Retail Return Policies 2008: The Fine Print

Return policies in some cases are more lenient this year, but in others, they are more strict than ever. An example of the latter is the policy, that used to be called “easy returns”.  This year they could just have well have renamed it “hard as nails” returns.  Note the almost nastiness of the wording at the beginning:


Returns Must Meet ALL Applicable Criteria
If your returned product does not match all applicable criteria listed below, it will be rejected by our Returns Warehouse and returned back to you at your cost. Consequently, your RMA will be nullified, any credit request will be denied, replacement orders will not be made, and you will be charged for all shipping to and from our Returns Warehouse that may be incurred by By requesting an RMA and/or shipping a return in violation of this policy you hereby agree to accept our shipment of the return back to you and to the payment of all shipping costs to and from our Returns Warehouse. Our arrangements with our suppliers and manufacturers allow us no room to make exceptions.

Before you make a return, therefore, you better understand the particular store’s rules (including restocking fees), so you will know what you are  or are not entitled to.

Here is a list of leading retailers with generous regular return policies and those with extended holiday return periods (so you may be able to grab the after Christmas bargains rather than wait in long return lines just after the holiday).


Holiday Return Deadlines and Restocking Fees Jan. 31 (most items shipped 11/01 through 12/31). 15% restocking fee on open computers. Additional rules may apply.
Best Buy January 24 for most purchases Nov. 1 or later; Jan. 8 for cameras, gps, monitors, etc.; Only 14 days from purchase for computers. 15% restocking fees on certain opened items.
Circuit City Jan. 31 all items bought since Nov. 2; 15% restocking fee on open computers, cameras, etc.
Costco No deadline (but 90 days for TVs, computers, cameras, port. music players, cell, projectors)
Kohl’s No deadline (with receipt)
Macy’s 180 days from purchase; 10% restocking fee on furniture.
Marshalls January 5 (for purchases Oct. 26 – Dec. 5). January 31 for most items purchased Nov. 1 or later. Fees apply if opened, used, or late.
Sears 120 days if purchased 11/16-12/23; 30 days for electronics, software, beds; 15% restocking fee on electronics if missing items, built-in appliances, and certain special order goods.
Staples No deadline for office supplies. (January 10 for electronics & furniture bought since Nov. 28)
TJ Maxx January 5 (for purchases Oct. 26 – Dec. 5).
Target 90 days from purchase (15% restocking fee on portable electronics, digital cameras, camcorders; specially marked clearance items only qualify for current sale price).
Toys R Us 90 days most items (45 days for unopened electronics, video products, collectibles, more; if opened, identical exchange only).
Wal-Mart 90 days (15 days [PCs, portable players, gps], 30 days [cameras], or 45 days [PC accessories.])

Many happy returns.

That Unreadable Jibberish in TV Show Credits

For this holiday week, a change of pace to a lighter subject. Most people don’t read the credits at the end of television programs. Even fewer folks have probably noticed what appears to be a screen full of boilerplate language at the end of the CBS programs “Two and a Half Men” and “The Big Bang Theory.”  The microtype fills the screen and only appears for two seconds.  No one can read it, even if they wanted to, unless you can freeze frame that moment on the screen.

While the casual observer may have assumed this was some type of elaborate copyright notice, in fact, the screens of tiny white letters on a black background are called “vanity cards” authored by the show’s executive producer, Chuck Lorre.  And they change every week.

Here is the very first one he wrote in 1997 when he produced the show Dharma and Greg:


Chuck Lorre

Mr. Lorre has now authored over 200 of these vanity cards, that range from Seinfeldian rants about nothing, to chiding the brass at CBS for some slight, and everything in between.

Even the Wall Street Journal noticed his two-second treatises and wrote a story about them.  For a slide show of a few vanity cards, click here. His entire collection of vanity cards is immortalized on Chuck Lorre’s own website.  Enjoy.

Macy*s: When the Price is Wrong

Here is part of an ad for a recent Macy’s “one day sale” (yes, I know, they are never really only for one day):

Macy's items

(Note: the ad above is from the main section of the newspaper, and not the Macy’s color circular itself. But, it contains the same items for the same sale.)

While shoppers may have hoped to scoop up these items at the advertised bargain price, that was not to be the case. Why? Because most shoppers probably didn’t pay attention to the little “we’re sorry” box that appeared in the first few pages of the newspaper. It corrected the errors in Macy’s then current print advertisement (Dec. 6, 2008).


Macy's Correction

It is interesting to note that the five items mentioned with pricing errors were all advertised at a price lower than the correct price, so consumers will be asked to pay more than they expected at the store.

Cuisinart Food Processor $99.99 $149.99
Presto 20″ Griddle $19.99 $29.99
Stainless Accessories $8.99 $9.99
Tools Soup Pot $8.99 $9.99
Pyrex Baking Dish $8.99 $9.99

While it may appear that Macy’s is trying to bait customers with low advertised prices that they will not honor, it is hard to find a pattern in their corrections to substantiate this.  Many times, the actual price is lower than they advertise, and they correct that too.

The ultimate questions are, why are so many errors being made, and where are the corrections for all the other retailers?  Surely their prices are not perfect, and sometimes they run out of goods too.