Best and Worst Retail Return Policies

What you need to know about store policies before returning any gifts.

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Research shows that nearly $50 billion in merchandise is returned to retail stores during the holiday season. It’s a good idea to consider the return policy before you make a purchase. Stores with simpler return policies mean fewer headaches for you returning gifts you bought for the kids.

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Stores with the Best Return Policies

Macy's: Returns at Macy’s are the way they should be. You can return almost any item in the store for a full refund within 180 days. Jewelry can be returned within 30 days of purchase for a full refund. The only exceptions are rings that are not the standard display sizes of 10.5 for men and 7 for women. You can return items without a receipt because Macy's uses a sticker program to identify items in their system. They simply look up the items to confirm the original purchase. No more will you get just a discounted sale value back on a store merchandise credit!

Kohl's: Customers who have their receipts can return all items at any time. Kohl's does not have a time limit for refunds or replacements. If you have lost your receipt or are using a gift receipt, Kohl's will allow you to exchange your item for one that is comparably priced or they will issue you store credit. Sorry, you cannot get cash back without a receipt.

L.L. Bean: This retailer has by far the most generous return policy available. They follow the sentiment of the following sign, hanging in their Freeport store: “I do not consider a sale complete until goods are worn out and customer is still satisfied. – L.L. Bean, 1916.” Customers can send any item back, at any time, with or without receipts, in any condition…and still get a refund or exchange.

Zappos: The runner-up for best return policy is Zappos. Free shipping on returns made within one year. Wow! Need I say more?

The Worst Return Policies

Home Depot: Once upon a time, Home Depot had a return policy so generous, it was abused by homeowners and contractors alike. Finally, the company had to rein in the chaos, but perhaps they went too far. Today, most items can be returned with a receipt within 90 days of purchase, but there is a long list of exceptions. In addition, Home Depot allows each store manager to determine his or her own return policy. That means your return results can vary widely and will probably depend on the profitability of the store you deal with.

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Target: Target wins for the worst return policy ever. Not only is it complicated, it actually limits the amount of money customers can receive in refunds to $70 per year, and that’s with a valid receipt, within 90 days of purchase. Returns above that limit are paid by store credit only. No returns are given without receipt, unless they can find the purchase through a credit card lookup. What’s worse, it doesn’t matter what you paid for an item. If the price has gone down since you bought it, the store will only return the current price of the item.

Best Buy: The return policy at Best Buy is confusing to say the least. Items from different departments in the store have a different time limit for returns. Many items, such as opened computer software, are not returnable at all. Even if your item qualifies for a return, it may be subject to a restocking fee.

Barnes & Noble.com: Barnes & Noble.com’s return policy is not nearly as generous as the store policy. For in-store purchases, you have an unlimited time to return items with a receipt or gift receipt. Gift receipts are refunded as gift cards. The only exception is the Nook reader, which has a 14-day time limit.

If you buy online, you need to use your packing slip to return the item within 14 days, either shipping to a return address or bringing it to the store. Nooks, however, can only be returned at store locations. If you paid for any online purchase with PayPal, God help you. You’ll need to call 1-800-THE-BOOK for a return authorization number before you can get credit back on the account.

The bottom line is that you need to know the store’s return policy before making a holiday purchase. With the myriad of different return policies, it’s important to know if you can take that chia pet back and get cash, store credit or get denied completely!

Chad Fisher spends his time building and promoting websites for people to learn more about cheap apartments and has developed a free site for consumers to access car insurance quotes from providers in their state.