Target Would Rather You Return A Purchase And Buy It At A Lower Price Than Just Give You A Price Adjustment

Have you ever bought something at a store only to find out a week or two later that the store had reduced the price? Some retailers will be nice enough to give you a refund for that price difference if you show them the receipt. But if you want to take advantage of this policy at Target, you may need to return your original purchase and buy a completely new item.

Consumerist reader Jay was doing some Target shopping and noticed that something he’d purchased a few weeks earlier for $39.99 had now been marked down to $26.99. Not one to scoff at $13, Jay asked a store associate about Target’s policy for price adjustment refunds.

“She said to just bring the receipt in and show it to customer service, and that they would take care of it right away,” he tells Consumerist.

So he goes home to get the receipt, and on his way out the door, Jay’s wife suggests that he call the store to confirm:

I’m glad I did because this time the person on the phone told me that they could not provide a price adjustment if it’s been more than 15 days. That sounded like a strange policy so I asked her if that meant I had to bring the product, return it and repurchase it at the sale price? She paused for a second and slowly said, “Um yeah, I guess you can do that, but you can’t buy back the one you return.” It still didn’t make any sense to me, but went ahead and packed the product and brought it along.

As soon as I got there I went to customer service and handed in my receipt, asking if an adjustment can be made based on the sale. The lady checked the receipt to confirm I’m within the 90 days and began the process. She then said, “Oh it looks like you only have 15 days to do this and that time has past. What would you like to do?” Needless to say, I ended up returning the product for a full credit and repurchasing a brand new one at the sale price. Good thing I brought the product along with me.

Now this was a small product and bringing it back wasn’t a huge hassle, but I would be pretty annoyed if I had to haul back something rather large (or something that required assembly) just to get a price adjustment made. Not to mention, now they’re stuck with a returned, opened box item and I now have a brand spankin’ new product for less.


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  1. Cat says:

    Corporate policy is made by highly paid, well educated MBA’s who have no clue how the real world works. How dare you question their infinite wisdom?

  2. u1itn0w2day says:

    This would actually pump Target’s sales figures since the returned item would show up as a new sale if rebought.

    Sounds like someone doesn’t know how to make an adjustment or give the customer a partial credit.

    • AustinTXProgrammer says:

      Maybe their sales figures, but not revenue which has to be adjusted for the return.

    • Coleoptera Girl says:

      I think it has more to do with weekly ads and clearance items. You can get a price adjustment in both situations, within 15 days of your purchase. I think the 15 days is to keep people from getting an adjustment on something they bought, say, a month ago.

  3. qwickone says:

    Could you buy a new one and return the new one with the old receipt? Assuming it’s the identical item with the same barcode. Would that work?

    • MPD01605 says:

      In theory it should.

      • Coleoptera Girl says:

        I know of nothing that would keep you from doing so. Individual items don’t have unique barcodes or markings. If it’s clearance, though, make sure to scrape off the clearance sticker…

        • gStein_*|bringing starpipe back|* says:

          certain high-end items, like game consoles or computers, do have individual product serial numbers that are scanned at the POS.

  4. incident man stole my avatar says:

    Next time just buy the new one and return it with the old receipt.. so much simplier

  5. Bionic Data Drop says:

    Just make the price matching policy as long as the return policy. It’s not a difficult problem to fix.

  6. Sad Sam says:

    I’ve never gotten a price adjustment. I just don’t do enough shopping to be back at a store and notice the price has gone down.

    But as an avoidance measure, I do my very best never to buy anything at full price. I just got a great sweater that I had eyed before Christmas when I was doing my holiday shopping. Happy to come across it three months later at more than 50% off. Whoo-hoo.

  7. dragonfire81 says:

    I don’t know, I don’t think its fair to expect a store to give a refund because of a price change. You accept the original price when you buy the item. If it goes down after that then oh well, you should have waited longer before buying.

    • u1itn0w2day says:

      I must admit the op was beyond the written price match time limit so they are asking for a favor/exception from Target.

      But Target opened themselves to such a transaction by having the longer return policy. What they need is a 30 day price match policy. 31 days after someone bought something is less like to invite a customer back for a price match because a month later they’ll either have forgotten or lost the receipt.

      • AustinTXProgrammer says:

        Target doesn’t require the receipt if you use plastic and remember which one you used.

    • Chmeeee says:

      Most stores, Target included, have a price protection policy. Since they have that policy, it absolutely is fair to expect that price difference back. That policy makes me more comfortable buying it now instead of waiting for a potential sale, because I feel comfortable that I won’t feel screwed if the price drops in a week. If not for that policy, I may not have bought at full price.

      Also, the price protection policy is just common sense, for reasons obviously seen in this article. If you don’t have the policy, customers can still get the lower price via a return/rebuy, which has more of an impact on the store’s bottom line, since now they are out the price difference AND they have an open box item that they have to sell at an even greater loss.

    • LMA says:

      I’m fairly certain that some states have a requirement that if an item goes on sale within 30 days of the original purchase, stores must refund the difference.

  8. DigitalMariner says:

    Buy item again. Walk out to car, get old receipt. Go back inside and return new item with old receipt. Works every time, no muss no fuss.

  9. GMFish says:

    I wanted to exchange some shoes I had bought at Meijers for a bigger size. Instead of simply letting me exchange them, and they had the size I wanted in stock, they made me return them and gave me my money back.

    I guess I can’t really complain, because rather than waste my time getting in line and rebuying the shoes I simply left. But it was a little annoying.

    As far as I’m concerned, a retailer should do every thing in its power not to give money back. But what do I know about earning profits?! Nothing, apparently.

    • alSeen says:

      There is a logical reason for that. Inventory is normally associated with the POS machines. It takes a lot more work to sign in and adjust inventory manually than to just let the cash registers do it for you.

      • Liam Kinkaid says:

        An exchange transaction, where you ring both items, would keep the inventory correct. GMFish wasn’t talking about just swapping the clothing, he/she was talking about going to the customer service desk, letting them know what was up with the wrong size, grabbing the right size, then returning to the desk to have them ring up the exchange. The transaction would show one item coming in and one item going out.

        • Coleoptera Girl says:

          Different sizes are keyed in as different items. If the inventory was not adjusted, it would be incorrect.

    • caradrake says:

      I usually prefer to get a cash/gift card back for my purchase, then go get a replacement and purchase it. It saves time, since I am usually shopping for other things at the same time. I don’t like going through the line, explaining I want to get a different size, having to go find that item and return to the counter, only to wait in line again.

      • elangomatt says:

        This is exactly why I prefer to get a gift card. I don’t want to have to wait at customer service twice just to exchange something.

        • Phil Villakeepinitrreal says:

          Except that when you come back, they will often have you step forward as soon as they open a spot. Also, by taking that gift card and using it to buy the replacement, you just locked yourself in. You now have no valid receipt except for the gift card receipt, so if for any reason you need to be done with the product entirely, you can’t get cash back or a refund to your card. Your only option is store credit.

          • elangomatt says:

            Good point on the being locked into the gift card thing. I hadn’t considered that at all. I just said gift card, but if I was returning something it would likely be refunded to my credit card or cash instead of a gift card anyway so I doubt that would be much of a problem for me.

            As far as the customer service line goes, I don’t think I’ve ever been able to cut in line when doing an exchange just because I was there before. I suppose it probably depends on the store/employee though.

  10. ThinkingBrian says:

    Target is one of those stores that never ceases to amaze me. Sometimes its a good store and experience while other times they can’t honor a policy correcting for some people, they don’t price match their website or at least let you order online and pickup in the store for the price on the website and you never know in several cases what you’re really going to get when buying from one store to another especially in prices.

    That’s why I prefer shopping at other stores when I can. Too bad to, at least they know how to stock shelves.

    But in this case, this whole deal just cost the customer time, the manufacturer money for a returned and opened item and makes Target look stupid.

  11. GyroMight says:

    Where do all items returned items end up?

  12. ginnel says:

    Prices change. This is why they have sales. You wanted the product and agreed to the price. I don’t believe they should have had to do anything. How long are you going to expect them to do this? Sorry, I think you’re in the wrong.

    • elangomatt says:

      It would be logical to make the price match policy last as long as the return policy. You may have agreed upon the price when you bought it, but the OP is fully within their right to return the product within the return window.

      Look at it a different way. Say the OP bought item A for $39.99 and then returned it 18 days later since he decided it wasn’t worth the money. On day 20, OP notices that item A is now on sale for $27. OP thinks that item A is now worth the money so re-buys it. The end result is still the same, so would you say the OP is in the wrong in this new scenario?

  13. MikeF74 says:

    Make them do a pricematch if that is the policy. If it gets processed as a return, that will be a black mark against you on the shared database used by companies to deny you future returns.

    • ancientone567 says:

      They can’t deny you a return if you follow the policy of the store. Does not matter if you have 1 million black marks.

  14. amuro98 says:

    Costco does this. The reason being, the item you bought and the item that’s now on sale are sometimes considered different items via the barcodes.

    A clerk at Costco explained they do this because people would buy stuff on sale, then wait for the sale to end and return everything – therefore getting more money back than what they paid.

    By making different barcodes for “Item at regular price” and “Item on sale” they can avoid this problem.

    • caradrake says:

      Aren’t purchases logged by your membership card, so the clerk sees how much you paid, and thus how much to return?

  15. u1itn0w2day says:

    Curious how far beyond the 15 day policy was the op.

    In retrospect having the customer return the item and then rebuying at the lower price is apparently an accepted way of beating the system or the employees keeping their job by simply and evenly enforcing company policy.

  16. sdbob says:

    The price policy is fairly simple… x amount days ( I thought was 14) to get a price adjustment with the original receipt. Beyond the x amount of days, the system will not let anyone including the manager do a price adjustment. If you truly want to complain, call the guest service number.

    • nobodyman says:

      Nobody’s saying that the rule isn’t simple, they’re only saying that it’s dumb. I had the same thing happen to me: Target wouldn’t price-match a cabinet I bought 16-days previous, but they would give me a refund. Keep in mind that this was an assembly-required cabinet, so it’s not like Target can just put it back on sale.

      So it’s a lose/lose — the customer is annoyed, and the store has to eat the loss on a product that can no longer be sold as new.

      • u1itn0w2day says:

        The problem is equal enforcement of the policy. If that many people are being given exceptions either Target has to increase the number of days to get a price match or simply stick to their guns & 15 day policy.

        Sooner or later someone will be in line telling their story of it’s only the 16th day, 1 day over. They will be granted an exception to the rule. The next person only hearing part of the conversation-that an exception was made will wonder why he didn’t get an exception on the 20th day 5 days over. Or a different customer service rep will not grant an exception. Sooner or later a discrimination suit will come about. This is where making too many exceptions can lead.

        Also there are consequences to saving a few bucks. Even Target’s return policy says ID maybe required which means you could get placed into their serial returner data base let alone lose your privacy surrendering drivers license information. There might even be a restocking fee.

  17. GoldVRod says:

    I bought an expensive item from Amazon which was circa $500 and it weighed about 200lbs. About a week later it dropped to $350 and so I called Amazon and asked for a $150 credit due to the radical price drop.

    At first the rep said that wouldn’t be an option as they didn’t price match at the time but when I pointed out that I could return the widget at Amazon’s expense and buy the same item for $150 less with free shipping the rep agreed that was a silly route for both of us to take. Amazon then credited my account for $150.

    It’s nice when reps have the power of sensible decision making and don’t have to cow to an inane and clearly silly set of rules which would cost them more than the price adjustment.

    Yay for the River.

    • elangomatt says:

      OMG you mean there is a customer service rep that actually has the power to do something to make the customer happy?

    • anamika says:

      Had something similar happen to me with Amazon just yesterday. I bought an item on March 1st, received it on the 3rd. Saw the price had dropped significantly on the 4th.

      So I went to and opened a Chat conversation, the rep on the other end said they could not price-match and the only way to get the new price was to send back the old item and reorder the same at the lower price. He said they did not have the authority to do price-match, but he said he would make an “exception” so I could get a “full-refund.”

      Needless to say, I wasn’t too happy at the prospect of having to repackage the item and take it to UPS to send it back and wait 3-5 weeks for a refund.

      So on a whim, I “called” their support. This time I was pleasantly surprised; the lady at the other end said she could credit me the difference immediately since I had just received the item the day before. She said they can price-match within 7-days, but it was a one-time only thing.

      Moral of the story is NEVER to use Chat for help with any issues with Amazon, always talk to a real person, they seem to have the authority to really help you.

      • elangomatt says:

        Nice story, glad it worked out. I just wanted to comment on your “3-5 weeks for a refund” comment. I bought a PS3 on sale from Amazon this past Christmas. I ended up not needing to gift it since I was able to repair my old PS3 ($26 for the part on ebay!) so I sent it back to Amazon for a refund. I dropped the box off at UPS at about 5pm. Amazon received my package and issued the refund by 7am the next morning! I checked my credit card when I got home that night and it had been refunded there as well. So definitely not 3-5 weeks. More like 1 to 2 days.

  18. Sarek says:

    Target – now with K-Mart-style management.

    • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

      You nailed it. This is one of the reasons I rarely shop at KMart. I had an item scan at $1.00 higher than the price printed on the UPC ticket. I brought it to the cashier’s attention, and she shrugged and said there wasn’t anything she could do. I had to complete my transaction, take the sales slip and item to the service desk, waited in line, and had to fill out a form to get my dollar.

      So, they lost a customer. I don’t know why I should have to fill out a form to rectify the store’s error.

  19. maxamus2 says:

    Or just buy another one and return it with your old receipt you had in hand, no need to bring the old one in with you.

  20. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    What if the store raises the price on an item within 15 days? Would you want to pay an additional charge on your credit card, or have the store contact you for more money because you bought something before the price went up?

    I don’t agree with this policy. If you buy something at a certain price, that should be that. How many people would go back to a gas station because they bought gas at $3.79/gallon and 5 days later it dropped to $3.59/gallon. Would you ask for a refund?

  21. Geekybiker says:

    Seems like a dumb move on Target’s part however if too many people do this you know what the solution will be? Lower the return period to the price match period, not increase the price match period. People taking advantage of generous return policies always ends up in them being cut.

  22. ancientone567 says:

    Hell I bought 6 Dial for men for 5- each at Target. I walked over to Walmart and saw them for 2- with a 1- off coupon. So I returned all the items to target and they would not price match so I bought them at Walmart. My mistake was going to Target. What was I thinking? Oh ya they had alaway, which walmart was out of stick on. It is the only reason I go in that hole they call Target.

  23. madanthony says:

    Was the item on clearance? My understanding (as a loyal reader of Fatwallet’s Target Clearance threads) is that it’s always been Target’s policy to not price-match clearance items – because they don’t want people to buy stuff early in the markdown schedule when inventory is there but prices are still high, and then get a price match to a lower price for an item that is no longer in stock.

  24. cspschofield says:

    Speaking as someone who has done retail, every time I read something like this I remember something my first chain-store manager taught me;

    “The Register is called Point-Of-Sale. That is usually abbreviated POS, with good reason.”

    Because chain stores hire minimum wage workers as sales clerks, the registers are programmed to be used by none-too-honest chimps. Furthermore, most stores 9at least in my experience) do not have a manual, and training tends to be catch-as-catch-can. Registers are not flexible tools, because flexible tools would allow lowest-common-denominator employees to make complicated mistakes. Consequently, most stores have difficulty doing anything much more complex than a straightforward sale. Doing a tax-exempt sale often requires the manager’s authority and the sacrifice of a live chicken (close, anyway). Making good on a price-matching policy can range from difficult to nearly impossible,

    If you have any independent stores in your area, treasure them (Unless the owners are impossible. That happens). They aren’t big enough to have register systems nobody understands.

  25. kursk says:

    The store I used to manage had this sort of thing. If I allowed someone to do a return, I had inventory go out and zero money come back in. I was shooting myself in the foot. So in order to keep my sales numbers up, I’d have someone do a return with refund and then on the same ticket sell them the same thing at the lower price. That didn’t hurt my bottom line.

    It’s all about the way that accounting types handle their pos transaction when it comes to the store level, nothing else.

  26. Phil Villakeepinitrreal says:

    “Now this was a small product and bringing it back wasn’t a huge hassle, but I would be pretty annoyed if I had to haul back something rather large (or something that required assembly) just to get a price adjustment made. “

    Never necessary. Just take your receipt with you in that case, purchase one there, and immediately turn around and return it using the old receipt. Done.

  27. ecvogel says:

    The more ethical thing to do is to buy a new one at the cheaper rate. The nreturn the new unopened product with the more expensive price.
    Your way is also not very green as it may end up in the dumpster.