BUFFALO, NY -- Tis' the season to return. Holiday gift returns are expected to jump nearly 40 percent, according to "Liquidity Services," which manages returned merchandise for retailers.
So who has the best return policies?
Based on my experience as a bargain hunter who returns at least a dozen things every week, here's my list of the major stores with top honors in the returns department.
Why? Their policy that allows shoppers to return any time, for any reason is awesome, but the fact you don't need a receipt is even better. Kohl's is one of the few stores where they will exchange merchandise for a refund, exchange, or store credit.
Why? It's refreshing to find a store that pays return shipping on all returns, all the time. In-store, Nordstrom will let you return an item at ANY TIME if it does not meet your expectations.
If an item you purchase drops in price, they'll meet the new sale price up to two weeks after your purchase date.
Why? And no this is not a typo: You have 365 days to return any item you don't like that doesn't fit and the store will also absorb your return shipping costs.
Why? They promise to attempt a return on every purchase, even those without a receipt, which is rare to see. They have a generous 90-day return window and will accept returns for anything purchased online in an actual store (rather than making you ship it back to the e-warehouse it came from). My only complaint is that Target's shipping rates on their own website are all over the place and they need to make it easier for customers to shop online.
Why? The store keeps their return window open a whopping 6 months. And like Target, they'll let you return a purchase you made online to a store. I just wish they would cover the return costs for online purchases like some of the other stores that inhabit this top 6 list.
Why? Although their customer service is all web-based, their prompt responses, pre-paid shipping returns (in most cases) and extremely easy-to-use returns center never ceases to impress me. Amazon is sometimes criticized for some of the customer service in its Marketplace, but these are third-party resellers and Amazon does a solid job governing everything on its website.
Why? With a 90-day return window for most electronic retailers, Costco is already ahead of the game. My favorite part: If you're a member, you never need a receipt because all purchases can be looked up through your membership -- even years after the fact.
Who Tops My Naughty List? (We'll examine this another day)
Why? Considering the average price of an item at an Apple Store is $400, I'd like more than 14 days to return it! Apple did extend their holiday return window and allows 30 days for iPhone returns. I still think such an innovative company could set a better example in the returns department.
Why? Despite wonderful prices and decent customer service, Walmart's return policies could not be more complex or confusing.
Every department has a different return policy.
CDs and books: 90 days
Video game hardware: 15 days
Pre-owned video game software: 90 days
Computer hardware: 15 days
Lawn mowers: 30 days
Etc., etc. You need a chart just to understand what's going on.
Daily Deal Sites
Daily deal websites generally do not accept returns unless an item is defective. Does that mean you should avoid them? Not at all, in my opinion. If you want to lock in a price at 80% off, daily deal websites are the only way to go. These closeout prices usually mean the warehouse liquidating stock will not accept a return if you change your mind. As long as you do your research before you confirm you purchase, a final sale is not always a bad thing.