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10 stores with the best return policies

You won't have to worry about signing away your firstborn to make a return at these stores.

By MSN Money Partner Nov 20, 2013 1:24PM

This post comes from Maryalene LaPonsie at partner site Money Talks News.

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyEven the most thoughtful gift-giver can’t get it right all the time. In fact, Randy Allen – an associate dean for the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University – told The Wall Street Journal anywhere from 10 to 15 percent of holiday sales are returned or exchanged.

But return policies aren't created equal. So it's something you should take into account whenever purchasing something that may be returned - especially gifts. So which stores are the nation's best when it comes to hassle-free returns? 



To ensure your loved ones are able to exchange that too-small sweater or return their extra toaster, consider shopping at one of these 10 stores.


Among department store return policies, Nordstrom is the gold standard. They take back any item at any time, receipt or no receipt. There's no return counter: Approach any sales associate. If you need to return something by mail, they even provide postage-paid labels.

However, don't make the mistake of confusing Nordstrom with sister discount chain Nordstrom Rack. The return policy at Nordstrom Rack isn't too bad – you have 30 days to return unused merchandise so long as you have the receipt, original tags and a photo ID – but it is nowhere near as generous as the Nordstrom policy.

L.L. Bean

Another store offering a no holds barred return policy is L.L. Bean. The company says its products are "Guaranteed to Last" and will take back items at any time for any reason.

However, be aware you will pay a $6.50 return shipping fee unless you are an L.L. Bean Visa cardholder. Or, if you live near one of the retailer’s outlet or store locations, you could always make your return or exchange there.


Macy's is another department store that places few limits on returns and exchanges. It promises Woman shopping at a store © Jack Hollingsworth, Brand X, Getty Imageseasy returns, and the gift return policy posted online says you can return merchandise at any time to the store.

The only catch is you can’t return a gift for cash. If you have a gift receipt, you get the full purchase price credited back to you in the form of a Macy’s gift card. If you don’t have a receipt, you still get a credit but it is for the lowest selling price of the last 180 days.


Selling everything from caskets to cucumbers, Costco says it stands behind its products 100 percent. You can get a full refund on anything, but electronics such as televisions, computers, mp3 players and cell phones must be returned within 90 days.

For online purchases, the company provides UPS postage-paid labels. Customers can also return items directly to their local Costco warehouse and receive a refund that includes shipping and handling.


You don't need to worry about buying the wrong shoes online if you make your purchase from Zappos. The shoe retailer gives you 365 days to return unused products and will even pay for the return shipping. That means if those strappy heels don’t look quite as cute on you as they do on the model, you can send them right back – just don’t wear them to the party first.


A division of Gap, Athleta specializes in workout gear for women. However, while other Gap brands will only take back unwashed or unworn items, Athleta lets you return anything for any reason. They will even pay for the return shipping and the cost to ship out an exchange.


Hassle-free returns are the name of the game at Kohl's. They will take back any item at any time regardless of whether you have a receipt. The only exception is gift cards, which cannot be returned.


Bloomingdales is another department store with a liberal return policy. For most items, you can make a return at any time. Still, some categories have restrictions. For example, certain special event dresses cannot be returned once the tag is removed. Mattresses can only be returned within five years and are subject to fees, and return freight on furniture is the responsibility of the buyer.


While Target doesn't go so far as to say it will accept any and all returns, its policy does promise to "attempt a return" on all items purchased in its stores and online. However, its actual return policy varies depending on what you purchase and its condition.

  • Unopened items in new condition can be returned within 90 days for a refund or exchange.
  • Electronics such as no-contract cell phones, computers, cameras and gaming systems must be returned within 30 days.
  • Music, movies, video games and software that have been opened cannot be returned but may be exchanged.
  • Open or defective collectible items cannot be returned.
  • Items purchased between Nov. 1st and Dec. 25th are subject to a 30-day return period that starts on Dec. 26th.

If you need more time, you could always make purchases with your Target REDcard, which gives you an extra 30 days to make a return.


Like Target, JCPenney has a return policy that varies significantly based upon what you’ve purchased and whether you have a receipt. Here are the highlights of their even-handed policy.

  • Most items with a receipt can be returned for a full refund or exchange. Returns made with a gift receipt will receive a JCPenney gift card.
  • Electronics, fine jewelry and salon appliances must be returned with a receipt within 60 days.
  • Other items can be returned without a receipt, but the refund with be issued as a JCPenney gift card in the amount of the lowest selling price from within the last 45 days. A photo ID is required for all returns made without a receipt.
  • Heavy or bulky items that must be returned via a truck are subject to a $49 restocking fee.

Those are 10 of the retailers with the best return policies in the business. What you can learn from this list is that even among the best, policies vary widely. So wherever you shop this season and beyond, always ask about return policies before you buy.

More on Money Talks News

Nov 24, 2013 8:16AM
Ah, Nordstrom! The running joke around here in Seattle is they'll take back absolutely anything even they didn't sell it. They're not cheap but not the quality is exceptional and you'll NEVER get bad service. To get an idea of their corporate philosophy take a look at their employee manual- I think it can be seen at the Wikipedia page about the company. If you're serious about your apparel pay the extra dollars
Nov 20, 2013 9:09PM
Bed, Bath and Beyond is also terrific with returns!
Nov 24, 2013 3:44PM

If you are in retail, then you must have a generous and simple return policy. Case in point:


There is a small mom & pop toy store in my downtown village. Once I purchased some spare parts at that store. And I told the seller that it might not work out and thus, I might return.


It did not work out. And I took the pieces back to the store. The seller (store owner) groused about the return, and complained that she is charged a fee by the bank each time that debit is used. I felt terrible.


Now, I cannot look at that store without feeling pains. And I'll never walk in to that store again.

Nov 24, 2013 11:32AM
bed, bath and return are the best, no hassle,
Nov 24, 2013 4:26PM
Nov 24, 2013 8:23PM

Because I'm disabled, I mostly shop online. My favorite store is Kohl's. Their clothes are a great quality and their sales and discounts are unreal!

Combined the two and recently bought my son 1,400 in suits, jackets, shirts and ties for just over 200!! He's well dressed for his new job at a fraction of the cost of these clothes. I have the time to do the shopping and he's thrilled with the outcome.

Plus got Kohl's cash on the amount before discount. I spent that on myself.

With 3 Kohl's stores in my city, it's easy to make returns.

I also like Macy's, Catherine's and Belk. All have great return policies.



Nov 24, 2013 2:11PM
I was very impressed the one time I have ever had to return an item to Target.  It was a computer game, I got it home, and it did not work., so I took it back, and was allowed to exchange it.  I then took that home and it also did not work.  I went back again and the manager, who was there for the first return let me upgrade it to a newer version of the game- and a gift card for the return trips I had to make.  It made an impression and I actually shop more at Target than normal ever since, because of that one great experience.  
Nov 24, 2013 12:24PM
ULTA has the absolute worst return policy imaginable. I bought an item online. It didn't work for me. I took it back to the store WITH my receipt and she asked how I paid.. I said debit card.. she then said she needed to see my BANK statement! Wth? I ended up getting store credit and had to pick something that very minute. Never again will I buy from Ulta online.
Nov 20, 2013 8:43PM
If you can buy something that's normally $299 for $79 and it's something you would have bought anyway why not?
Nov 24, 2013 4:41PM
I think if you get a gift and it doesn't fit right or you just don't want or like it then the best option is to give it to your local charity outlet and go buy what you want, just remember to thank the giver for the spirit of giving and everybody is happy....:)
How about not buying so much stuff to begin with? Or buying nice edible items as gifts?
Nov 24, 2013 6:20PM
Wal-Mart is very easy. Guess you dumb bunnies forgot the biggest store in the world....
Nov 25, 2013 2:05AM
 Where can we return Obozo the socialist clown? He seems to flap his gums fine but cant fix anything.
Nov 24, 2013 9:12PM
Hello from Wal-Mart:

If I can find it in the system, I will return it for you. Exception: most pharmacy OTC & prescription products, guns/ammo, and opened electronics (CD/DVD). WIC items exchange only. That's it. Under 90 days with a receipt- receive it back in your original form of payment or gift card. You can get cash only if you paid cash or debit. If you paid EBT/Food Stamps, you will get that back. Over 90 and/or no receipt, you're getting store credit, and we're putting your driver's license on file. No more than 3 in a calendar year without receipt, and if you bounce checks or run bad credit, you may not do this at all.

I've taken back beat up lawn mowers & bad bananas. I've taken back stuff that says kirkland signature and archer farms. (Costco & Target). Say what you will about the company, but tends to be very easy to do returns here.

Nov 24, 2013 12:36PM

Why no mention of Walmart? They have same return policy as Target except their policy on electronics is 90-days.

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