Smart Buying

Retailers With Generous Return Policies

If you get a gift you don't like from any of these merchants, you'll have plenty of time to take it back for something you do want.

This Christmas -- as with any Christmas -- there's a good chance you will give or receive a gift that will end up being returned to the store where it was purchased. A recent survey by deal and coupon code site RetailMeNot.com found that 35% of respondents said they have returned a holiday gift they received. And about the same percentage said they have exchanged a gift.

 

With that in mind, it's worth considering which retailers make it easy to return unwanted gifts when deciding where to shop this holiday season. Of course, price should be a top concern when making a purchase. But you don't want to buy from a store that will make it hard for recipients of your gifts to exchange them for something they really want.

A 30-day limit on returns or exchanges is common among retailers, says Matthew Ong, a retail analyst for money-saving site NerdWallet.com. Some retailers -- such as Cabella's, Dick's Sporting Goods, Home Depot, Kmart, Lowe's, Sears, Target, Toys "R" Us and Walmart -- allow customers up to 90 days to return or exchange most items (electronics tend to be the exception and typically have 15- or 30-day limits). There's a handful, though, that give consumers a year or more to return purchases.

These 11 retailers stand out for their generous return policies, based on our research and a comparison of retailers' policies by Cheapism.com. The descriptions below highlight the key points of retailers' policies. For more detailed information, visit their Web sites.

No time limit

Anthropologie unconditionally guarantees its merchandise and allows customers to return or exchange items if they're not satisfied for any reason. Customers who don't have a receipt -- or packing list for online purchases -- for merchandise bought more than a year ago will be refunded at the items' current selling price. Furniture, however, must be returned within 30 days for a full refund. Furniture with a defect can be replaced for up to one year.

Bath & Body Works has no time limit on returns and will issue a full refund to customers with a receipt. Customers with a gift receipt can exchange items or receive store credit for the purchase price on the gift receipt. Customers without a receipt can receive store credit based on the current price of an item.

Bloomingdale's allows customers to return or exchange most items any time after purchase. It does tag some dresses, which cannot be returned if the tags are removed. Customers who don't have a receipt can get a refund if they purchased merchandise with a Bloomingdale's card within the past 12 months or the items still have their price tags attached -- otherwise, a gift card will be issued.

Costco does not have a time limit on returns or exchanges of items other than some electronics and tech gadgets. Televisions, projectors, computers, cameras, camcorders, tablets, MP3 players and cell phones must be returned within 90 days of purchase for a full refund. Receipts aren't necessary for returns or exchanges because this members-only warehouse club can track purchases through customers' accounts.

JC Penney lets customers with a receipt exchange most items at any time or receive a refund of the purchase price on the original method of payment. Exceptions include furniture, jewelery and electronics, which must be returned within 60 days. And special occasion dresses must be returned in their original condition with the green return tag in place. Customers with a gift receipt can exchange items or receive a gift card for the amount listed on the receipt. Customers without a receipt must show a photo ID to exchange items or get a refund in the form or a gift card for the item's lowest selling price within the last 45 days.

Kohl's has a "No Questions Asked - Hassle Free" return policy for all purchases. The retailer's sales associates can locate Kohl's charge card purchases up to 12 months after the purchase date and apply a credit to a customer's account. Non-Kohl's charge card purchases and purchases made outside the 12-month time frame qualify for a store credit or a corporate-issued refund check. Customers with a gift receipt can exchange items or receive store credit or a corporate-issued refund check. And customers without a receipt can exchange items or receive a corporate-issued refund or a store credit based on the lowest 13-week sale price if they didn't pay with a Kohl's charge or other major credit card.

L.L. Bean lets customers exchange or return purchases for a refund at any time. Items received as a gift can be exchanged or returned for a gift card.

Macy's does not have a time limit on returns and exchanges and can track down the price customers paid for items within the last two years if they charged purchases to a Macy's card. Customers with a gift receipt can receive a gift card for the full purchase price of an item. Customers without a gift receipt will get a gift card for the item's lowest price within the last 180 days.

Nordstrom does not have a return policy. So there are no time limits for returns or exchanges. Salespeople evaluate return and exchange requests on a case by case basis, says company spokesman John Bailey. Receipts are helpful but not necessary for returns or exchanges, he says. Usually Nordstrom Rack merchandise must be returned unaltered and unworn within 30 days of purchase with its original price tag and receipt or packing slip -- and a photo ID is required for all in-store cash refunds. However, any items purchased now through the end of the month can be returned up until January 31, Bailey says.

One-year limit

REI, an outdoor gear and sporting goods retailer, recently tightened its no-time-limit return policy to one year, which still is quite generous in the world of retail. (The retailer does limit returns from REI Outlet stores to 30 days.) Items can be returned for a refund or replacement with proof of purchase. Used items must be cleaned before they are returned. Normal wear and tear or damage caused by improper use is not covered by REI's "100% Satisfaction Guaranteed" policy.

Zappos, an online shoe and apparel retailer, will give customers a full refund if they send items back in their original condition and packaging within a year. Just as all purchases ship for free, all returns can be sent for free with a prepaid shipping label that can be printed from Zappos.com.

Ensure easy returns

You might have noticed that several of the retailers listed above will give store credit for an item at its lowest selling price to consumers without a gift receipt. So do your friends and family a favor by including a gift receipt with the items you give them this holiday season to help them avoid having to shell out their own money to exchange an item that might have dropped in price since you purchased it.

If you receive an unwanted gift without a receipt, make sure you act quickly to return it if it didn't come from one of the retailers listed above. Also make sure you don't open the manufacturer's or retailer's packaging on unwanted gifts. Otherwise you might only be able to exchange it for an identical item. Or you might have to pay a restocking fee (generally 15% of the purchase price) if you return items -- especially electronics -- that aren't in their original package. This is meant to discourage the one-time use of items.

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