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Best and worst retailers for gift returns

Before you embark on holiday shopping this year, it's wise to know a store's gift return policy.

By Stacy Johnson Oct 23, 2012 1:10PM

This post comes from Karla Bowsher at partner site Money Talks News.

 

Money Talks News logoIf you fail to read a store's return policy before shopping there, you could get stuck with an item that doesn't work out. But if you fail to read return policies before gift shopping, it's a friend or relative who could get stuck with an unwanted item.

 

Image: Santa Claus (© Corbis)Fortunately, just about every store's return policy can be found online these days, and they're not hard to read if you know what questions to ask.

 

In-store purchases

  • What's the time window for return? This is especially important for gifts. For example, if you buy a Christmas gift on Black Friday from a store with a 30-day return window, the recipient won't be able to return it after Christmas.
  • Will the refund be in the original form of payment? Some stores issue certain refunds only in the form of store credit, especially for gift returns.

Online purchases

  • What's the time window for return?
  • Will the refund be in the original form of payment? 
  • If you return an online purchase by mail, will you have to pay for the return shipping?
  • Are online purchases returnable to brick-and-mortar stores? 
The best return policies

The following stores offer a return window of at least 90 days, provide a full refund and allow online purchases to be returned to stores:

 

Costco

  • Time window? None for most items (the exceptions -- TVs, projectors, computers, cameras, camcorders, tablets, MP3 players, and cellphones -- must be returned within 90 days).
  • E-purchases returnable to stores? Yes, and they'll even refund the shipping.
  • E-purchases returnable by mail? Yes, they'll email you a UPS label, although you'll have to take the package to a UPS drop-off spot.
  • Note: Costco even allows returns of Photo Center purchases you're dissatisfied with. They'll also refund your membership fee at any point if you're dissatisfied.

L.L. Bean

  • Time window? None.
  • E-purchases returnable to stores? Yes.
  • E-purchases returnable by mail? Yes, but you pay the return shipping unless you're an L.L. Bean Visa cardholder.
  • Note: L.L. Bean never charges to ship purchases to you.

Nordstrom

  • Time window? None.
  • E-purchases returnable to stores? Yes, with the packing slip and the credit card used for the purchase.
  • E-purchases returnable by mail? Yes, but you pay the return shipping.

Zappos

  • Time window? 365 days.
  • E-purchases returnable to stores? Not applicable. Zappos is online only.
  • E-purchases returnable by mail? Yes, if the item is in the condition you received it in and in the original packaging. You'll receive a prepaid return shipping label.
  • Note: Zappos never charges to ship a product to you.
Worst return policies

If a gift recipient wants to return your gift, these stores will offer them only store credit, so make sure the gift recipient is a fan of the store or avoid gift-shopping there.

 

Babies R Us

  • Time window? 90 days for most items (see the Babies R Us policy for exceptions).
  • E-purchases returnable to stores? Yes, but only for store credit.
  • E-purchases returnable by mail? Yes, with the original packaging and any paperwork, but you pay the return shipping unless the purchase was damaged or defective.
  • Note: In-store purchases returned to a store are generally refunded in the original form of payment, but gifts are an exception. 

Kohl's

  • Time window? None.
  • E-purchases returnable to stores? Yes, with receipt. If you don't have a receipt -- or if you have a gift receipt -- you can still return the item but only for store credit.
  • E-purchases returnable by mail? Yes, but you pay the return shipping.
  • Note: If a gift was purchased in a store, it must be returned to a store and can still be returned only for store credit.

Macy's

  • Time window? 180 days for most items (see the Macy's policy for exceptions).
  • E-purchases returnable to stores? Yes, with invoice, for most items (excludes area rugs).
  • E-purchases returnable by mail? Yes, with invoice and return form, for most items (excludes bridesmaid dresses), but you pay the return shipping.
  • Note: Gifts can be returned only for store credit, and food and gourmet gifts are nonreturnable.

Toys R Us

  • Time window? 90 days for most items (see the Toys R Us policy for exceptions).
  • E-purchases returnable to stores? Yes, but only for store credit.
  • E-purchases returnable by mail? Yes, with original packaging and any paperwork, but you pay the return shipping unless the purchase was damaged or defective.
  • Note: In-store purchases returned to a store are generally refunded in the original form of payment, but gifts are an exception. 

More from Money Talks News and MSN Money:

43Comments
Nov 1, 2012 7:58AM
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why is best buy not on the list? they charge you a fee for re-shelving the item after you have returned it, even if they cant re-stock the item because it is broken!
Nov 1, 2012 7:11AM
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The best company that was not mentioned on this list is Bed Bath and Beyond. They will take back anything, anytime. They pride themselves on customer service and great shopping experiences in their stores. They will never give you a hard time at the customer service desk. They will take back things bought years ago and exchange them for a new one even if the model number is different  or not made anymore and exchange it for a model as close to the old one.  I will shop in their stores going forward for many years for this reason alone.
Nov 1, 2012 10:47AM
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HOW IN THE WORLD IS KOHL'S ONE OF THE WORST PLACES TO RETURN. Personally, I think that Kohl's has one of the best. Be thankful you can return anything at anytime. So you get a in-store credit, big  deal. It's to help keep lower prices, so when people steal from the store and try to return it for money the money stays in the stores. Walmart should be on the worst or best buy
Nov 1, 2012 9:14AM
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Walmart has a strict 90 day window for refunds, and they won't refund or exchange without a receipt.  Period.
Nov 1, 2012 9:48AM
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Target and JC Penney isn't on here either.   I had a Target return, paid cash for it & had the receipt, after 90 days I got store credit, HUH?!?  JC Penney charges "re-stock" fees for catalog returns, even though they carry the same product in store, HUH?!?  NEVER shopping there again! 
Nov 1, 2012 10:47AM
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The United State of America only allows a one day return with a 4 year waiting period for a defective president.
Nov 1, 2012 10:13AM
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There are many better and worst than these, they just don't fit into the msn agenda.
Nov 1, 2012 12:03PM
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How did you miss Kohls?!?!?!?! They have the most liberal return policy of any retailer. Almost no restrictions at all.
Nov 1, 2012 10:58AM
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I'm suprised to see that Target is not on the worst return policy list. I have lots of friends who registered there and were very unhappy with their return policy. Gifts and purchases must be made within 90 days. If you do not have a gift receipt (which you typically do not for gifts that were on your registry), you are only allowed three returns per YEAR and must present your drivers license. The "refund" issued is store credit and at the current or lowest price of the item.
Nov 1, 2012 11:38AM
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The worst company ever that should be on the list is Forever 21.  Purchased a shirt and as I was walking away from the counter I pulled it out of the bag to make sure the security tag didn't damage it.  Of course it did.  There was a big hole where they removed it.  I went back to the counter (walked 5 feet) and they refused to give me a refund - only a store credit.  They damaged it and wouldn't give me a refund.
Nov 1, 2012 11:51AM
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I'm surprised to see that Target was not listed on the worst return policy list. Their return policy is way worse than Macy's, for example. I have had many friends who registered there and were very unhappy with their return policies. Gifts and purchases must be returned within 90 days. If you do not have the receipt for a gift (which typically you don't if it was given as a gift from your registry), you are only allowed three returns per YEAR and must present your drivers license. The "refund" is only for the current or lowest price and is only issued in the form of store credit.

Nov 1, 2012 7:53AM
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I believe H&M has the worst return policy ........you can return the item however if you bought at full price and the item goes on sale for half the price the next week you only the the value of the sale price and I'm pretty sure its only 90days.............so you better like it when you buy it or your SOL.

Nov 1, 2012 11:22AM
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Target. Hate it. Paid cash. Had the receipt and they gave me coupons cause said it was over 90 days old. Purchased clothing didn't even want. Came back the next day to a different worker at customer service counter. Asked for my money back. Got it & left. I can play their game too. Won't shop there again!!
Nov 1, 2012 10:48AM
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I will never order from Toys R us online again. I bought my daughter a Dora couch from them and they sent the wrong one to me. I called and talked to a lady who said I COULD NOT return it or exchange it unless it was damaged. EVEN THO IT WAS THEIR MISTAKE they would not let me exchange it!
Nov 1, 2012 11:47AM
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I think one of the best is Lands End. I'm talking about online, because their products are sold at Sears. They will allow you to return the online products to your closest Sears store, or ship them back. If there is any problem with an item, or you ordered the wrong item, it does not matter, they will send the new one to you immediately. Just return the other one to Sears, and the new one will already be on the way, for no extra shipping cost. If you are ordering a different item, that's another story - there will be the difference in the cost of the items, of course. But, no sales return cost difference issues. Plus, the custormer service is open 24-7-365.
Nov 1, 2012 11:03AM
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Worst experience returning is at True Religion.  7 days!  Will NEVER shop there again.  Will buy the jeans at nordstroms instead.  Talked into a pair of jeans that were too long, salesperson told me to go home and try them with some heels.  They still were too long and I didnt want to have them shortened as it would affect the stitching on the bottom.  Went to bring them back on day 9 and was told I couldn't return them.
Nov 1, 2012 1:18PM
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Macy's- not true.  There is no time limit to return purchases.  But the product needs to have the tag/UPC label and return sticker on it.  Non-cash purchases don't need receipt; refund can go back on original purchsae method or store gift card.  Cash purchases without receipt and tag(s) get store gift card.  Much more generous policy than Kohls or Sears and their short time limits
Nov 1, 2012 10:37AM
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Target should be on here.  I know their return policy is 90 days, but there are so many ways to go around the system to help get your returns back in the form you paid!  (such as receipts, sliding card used to  buy purchase, ID. etc. )  Although, when they say 90 days, they mean 90 days.  If the receipt is too old, chances are, you'll be sent home talking to manufactures at that point.  Yes, I work at Target!  :) 

Nov 1, 2012 1:31PM
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REI (Recreational Equipment Inc) should be added to the best, because they offer outstanding customer service and high quality products with 100% satisfaction guaranteed. It is easy to return merchandize that does not meet your satisfaction (no time window), although that is far and few between. Members of the REI Co-op do not even need receipts to return merchandize.

Nov 2, 2012 11:40PM
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what happened to all other comments that were on here the other day including mine

 

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