Santa's Customer Service List: Who's Naughty, Who's Nice

Santa's Customer Service List: Who's Naughty, Who's Nice
Santa's Customer Service List: Who's Naughty, Who's Nice

When it comes to how they treat their customers, some companies follow Santa-like policies. Others are more like the Grinch. But which is which?

Consumer Reports offers the skinny on how a number of high-profile businesses behave with its Naughty & Nice Holiday List. Here's a rundown of their consumer friendly -- and not so consumer friendly -- shopping policies.

The Nice
(AMZN): The online retail giant is big on reducing all that wasteful packaging that's also hard to open. It urges shoppers to share photographs and feedback with manufacturers, who can then modify their packaging designs and submit them to Amazon's engineers to see if they qualify as "frustration free." So far, hundreds of consumer products suppliers have worked to meet the criteria, according to Consumer Reports.

American Express (AXP): If a cardholder buys a covered item with an American Express card and tries to return it, but a retailer refuses the return, American Express will refund the full purchase price up to $300, or $1,000 per account annually, within 90 days.

Bi-Lo: The Southern supermarket chain takes returns, no questions asked, and offers a money-back guarantee on all items it sells.

Cablevision (CVC): Subscribers to the cable company's free Optimum Triple Play -- Internet, phone and TV service -- rewards program get perks such as free movie tickets on Tuesdays and big discounts on other days.

Crutchfield: When a shopper buys from the electronics retailer, they're guaranteed installation services, 24/7 troubleshooting help and technical support for the life of the item purchased.

Costco (COST): The warehouse club offers a generous return policy and free tech support for many electronics products. The retailer also automatically extends the manufacturer's warranty on TVs and computers to two years from the date purchased.

Live Nation (LYV): The world's biggest live-entertainment company and ticket distributor allows fans three days to cancel their ticket order and get a full refund at participating venues.

Microsoft (MSFT): Although most retailers won't give shoppers refunds if they try to return software they've already installed, Microsoft will. Buyers who are unhappy with their Microsoft software or hardware can send it back to the company within 45 days for a refund.

Orvis: Many e-commerce companies handle customer service questions by phone or email. But this outdoor clothing and fishing gear merchant provides another help outlet: If a shopper lingers over a product online for a period of time, a customer service agent will strike up a dialog via live chat.

REI: The outdoor gear and sporting goods retailer accepts returns and exchanges at any time for any reason, and makes it easy to do so. Shoppers can return an item by mail or to any REI store regardless of where it was originally purchased, even if the item was bought online.

The Naughty

AirTran (AAI): The Orlando-based airline charges passengers who want to book and select their own seat on coach and sale flights online an extra $6 to $20 each way.

American Apparel (APP): The hipster clothing chain offers two different return policies: Online shoppers have 45 days to return merchandise for a full refund or store credit. Store shoppers need to make their returns sooner, within 30 days, and receive only merchandise credit.

GameStop (GME): The video game retailer with 6,500 stores worldwide has a long list of conditions regarding product returns and exchanges, including, "We reserve the right to refuse any return."

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Liberty Travel: The travel company advertises low prices to entice would-be vacationers. But Liberty Travel's quotes can be misleading, sometimes excluding high taxes and fees, Consumer Reports found. And if travelers want to change a flight, it will cost them as much as $200 extra.

Radio Shack (RSH): The electronics chain sometimes offers different prices for the same item online and in its brick-and-mortar stores, Consumer Reports says. For example, the store price for an audio-video cable was twice as much as the online price.

SiriusXM satellite radio (SIRI): Subscribers who want to receive their bills in the mail and pay by check will be penalized for their old-school ways with a $2 surcharge every month.

The Swiss Colony: The mail-order food company pegs delivery fees to the dollar amount of an order as opposed to the size and weight of the package. So if an order adds up to $25, shipping and processing is $5.95, but if it costs a cent more, the freight fee jumps to $7.95.

Southwest Airlines (LUV) : Passengers who book a flight can check in early online and nab their preferred seat, as well as which overhead bin space they prefer -- for an extra $10 per flight. "It sounds benign enough," says Tod Marks, senior editor with Consumer Reports, in a statement. Yet it's a reminder that "price conscious customers can get penalized if they don't go for the upgrade."

Verizon Wireless (VZ): Consumer Reports found that the company alerted customers who exceeded their monthly allotment of minutes, text messages or data only after the fact, although Verizon tells the Federal Communications Commission that it warns customers before they're about to incur overage fees.