10 Stores With the Best Return Policies

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Even the most thoughtful gift-giver can’t get it right all the time. In fact, Randy Allen – an associate dean for the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University – told The Wall Street Journal anywhere from 10 to 15 percent of holiday sales are returned or exchanged.

Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson wades into the world of retail sales and reports on which stores are most likely to provide hassle-free returns. Watch the video below and then keep reading to learn more about the nation’s best retail return policies.

To ensure your loved ones are able to exchange that too-small sweater or return their extra toaster, consider shopping at one of these 10 stores.

Nordstrom

Among department store return policies, Nordstrom is the gold standard. They take back any item at any time, receipt or no receipt. There’s no return counter: Approach any sales associate. If you need to return something by mail, they even provide postage-paid labels.

However, don’t make the mistake of confusing Nordstrom with sister discount chain Nordstrom Rack. The return policy at Nordstrom Rack isn’t too bad – you have 30 days to return unused merchandise so long as you have the receipt, original tags and a photo ID – but it is nowhere near as generous as the Nordstrom policy.

L.L. Bean

Another store offering a no holds barred return policy is L.L. Bean. The company says its products are “Guaranteed to Last” and will take back items at any time for any reason.

However, be aware you will pay a $6.50 return shipping fee unless you are an L.L. Bean Visa cardholder. Or, if you live near one of the retailer’s outlet or store locations, you could always make your return or exchange there.

Macy’s

Macy’s is another department store that places few limits on returns and exchanges. It promises easy returns, and the gift return policy posted online says you can return merchandise at any time to the store.

The only catch is you can’t return a gift for cash. If you have a gift receipt, you get the full purchase price credited back to you in the form of a Macy’s gift card. If you don’t have a receipt, you still get a credit but it is for the lowest selling price of the last 180 days.

Costco

Selling everything from caskets to cucumbers, Costco says it stands behind its products 100 percent. You can get a full refund on anything, but electronics such as televisions, computers, mp3 players and cell phones must be returned within 90 days.

For online purchases, the company provides UPS postage-paid labels. Customers can also return items directly to their local Costco warehouse and receive a refund that includes shipping and handling.

Zappos

You don’t need to worry about buying the wrong shoes online if you make your purchase from Zappos. The shoe retailer gives you 365 days to return unused products and will even pay for the return shipping. That means if those strappy heels don’t look quite as cute on you as they do on the model, you can send them right back – just don’t wear them to the party first.

Athleta

A division of Gap, Athleta specializes in workout gear for women. However, while other Gap brands will only take back unwashed or unworn items, Athleta lets you return anything for any reason. They will even pay for the return shipping and the cost to ship out an exchange.

Kohl’s

Hassle-free returns are the name of the game at Kohl’s. They will take back any item at any time regardless of whether you have a receipt. The only exception is gift cards, which cannot be returned.

Bloomingdale’s

Bloomingdale’s is another department store with a liberal return policy. For most items, you can make a return at any time. Still, some categories have restrictions. For example, certain special event dresses cannot be returned once the tag is removed. Mattresses can only be returned within five years and are subject to fees, and return freight on furniture is the responsibility of the buyer.

Target

While Target doesn’t go so far as to say it will accept any and all returns, its policy does promise to “attempt a return” on all items purchased in its stores and online. However, its actual return policy varies depending on what you purchase and its condition.

  • Unopened items in new condition can be returned within 90 days for a refund or exchange.
  • Electronics such as no-contract cell phones, computers, cameras and gaming systems must be returned within 30 days.
  • Music, movies, video games and software that have been opened cannot be returned but may be exchanged.
  • Open or defective collectible items cannot be returned.
  • Items purchased between Nov. 1st and Dec. 25th are subject to a 30-day return period that starts on Dec. 26th.

If you need more time, you could always make purchases with your Target REDcard, which gives you an extra 30 days to make a return.

JCPenney

Like Target, JCPenney has a return policy that varies significantly based upon what you’ve purchased and whether you have a receipt. Here are the highlights of their even-handed policy.

  • Most items with a receipt can be returned for a full refund or exchange. Returns made with a gift receipt will receive a JCPenney gift card.
  • Electronics, fine jewelry and salon appliances must be returned with a receipt within 60 days.
  • Other items can be returned without a receipt, but the refund with be issued as a JCPenney gift card in the amount of the lowest selling price from within the last 45 days. A photo ID is required for all returns made without a receipt.
  • Heavy or bulky items that must be returned via a truck are subject to a $49 restocking fee.

Those are 10 of the retailers with the best return policies in the business. What you can learn from this list is that even among the best, policies vary widely. So wherever you shop this season and beyond, always ask about return policies before you buy.

What are the best, and worst, return experiences you’ve had? Let me know below or on our Facebook page.

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Comments & discussion

We welcome your opinions, but let’s keep it civil. Like many businesses, we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone. In our case, that means those who communicate by name-calling, racism, using words designed to hurt others or generally acting like an uninformed bully. Also, comments that include links to email addresses or commercial websites typically aren't posted. This isn't a place to advertise your business.

  • ariont

    As someone else said, REI. Also, Bed, Bath and Beyond has a lifetime return policy I’ve put to the test.

  • April

    Glad to see that Sears isn’t on the list! I went to exchange a shirt that was purchased online and even with the order confirmation number and receipt number they couldn’t figure out how to do it. After 20 minutes we left the shirt on the counter and walked out. We will never shop there again.

  • http://www.doctorofcredit.com/ doctorofcredit

    Costco’s return policy is ridiculously good.

  • Trishy66

    Target is absolutely horrible! I’m surprised it made this list at all. They are tighter than tight on any return and give you 20 questions before they even consider. Terrible and rude on returns.

  • Jim Culver

    In my experience (3 times in the past 2 years), Target has the worst return policy. The latest was I bought a DVD movie. It did not work at all. I returned it for a replacement, which they did not have in stock. So, they told me I must purchase an equal amount from the SAME department before I left the store. No gift card would be issued. The previous time, I was returning a steam cleaner for my mother without a receipt. I HAD to purchase $178 worth of items before I left the store. Needless to say, I had to give my mother $178 cash.
    I’ll never go back to Target.
    Jim Culver

  • James

    There are a lot of companies with great return policies: Zappos and Experience Headphones 365-day return/exchange come to mind.