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December 29, 2008

Retail Return Policies 2008: The Fine Print

Filed under: Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 7:08 am

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.

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  1. I guess I wont be buying from anytime soon.

    Comment by Peter — December 29, 2008 @ 7:52 am
  2. the restocking fees are what bug me the most. I purchased a laptop battery online and it was defective (couldn’t hold a charge at all) and when I returned it at my expense I was charged a 5 dollar restocking fee. So apparently that company just restocked a dead battery and will make another 5 dollars when it is returned again. Nice scam.

    Comment by mitaliano — December 29, 2008 @ 8:01 am
  3. Now if only Circuit City could be as nice about defective merchandise. My coworker purchased a laptop from them only to have it malfunction. The hard drive was bad and needed to be replaced. They ‘generously’ offered to replace it with a nearly identical laptop, but with a slightly smaller screen and for only another $70. She ended up asking them to send it back tp the manufacturer for repair after returning it would have resulted in the restocking fee. Nice to know that a store holds customers responsible for defects. No wonder they’re going through bankruptcy. “Maybe you shouldn’t have spent your money here” is not a good attitude to take towards customers.

    Comment by Ron — December 29, 2008 @ 11:04 am
  4. In defense of, there is nothing wrong with the above posted notice other than the fact that the truth is not suger coated and fluffed up to help people’s egos. The statement says return only what you’re supposed to in the condition that it’s supposed to be returned in, or you will pay to have your junk returned back to you. They are fighting back against Ronnie and Rita Returner who keep costs high for everyone.

    Returns are a pain. I handle credits for returns at my company (not retail). “It didn’t work” can mean it really didn’t work, I don’t really want/like it and don’t want to admit it, or I bought the wrong thing and don’t want to admit it. It takes time and effort to handle and process returns. People will try to return things they didn’t buy at that establishment. People will tell you that “it was that way when I got it”. “But I just bought it a couple weeks ago”…. funny, your sales history says you bought it a year ago.

    I’ve heard it all and returned items to customers without issuing credit becasue I don’t want their garbage. I can’t believe that it’s taken retail this long to clamp down on returns and start charging restocking.

    Comment by Julie — December 29, 2008 @ 12:02 pm
  5. On target about Completely unreliable and shifty. Got a “refurbished” item that was missing a number of items, and no “statement” from whence it came. Ran through many emails, etc. and still a problem (month after getting item. Ready now to try canceling purchase from credit card. That’ll be my “re-shockig fee” for them.

    Comment by Bermie — December 29, 2008 @ 1:16 pm
  6. In regards to Target. Make sure to keep your receipt because each Target is different. The store policy REQUIRES a receipt for returns or exchanges. HOWEVER, many Targets will return or exchange the item IF the customer paid with a credit card, debit card or check as the store maybe able to look it up with that item. NOT all Targets have that system in place and if you don’t have a receipt you may not get an exchange or refund OR you may get the current sale price which maybe up to 90% LESS than what you originally paid.

    Comment by Mika — December 29, 2008 @ 4:10 pm
  7. It looks like somebody has to stand up for the retail merchant, so I will. Customers must realize that the acceptance of returns by a store is a courtesy extended for good relations, not a right. No merchant is obligated to accept returns. The acceptance of returns costs the merchant money, which comes out of their operating costs. Unfortunately some people abuse the reurns policies of some stores, hence the tightining of these policies. Having been the owner of a small hardware store and seen what people will do regarding returns, I am not at all surprised to see stores revising their policies. They are doing it out of economic necessity, not because they wish to cheat the consumer. Too many consumers have tried to cheat them and they can’t afford it.

    We should be grateful that merchants accept returns, especially gift returns without a receipt. Without a receipt they have no evidence that they had sold the product to the customer in the first place. By accepting a return, they are, in effect, buying the product at retail and then trying to resell it at the same price. That is a guaranteed loss for them.

    I agree that defective merchandise should be able to be reurned without cost. My suppliers always gave me full credit for defective merchandise Defective merchandise was usually discarded and not returned to the warehouse. Nobody wanted to pay freight for something which would be discarded.

    Comment by John P. — December 29, 2008 @ 6:19 pm
  8. Retailers are under no obligation to buy stuff back from you, so whatever return policy they have is gravy compared to what they are required to do by law.

    With that said, some of thier policies could be a little more customer service friendly.

    Comment by Shawn — December 31, 2008 @ 4:09 pm
  9. While stores are not obligated to return merchandise unless defective the fact is that (large) stores do not lose money off of returns. First of all, all stores markup their merchandise and secondly merchandise that is defective can be returned to the manufacture as a RMA. I owned a computer store and if a product we bought and sold to a customer was bad and returned to us within a certain period of time we could return it to the company and get a refund or replacement ourselves. We never lost money on returns EXCEPT for the cost of us building a customer computer.

    Comment by Mika — January 5, 2009 @ 9:28 am
  10. Bestbuy is playing games with their returns. I had an unopened Xbox 360 game with a receipt and all I wanted to do was upgrade to the full game package (Rockband 2). They refused to accept the return. There was nothing wrong with it except that I was 5 days outside of their return window. In fact they said the “computer wouldn’t let them” and that “there was nothing they could do about it.” Instead of spending $60 I wanted to spend $180. I was told too bad, not our problem.

    Comment by Mark — January 16, 2009 @ 7:54 am

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