Want to know how to handle store returns? Here’s how to return store merchandise without fuss, along with some basic shopping tips to live by.
I am notorious for avoiding store returns; I don’t usually return purchases that don’t live up to my expectations. A dear friend used to scold me for it, but it wasn’t a habit that I tried to change until recently when it finally occurred to me that I’ve wasted a lot of money over the years by keeping items that have disappointed me.
I’m pretty good about researching products before buying: I read up on tips to shop for clothes and try on clothing before I make it mine, and I’m thorough about checking over workmanship before making a purchase. Still, there is the occasional purchase that just isn’t quite right, and it makes no sense to simply accept an item as it is when returning it is an option.
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Tips on How To Return Store Merchandise With Minimal Fuss
Many retailers make it very easy to return an item, but there are some that don’t. Here’s how to make that return as painless as possible:
- Keep your receipts or other proofs of purchase until you’ve determined that the product meets your needs AND the return period has expired.
- Make sure you are aware of the retailer’s return policies before making the purchase — especially when purchasing big ticket items. If you’re really unsure whether you’re going to like something, it may be worthwhile to do some research to find a retailer with a liberal return policy.
- Be aware that policies regarding returns of electronics are typically very strict, and always keep all original packaging and documentation for these types of purchases.
- Understand that a retailer’s policies may not be the same for all items. Clearance or sale items may be ineligible for return, or may have a shorter return period than other items. Other items may be eligible only for exchange or store credit, rather than refund.
- Beware of restocking fees.
- Consider purchasing an extended warranty, or using a credit card that extends the manufacturer’s warranty period, for items that may be difficult to return to the retailer in the event of malfunction.
How To Deal With Problematic Store Returns
You may occasionally find that, despite your best efforts, something you’ve brought home doesn’t work out but isn’t eligible for a straight return. Maybe the return period has passed. Maybe it was a clearance item or floor model that is not eligible for return. Regardless of the problem, you should still attempt to talk to the retailer about how to make the problem right.
If you’re a loyal customer, or even a first time buyer, a rational discussion with the customer service representative or the store manager — if you got nowhere with the rep — is in order. The last thing that a store manager wants to hear from a customer is, “I’ve been disappointed,” because, in most cases, a disappointment unresolved equals a lost customer.
Be prepared to negotiate. A manager may be hesitant to give you a full cash refund because if he does, there is no assurance that you will be back. Your acceptance of a refund partially in cash and partially in store credit, or perhaps all in store credit, will assure the manager that you intend to be back.
A final option for dealing with a product that is ineligible for return, is to contact the manufacturer directly. Depending on the issue, the manufacturer may offer a money back guarantee, or may be willing to repair or replace the item.
Just as stores seek loyal customers, manufacturers wish to build brand loyalty in consumers, so it is in their best interest to make you happy. If you don’t get anywhere with customer service, don’t hesitate to write a level-headed, detailed letter relating the problem and the avenues you’ve sought to solve the problem, addressing it to an upper-level executive. Be sure to mention what you would consider to be a reasonable solution to the problem. If you find it necessary, you may also want to carbon copy the letter to the Better Business Bureau, or to your local television station’s consumer affairs department, if they have one.
Remember, the easiest way to avoid dissatisfaction with a purchase is to think before you buy. It is always best to do your research before going shopping, and to buy from reputable companies; but if you do find yourself unhappy with a purchase, don’t hesitate to try the “return merchandise” route.