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Is Wal-Mart profiting from returns?

If you guessed wrong about some of those 'perfect' holiday gifts, how can you ensure your recipients will get full value on a return?

By Giselle Smith Nov 29, 2011 9:42AM

If you were one of the 226 million shoppers who spent an average of $398.62 on Black Friday weekend, making sure you had gift receipts for every purchase may not have been uppermost in your mind.


But even if you did, that might not guarantee that those on your gift list will be able to get a full refund on those items.

Last week, KATU in Portland, Ore., reported that Wal-Mart did not refund full value on items purchased using a gift receipt. 


KATU reporter Shellie Bailey-Shah tested gift receipt policies at Target, Wal-Mart and Fred Meyer by purchasing Halloween items in early October, then returning them after the holiday, when they were on sale. Bailey-Shah got full refunds at Target and Fred Meyer, but about 15% less than she paid at Wal-Mart, even after the clerk manually entered the items.

How gift receipts work

The beauty of a gift receipt, from the giver's perspective, is that it doesn't say how much you paid for something, but allows the receiver to discreetly return it if they want. The receipt identifies the store where an item was purchased and contains a bar code that can be scanned to recall the original transaction.


Ideally, the gift receipt lets the owner get a refund (or store credit) for the same amount you spent, even if the item has since gone on sale.

But say that Mom uses the gift receipt to return that sweater you sent he. She doesn't know what you paid for it, so she wouldn't know if the store gave her less and makes a small profit.

A wide-ranging problem

In May, investigative teams with CBS stations in Sacramento and Philadelphia found that several Wal-Marts weren't giving full value on gift receipts, CBS News reported. When questioned about the discrepancies, store customer-service representatives explained that without original receipts, they could only refund the amount that came up when they scanned the bar code -- usually the current in-store price for those items. Post continues below.

However, company spokesman Lorenzo Lopez told CBS News that Wal-Mart's policy is to refund the original purchase price of any item returned with a gift receipt. Following the investigation, the retail giant issued a memo to all 3,800 of its stores to make sure that personnel were aware of the policy and following it.

Sacramento's CBS station checked on the chain in September, and found the problem persisted, but reported no problems in its investigation earlier this month. CBS 3 in Philadelphia found the problem was ongoing in a report Nov. 15.

In August, the CBS station in Dallas/Fort Worth found a similar problem at Wal-Marts in that area, as well as at other chains in North Texas. Reporters had trouble getting full refunds using gift receipts at Ann Taylor Loft, Carter's and Sports Authority stores in Dallas, CBS 11 reported.

In May, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., asked the Federal Trade Commission to look into the gift receipt situation at Wal-Mart. "In most circumstances, people returning gifts are unaware of the cost of the gift, making it easy to take advantage of these customers. A gift receipt should be honored at the identical amount originally paid for the item," Boxer's letter said.


Several law firms filed a class-action lawsuit against Wal-Mart in June, asking the company to turn over years of records on billions of store returns.

"Wal-Mart's scheme to defraud relies on the fact that people generally have good manners and would never ask how much their gift giver paid for their present," lawyer Bill Kershaw said.

More on MSN Money:
Dec 1, 2011 1:36PM
This video about foodstamps and Walmart angers me.  I have a job and pay for all my food.  It amazes me that these people can check their balance on their "smart phone" which probably averages more than $100 a month.  Here's an idea.  If you can't afford groceries, then you obviously can't afford a cell phone with a data plan.  Every time I go to the grocery store, I see people paying for several hundred dollars in groceries with food stamps and then getting in to their brand new Mercedes.  Obviously there are serious issues with government assistance!
Dec 1, 2011 12:06AM

I never shop at Wallmart,but this black Friday I decided to give a try. To make my story short the wife and I decided to by a coffee maker they had on sale for 9.99  when we were done paying we noticed they charged us 15.99 and mentioned to the cashier but it was to late cause already had gone through the credit card. So she calls a manager over, the first things the manager said was ,"to late you missed the sale. Our reply was is 4:30 AM,her reply was "Is only for Friday", to what we answer today is Friday.

After that, I mentioned to her about their policy to give you ,$3.00 off the item if it scans for  more than the sale price. I could not believe what her reply was to me."Now you are really taking advantage of me.

To what I said, how am I taking advantage of you if is the store policy and is posted right by the register?

At this point she just walked away.


I will never shop there ever again.




Dec 1, 2011 12:43AM
I get the biggest kick out of people, every time someone is raped by Wallyworld they cry all over the internet about it, but yet ALMOST everyone in America shops there, yah know if people would just quit shopping Wallyworld they would not be the big rich corporate giant they are today.  If your gonna shop there shut your pie hole when it bites you in the hind quarter.  I am tired of listening to everyone about how crappy Wallyworld is but yet their empire keeps getting bigger everyday.  There is only one way to stop it...QUIT SHOPPING THERE.
Dec 1, 2011 10:51AM
Nothing that scummy WalMart does surprises me anymore.  From sewing  "Made in America" tags into clothing made in overseas sweatshops, to strong-arming their suppliers, to cutting employees' spouses off of their health care plan.  This is a company that has absolutely no morality; everything they do is about making more profits and WalMart cares nought about who they have to screw over to get there.  I, finally, made the decsion to never, ever step foot in a WalMart again, when they recently changed their benefits policy to allow employees who work 24 to 35 hours per week to continue to cover their children on the company health care, but not  their spouses!  Who TF sits around at a company meeting and comes up with that one?! WALMART SUCKS!!
Nov 29, 2011 8:21PM
It should be no surprise that Walmart would take advantage of their customers. Walmart only cares about their bottom line and will use every dirty trick in the book to boost that bottom line, they wrote the dirty trick book. Wal mart just does not care about their customers. To blame their customer service clerks is disingenuous at best .Those people are overworked and under paid and only do what they are told by management.
Dec 1, 2011 10:27AM
Honestly, I am not a fan of Walmart because of the way they treat their employees.  I was a rep for a large company and was in and out of Targets, Meijer and Walmart weekly.  They seem to hire nasty people with no people skills for their management.  The stores are usually dirty and poorly merchandised..
Dec 1, 2011 5:30PM

Some of the commentators seem to be missing the point...  A gift receipt is supposed to work like your receipt and give the original price back to the consumer (or gift recipient).  When Walmart doesn't honor the gift receipt for the full purchase price, they are cheating their consumers.  This isn't about whether or not you like or hate Walmart, or where they get their products from, or whether they provide good customer service or not.  This is a legitimate concern about a nationwide retailer scamming it's customers.


Whether you like Walmart or hate Walmart, you must realize that this is unethical and just plain bad business practices.

Dec 1, 2011 12:29PM
Great! Another class action lawsuit where consumers get shafted and the law firms get tens of millions! I was involved in one one time out of curiosity. 2 years later, I got a $20.00 coupon, did research and found out the law firm got $80 million.
Dec 1, 2011 12:44PM
SO very typical of Wal Mart, the largest showcase for Chinese made goods and the most anti American company on earth.
Dec 1, 2011 2:30PM
Walmart has a lot of tricky things up their sleeves Everyone should check their receipts before leaving the store. I have been ripped off a few times and was only successful once getting it fixed. The price shown in the dept is not what it rings up at all the time. I know everyone makes mistakes but this happens frequently at Walmart.
Dec 1, 2011 11:03AM

I hate shopping at Walmart and I will go out of my way to make it to Target or some other store before I spent my money at Walmart.   The items in the store are cheap and cheaply made.  That goes from clothing to produce.. The stores stink and they are always trashed and always have long checkout lines because Walmart is to cheap to open up a few more registers.  I hate their attitudes of the people working there.  They seem like they are working there just to make a little money.  The management must have their employees scared to death.  No more Walmart for me.

Dec 1, 2011 11:53AM

Thumbs down. A long time ago I swore off Walmart and the other big box stores for the guy down the street. I have hauled freight into and out of their warehouses and I know what it cost from the shipper to what I see on the shelf. If you people think the mark up is 70% to 80% you need help. It's more like 125% to 150%. It's not hard to see why the Walton Family has amassed such a fortune. They pay nothing, overcharge everyone and skim the government for tax breaks.

So if you think this will stop once more you're being duped by the best. The token lawsuit that you'll  never live long enough to se settled is as much a ruse by Walmart as the lawyer's filing it.

Dec 1, 2011 1:12AM

Seriously?! Walmart bashing again?! I was in Target today and after hearing on the radio about jobs in America don't buy products made in China I decided to check this out at Target.  Guess what? I put back just as many products as I would've in Walmart! Target is just as guilty! I didn't find ONE product made in the USA! not one!

Closest I got was Canada!

So all you Walmart basher's start bashing your precious Target 2!

Dec 1, 2011 12:34PM
Knowitandtellit... What chain store doesn't sell Chinese imports??? Name one! I don't care if you're talking about hardware, clothing, shoes, home decoration, etc...
Nov 30, 2011 11:53PM

You have a say as the consumer. don't shop at the stores you have problems with they will get the idea


Dec 1, 2011 11:25AM
I learned a long time ago to pay cash and give the receipt to my friends and family regrardless how much I paid so they can get the full amount of what I paid for the item if they want to return it.  Returning it is their choice, it's their gift.
Dec 1, 2011 2:58PM

Just another wal-mart swindle, when will people do something for themselves and their country and stop shopping there. Support the small businesses in your neighborhood, wal-mart has enough money!

Dec 1, 2011 2:12AM
Walmart makes money off employees and stupid people..a buck at a time as WALMART loves to 2 million employees if they can (and do) scam their own employees out of 100 bucks a year that =$200 million dollars in WALMARTS you think they would pass up doing the same to customers?...if they got caught they just claim ignorance....all those pennies they pinch illegally all ..add..up...they roll the dice all the time with the law..knowing they can just pay a miniscule penalty compared to the amount of money they CAN con out of customers and employees
Dec 1, 2011 10:52AM
I hate the fact that right now I have to shop at Wal-Mart and will consider myself a success the day I never have to shop there again!
Nov 30, 2011 11:02PM
Shop someplace else you cheap bastards!
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