Returning or exchanging an online purchase to any retailer can be complicated, regardless of the reason for the return. Many stores have restrictions, restocking fees, and non-refundable clauses hidden in the fine print. We have found that returning the item to the individual store is always the easiest even if it takes up your time to travel there and stand in line. But you still need to know a few things:
- It is important to check the return policy before purchasing a product, and before opening the item or removing UPC numbers. Most stores will only offer an exchange, store credit, or charge a restocking fee for certain opened or missing items.
- Always save your receipt.
- Best Buy, Buy.com, Staples, Walmart, and Vann’s have special holiday return policies to permit customers to return products that were purchased as gifts. See the website for more details.
- Newegg and TigerDirect.com have very limited return policies that vary from product to product. It is important to check the website or call customer service if you have questions about your specific purchase.
- Costco and Kohl’s have the best return policies of all the companies listed in the chart.
- Most businesses require an RA (Return Authorization) or RMA (Return Merchandise Authorization) number for a return via mail. You can get this number by visiting the website or calling customer service.
- While Walmart is one of the only major retailers that will accept returns without a receipt, the cash register system keeps track of each non-receipt return. If a customer returns more than three items without receipts within a 45-day period, the system flags the transaction, and a member of the management team must approve the return. This message will remain in the system for six months and disappear if there are no more returns at that time.
- Not all stores enforce their restocking fee in every case, and you may find some willing to accept a return that they normally would refuse. It's worth a call to customer service to haggle.
In addition to these tips, we also recommend contacting customer service if you have any questions regarding your return. Although each retailer we contacted includes a return policy on its website, we discovered other restrictions when speaking with customer service representatives. Some stores may not list holiday return policies, so it never hurts to double check with a simple phone call or email.
For the general return policies and restrictions for major retailers, please review the chart below:
|Retailer||Return Policy||Restocking Fee||Non-refundable Items||Return Shipping|
|Amazon||30 days to return most new, unopened items for a full refund. Opened items or new items returned after 30 days may receive a partial refund.||Expect a 50% to 85% partial refund on certain opened items and items returned more than 30 days after delivery. Any item that is not in its original condition, is damaged, or is missing parts for reasons not due to our error gets up to 50% of item's price.||Amazon.com has a list of specific items, such as Grocery Products, and non-refundable conditions that can be found in the returns policy on their website; however, Amazon.com will issue a full refund for damaged products sold by Amazon.com||Paid for by consumer (unless the customer received an incorrect or defective item).|
|Best Buy||30 days for most products (from the date the item is received). 14 days for some electronics. 45 days for all products for Reward Zone Premier Silver Members.||25% for Special Order Products, including appliances; 15% for opened notebook computers, projectors, camcorders, digital cameras, radar detectors, GPS navigation and in-car video system; 10% for Apple iPhones||Best Buy will not refund certain items, such as digital content, consumables, items damaged by customer, or non-defective, opened computer software, movies, music and video games.||Paid by consumer (unless the return is a result of Best Buy's error, in which case Best Buy will cover all reasonable and customary ground shipping fees).|
|Buy.com||45 days, with a valid RMA (Return Merchandise Authorization) from the Buy.com website.||None||Downloaded software; oversized televisions (27 inches or larger), unless TV is inspected and found defective before the shipper leaves the customer's premises; Any items purchased from third-party retailers; Marketplace items.||Paid by consumer (except for verified defective products).|
|CircuitCity.com||30 days for most unopened items, and 14 days for defective software and media (for same item and title only); all products must have a Return Authorization (RA) number prior to being returned.||Non-qualified and non-conforming returns are not included in CircuitCity.com return policy and, if returned, will be rejected or subject to a restocking fee of up to 25% at CircuitCity.com's sole discretion.||Software and multimedia products outside their original packaging; Products offering mail-in-rebates, once the rebates have been filed for; Consumables (toner cartridges, ink cartridges, blank media, projector bulbs, etc), once their packaging or outer wrapping has been opened.||Paid by the customer, unless the product is defective (at CircuitCity.com's discretion) and shipped within the U.S.|
|Costco||90 days for televisions, projectors, computers, cameras, camcorders, iPOD/ MP3 players, and cellular phones. All other items unlimited.||None||N/A||Paid by Costco|
|Dell.com||21 days for most unopened items. 30 days for certain products listed under Dell.com's return policy.||Unless item is returned due to damage or Dell error, the customer may be charged up to 15%.||Some software licenses listed under Dell.com's return policy exceptions.||Paid by consumer.|
|Frys||30 days for qualifying products (must have RA number).||Frys.com charges a deduction for certain items returned without original packaging; deduction depends on the item.||Any return to a Fry's Electronic retail store; software, games and DVDs that have been opened; televisions (24" and larger); returns or exchanges of certain products manufactured by Apple, Compaq, HP, Intel, Mitsubishi, Sony, or Toshiba.||Paid by consumer.|
|JCPenney||90 days for items with a receipt; 30 days for items without a receipt (only in the form of a voucher or credit to the customer's J.C. Penney card.||None||Restrictions apply to furniture, fine jewelry, special occasion dresses, Small electronics, electronics, gift registry, monogrammed, personalized and altered merchandise, made-to-measure window coverings, optical, perishable food items, Sephora and Salon. Selected Merchandise categories are subject to additional criteria.||Paid by consumer, unless the return is a result of J.C. Penney's error.|
|Kmart||90 days for most items; 30 days for air conditioners, gas powered equipment, jewelry and watches.||15% for certain opened items or oversized items (contact customer service for more details).||Returns without a receipt or email confirmation; restrictions apply to certain opened or used items (see website for more details); prescription drugs or special order jewelry cannot be returned or exchanged.||Paid by consumer, unless the return is the result of Kmart's error.|
|Kohls||Any item can be returned at any time, but the sooner the better.||None||N/A||Paid by consumer (unless the item is defective, damaged, or recalled, or a result of a Kohl's error).|
|Newegg.com||30 days standard policy.||15% on all products.||Any opened or damaged item, or items listed in the return policy table of contents on Newegg.com||Paid by consumer.|
|Office Depot||30 days for office supplies; 14 days for technology products in original packaging.||15% for items returned with missing components.||Opened items; gift cards; Special Order/Custom or Manufacturer Direct items; items without a receipt will receive store credit within 90 days, unless under $10, which will receive a cash refund.||Paid by Office Depot, unless otherwise indicated.|
|Sears||90 days for most items; 30 days for Home Electronics, Mattresses, air conditioners, gas powered equipment, jewelry and watches||15% for certain oversized or opened items and Special Orders cancelled after 24 hours of purchase (see website for more details).||Returns without a receipt or email confirmation; restrictions apply to certain opened or used items (see website for details); customized jewelry cannot be returned or exchanged.||Paid by Sears, unless the return is the result of a Sears error.|
|Staples||Office supplies and unopened software may be returned at any time. 14 days for technology and business machines, furniture, and unopened ink and toner cartridges.||None||Custom furniture and prepaid cards. Opened software may be exchanged for same title only. Returns without a receipt are given store credit only.||Paid by consumer, unless the item is defective.|
|Target||90 days for all purchases. Must have an in-store receipt from Target's online return center to return an item purchased online to a store.||Some items are subject to a 15% restocking fee, including camcorders, digital cameras, portable DVD players and portable electronics.||Some opened items, including music, movies, video games, software and collectibles; GiftCards, e-GiftCards, prepaid music, game and phone cards; other restrictions may apply.||Paid by consumer (unless the return is a result of Target's error, in which case Target will also refund any applicable gift-wrapping charges).|
|TigerDirect||30 day limited guarantee for exchange or refund (at TigerDirect's discretion). Must have RA number.||Tiger.com reserves the right to charge a restocking fee according to the condition of the merchandise.||Software, consumables, and any damaged, incomplete, or non-conforming return.||Paid by consumer.|
|Toys "R" Us||90 days for most items; 45 days for video games, accessories, and systems, computer software, VHS cassettes, DVDs, music, electronics, radio-control items, trading cards, collectibles, consumer electronics, monitors and breastpumps.||None||Items restricted to the 45-day time limit cannot be returned if opened; Toys'R"Us will not process the return for any item returned without the original packaging, packing slip, or if the item is missing any of its components.||Paid by consumer (unless the item is defective, damaged, or recalled, or a result of a Toys'R'Us error).|
|Walmart||90 days for most items; 45 days for computer components and accessories; 30 days for camcorders and digital cameras; 15 days for computers and postpaid cell phones;||None||Each Walmart department has its own guidelines for non-refundable items (see website for detials). For all departments, items without a receipt may be returned in-store only, for a cash refund (for items under $25), a shopping card (for items over $25), or an even exchange. If the customer has returned more than three items without a receipt within a 45-day period, a Walmart manager must approve the return.||Paid by consumer (unless the return is a result of Walmart's error, in which case Walmart will also refund any applicable gift-wrapping charges).|
Ashley Watson is a dealnews writer.
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