Smart Buying

18 Things You Can't Return to Amazon

Before tossing these items into your virtual shopping cart, be sure to read Amazon's return policy first.

Amazon shoppers may believe they have nothing to lose when trying out new products from the online retailer. After all, if you're one of the more than 100 million members of Amazon Prime, you get free shipping. And if you don’t like your impulse purchase, it’s free to return items sold and shipped by Amazon. (It’s easy, too: Now, you can even return unwanted Amazon.com purchases to your local Kohl's department store instead of through the mail.)

However, before filling up your virtual shopping cart, be aware that certain items can't be returned to Amazon -- no way, never. So before adding another item, make sure you fully understand the e-commerce giant’s return policy.

Let's start with the basics: Amazon's standard return policy allows customers to return most items that are sold and fulfilled by Amazon within 30 days of receipt for a full refund. The return policy is more generous for holiday purchases: Most items shipped by Amazon between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31 can be returned through Jan. 31 of the following year.

If you order via Alexa voice shopping, you can return non-digital products to Amazon free. For accidental digital purchases via Alexa, contact customer service for a refund within seven days.

Return policies for merchandise sold and shipped by third-policy sellers on Amazon.com can vary, so read each seller's fine print.

Some products, though, simply can't be sent back to Amazon. Take a look:

  • Computer laptops, desktops and Kindles (after more than 30 days from delivery)
  • Some health and personal care items, including items with damaged safety protection seals (but may be refundable)
  • Customized/handmade products (unless there is damage, defect or error, such as misspellings)
  • Digital music downloaded from the Amazon Digital Music store
  • Fresh flowers (but may be refundable)
  • Gift cards
  • Groceries (including AmazonFresh and Prime Pantry items, though refunds or replacements are possible in cases of spills or spoilage)
  • Hazardous materials, including flammable liquids or gases
  • Live insects (Amazon sells everything from ladybugs to Madagascar hissing cockroaches)
  • Live plants (but may be refundable)
  • Pet food (but may be refundable)
  • Prepaid game cards (for World of Warcraft, Xbox 360 Live, Wii Points, etc.)
  • Prepaid phone cards
  • Products missing the serial code or universal product code (UPC)
  • Software and game downloads, as well as other digital purchases from the Amazon Appstore
  • Theme park tickets
  • Videos downloaded from the Amazon Video store
  • Wine (but may be refundable or replaceable)

Amazon’s Return Policy for Gifts

If you're returning a gift that was purchased for you from Amazon, you'll need the order number from the packing slip. The refund will usually be issued in the form of an Amazon.com gift card.

Amazon’s Return Policy for Electronics

Amazon can be a stickler about returns of certain high-value items, including jewelry, collectibles and electronics. Review the product detail page for specifics. Laptop and desktop computers, as well as Kindle e-readers, must be returned within 30 days of purchase. 

Amazon operates a trade-in program that lets you sell back eligible items, including electronics such as video games and Kindles (as well as books). Shipping is free, and you'll be paid with an Amazon.com gift card.

Of course, if you prefer to receive cash for your items, try selling them yourself on Craigslist.org or eBay.com. Sites such as Gazelle.com and NextWorth.com specialize in buying used electronics.

Make the Most of Non-Returnable Amazon Purchases

So what can you do if an item isn't returnable or you miss the return window? Re-gifting is one option. Another is giving the item to charity, which might allow you to get a tax break for your charitable donation. Sell back your unwanted gift cards to card-swap sites such as Cardpool.com and GiftCards.com.

As for the live insects you can't return to Amazon? Sorry, you're on your own.

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