A Guide to Store Return Policies

Sep 07, 2017Reading Time: 3 min

When shopping online or in-store, it can be tempting to buy something and decide later whether or not you'll want to keep it long-term. But, be careful when purchasing an item you may want to return because different stores have very different policies on whether or not returns are accepted, and if so, what the requirements are for the return. Remember to always check the return policy for a specific store prior to purchasing if you aren't sure you will be keeping the item to make sure you truly end up with something you will love.

Open-ended refund

Some stores, like Nordstrom and L.L. Bean, offer a very comprehensive return policy. This allows customers to return items within any timeframe for full satisfaction, with or without the receipt. Though both stores evaluate returns on a case-by-case basis and can refuse to accept an item for a few reasons, these retailers are often praised by customers for the ease and accessibility that these relaxed return policies provide.

Refund within a specified time frame

A large portion of retailers like Gap, Zappos, Urban Outfitters and most others will accept returns for a full refund within a specified time frame, though these can vary dramatically. For example, Gap offers a 60-day return period while Zappos offers 365 days to return your item for a refund. Because there is a specified limitation on the timing, these returns almost always will require a receipt for proof of purchase.

Store Credit

If you are missing the receipt to provide proof or purchase, most retailers will issue you a store credit as opposed to a full refund in the original form of payment. These will sometimes be issued in the form of gift cards, or in paper store credit slips. Depending on the retailer or store, you may receive the full amount of the original purchase in store credit, or they may only give you the value of the lowest price of the item on recent days—that way, if the item was on sale when you purchased it, you are not getting more than you paid.

Exchange Only

Some stores will not offer you a return, but will allow an exchange. This is usually the case if you do not have the original receipt from your purchase. For example, if you purchased something in the wrong size or color, you can often exchange it at the store, even without proof of payment, for the correct size or color way without much of a problem in lieu of a full return.


Final Sale

If the item you purchased was final sale, the store will not allow returns or exchanges on the item, even with a receipt. Often, items will be prominently marked final sale and you will be reminded by the associate or website during checkout to ensure that you are truly purchasing and item you want since you won't be able to swap it once it's received.