As the holidayseason nears an end, many consumers head back to the stores, but this time notfor more purchases, for returns. There is no magical inherent right to a refundfor unwanted purchases. Every store has its own return policy and consumersshould understand the policy before expecting a full refund. Stores are notlegally required to accept items for refund, credit, or exchange unless themerchandise is defective or was misrepresented. However, stores must complywith their own stated return policy – which should be sufficiently conveyed tothe customer pre-purchase.
“Consumers shouldunderstand a store’s return policy before heading out to make a return,” saidNancy B Cahalen, President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central NewEngland. “This may save consumers from the confusion of not getting back whatthey expected and they may reconsider whether a return is worth it.”
Whenin doubt, always ask the store about its specific policy beforehand:
- Can you obtain a refund, store credit or exchange for unwanted merchandise?
- What is the permissible time frame?
- Does the merchant charge a restocking fee or “open box” fee for returns of electronics or other large-ticket items? Remember, original packaging may be required for a return and the regular policy may not apply to sale or clearance items.
- Note when a product is labeled “as is.”
- When shopping online, look for the site’s posted return policy, procedures and time frames before providing your payment information.
- If you are a gift recipient, don’t assume that you have the right to return it; like the shopper, you are bound by the merchant’s return policy.
- Keep in mind, health regulations can also prohibit the return of such items as hats and intimate apparel.
Learnyour rights before spending your money – not at the return counter.