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Hassle free merchandise returns
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Consumer Reports

Hassle-free merchandise returns
Tuesday January 1, 3:00 am ET

Consumers are less likely to recommend a store if they've tried to return merchandise and walked away dissatisfied from that experience, according to a nationwide telephone survey of 1,024 people conducted by Opinion Research Corporation. "Easy returns are important in demonstrating flexibility and good will" on the behalf of the retailer, says Linda Shea, senior vice president and global managing director of customer strategy at Opinion Research.
To keep you out of the ranks of the dissatisfied, we've compiled a cheat sheet that details the return policies of some of the largest U.S. retailers of home products. The information could help you avoid a bad experience if you need to return an air conditioner that's the wrong size or a gallon of paint you don't need.

A number of retailers have made their return policies stricter. "Retailers examine and reevaluate their policies all the time," says Scott Krugman, a spokesman for the National Retail Federation, a trade group. "They balance the needs of the customers and also consider whether the policy is being abused [by consumers]." Wal-Mart, for example, toughened its policy several years ago and implemented a return-tracking system that signals cashiers when customers have returned more than three items without receipts within 45 days. Managers at the retailing behemoth's stores must approve returns signaled by the system.

After analyzing the policies of its competitors, Sears changed its return policy in late 2005 by tacking on a 15 percent restocking fee for some appliances, tools, and lawn and garden products that don't contain all the original packaging and can't be resold as new.

Costco, the warehouse-club giant, takes a more liberal approach to returns. The retailer claims that, with few exceptions, shoppers can return items at any time. The company even refunds shipping fees for items purchased online. Still other retailers, including Home Depot, Lowe's, and Target, either do not require receipts or they use systems that trace purchases made with checks or credit and debit cards.

HOW TO AVOID RETURN HASSLES

Check the return policy. You'll typically find the return policy for each retailer on signs near the checkout registers, on receipts, and on its Web site. Note the number of days you have to return items, policy exceptions, and whether restocking fees apply. If you buy and return items online, be aware that many merchants do not refund the cost of shipping, and you'll probably have to pay the return postage. To avoid the inconvenience and cost of returning by mail, see if you can return your online purchases to a walk-in store. The chart below details this type of information.

Save the receipt. Not all retailers allow you to make returns without receipts. In some cases you'll receive store credit, which could be based on a selling price lower than what you paid. To facilitate returns, hang onto receipts until warranties expire or for seven years if you need receipts to support tax returns.

Open with care. You might not be able to return some items, such as electronics, if you've opened the box and the products are not defective or if they're not in their original packaging with all of the paperwork.

Copyright © 2004-2008 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc.


     
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Anonymous on 2008-02-04:
MSCANTBEWRONG -- Very good info. Thanks for sharing!
GothicSmurf on 2008-02-04:
Great help! But I will add, it's up to the consumer to READ return policies before buying anything.

And I noticed the article talks about Target not needed a receipt (unless I read that wrong). Target DOES REQUIRE A RECEIPT. Thought I'd make sure for those reading this review.
Anonymous on 2008-02-04:
Good post and info, Gothic your right, again!
thensider on 2008-02-04:
see, even Consumer Reports agrees with us! ...Research shows : people who KNOW the return policies and UNDERSTAND them are much happier! ha! good post!
chris513 on 2008-02-04:
great info (VH!)
chemman on 2008-02-04:
Great info! Thanks!
Nohandle on 2008-02-04:
I had read this before and excellent idea bringing it to the attention to those who might have missed it. I still feel if consumers would display an element of common sense many of these problems with returns could be avoided. You want to return something without a receipt? I would suggest you shop frequently with your locally homeowned merchants. They recognize you by sight and chances are you even have a house account with them. Many of the box stores are beginning to rely strictly on a receipt. I expect those that don't will be changing their policy before long and I can't say that I blame them.
Anonymous on 2008-02-04:
Great review, very helpful!

Nohandle, do you really think people have common sense?
Anonymous on 2008-02-04:
Good info, MS! I especially liked the lines "Consumers are less likely to recommend a store if they've tried to return merchandise and walked away dissatisfied"; and "Easy returns are important in demonstrating flexibility and good will on the behalf of the retailer".

More stores should make the attempt to differentiate between a good customer who just so happens to not have a receipt this one time and a suspect who frequently returns items without receipts.
Anonymous on 2008-02-04:
WHOAAAAA! I JUST NOTICED I HAVE A STAR!!!! WOOOHOOO! (Sorry for yelling, but I'm so excited!)
Anonymous on 2008-02-04:
Great job Cherpep, in no time you will be at the three star table!
jktshff1 on 2008-02-04:
congrats on the star
MSCANTBEWRONG on 2008-02-04:
Congrats on the star cherpep!!!
Anonymous on 2008-02-04:
congrats! that was quick
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Consumer Reports Car Pricing Service is a SCAM!
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Consumer Reports Car Pricing Reports are a SCAM! Consumer Reports New and Used Car Pricing Reports do not contain any information or data that isn't already free to find on NADA.com or Edmunds.com or Kbb.com. And it's not updated regularly, either -- despite their claims to the contrary.

That's right, the consumer champion Consumer Reports -- the people who expose bad products and ripoffs to protect the uninformed, innocent consumer are themselves operating a total consumer scam -- charging $14 for information that is totally free to find online elsewhere. And good luck getting a refund. Their site's customer service section is obviously designed to brush you away from getting real help from a real CSR. I am never, ever going to subscribe or give a penny to these scam artists again.
     
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Sparticus on 2011-02-04:
I agree. Though I don't think it is a scam, they are just putting it all together in a nice service and charging for it (they are non-profit). But yes, most if not all of the info is readily available across other sites for free if you know where to look.
Augustus2099 on 2011-02-27:
Never use Consumer Reports ever for buying a car I research cars for my parents after they made two bad choices I made two great choices. Plus Consumer reports are wrong on the reviews on the cars they want you to buy a higher priced car that will not get the job done.
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