Boston (PRWEB) December 19, 2005
Shoppers may be in for some nasty surprises the day after Christmas as stores implement increasingly complicated and restrictive return policies, including checking a blacklist of serial returners prior to a refund, or by imposing unexpected restocking fees.
Some retailers including KB Toys, Sports Authority, Express, and some Staples stores use a computer database by The Return Exchange of Irvine, CA to track customer returns. (Home Depot, Wal-mart, Barnes & Noble, and others reportedly use their own proprietary systems.) Typically, stores swipe the shoppers drivers license when a return is being made, and if the stores return limit is exceeded, the customers tendered return is denied. Most stores posted policies do not warn shoppers of a cap on frequent returns.
Other stores are using increasingly strict but conventional means to curb returns. Items such as computers, digital cameras, and opened goods may be subject to limited return rights, restocking fees, shortened return periods, or no refunds at all.
In October, Sears became the first major department store to introduce a broad 15% restocking fee on select home appliances, electronics, home improvements, household goods, lawn and garden equipment, and automotive items not returned unused with full packaging. In two stores checked, the new policy appears mainly on 6 by 6 signs in tiny print, and on the back of sales receipts. Some checkouts have old or missing signs. This inconspicuous disclosure may not comply with state posting requirements.
Circuit City has a restocking fee on certain open items, but neither the specific fee nor the product categories are disclosed on store signs or on the sales receipt. Both direct shoppers to circuitcity.com for details. Also, their primary posted sign uses small white type on a yellow background, making it illegible for many people.
OfficeMax will not accept returns of opened digital cameras, software, etc., unless defective. Non-returnable categories vary online versus in-store.
JC Penney requires special occasion dresses to be returned with the return tag still in place. (This thwarts shoppers from renting dresses for one-time wearing.)
Amazon deducts 20-50% for certain returns after 30 days. SmartBargains.com will keep any goods returned twice after 30 days, and provide no credit for such items. Buy.coms Easy Returns policy is over 1400 words; its holiday policy posted late.
OfficeDepot.com only offers identical exchanges on laptops, digital cameras, PDAs, projectors, and handheld computers returned within 14 days.
Best Buy requires computers to be returned within 14 days instead of 30, they are excluded from their holiday policy, and certain items have a 15% restocking fee.
Target offers no returns without a receipt, but will search their system for one.
There may be many unhappy returns this year if consumers are slapped with unexpected restocking fees, or find themselves erroneously placed on a returns blacklist, said Edgar Dworsky, Founder of Consumer World