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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 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 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 7:53AM
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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 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.
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