Best and Worst Return Policies for 2012 Gifts

Best and Worst Return Policies for 2012 Gifts Photo (cc) by vapour trail

If you fail to read a store’s return policy before shopping there, you could get stuck with an item that doesn’t work out. But if you fail to read return policies before gift shopping, it’s a friend or relative who could get stuck with an unwanted item.

Fortunately, just about every store’s return policy can be found online these days, and they’re not hard to read if you know what questions to ask…

How to interpret a return policy

In-store purchases

  1. What’s the time window for return? This is especially important for gifts. For example, if you buy a Christmas gift on Black Friday from a store with a 30-day return window, the recipient won’t be able to return it after Christmas.
  2. Will the refund be in the original form of payment? Some stores issue certain refunds only in the form of store credit – especially for gift returns.

Online purchases

  1. What’s the time window for return?
  2. If you return an online purchase by mail, will you have to pay for the return shipping? (And will the refund be in the original form of payment?) Most stores will make you pay to ship a return, which is why the next question is important.
  3. Are online purchases returnable to brick-and-mortar stores? (And will the refund be in the original form of payment?)

The best return policies

The following stores offer a return window of at least 90 days, provide a full refund, and allow online purchases to be returned to stores…

Costco

  • Time window? None for most items (the exceptions – TVs, projectors, computers, cameras, camcorders, tablets, MP3 players, and cell phones – must be returned within 90 days).
  • E-purchases returnable to stores? Yes – and they’ll even refund the shipping.
  • E-purchases returnable by mail? Yes, they’ll email you a UPS label, although you’ll have to take the package to a UPS drop-off spot.
  • Note: Costco even allows returns of Photo Center purchases that you’re dissatisfied with – just call 866-459-9284. They’ll also refund your membership fee at any point if you’re dissatisfied.

L.L. Bean

  • Time window? None.
  • E-purchases returnable to stores? Yes.
  • E-purchases returnable by mail? Yes, but you pay the return shipping unless you’re an L.L. Bean Visa cardholder.
  • Note: L.L. Bean never charges to ship purchases to you either.

Nordstrom

  • Time window? None.
  • E-purchases returnable to stores? Yes, with the packing slip and the credit card used for the purchase.
  • E-purchases returnable by mail? Yes.

Zappos.com

  • Time window? 365 days.
  • E-purchases returnable to stores? N/A (Zappos is online only).
  • E-purchases returnable by mail? Yes, if the item is in the condition you received it in and in the original packaging. You’ll receive a prepaid return shipping label.
  • Note: Zappos never charges to ship a product to you either.

Worst return policies

If a gift recipient wants to return your gift, these stores will only offer them store credit, so make sure the gift recipient is a fan of the store or avoid gift-shopping there…

Babies R Us

  • Time window? 90 days for most items (see policy for exceptions).
  • E-purchases returnable to stores? Yes, but only for store credit.
  • E-purchases returnable by mail? Yes, with the original packaging and any paperwork, but you pay the return shipping unless the purchase was damaged or defective.
  • Note: In-store purchases returned to a store are generally refunded in the original form of payment, but gifts are an exception. So even if you bought a gift in a store and it was returned to a store, the recipient will still only receive store credit – assuming they have a gift receipt.

Kohl’s

  • Time window? None.
  • E-purchases returnable to stores? Yes, with receipt. If you don’t have a receipt – or if you have a gift receipt – you can still return the item but only for store credit.
  • E-purchases returnable by mail? Yes, but you pay the return shipping.
  • Note: If a gift was purchased in a store, it must be returned to a store and can still be returned only for store credit.

Macy’s

  • Time window? 180 days for most items (see policy for exceptions).
  • E-purchases returnable to stores? Yes, with invoice, for most items (excludes area rugs).
  • E-purchases returnable by mail? Yes, with invoice and return form, for most items (excludes bridesmaid dresses), but you pay the return shipping.
  • Note: Gifts can be returned only for store credit, and food and gourmet gifts are nonreturnable.

Toys R Us

  • Time window? 90 days for most items (see policy for exceptions).
  • E-purchases returnable to stores? Yes, but only for store credit.
  • E-purchases returnable by mail? Yes, with original packaging and any paperwork, but you pay the return shipping unless the purchase was damaged or defective.
  • Note: In-store purchases returned to a store are generally refunded in the original form of payment, but gifts are an exception. So even if you bought a gift in a store and it was returned to a store, the recipient will still only receive store credit – assuming they have a gift receipt.

Karla Bowsher covers consumer, retail, and health issues. If you have a comment, suggestion, or question, leave a comment or contact her at [email protected].

Popular Articles

6 Tips to Age-Proof Your Resume
6 Tips to Age-Proof Your Resume

Finding a job isn’t easy — and it sometimes feels like too much experience actually counts against you. These tips will help.

9 Types of Retirement Income That Are Tax-Free
9 Types of Retirement Income That Are Tax-Free

Believe it or not, there are lots of things Uncle Sam can’t touch — so long as you play by the rules.

9 Expensive Cleaning Supplies You Can Easily Make for Pennies
9 Expensive Cleaning Supplies You Can Easily Make for Pennies

Find out how you can replace these overpriced cleaning supplies for just a few cents.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Trending Stories

Comments

958 Active Deals

More Deals