Buyer Beware: Some stores return policies have changed

Dec 27, 2023, 10:59 PM | Updated: Dec 28, 2023, 7:36 am

Presents are now unwrapped and while there were winners, there were probably also some losers. Maybe you got something that doesn’t quite fit. Maybe you got the same outfit as your bestie. Maybe you got something on which to jam that just isn’t your jam.

If so, it’s time to play the return game which, this year, is more complicated than ever.

“You may be surprised when you want to return something this year,” said Edgar Dworsky, consumer advocate and founder of Consumer World.

Consumer World studies how return policies change year to year which, he warns, can sometimes leave consumers stuck with something they don’t want.

“Some of the policies from retailers have gotten a little more strict or costly,” he said.

For example, Consumer World found that T.J. Maxx and Marshalls raised their returns-by-mail shipping and handling fee by $1 to $11.99. Macy’s added a $9.99 return shipping fee for non-Star Rewards members. Amazon has added a $1 fee on returns made at some UPS stores.

You also may need to act more quickly.

Consumer World’s research shows that Walmart added a new major appliance return policy. It is only two days. Staples shortened its holiday purchase window, accepting returns only until Jan. 14. And many retailers expect electronic items to be returned more quickly than in years past.

“If you bought an Apple product, you can expect the regular return policy to be only about 15 days, 14 or 15 days,” Dworsky said.

So, just as being a shopping procrastinator can prove costly, so too can be a return procrastinator.

“You better check,” Dworsky said. “And if you have to go back early, go back early.”

Companies are also now using return policies to try to entice people into signing up for things. Maybe you get a longer return window if you sign up for a company’s rewards program or store-branded credit card.

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Buyer Beware: Some stores return policies have changed