The task of returning unwanted products has become a lot more challenging during this pandemic.
If you've been holding on to an unwanted item purchased in-store or online just before retailers temporarily closed brick-and-mortar locations or suspended e-commerce transactions, you're in luck. Most have extended their standard return window to accommodate customers who've been sheltering in place for weeks. But the trends aren't all favorable for consumers: Big-box retailers such as Costco and Walmart have temporarily discontinued returns for select household items -- including paper products and cleaning supplies -- due to health and safety concerns. And due to the increased volume of returns and e-commerce activity in general, it may take retailers longer than usual to process refunds, says consumer-savings expert Andrea Woroch.
We've examined amended return policies for many popular brick-and-mortar retailers and e-commerce sites to identify how soon shoppers will need to initiate a return in order to get a full refund. Here's what we found.
Most items ordered from Amazon between March 1 and April 30 can be returned through May 31. (See 16 Things You Can't Return to Amazon.) You'll need to log into your account to initiate the return process and select a shipping method.
If you choose UPS drop-off (at an authorized shipping location) or a drop-off via an Amazon Hub Locker, you will need to print out a prepaid shipping label. The shipping cost is deducted from the refund amount. If you opt for a shipping carrier of your choice, such as FedEx or USPS, you'll have to pay for the shipping costs upfront and provide your own mailing label.
For customers who purchased items at a brick-and-mortar location prior to stores temporarily closing, American Eagle asks that you hold onto these items until stores have reopened. Currently, the retailer is unable to accept returns or exchanges by mail for products purchased in-store. American Eagle isn't placing a time limit on exchanges or returns once stores have reopened.
Online customers are still able to make returns by mail, but should expect processing delays. If you have questions pertaining to your order, you can live-chat with American Eagle's customer service department.
Apple stores are closed until further notice, which means customers aren't currently able to make in-store returns. Once brick-and-mortar locations reopen, customers have up to 14 days after the reopen date to return an unwanted item for a full refund.
If you'd like to return an online order, go to apple.com/orderstatus to start the process and print a return shipping label. You can opt to ship the order back yourself or schedule a pickup.
With its stores temporarily closed, the electronics retailer has extended its return policy: Items purchased on March 1 through May 17 can be returned until May 31 for a refund. Currently, Best Buy is only permitting contactless curbside returns and exchanges. You will need proof of purchase and an ID, such as your driver's license, to complete the process.
In-store product trade-ins and recycling services have been suspended until further notice. Items purchased with a third-party contract, such as cell phones, cellular tablets or AppleCare monthly plans, must still be returned within 14 days of purchase.
For online returns, if the reason you are returning the item is for anything other than an error by Best Buy, the cost of shipping will be deducted from your refund.
The warehouse club will continue to honor its return policy, which allows members to return unwanted products at any time for a full refund, on most items it sells at local Costco locations. There are exceptions, such as cellular phones, electronics and major appliances, that must be returned within 90 days of purchase.
However, amid health and safety concerns related to COVID-19, there are certain products that cannot be returned until further notice. This includes bottled water, disinfectant spray, paper towels, rice, sanitizing wipes and toilet paper.
For online returns, you'll need to log into your account and print a shipping label to return via mail. To see a list of items that cannot be returned via the warehouse club's online return center, go here.
DSW's standard return policy, which allows customers to make returns up to 90 days from the date of purchase for a full refund, is still valid. While many locations remain closed, you can make returns at stores that allow contactless curbside pickup. You'll need to contact your local DSW to find out when curbside return hours are in operation.
Upon arrival, you need to contact the phone number provided to notify an associate you have arrived. That person will then come to your car to take your return.
The e-commerce site is now giving customers 21 days from when a return has been initiated and accepted by the seller or a return shipping label has been provided to send the unwanted item back.
Once the return has been received by the seller, they'll have five business days to inspect the item, confirm it's in good condition and issue your refund.
All of Gamestop's brick-and-mortar locations are closed to customers. While you can make purchases online and pick them up via the retailer's contactless "Delivery@Door" service between noon and 8 p.m. local time, product returns and exchanges have been suspended. Those services will resume once stores reopen.
The video game retailer will amend its return window once stores reopen to allow customers enough time to make returns and receive refunds.
Home Depot is asking customers to refrain from making in-store returns at this time but is still accepting them. The home improvement chain has extended its standard 90-day return policy to 180 days from the date of purchase on most new and unopened merchandise.
There are certain items that must be returned within 30 days including area rugs, consumer electronics, furniture, gas-powered equipment and generators. Some Home Depot items -- from gift cards to some appliances -- can't be returned at all.
Customers can return eligible online orders by mail. Once you've been approved for a return, you'll receive a shipping label via e-mail. Drop your package off at your local UPS store or dropbox.
All of the furniture retailer's U.S. stores remain closed. As a result, IKEA has suspended its 365-day return policy and isn't accepting any new returns or exchanges until further notice. For exchanges and online returns shipped back prior to March 16, those orders are being processed as quickly as possible.
When stores resume normal operations, IKEA promises customers whose return window expired during the closure that it will take that into consideration when processing future refund requests.
Kohl's big-box stores have remained closed to help combat the spread of COVID-19. As a result, the retailer is allowing customers up to 30 days once stores reopen to make returns with a valid receipt or account look-up for a full refund.
This applies even if the item surpasses their standard 180-day return window and includes all Kohl's merchandise except for premium electronics. Items such as headphones, speakers, computers and tablets must be returned within 30 days of purchase (see full list here).
Lowe's has extended its 90-day return policy to 180 days from the original purchase date. Customers can return most new or unused merchandise in-store for a full refund with proof of purchase. Returns for items purchased with a gift card will be refunded as an in-store credit. There are a select group of products that have a modified return policy and are listed below:
- Highway trailer: Within 60 days of receipt in its original state with original paperwork, including title (if applicable).
- Liquid paint: Within 60 days of purchase.
- Major appliances: Refrigerators, washers, dryers, ranges, hoods, dishwashers and some microwaves must be returned within 60 days of purchase.
- Outdoor power equipment: Mowers, chainsaws, generators, pressure washers, trimmers and blowers must be returned within 60 days of purchase.
If you're looking to return an online order, you'll need to affix the prepaid shipping label included with your order to the original packaging. You can then drop it off at your local parcel carrier.
If you made an in-store purchase on or after February 15 that you want to return, you can do so in-store up to 30 days after your local Lululemon location reopens. You'll need your receipt, and the items must be unworn and unwashed.
Online customers can return orders right now by mail, but it can take up to 15 days for shipments to reach the retailer's distribution warehouse due to high demand. Once your return has been received, the refund process will be initiated.
Nike has temporarily extended its 30-day return policy to 60 days for all in-store and online purchases made after February 14. As part of their standard policy, customers are able to test out their new shoes or apparel to make sure they're satisfied with their purchase. If not, you can return the items within the allotted timeframe for a full refund.
For online orders, you don't need a receipt, but will need to provide your order number (which you can get from your order confirmation e-mail). For in-store or gift purchases, you'll need the original receipt or gift receipt. If you have none of these things and the items you're attempting to return have been unworn and unwashed, you will receive a store credit.
All Nike customers -- even those who made purchases before February 14 -- can still make a return after 60 days, but only if the item is unworn and unwashed.
Nordstrom's standard return policy, which allows customers to return unwanted purchases at any time with a proof of purchase, still stands.
Some Nordstrom locations are offering contactless curbside returns. Check the retailer's store locator tool to find out if curbside returns are available in your area. Or, ship back unwanted purchases -- online and in-store -- via USPS using a prepaid shipping label provided by the retailer.
Due to an increased volume of returns and coronavirus-related delays, customers should anticipate the processing of refunds to take longer than the standard 14 days.
Customers who made purchases in-store on or after February 15 can return those items with a proof of purchase for a full refund up to 30 days after Sephora stores reopen. Those who made purchases between January 15 and February 14 can return unwanted items that are new or gently used (say, you tested out a new product once or twice, but soon decided you didn't like it) with a receipt for store credit.
If you made an online purchase, the beauty retailer has extended its standard 30-day return policy to 60 days. This will allow online customers enough time to return orders by mail. Once the items have been received, Sephora will refund your order using the original method of payment.
If you purchased an item in-store or online with a "return by" date between March 26 and April 26 at Target, you now have until June 15 to return it for a refund or store credit. The big-box retailer had previously suspended returns during that period.
Customers who wish to return online orders can do so by mail using the retailer's online return center. You'll need to print out a shipping label and drop off the package at a UPS location.
Returns for items purchased in-store before temporary store closures took effect have been suspended until brick-and-mortar locations reopen.
If you ordered an item online or through Ulta's app and chose "curbside pickup," you can ship the items back to the beauty retailer's return center. You'll be responsible for shipping costs. You will also need to print out your order confirmation, clearly mark the items being returned and include it with your shipment.
For more details, go to ulta.com/ways-to-shop-ulta-beauty/pickup and click the "What if I want to return my curbside pickup order?" dropdown.
Walmart has temporarily suspended returns and exchanges of apparel, food items, health and beauty products, household cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, paper products and pharmacy items amid the coronavirus outbreak. For all other goods, the big-box retailer recommends initiating the return process online or through their app before venturing to your local store location.
You'll need your receipt containing a valid transaction number to do this. If the items purchased are eligible, you'll be able to print out a shipping label and mail the unwanted items back for free. If they aren't eligible, you'll have six additional weeks on top of Walmart's standard 90-day policy to make in-store returns once that service has resumed for impacted product categories.
Online orders sold and shipped by Walmart.com can be returned up to 90 days after purchase by mail. Exchanges of online orders currently cannot be processed by mail. You will need to do so in-store for eligible items. Products purchased online from third-party sellers via Walmart's marketplace do not qualify for returns, refunds or exchanges.
Return pick-ups of large items, such as furniture weighing more than 100 pounds or furniture sets that require freight shipping, have been temporarily suspended. You can contact Wayfair.com's customer service directly at 844-616-9555 for clarity on when pick-ups will resume in your area.
For all other items, their standard return policy remains in effect. You have 30 days from the date of delivery to return an unwanted item. You will be on the hook for return shipping costs, and the product must be received in its original condition and packaging.
Items that cannot be returned (unless you receive them damaged or defective) include bundled items (for example, "5 for $25," unless the entire bundle is returned), clearance items, gift cards, personalized items, products you've already assembled or are marked as non-returnable on the packaging.
Browne Taylor joined Kiplinger in 2011 and was a channel editor for Kiplinger.com covering living and family finance topics. She previously worked at the Washington Post as a Web producer in the Style section and prior to that covered the Jobs, Cars and Real Estate sections. She earned a BA in journalism from Howard University in Washington, D.C. She is Director of Member Services, at the National Association of Home Builders.
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