Retailers tightening up on return policies

If you have been shopping at Banana Republic stores recently, you may have received an extra-long receipt.

A printed message at the bottom describes an upcoming change to the store’s return policy:

“Starting July 1, 2015 Banana Republic will only accept returns within 45 days of the original date of purchase.”

That’s only 15 days less than what used to be allowed (previously you had 60 days for returns), but it’s still a stricter policy. And you might only know that you had 15 fewer days to make a return if you pay attention while you are in the store. The return policy for merchandise purchased in-store doesn’t appear online.

While some retailers continue to have liberal return policies — Nordstrom, for example, takes top billing by having no actual written return policy — others have been pulling back in recent months.


In April, critics blasted Bed, Bath & Beyond for introducing a new policy that charges consumers 20 percent for any returns without a receipt.

On the other end of the shopping spectrum, Target recently expanded its return policy on all Target branded merchandise. You now have a full year to return any Target brands without a receipt.

The thing is, you may never know about any of these policies or policy changes unless you really pay attention to your receipts or take the time to check it out online. So, here are a few things to remember when seeking a return:

Keep your receipt: Stores will take merchandise without a receipt, but as we know from BB&B, the penalties for returning items without one may be stiff and you may have to accept a store credit instead of a refund. Also be aware that if you are asked for personal information to make a return without a receipt, your information is likely being tracked to make sure you are not a chronic returner.

Check the policy: It’s a good idea to visit a store’s website to find the official return policy but sometimes that isn’t enough as noted with Banana Republic. In some cases,  you will need to call the store directly.

Be category smart: Electronics, furniture and other bigger ticket items are likely to have more restrictive return policies than other general merchandise. These items may also be subject to a re-stocking fee. However, one category that you would think comes with heavy restrictions, but does not, is beauty items and makeup. Perfume, makeup, and other beauty products can all be returned at retailers like CVS, Rite Aid, Nordstrom, etc., even if the packages have been opened and the items partially used.

Shop at the right stores: As mentioned above, certain stores are known for hassle free or very accommodating return policies such as Anthropologie, Nordstrom, Kohl’s, Costco and more. The return policies at these stores range from up to a year for returns with a receipt or an indefinite amount of time during which you can return or exchange your purchase.

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