Think Twice Before Returning Items to These 5 Stores
By Maryalene LaPonsie
How many times have you skipped the dressing room, figuring you can always return what doesn't fit? You might want to rethink that shopping strategy at some stores.
We've told you about the stores with the best return policies, and now it's time to unveil the lemons. Here are five stores that may go so far as to ban you for making too many returns.
1. Amazon (AMZN)
For most items sold by Amazon, the online retailer gives you 30 days to make a return. Miss that window, and your refund could be docked by 20 percent of the purchase price. Take the plastic wrap off DVDs, CDs and games, and your refund drops 50 percent. And don't even think about returning opened software. You won't get anything for that.
All that may be within the realm of the reasonable, compared with other store return policies. What may be more concerning for shoppers is the number of people who say they've been banned from Amazon for what the store deems to be excessive returns. The store doesn't say anything about banning customers in its posted policy, but it apparently closes your account when you hit a certain percentage of returns.
2. Best Buy (BBY)
The electronics giant made it onto Consumer Reports' "Naughty List" for the 2013 holiday shopping season because of its return policy. The store requires a valid ID to make a return or exchange and then tracks that information.
The company warns in its return policy: "Based on return/exchange patterns, some customers will be warned that subsequent returns and exchanges will not be eligible for returns or exchanges for 90 days." Beyond that, Best Buy gives customers a tiny window to make returns, only 15 days for customers who aren't My Best Buy Elite or Elite Plus members.
3. Saks Fifth Avenue
Saks Fifth Avenue has also decided to go with a 30-day window for returns. If you try to make a late return, Saks will only credit you based on the current selling price regardless of how much your receipt says you paid. And like Best Buy, the company includes this little gem in its return policy: "To ensure a positive shopping experience for all our customers, if we identify through electronic analysis an unreasonable return pattern, we may restrict or refuse future transactions from such customers at Saks Fifth Avenue or at saks.com."
4. Lowe's (LOW)
At least Best Buy and Saks get props for being open and honest. Lowe's doesn't come right out and say it will ban customers for too many returns, but you can read between the lines in its return policy. Lowe's stores use refund and check verification systems. All returns are subject to system approvals. In fairness to Lowe's, news reports indicate competitor Home Depot (HD) uses the same system, and it's not stated in its posted return policy.
5. Victoria's Secret
Finally, we come to Victoria's Secret. The retailer will take returns within 90 days and issue a full refund. Not bad. Come in after 90 days, and you can expect to get a merchandise credit. Still not bad, but either way, expect to pull out your driver's license. Here's what its return policy says. "In select stores, a government-issued ID is required for all returns and exchanges. Victoria's Secret will electronically scan this ID for the sole purpose of preventing return abuse. Victoria's Secret does not sell the information obtained through this process." The store doesn't say when customers will be prevented from making future returns, but at least one employee says you get up to seven returns in a three-month period before being cut off.
The Retail Equation Connection
These five stores may be just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to tracking customers with the intent of limiting serial returners. The Retail Equation says 11 of the top 50 retailers in the United States use its services to track customer return data.
Of course, The Retail Equation doesn't give out client names, but if your driver's license has ever been swiped when you made a return, there's a good chance your data was going through the company's system. Depending on the arrangement with that particular retailer, The Retail Equation may be tracking any of this information:
- Purchase history.
- Frequency of returns.
- Dollar amount of returns.
- Whether a receipt is used for a return.
Because the company tracks many people by their driver's license number, you'll need to provide that information. However, as with any sensitive data, you don't want to send that number via email. Instead, send your phone number so a company representative can call you for it.
The bottom line for shoppers is to not take returns for granted. While many businesses offer them as a part of good customer service, there is no legal requirement for a retailer to take back that maroon sweater because you decide chartreuse looks better on you. As with many things in life, it only takes a few bad apples to ruin a good thing. As long as some people continue to take advantage of the system, you can probably expect to see even more stores tightening their policies in the future.
Have you ever had a return rejected? Tell us about it in the comments below or on the Money Talks News Facebook (FB) page.