How Long Should You Expect To Wait For Refunds From Online Retailers?

We are now three days into the official Holiday Returns & Exchanges Season, and while those shoppers who paid a little more — and put on pants — to go shopping at bricks-and-mortar stores, it’s usually just a matter of waiting in line to get your refund. But for gift-givers who did their buying online this year, that wait for a refund could be anywhere from a few days to several weeks.

The folks at STELLAservice looked at the turnaround time at 25 of the largest online retailers for gift-buying in the weeks leading up to Christmas to see how long each site took to process a standard refund.

After ordering and returning a handful of items from each site, STELLAservice found that Amazon’s average 4.3 days to process a refund was the fastest.

And while may have screwed over a lot of customers by waiting weeks to tell back-ordered customers that their items would not be delivered as promised, the survey did find that the retailer’s 4.7 day average to get out a refund was enough to put it in a tie for second place with Of course, that company has a much, much more generous return and refund policy.

On the bottom end of the list, customers waited 14.3 days on average for their refunds while those who bought from Avon’s website, well… they are still waiting.

Also of note at the bottom of that list is, which was the fastest site in STELLAservice’s recent ranking of delivery times, was very near the back of the pack with a 13.3 day average for processing a refund.

Time for a Return? You May Have Less Time Than You Think []


Edit Your Comment

  1. daemonaquila says:

    Rule of thumb: No refund by day 25? Chargeback.

    • DariusC says:

      How does it take so long to refund something? Isn’t it instantaneous and only takes a few days for the bank system to record it? Or does it take a while for the company to actually issue a refund after it “issues a refund”?

      • Lyn Torden says:

        What the store clerk is doing is submitting the refund into a queue on the store’s computer. Someone at headquarters has to actually approve the refund (for what has already been returned). Then they put the approved refund into another queue on some other computer. Then some executive has to OK it. Somewhere along the way they have someone checking the customer’s Facebook page to see if they are bragging about how they are returning everything or ripping off the store. Eventually the approved, vetted, and OK’d refund is sent on to the merchant processor. And finally it winds its way through the banking system.

        All of this is now possible thanks to computers.

      • daemonaquila says:

        The problem is that companies don’t issue a refund right away, more often than you think. Some drag their feet as long as possible, even for the sake of defrauding customers who don’t realize how long it has taken, or don’t realize that they don’t have forever to do a chargeback. In other situations, individual customer service staff don’t have the authority to just refund money without supervisor approval. This just adds more lag. Never assume that a company is well-meaning, or that they haven’t dropped your paperwork down a black hole – protect yourself first, ask questions later.

  2. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    I think Zappos probably takes longer because returns are a much bigger part of its day to day operations than it would be for a company like Amazon. People don’t usually return books and DVDs, but shoes can always be hit or miss.

    • tbax929 says:

      I can see shoes needing to be returned more frequently than things like books or DVDs. Amazon’s policy is actually why I no longer buy shoes from them (and usually by from Zappos). They charged me a restocking fee on a pair of Fluevogs because they didn’t fit me, as if it was my fault the shoes didn’t fit.

      I argued with the customer service rep from Amazon since my shoe size hasn’t changed and it’s not my fault the shoes run a little small, but to no avail. I haven’t bought shoes from Amazon since.

      • Gally says:

        Aren’t you charged a re-stocking fee because the item needs to be re-stocked? Regardless of why the return happend?

        • tbax929 says:

          No. Amazon doesn’t charge a restocking fee on every thing that’s returned. They charge one if the return is the fault of the consumer (ordered the wrong thing, changed mind, etc.) My argument with the shoe thing is I ordered my size, which I’ve worn for 30 years. It’s not my fault the manufacturer’s shoes run small.

          • Gally says:

            How is Amazon supposed to differenciate between people who ordered the wrong size and manufacturers’ sizing?

            • tbax929 says:

              Simple. When I called to complain about being charged a restocking fee I explained to them I didn’t order the wrong size; the shoes simply didn’t fit. They said it doesn’t matter.

  3. Cat says:

    LL Bean should be above Best Buy on the chart, even if they are “technically” tied for second.

    Their service and products are stellar, if a bit pricey. And at least I know LLB will never argue, stall, or deny me a refund. BB, not so sure.

    • tbax929 says:

      I love LL Bean’s return policy. It’s one of the reasons I don’t mind spending a little more to buy my jeans from them. I know they stand behind their merchandise.

      Another store with a fabulous return policy is Kohl’s. I know they get a lot of flack for selling cheap stuff, but their return policy is stellar. I’ve never had them deny a return, and I get some sweet deals from them for being a cardholder.

    • Misha says:

      Or maybe they’re sorted alphabetically when there’s a tie. Try that one out.

  4. Dover says:

    The chart says “business days”, but I think all of the policies are actually just days. Big difference.

  5. SabreDC says:

    Someone needs to inform STELLAService that “thru” is not a word. If there are space constraints, I can understand using it but they have more than enough space for three more letters.

  6. Baphomet73 says:

    I must have been very unlucky when it came to refunds with Newegg. My one and only holiday purchase/return with them took almost 45 days to get approved and credited back to my CC, and another off-seasonal return spent three weeks in limbo before they even bothered to look at it.

    Maybe they’ve changed their policies recently. I wouldn’t know, as I haven’t bothered to shop with them for two years.

  7. newmie says:

    I have been a Newegg customer for many years. Recently, I returned something via RMA.

    Newegg says they issued a refund. Paypal says they never got any refund for my account. Of course, the Newegg rep kept telling me that they had issued the refund. No matter how many times I told them I did not get it, the rep would just say they had issued the refund. After many emails, the rep finally said she would check with accounting. I basically had to hound her until she actually made an effort to help.

    Newegg won’t budge, and Paypal says they never got it. Guess who it the loser in this deal! That’s right ….me.

    In the last 3 months, Newegg let someone open an account in my name, with my credit card number, yet a in a different state, and with a different email and shipping address. Then they let this person rip off my credit card with 3 consecutive identical purchases in the same day. Nothing seems odd about this to them, I guess. The card was only used at Newegg, so this is clearly an inside job in my mind.

    And, so, I only buy from them via Paypal now. But now they have screwed that up. And so now I will not buy from them at all.

    • SeattleSeven says:

      This is what credit cards and charge backs are for. Fraud protection and it isn’t your money that goes missing.