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December 21, 2009

Beware Costly Restocking Fees

Filed under: Electronics,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 7:24 am

About half of stores that sell electronics and furniture have restocking fees on some items. That’s a deduction made from the refund you would otherwise be entitled to when returning an item to a store. Restocking fees can range from 10% to 100%. These fees are usually triggered by returning an electronics item that has been opened, used, damaged, or doesn’t have all the original packaging.

While many retailers and etailers are good about returns and about disclosing their policies by means of store signs and in the customer service section of their websites, some other sellers are vague about how much breaking the rules will cost you., for instance says:

If you return an item that has been opened or shows signs of wear, we will issue a partial refund minus both original shipping charge and return shipping fees. Products decrease in value over time. Therefore, we reduce refunds for returns you initiate more than 30 days after delivery or received at our returns processing facility within 45 days.

Well, how much is the partial refund? For most items, the company does not say. But if you dig deeply enough into their website, Overstock has very specific, hard-as-nails rules for figuring out how much they will deduct from your refund for returned jewelry and watches:


Jewelry and Watch Returns Condition Policy:

A Master Certified Watchmaker or Graduate Gemologist rigorously inspects jewelry and watch returns, which are subject to the following guidelines:

1. Excellent: 100% Refund (minus $10 inspection fee and shipping)

  • Falls within’s Jewelry & Watch 30-day Return Policy.
  • Pristine showcase condition. Looks new, unworn and needs no refurbishing.
  • Arrives in new, undamaged original box or case.
  • Complete with all original parts, links and accessories.
  • Complete with all original certificates, manuals, appraisals and tags.
  • No evidence of sizing, service, alteration, wear or blemish of any kind.
  • Items with Mylar tags must have the tag attached and unbroken.

2. Good: 40% to 80% Refund

  • Falls within’s Jewelry & Watch 30-day Return Policy.
  • Can be restored to “like-new” condition.
  • Arrives in new, undamaged original box or case.
  • Complete with all original parts, links and accessories.
  • Complete with all original certificates, manuals, appraisals and tags.
  • Sizing, service, alteration, wear or blemish of any kind that we cannot refurbish.
  • Items with Mylar tags must have the tag attached and unbroken.

3. Fair: 0% to 40% Refund

  • Falls within or outside’s Jewelry & Watch 30-day Return Policy.
  • Cosmetic defects that cannot be refurbished (e.g. gold plating or special finishes that are scratched or rubbed off and scratched/ripped bands of leather or rubber).
  • Missing or damaged original box.
  • Missing any parts, links or accessories (subject to evaluation for each).
  • Missing original certificates, manuals, appraisals and tags.
  • Significant wear or damaged but repairable watch movement.

4. Poor: NO Refund

  • Falls outside’s Jewelry & Watch 30-day Return Policy.
  • Items that do not match the serial number or SKU number of the item originally ordered.
  • Mechanical damage that is unrepairable or significant cosmetic damage.
  • Wear, blemish or cosmetic damage or damaged watch movement due to inappropriate wear or use.
  • Missing original box or case.
  • Missing parts, links or accessories.
  • Missing original certificates, manuals, appraisals and tags.

One can only assume that similar criteria might apply when they judge how much to give you back on an opened electronic item.

Other stores, including Brookstone and BJ’s, have some restocking fees, but do not state how much they are. And Sears equivocates on whether a 15% restocking fee will be applied to open box electronics.

The best advice: if you think you might return a particular gift, DON’T OPEN THE BOX.

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  1. It might have been here I posted this before, I can’t remember.

    One of my coworkers encountered an insane policy at Circuit City. Her laptop stopped working and Circuit City acknowledged the hard drive was defective. One of several options to her was a refund, minus a 15% restocking fee. How do you charge a restocking fee on an item you can’t restock? Unless……

    Comment by Ron — December 21, 2009 @ 10:46 am
  2. In response to Ron, maybe that’s why Circuit City is no longer around. Not that Fry’s is much better, but they are still here and very alive…

    Comment by blasher — December 21, 2009 @ 12:30 pm
  3. It is bad that Overstock makes it difficult to find out what its return policies are, and I agree that it’s best not to unseal an item from its packaging if you plan on returning it – that just makes common sense. However, Overstock’s policies don’t seem out of line for returned jewelry & watches, especially considering that they often sell merchandise that is distressed, aged or unpopular at its original pricing.

    Comment by Richard — December 21, 2009 @ 1:43 pm
  4. If the product is defective, give the customer the option of exchange or full refund. All packaging and parts should be in the box, otherwise a deduction could be made. If it’s simply a “I don’t want it,” and the factory deal has been broken a restocking fee should apply. After all, it can’t be put back on the shelf as “new”. I’ve seen situations where someone will buy a large screen TV on Friday and return it Monday after the Super Bowl and balk at having to pay a restocking fee. Retailers are not in the business of letting you borrow merchandise.

    In any case, the policy should be prominently posted.

    Comment by Doug — December 21, 2009 @ 7:10 pm
  5. Doug, you’re absolutely right- my brother was one of those people who would buy a TV before Superbowl and return it the following week. It’s because of people like him that restocking fees were invented.

    Comment by Sko Hayes — December 22, 2009 @ 10:57 am
  6. @ Doug: My father used to work for K-Mart in late 70s – early 80s and was appalled at the number of ‘broken’ lawnmowers they would get every fall. They would be clogged w/ grass, out of fuel, sometimes the blades would be chipped from hitting stones – and K-Mart would give them full refunds, especially if the customer was a friend of a manager. “Coincidentally,” these returns would always just so happen to come at the end of the summer. Of course that location flirted with bankruptcy numerous times before closing, any wonder why….

    Comment by Ron — December 22, 2009 @ 11:00 am
  7. We had to return two TVs in the past month, one to sam’s club and one to target and had no problems getting full refund. We bought a Vizio HDTV from target and loved it, then after 3 weeks the screen just died. we no longer had the box, the packing material or the receipt! However we had used a charge card and target took it right back. They did not have a replacement we liked so we went to sam’s and bought a magnavox hdtv. 2 days and the screen suddenly went purple! We had saved the box that time and took it right back and exchanged for a Samsung which so far so good. if this one dies we figure we weren’t meant to have a flat screen tv and will get out the old Zenith and hook her up.

    Comment by myra — December 23, 2009 @ 12:17 am

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