Without Receipts, Some Are Losing Money When They Return Recalled Similac

Jeff says since his local grocery stores put Similac on sale, his daughter hasn’t been able to get the full price back for the recalled Similac she returned because she doesn’t have her receipts. Without proof that she bought it before it went on sale, they will only refund her the sale price. “Who saves grocery receipts?” he writes. “My daughter was out $40 with everything she returned and repurchased a different product.”

There are some shoppers who put all receipts, great and small, inside 3-ring binders. It’s anal and can seem useless, but then sometimes it can really pay off.

Similac Baby Formula Recalled Because It May Contain Chunks of Beetle


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  1. Alvis says:

    If they refund her for what Similac costs now, can’t she just go and buy the same amount she returned? How is that a money-losing situation?

    • Vanilla5 says:

      If she bought 10 cans at $12/can and is returning them and only getting $10 back per can (because $10 is now the sale price), she’s losing $20 ($2 x 10 cans).

      She should wait until the sale is over and get the full price back.

      • stevenpdx says:

        But then she could buy the Similac on sale for the same price that was refunded to her .. and get the same amount of product. No loss there.

        • hymie! says:

          The Similac is being recalled. She’s probably not going to buy more.

        • Vanilla5 says:

          How is she still not losing the initial $20 she paid from the get-go? And – if there’s a big recall like that, there may not be any more Similac on the shelves, depending on if the retailer has decided to suspend stocking it for a while. Also, many parents will probably steer clear of that brand until everything is resolved, moving to an either more or less expensive brand.

          • Liam Kinkaid says:

            If she’s able to exchange for an equal amount of product, she is not out any money. Nor is she out any product. At most, she is out a little time that it took to exchange the product.

      • robocop is bleeding says:

        “Food for the baby” is not something you can necessarily wait for.

        Besides, many stores have not yet been restocked with the new, beetle-free Similac.

    • mobiuschic42 says:

      So, you don’t think it’s reasonable that a mother might not want to give her child a type of formula that is known to have had problems?

  2. Tim says:

    Why not just return them when the sale is over? By the store’s logic, she should get the price that the product costs at the time of return, so she should get full price.

    Or wait until prices increase above what she paid, and return it then.

    • babyruthless says:

      When I worked retail (though not at a grocery store) our policy was to process non-receipt returns at the lowest price the item had ever been priced at, not its current price.

    • DanRydell says:

      For returns without a receipt, stores usually refund the lowest recent price to prevent people from using sales to defraud them.

  3. Hi_Hello says:

    ummm couldn’t she just use the money to buy the one on sale?

    that way she return x amount of similac, and buy the same amount.

    or…just do an exchange?

  4. Destron says:

    Well, most of the stores don’t have Similac in stock because of the recall, and it could very well NOT be on sale anymore by the time they get it in.

    This is common practice however for a store to return something at the current posted price if you do not have a receipt. However, a good percentage of these people got the stuff on WIC anyway and are getting cash back for it, so those people probably don’t really care, they come out ahead either way.

  5. DanRydell says:

    FYI people the article doesn’t say it’s on sale NOW, it says the store put the product on sale. It may have been on sale in the recent past, meaning she can’t buy it now for that price. Regardless of current or past sales, it says she bought a different product.

    $40 seems like a huge amount to be the difference between the sale and regular price for any reasonable quantity of product. If the sale price is so good, I’d never be buying it when it’s not on sale.

    • Destron says:

      I have seen people returning as many as 10 cans of this stuff at a time, so if you factor the volume people buy this stuff in, it could be “on sale” for a 5 bucks ir so off every can and still add up to $40 of loss pretty easy.

    • jeffjohnvol says:

      It was RECALLED. Its not a bag of chips, its faulty baby food.

  6. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    “Who saves grocery receipts?”

    I do. I save all receipts. It’s CYA move in case I need to return something or there is a credit card or bank error/issue. I am amazed that there is a ‘no receipt’ option on ATM’s and gas pumps. It’s easy. Just put them in a box or drawer when you get home and occasionally throw out older ones.

    • chaesar says:

      yeah I save every one until my next credit card statement comes and then go through to check every transaction

      takes maybe 5 minutes total per month, well worth it

      • outlulz says:

        You could just check your account online or use Mint on a regular basis to look for any unauthorized charges.

        • There's room to move as a fry cook says:

          You solution is to trust my finances and records to a third party free website? I’ll stick with receipts in a box. I can’t take screenshot to Walmart to support my return.

    • zekebullseye says:

      I save them too. It’s come in handy on multiple occasions, like if you buy meat that turns out to be nasty, getting home and realizing that a can is dented or if you realize you bought the wrong thing. Plus, p & G had a promotion to get a coupon book if you spent $50 on P & G products. I pulled out my receipts and presto. I’m one of the binder people the article mentions but you can stick them in a drawer or a box.

    • myCatCracksMeUp says:

      Sounds like an episode to Hoarders to me.

      I dont’ save receipts except for big ticket items like appliances. I’m willing to risk that some grocery item I buy will be bad and have to be returned and that I’ll get less than I paid for it.

  7. DariusC says:

    OP: I lost my receipt.

    Consumerist: Keep your receipts.

    Case closed.

  8. Holybalheadedchrist! says:

    Returns without receipt are a f*cking drag, dude, but that’s life. I don’t really blame the store for that, people just get mad cuz it’s babies, and yeah, baby’s got no say. What’re you gonna do? Let ’em drink out of a creek or something? Damn, that’d be harsh.

    • MMD says:

      Regardless of who uses the product, this is a product recall and should be handled differently than a conventional return. The OP should get a product equal in volume to the one she’s returning, free of charge. Let the store take it up with the manufacturer if there’s a price discepency.

  9. Raanne says:

    um, who buys formula w/out a coupon? Geez – i must get 10 coupons a week for formula – each of the companies sends me little “packets” once a month that are full of coupons.

  10. Destron says:

    What really used to piss me off when I worked retail is people who would roll up with a $1200 tv or $600 computer and get pissed off about something like this because of no receipt, and that was ALWAYS what they said, “Who keeps receipts?”

    Well first of all, they are give to you for a reason, and by damn if I spend a couple hundred dollars on an electronic item you can damn well bet I am keeping the receipt even if I am normally not the type to do so.

    That being said, I keep the receipt to everything I buy for a period of time, even groceries, partly for budget and expense tracking, but also, I don’t care if its a $2 cake mix, if there is something wrong with it, I am taking it back.

    • Jimmy60 says:

      I do think this is the easiest technique. If you keep everything then you don’t have to think about what you keep. It’s a no brainer. They even get sort of sorted chronologically, the oldest receipts will be near the bottom. Having to spend a little time to find the receipt you need is better than not having any hope of finding it at all.

    • human_shield says:

      I don’t keep all my receipts. I DO file all my major purchases, like over $50, but for a $2 box of cake mix it isn’t worth my gas to drive back to the store to return it.

  11. Rachacha says:

    “There are some shoppers who put all receipts, great and small, inside 3-ring binders.”

    Neat Receipts scanner and software FTW. I got the portable NR scanner to process my travel expenses for work, and I am going to purchase the desk scanner to “store” old receipts and bills. Keep the original until the CC bill arrives and then scan it in and file it away. Receipts for big ticket items I keep and insert into the users manual for the product which I store in a file cabinet

  12. Mike says:

    In an ideal world this is how it should go:

    You should keep your receipt if you purchase with cash. If you purchase with a credit or debit card, the store should be able to find your receipt for you in their system. I know the last two retail stores I worked at we could look things up by credit card. For some stupid reason though many stores do no let you look purchases up by credit card. That is just lazy programming.

    • Destron says:

      It’s not lazy programming, its done as a security measure. For example, when I worked AP for Walmart, they take the CC info, separate it from your purchase info, and purge it from their system so they don’t have a whole farm of CC info sitting on the servers in the back of the store. They only thing they keep is the last four digits of the CC # which can be used to do a manual receipt search at the same store only, but you would still need to know the exact date you bought it.

      If you return something you bought with a CC (not a debit card) they CAN put the purchase straight back on your CC, but that is done with a reference number system they have set up with the CC companies.

      For stores to be able to look receipts up by a CC # means they are storing that information somewhere. Encrypted or not, that’s still a BAD situation.

      • AustinTXProgrammer says:

        This can be mitigated by keeping a one way hash code of a credit card for search purposes.

        On the other hand making changes like this to a large and complex transaction system can require huge amounts of work and testing. It would probably take $50k+ to implement this feature. If they can work it into other software upgrades it won’t be so bad. Give it time.

      • Mike says:

        “For stores to be able to look receipts up by a CC # means they are storing that information somewhere. Encrypted or not, that’s still a BAD situation.”

        Not true. You could easily keep the last four digits of the credit card and the full name of the purchaser and look up purchases in the system. I know people are super paranoid, but I would have no problem with the last four digits and my name being saved to make returns easier. I would take a chance on the unlikely event of my last four digits and name getting stolen if it meant easier returns.

        If people are so paranoid about their CC information being stolen, just use cash. Otherwise I would rather use the system to make my life more convenient and look up receipts using at least part of my CC number.

  13. Doubts42 says:

    Being a bad consumerist i don’t keep receipts for anything but large electronics or appliance purchases. That being said if my practice of throwing away receipts turns around and bites me in the butt that is my fault and my problem.

  14. truthandjustice says:

    I call BS on this corporate-think, screw the customer move. I would presume most grocery shoppers these days have loyalty cards. And the groceries are logging each and every item you buy.

    If they capture the data for THEIR benefits, then why can they not apply that data for the customers’ benefits when called for?

    This return policy without receipts gets lowest price we have ever sold it — at Lowe’s, Home Depot, etc., but those stores are not so loyalty-card driven.

    Can corporate America get any greedier? Groceries typically know what you bought and what you paid — so be fair with that info.

    • mbz32190 says:

      Wegmans (and Kroger, and I’m sure other chains do this but that is the two I know of) does this. They can pull up purchased items from the loyalty card, they leave automated phone messages about product recalls, and you can even look up your purchases through their website. I thought all major chains did this now, but maybe I’m mistaken.

      Either way, it really isn’t the stores’ responsibility to save that information. Sucks that she is out money, but I’m sure if she would call up Similac they may mail her coupons or something, if she wasn’t turned off by that brand.

    • 99 1/2 Days says:

      This isn’t greed, it’s to keep from being scammed. All she had to do was have a receipt. And FYI, not all grocery store chains have loyalty cards. I don’t know of one that has one in my town.

    • Gulliver says:

      Where did anybody say this was a large corporation she bought the formula from? You made an assumption about where she bought it and the level of responsibility. What if it was a one unit store in her town? I guess that guy is supposed to trust whatever she SAYS she paid for it? If you can’t be bothered to keep your receipts, then I can’t be bothered to determine what you actually paid for it, hence you get the lowest price I offered it for. Don’t like that? Keep you receipt.

  15. JayPhat says:

    Is that a CVS receipt? Cause by the length I would guess so. I just returned a bunch of formula for several people when the recall went out and was glad to do so because abbott’s is giving a full credit to us for it. Moreso, we just put the liqud formula 30% off because abbotts doesn’t want you to get totally screwed on the difference between liquid and powder. Where the hell did she take the formula back to that had it on sale? During a recall no less.

    • JayPhat says:

      I re-read the article and it made more sense. His daughter was out $40 with the difference between what the powder costs and what the liquid costs to get the same equivalent. That makes WAY more sense because the liquid is ready to go. The powder is a buying in bulk equivalent. To the OP I say tough luck, it sucks but it happens. You can always try another brand.

  16. The Marionette says:

    “Who saves grocery receipts?”

    That’s one of several stories I’ve read on here that the consumer tries to justify their mistake with a question. I can say almost nobody saves their receipts. Regardless of that, if a place (this grocery store) requires a receipt for returns, then they require it. The rules can’t be bent because of “who saves grocery receipts?” That’s like someone changing lanes on a street and doesn’t check their mirror, they hit someone and say “well who checks their mirrors?”. Store is right on this one.

    • jeffjohnvol says:

      I’m the OP. I would agree, but given it is a recalled product, you think they would honor the price that the product was selling for at the time, especially since the lot number on the can matched the recalled lot.

      I’m not talking about returning a can of tomatoes, its returning a baby food product that made my granddaughter’s cry with stomach pain, ( according to my daughter.) and was recalled by the manufacturer.

      • jeffjohnvol says:

        The article didn’t say the store that I reported in my original email, so maybe they aren’t allowed to say, but I can say that chances are that Kristin had her receipt when she left the store, because this particular retailer is famous for checking.

        • The Marionette says:

          Well that’s the thing, regardless if they check the receipts, if you don’t have one when you return something then they don’t know if you bought it from there or not. They could however try to cross check it by scanning the barcode and check if it was once there, but i can tell you that’s not fairly easy.

          Also if it was a manufacturer’s recall, the company who makes the baby formula is responsible for refunds, not necessarily the store, or even company you got it from. At most all the store could do is give you back the current value of it, which since she tried returning the items during a sale, that’s all they could give her. I think some suggested she wait until after the sale, which I think is a fairly smart idea.

  17. Dominikanfrank says:

    Shes lucky they’re even giving a refund at all! Baby milk is many times given out through State Paid WIC Checks, and to receive your money back on that without a receipt can be very difficult in a lot of locations

    • Destron says:

      Your correct on that, stores will not take back food or possible wic items without a receipt because they have to verify that you did not purchase the item with wic or food stamps.

      In the case of a recall however they are required to take it back not matter how the person paid

  18. crazydavythe1st says:

    It’s worth it to save grocery receipts. Plus by doing that, I’ve been able to completely scope out what generics are good and which aren’t without it costing me anything since pretty much every grocery store takes opened generic food if you’re dissatisfied.

  19. macoan says:

    Sorry, but I agree with store.

    If the customer DOES NOT have a receipt, then they can only get the refund for the lowest price the item was.

    Think about it for about 10 seconds.

    If not, then you would have TONS of people buying things on sale… just to return the items when the sale is over. (and do that over and over and over and over and over and over and over again…. and then some more.)

    I save all my receipts. Last time I bought shoes, I kept the box – and just throw in all my receipts into it. I don’t spend time organizing it since I will most likely never need it – but I do have them in case I do. No extra work involved.

  20. CBenji says:

    Years ago I bought a car seat from a store called Ames. There was a recall on it, and the manufacturer let you bring it back even if you used it. I remember the lady at the register acted like I was taking the money out of her own wallet. “Most people bought these when they were on sale. I don’t know why they are giving everyone full price for them.” I seriously wanted to punch this little witch, but I kept my cool. The manager told her they were being reimbursed or some nonsense. I should have snarled at her. As I recall in the early 90’s it was around $79.00, and it was a big expense for a car seat. I am sure all these Similac people saved every receipt they ever got.

  21. supersat says:

    If she bought the Similac with plastic, they might be able to look up the transaction based on the card number. Some stores (including Target, I think) even advertise that they can do this.

  22. CBenji says:

    When my daughter was on formula I could not get WIC, and I lived near the New York border. In New York milk products were much cheaper than in PA so naturally I would buy cases of the half diluted formula in NY. I usually had the baby with me so when I came in for three cases they were ok about it, but once they said something about it. They said that sometimes people smuggle stuff in formula. I have no idea what you could smuggle in liquid cans, but it was a good .30 cents cheaper a can by driving those extra miles. Of course their groceries were cheaper too.

    I do know about WIC as people in my family have gotten it, but I have never been so lucky.

  23. steveliv says:

    Similac is also accepting returns. You just tell them how many containers you have, and they will send a fedex label for you to ship them back. They will then reimburse you MSRP for each container (which is going to better than the sale price). We are using Wal-Mart’s Parents Choice formula powder, it is the same as similac, same quantity, but half the price…

  24. Mr.DuckSauce says:

    I save receipts because I know how they work.

  25. freelunch says:

    You don’t have to bother with binders… just designate a drawer near the entryway as the ‘receipt drawer’ and drop all receipts in it.

  26. Gulliver says:

    Is this about the point where a “I make my own formula at home” comment is appropriate?

  27. desterion says:

    Stores do this because people scam them. They give you whatever the current price of the item is. Meaning…. that if the OP’s daughter waited until the sale was over to return everything, she’d have gotten full price.

  28. goldilockz says:

    I completely understand why the store did that. They can’t just go on the word of every customer that insists they bought a sale item at full price BEFORE the sale… and formula is very expensive. I always keep the receipts when I buy formula. Other stuff not so much, but always with formula.

  29. merekat says:

    It never ceases to amaze me how much Mama Hate boils forth whenever a story about a parent crops up on Consumerist. “Who doesn’t keep receipts?” “Just buy different formula.” I wonder how many of you folks saying that have had kids yourself. People with babies sometimes find it difficult to keep up on such mundane things as receipts. Cut us some slack. We’re just trying to raise the next generation of society here.

    I have a nine month old, and she drinks Similac. If she were a newborn, I would be a little more freaked out about the recall, because when you have your first baby, you want to do everything correctly.

    Obstetricians and hospitals in this area really push Similac, and they sent me a ton of samples and $5.00 formula checks when I had my kid. Also, some kids do not react well to being switched to a new formula. Yes, you can buy the ready to drink formula, but it is super expensive and not available in all formulations. I spent 15 minutes in the baby aisle at Krogers Friday night trying to find the best alternative to what my kid had been on. Luckily, she is not picky about what she eats, and she did not have a bad reaction to the change.

    Abbott Labs has been really great dealing with this. I called Saturday just to double check that my daughter’s formula was recalled, and got right through on the hotline. Not only that, but I was told I could return empty containers for a refund. Unfortunately, when I tried to do that at Babies R Us, they refused to accept it, so I’ll be sending it directly to Abbott (good thing too – since BRU only paid the sale price so they could make some money off of this). Once Abbott gets this straightened out, I will definitely be switching back.

  30. jeffjohnvol says:

    I’m the OP. She and her husband are getting by, formula is expensive, and she didn’t have the funds to restock with a different product, especially since all the other stuff was disappearing off the shelves. It was a bit of a panic for her and my son in law. Oh, and it was Walmart.

  31. webweazel says:

    It’s easy to save receipts if you have somewhere specific to put them all the time. In our kitchen, we use a spike. Every receipt that comes in the house gets stuck on it. It’s checked against bank statements at the NEXT month, so all receipts are held for at least 30 days, then the unnecessary ones are weeded out and trashed. Any that have warranties are stapled directly to the warranties and filed accordingly. Other ones with small electronics, tools, etc. I write the pertinent retunable/breakable item on the top of the receipt and stick it in a shoebox. Writing it at the top of the receipt saves time if you need to dig through later looking for something.
    Saved our asses WAY more than once. The extra effort is actually worth it.