Returns Survey: The Good, the Bad and the Complicated
In its annual survey of major retail return policies, ConsumerWorld made its list and checked it twice of return policies that are naughty and nice.
Sports Authority, some Staples stores, KB Toys, The Limited and Express got on the naughty list because of their use of The Return Exchange's database to limit customer returns.
"Some stores' posted policies do not warn shoppers of a cap on frequent returns," the ConsumerWorld report said. "Last year, Express and The Limited for the first time explicitly disclosed return limits albeit on inconspicuous signs and receipt backs: five returns within any 90 day period with a receipt or only up to $300 without a receipt."
On the good list, Costcowhich historically has had some of the most consumer-friendly return policies among the major retail chainsis still near the top, but has slightly tightened its policies, with no deadline for most merchandise, but a generous 90-day policy "for TVs, computers, cameras, portable music players, cell phones and projectors."
Macys.com also was on the good list, with a 180-day limit (the longest in the survey) for returns, but it also has a 25 percent restocking fee for furniture.
JC Penney this year is trying to address "wardrobing" with a requirement that "special occasion dresses to be returned with the return tag still in place," the store said.
ConsumerWorld also noted some policies it dubbed "novel," such as Amazon.com allowing returns after 30 days but deducting as much as 50 percent for them. Office Max offers no returns on opened digital cameras at all, but will allow for digital camera exchanges if the products are defective.
Our favorite line from the report: "Buy.com's 'Easy Returns' policy is over 1,500 words long."
"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 Consumer World founder Edgar Dworsky. "There is also no excuse for retailers' continued failure to clearly disclose their return policies to shoppers in advance."
Retail Center Editor Evan Schuman can be reached at Evan.Schuman@ziffdavisenterprise.com.