the items, I would assume it meant books too.

  59. Alex says:

    While other commenters are noting the wording — ‘for the same item only’, I would like to draw everyone’s attention to the ‘subject to the same time periods’ line.

    In English, that means, ‘Those time limits we just outlined in the paragraph above about returns apply to exchanges as well. You should be happy we didn’t print them all again ’cause then you’d have to waste another minute reading it….’

  60. PNW GIRL says:

    It’s not Border’s fault you had a busy schedule, or didn’t feel like a quick stop in while on an errand. Quit whining.