It's happened to nearly everyone: the Christmas sweater from Aunt Mabel is four sizes too small, or the mirror that looked so great in the store is in fact twice the size of the room meant to display it. Returning items to stores for a wide variety of reasons is a common, though often frustrating, experience. Understanding the different types of store return policies can help prepare the disappointed consumer for what to expect when trying to make a return.
Refund store return policies return the money paid for the original purchase. These usually require that a person has an original or gift receipt, in order to ensure that the item did originally come from the store or store chain, and was actually purchased, instead of stolen. Refund policies also may require that the item be brought back with all tags or original packaging. Many refund policies have a one- to three-month time limit on returns to make sure that the product has not been used excessively or is no longer carried by the store.
Some store return policies offer a store credit for returned goods. This means that the customer is given a gift card or account credit in the amount of the returned merchandise. This can help stores maintain their profit levels by keeping customers from returning items for cash and then spending it in another store. Store credit policies may also require a receipt for validation, and often expire after a year or two.
For the sorrowful customer without a receipt, some stores will still offer a return policy in the form of an exchange. If a returned item is the wrong size, is damaged, or is missing parts, an exchange policy allows the customer to switch it for a working identical model. This can be an excellent option for people that still want the merchandise, but are unhappy with some of the aspects or discover a malfunction. For those who do not want the item, these type of store return policies may cause an unfortunate impasse.
There are some issues to be aware of when facing almost any kind of store return policy. Some stores will not allow the return of sale or clearance items, even if they were given as a gift. Others may try to refund or credit the customer for the price the item is currently selling for, rather than the price is was when initially purchased. Running into these pitfalls can be frustrating, but there are sometimes ways around the issue. Remember that unfair store return policies are almost never the fault of the store clerk, and taking out frustration on him or her will get a person nowhere. On the other hand, a friendly smile, sympathetic story, and polite attitude may occasionally inspire clerks to try to get an exception for a return.