The take-back queen

How to make hassle-free returns

Super shopper Yolanda Shoshana Thomas never passes up a sale. But before she hands over her hard-earned money, the savvy New York City-based television producer knows the store’s return policy inside out.

Her favorite stores are Loehmann’s, Marshalls, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s, and Old Navy. But she thinks Express has the best return policy, because you can take an item back at any time if you have a receipt. After almost a year, she returned an item to Express with no problems.

According to Ellen Tolley, spokesperson for the National Retail Federation, Thomas is the sort of customer retailers enjoy. “If an item is returned with a receipt, unopened or unused/unworn, the retailer sees the return as an opportunity to provide good customer service,” she says. While most retailers may not be as customer friendly as Nordstrom, which once gave a customer cash for tires because he purchased them from a tire store previously located on Nordstrom’s Anchorage, Alaska, site, your average retailers want your business. To return an item with ease, Tolley suggests shoppers do the following:

  • Know the store’s return policy.
  • Have your receipt.
  • Return the item as soon as possible.
  • Speak to a manager if there’s a problem.

“I always keep my receipts, and I try to take the item back in a week or two, even if the return policy is 30 days,” Thomas says. She is an ideal consumer, but not all of us are as prepared — or as honest.
As a result, some retailers charge restocking fees to prevent consumers from using items, like camcorders, before returning them for a full refund. “Retailers have been forced to change their return policies because of this kind of behavior,” says Tolley. “Most consumers who research policies before they buy are aware of restocking fees.”

To learn a retailer’s return policy, look for signs posted in the store, on its Website, and on the back of receipts. But what if you have a receipt and the salesperson refuses to give you a refund or store credit? “I did experience a difficult exchange once,” confesses Thomas, 31. After purchasing about $200 worth of makeup about five years ago, she discovered she was allergic to it. Since she had opened it, the company didn’t want to take it back. “It took two salespeople and a manager before I got my money back,” she says. But she didn’t give up — and neither should you.

Retailer Return Policy Website
Ann Taylor Returns accepted at any time with receipt and price tags. Without them, you’ll get www.anntaylor.com
  current selling price. Accepts online returns in stores.  
Bed Bath & Beyond Takes back anything, with or without a receipt, with no time limit. Online items can be returned to stores, but keep original invoice. www.bedbathandbeyond.com
Bloomingdale’s Refunds available within 90 days with original tags. Without receipt, it’ll be at manager’s discretion. You pay to ship online items back. www.bloomingdales.com
Circuit City Offers refunds within 30 days. Some items have a 14-day limit and some can only be exchanged once

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