Even the most thoughtful gift-giver can’t get it right all the time. In fact, from 10 to 15% of holiday sales are returned or exchanged, said Randy Allen, an associate dean for the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.
To ensure your loved ones are able to exchange that too-small sweater or return their extra toaster, consider shopping at one of these 10 stores.
Among department store return policies, Nordstrom is the gold standard. They have been known to take back any item at any time, receipt or no receipt. There’s no return counter: Approach any sales associate. If you need to return something by mail, they even provide postage-paid labels.
The only exception to the rule involves special occasion dresses. Unfortunately, too many people have bought dresses, worn them and returned them to the store. Now, Nordstrom has a slightly different policy regarding these items so don’t expect to go out for a night on the town and then recoup your money the next day (not that you would do that, right?). The store also reserves the right to refuse other returns on a case-by-case basis as well.
As a final note, don’t make the mistake of confusing Nordstrom with sister discount chain Nordstrom Rack. The return policy at Nordstrom Rack isn’t too bad – you have 90 days to return unused merchandise so long as you have the receipt, original tags and a photo ID – but it is nowhere near as generous as the Nordstrom policy.
2. L.L. Bean
Another store offering a no-holds-barred return policy is L.L. Bean. The company says its products are “Guaranteed to Last” and will take back items at any time for any reason.
However, be aware you will pay a $6.50 return shipping fee unless you are an L.L. Bean Visa cardholder. Or, if you live near one of the retailer’s outlet or store locations, you could always make your return or exchange there.
Macy’s is another department store that places few limits on returns and exchanges. It promises easy returns, and the gift return policy posted online says you can return merchandise at any time to the store.
The only catch is you can’t return a gift for cash. If you have a gift receipt, you get the full purchase price credited back to you in the form of a Macy’s gift card. If you don’t have a receipt, you still get a credit but it will be for the lowest selling price of the last 180 days.
Selling everything from caskets to cucumbers, Costco says it stands behind its products 100%. You can get a full refund on anything. The only caveat is that these items must be returned within 90 days of purchase for a full refund: televisions, projectors, computers, cameras, camcorders, touchscreen tablets, iPod/MP3 players and cellular phones.
For online purchases, the company provides UPS postage-paid labels. Customers can also return items directly to their local Costco warehouse and receive a refund that includes shipping and handling.
You don’t need to worry about buying the wrong shoes online if you make your purchase from Zappos. The shoe retailer gives you 365 days to return unused products and will pay for the return shipping. That means if those strappy heels don’t look quite as cute on you as they do on the model, you can send them right back, just don’t wear them to the party first.
A division of Gap, Athleta specializes in workout gear for women. However, while other Gap brands will only take back unwashed or unworn items, Athleta lets you return anything for any reason. They will even pay for the return shipping and the cost to ship out an exchange.
Hassle-free returns are the name of the game at Kohl’s. They will take back any item at any time regardless of whether you have a receipt. The only exception is gift cards, which cannot be returned.
Returns made without a receipt may result in one of these:
- Refund to your Kohl’s charge card or credit card (if you paid with one)
- Even exchange
- Merchandise credit based on the lowest 13-week sale price
- Corporate-issued refund
Kohl’s website is a little short on the details regarding which option is offered when, so it may be left up to the store’s staff to decide. It’s probably safe to assume you’re more likely to get store credit than a corporate-issued refund.
Bloomingdale’s is another department store with a liberal return policy. For most items, you can make a return at any time. Still, some categories have restrictions. For example, certain special event dresses cannot be returned once the tag is removed. Mattresses can only be returned within five years and are subject to fees, and return freight on furniture is the responsibility of the buyer. (See four more mattress-shopping gotchas here.)
The Target return policy can’t match some of the others on this list, but it’s not bad for a big-box chain. Its actual return policy varies depending on what you purchase and its condition:
- Target brand items can be returned within one year for a refund or exchange.
- Other items that are unopened and in new condition can be returned within 90 days for a refund or exchange.
- Electronics such as no-contract cellphones, computers, cameras and gaming systems must be returned within 30 days.
- Music, movies, video games and software that have been opened cannot be returned but may be exchanged.
- Open or defective collectible items cannot be returned.
- Items purchased between Nov. 1 and Dec. 25 are subject to a 30-day return period that starts Dec. 26.
If you need more time, you could always make purchases with your Target REDcard, which gives you an extra 30 days to make a return.
10. J.C. Penney
Like Target, J.C. Penney has a return policy that varies significantly based on what you’ve purchased and whether you have a receipt. Here are the highlights of their even-handed policy:
- Most items with a receipt can be returned for a full refund or exchange. Returns made with a gift receipt will receive a J.C. Penney gift card.
- Electronics, fine jewelry and salon appliances must be returned with a receipt within 60 days.
- Other items can be returned without a receipt, but the refund with be issued as a J.C. Penney gift card in the amount of the lowest selling price in the last 45 days. A photo ID is required for all returns made without a receipt.
- Heavy or bulky items (think furniture) that must be returned via truck are subject to a restocking fee ranging from $75 to $125.
Those are 10 of the retailers with the best return policies in the business. What you can learn from this list is that even among the best, policies vary widely. So wherever you shop this season and beyond, always ask about return policies before you buy.
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