By Noah Henry • December 17, 2013
Don’t blame her. It was hard for Aunt Millie to get you something you want. She bought you an ugly Christmas sweater with blinking lights, and you graciously hugged her and told her you’d wear it obsessively. Her heart was in the right place, and that’s all that matters. But deep down you know it’s going right back to the shelf it came from.
Is it a moral offense to return gifts? That’s up to your conscience to decide. Is it morally wrong to wear an ugly sweater with blinking lights to a New Year’s party? Yes, it is indeed ethically irresponsible to subject your posse to Millie’s terrible taste. When this inevitably occurs, it’s important to know the return policy of the store in question so you can make a swift and painless shopping trip.
3 Rules to Note
1. Avoid the 26th. According to ShopperTrak, a leading shopper analytics provider, Thursday, Dec. 26th is estimated to be the seventh biggest shopping day of the year. It’ll be best to avoid the long lines and frazzled customer service associates, because this will be the likely scenario. Wait a few days for the Christmas hangover to subside.
2. Electronics have a shorter window. Usually, electronics must be returned within 14-15 days. Unlike clothes and other knickknacks, electronics are subject to stricter rules. Best Buy, Staples and Walmart each have 15-day limit, for example.
3. Know whether you’re getting store credit or a refund. It may affect your decision to return an item if the retailer provides store credit instead of a straight refund. Store buyers can usually receive refunds, but oftentimes recipients will only receive store credit. Read the fine print to decide whether the hassle is worth it.
7 Stores with No Time Limits
While a 30-day window is commonplace for returns or exchanges, some offer customers returns up to 90 days. Home Depot, Kmart, Sears, Target, Walmart, Toys “R” Us, and Dick’s Sporting Goods are a few that cater to the 90-day procrastinators. Others provide consumers returns or exchanges with no time limit. If you’ve receive a gift from the following retailers, you have an infinite amount of time to decide whether it’s morally contemptible to take Millie’s fashionably backward item back where she found it.
Awesomely, Nordstrom doesn’t even have a return policy. There are no time limits for returns or exchanges. Salespeople discern whether an item is acceptable for return or exchange, and receipts in some cases aren’t even necessary. Nordstrom Rack goes by a different, yet still decent, rule: Customers have 30 days to return unused merchandise and they must bring in a receipt, a photo ID and the original tags.
On the Kohl’s website it explicitly states, “Return any item, anytime, for any reason.” There is no policy to live by, and they’ll issue a full refund, exchange or merchandise credit whether or not you have a receipt. The only exception is gift cards, which cannot be returned. Otherwise, Kohl’s embodies the concept of hassle-free returns.
If you have a gift receipt, Macy’s will issue you credit in the form of a Macy’s Gift Card for the full purchase amount. If you don’t have a receipt, they’ll still issue you a Macy’s Gift Card for the item’s lowest price within the last 180 days. Likewise, Macy’s does not have a lime limit on returns or exchanges. They’ll even accept items that have been purchased online in the store.
Bath & Body Works issues a full refund with a receipt, and there’s no time limit. You can opt to exchange items or receive store credit for the purchase price of the receipt. If you don’t have a receipt, no problem—customers can get store credit based on the current price of the item.
With the exception of furniture, jewelry and electronics, which must be returned within 60 days, JCPenney will exchange or refund the item with the receipt at any time. Customers with gift receipts can exchange or receive a gift card equal to the list price. If you don’t have a receipt, JCPenney will issue a refund in the form of a gift card made out to the lowest price for the item in the last 45 days. An ID is required for returns made without a receipt.
Customers can return or exchange most items, including sale items, at any time after purchasing. There are no time limits for returns, excluding gift cards, furniture, mattresses, dresses, or registry gifts. Dresses cannot be returned if the tags are removed, and customers who don’t have a receipt can still get a refund if a purchase was made with a Bloomingdale’s card within the last year. A gift card will be issued if the receipt was removed.
Perhaps the most liberal of all, L.L. Bean has its Guaranteed To Last policy, which implies customers can return items for absolutely any reason, at any time. Gifts can be returned or exchanged for a gift card. Unless you’re an L.L. Bean Visa cardholder, a shipping fee of $6.50 has to be paid; but, you could always visit your local L.L. Bean and return or exchange there.
In sum, don’t strain to give a plastic smile when you receive a bad gift. These are the best returns and exchanges policies in retail, and you should take comfort in knowing any gift equates to money in the pocket. Holidays are meant for happiness, not stress. So when you open Millie’s present, know there’s always a chance for redemption.
Noah Henry Noah Henry is an amateur movie critic, foodie, bowler, and beer reviewer. But he's no amateur when it comes to saving money, so listen up!