The 8 Best Return Policies in the Known Universe

December 27, 2013 by Kyle
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(Updated 10/18/17) Some stores make it a total pain in the butt to return gifts. Some make it so easy you want to only shop with them in the future. You’d think more stores would take notice of just how important a customer-friendly return policy is, especially in terms of repeat customers and more importantly, satisfied customers.

The 8 Best Return Policies in the Known Universe

Just in time to return those unwanted Christmas gifts, I breakdown the eight best return policies in the known universe.

Costco Wholesale

For a long time Costco had the single greatest return policy to ever exist. But like any really good thing, it got abused so they had to dial it back. But it is still REALLY good.  Here is the skinny:

  • 90 day return policy on electronics. No questions asked. This use to be unlimited days but people would bring back their HDTV a year after buying it, say it was broken, and upgrade it to the newest model.
  • All other consumer goods: 100% Satisfaction Guarantee. This means if you buy a Keurig coffee maker and it breaks down 14 months after you bought it (and it will), you can bring it back into Costco for a full refund. I know because I did this exact thing.
  • Do you need the original receipt? No, because all purchases are tracked on your account membership.

Membership refund: Also, if you’re unsatisfied with your membership for any reason you can get a full refund at any time.

Kohl’s

The Kohl’s return policy often doesn’t get the credit that it deserves. It’s pretty dang awesome:

  • Their website sums it up best: “Return any item, anytime, for any reason.” Um, yeah, I guess that’ll work.
  • Don’t have the receipt? You can still make an even exchange, take a merchandise credit or get a corporate refund.

How about a gift receipt only? You’ll score merchandise credit good for anything in the store.

L.L. Bean

Have you ever heard of a clothing store saying that they’ll take back any item, at any time, if you’re not completely satisfied with the quality of the item? Well, thanks to the L.L.Bean Guaranteed to Last program, you have now.

  • L.L.Bean will let you return anything, for any reason, if you’re not completely satisfied with the quality or fit for the lifetime of the item.
  • Their policy even extends to user error and abuse. If you are extremely hard on a pair of chinos and they rip, call them up and they’ll replace them saying, “Our chinos don’t rip, a new pair is in the mail.”

Pretty amazing policy that was first instituted back in the 1960’s.

Macy’s

The Macy’s return policy is also excellent and has a nice wrinkle for online purchases. Here is how it works:

  • Have the original receipt? They’ll take it back at ANY TIME and give you a full refund in the original form of payment. Doesn’t matter how long ago you made the purchase.
  • Lost the receipt? Not a problem, they’ll bend over backwards to try and find your purchase info by accessing your account, gift registry, or by using a customer return label. If they can find it, you’ll get a full refund.
  • If they can’t find proof of purchase, you’ll still get store credit for the item’s lowest selling price within the last 180 days. Not to shabby.
  • Also, they let you ship all returns back for free if you purchased the items at Macy’s.com. Thanks to DC at YoungAdultMoney.com for letting me know about this.

The nice little wrinkle that I mentioned involves online shopping from Macys.com. If your product arrives and has been damaged during delivery, you can take it to any Macy’s location and they’ll not only refund the purchase price but any shipping costs that you incurred.

Nordstrom

Nordstrom prides themselves in their excellent customer service and you often pay for it through higher prices. But nonetheless, their return policy is hard to beat:

  • Free returns, with no time-frame, either via mail or in-store. Pretty cool that they let you return your items via the mail for no extra charge. Really makes it risk-free when shopping from the Nordstrom website.

Even makes sense to buy a couple different sizes knowing that you can return the ones that don’t fit for free.

REI

REI has the famous “100% Satisfaction Guaranteed” policy which essentially let’s you “try out” their products risk free. Here is how it works:

  • You have exactly 1-year from date of purchase to return any product for any reason for a full refund or exchange, no questions asked.
  • You can return or exchange any product to one of their retail locations, regardless of whether you bought it online or by phone through their product catalog.

REI-Outlet items are handled a little bit differently as you only have 30 days to request a full refund or product exchange.

Target

The return policy at Target is pretty bodacious as well. Here is what you need to know:

  • Target offers a fairly liberal 90-day return window. The following items have a shorter 30-day return policy: netbooks, laptops, eReaders, tablets, cameras, camcorders, digital audio players, GPS systems, video game hardware, personal DVD players, and no-contract cell phones.
  • Almost all online purchases can be returned to a Target store.
  • All Target.com purchases can be returned for free by using their online return center.
  • Interesting note on Christmas gift purchases. For items purchased between 11/1 – 12/25, the refund period does not begin until 12/26.

If you are returning an item without a receipt they have the ability to look up your purchase in their computer system and issue you store credit.

Zappos

Zappos revolutionized the online return policy years ago and it has become their trademark. Here is how it works:

  • Not only will they ship your order for free, but they’ll allow you to mail it back for free if you are not satisfied for ANY reason.
  • You have exactly 365 days to return your item. Product must be in the same condition you received it and in the original packaging.

Order some shoes and apparel, try them on at home, and ship back what you don’t want for NO extra cost.

Ask the Reader: Have you ever used any of these return policies to your advantage? Tell me all about it. Also, am I missing any good store return policies? Let me know and I’ll be sure to add it to this list.

Happy savings.


By Kyle James

Photo credit to Jori Samonen.

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Comments

37 Responses to “The 8 Best Return Policies in the Known Universe”

  1. Dee @ Color Me Frugal on December 27th, 2013 5:17 am

    I adore Zappos. That’s pretty much the only place I buy shoes anymore. Even if I get the wrong size the first time, it’s easy to send back and get the right size. Or sometimes I go to a store and try on first and THEN order from Zappos. I found a great pair of winter boots a couple weeks ago on Zappos for $30 less than they were selling them for at the retailer I went to!

  2. Kyle on December 27th, 2013 8:59 am

    Good to know Dee, thanks! I always thought they were a bit more expensive and assumed it was because of the free shipping/free returns. Good to know that you scored such a great deal with them.

  3. DC @ Young Adult Money on December 27th, 2013 8:07 am

    There was a dress shirt I got from Macy’s online and it was too tight. I had already taken the tags off before trying it on and then essentially forgot about it for a few months. I saw on the receipt that it said 60 day return window. I shipped it back anyway with the receipt (shipping is free for returns btw) and no tags. They took it back! I’ve returned online orders in-store at Macy’s and I will never do it again, mainly because the guy was pretty rude and was questioning whether I had washed the shirts yet and how many times I had worn them. I straight up told him “next time I’ll just ship them back where they don’t ask questions.” He wasn’t amused.

  4. Kyle on December 27th, 2013 9:02 am

    Wow, that is awesome David. First off, thanks for letting me know that they offer free shipping on returns. I’ll add that to the post. Second, good tip on not using in-store returns, not worth the hassle if you can ship it back for FREE!

  5. courtney hennagir on December 27th, 2013 1:09 pm

    I used to work at bed bath & beyond and they will take back absolutely anything.heck,we even had someone try to return something that they had bought at target and since they swore up and down that they bought it there,we took it back and gave them cash back in the amount of a similar item.

  6. Kyle on December 30th, 2013 10:16 am

    Hey Courtney, that is great to know, thanks for sharing! I have always been a fan of the customer service at BB&B, they always give me coupon to use when I am at the checkout register!

  7. Mel @ brokeGIRLrich on December 27th, 2013 7:34 pm

    I have never had anything but terrific customer service at Kohl’s. It’s one of my favorite places to shop. I mean, they won me over in the first place with Kohl’s cash, which I realize was just intended to get me back in the door and spend more, but they didn’t take into account that I actually have some restraint. They always have so much that even if I don’t need something, I can stop by, use my Kohl’s cash on a candle or candy or Keurig coffee cups or something else that can go in the “gift closet” and then just leave without going over the amount. I <3 Kohl's.

  8. Kyle on December 30th, 2013 10:17 am

    “but they didn’t take into account that I actually have some restraint.” LOL, that is awesome, you just won our quote of the day Mel!

  9. Tara @ Streets Ahead Living on December 28th, 2013 9:21 pm

    It’s not exactly a return policy but I love Patagonia because they have a repair policy on their items–if damage occurs that was not from normal wear and tear, they’ll fix or replace it for free. They’re pricey but after my zipper broke on my last long down jacket after only 3 winters, I sprung for replacement I knew would last.

  10. Kyle on December 30th, 2013 10:19 am

    That is pretty darn cool that Patagonia stands behind their products the way they do. You might pay more upfront but many of their products will last your entire lifetime. Thanks for sharing Tara.

  11. [email protected] and the Beach on December 30th, 2013 9:06 am

    Zappos is one of my favorites! And I’ve had good luck with pretty much every store on your list. It became especially important with shoes because sometimes you just don’t know what they feel like until you wear them how you would wear them…not walking around the store to test them out.

  12. Kyle on December 30th, 2013 10:22 am

    So true Tonya, shoes can be really tricky. I wish other stores would try and follow the example that Zappos has set in terms of amazing customer service.

  13. [email protected] on December 30th, 2013 9:05 pm

    Thanks for the list. Some of these stores have amazing return policies…sometimes my wife plans on returning something to Macy’s and I’m thinking…you got that a LONG time ago…you can still return it? And yes apparently she can. I thought the time limit was 6 months though..

  14. KK @ Student Debt Survivor on January 2nd, 2014 4:16 pm

    I completely agree with LL Bean. One of the best return policies in the retail business. No questions asked, if you aren’t happy they will replace the item (even if it’s 100 years old). Pretty amazing.

  15. Elizabeth on October 27th, 2014 7:52 pm

    There is a major problem with Macy’s online purchases. I purchased two pair of shoes that did not fit and returned them the next day by mail. I purchased them with my Macy’s credit card. Instead of crediting my Macy’s card, they sent two Happy Returns gift cards. That is not acceptable. I have contacted them several times and they promised to transfer the money to my credit card in 7 to 10 business days. That time has passed, and it still hasn’t happened. I am stuck with almost $200 in gift cards for a credit card purchase. I see a lot of complaints on line about them doing this to other people. Beware of returning online purchases by mail.

  16. Tish on December 14th, 2014 9:23 pm

    I had the same issue. I returned items on October 25th to Macy’s using their free returns by mail. I requested that my Macy’s credit card be issued the refund, but instead I received over $200 in merchandise return certificates. I’ve spoken to 3 different reps and each time I am told “I’ve submitted the form again to transfer the funds from the return certificates to your credit card, but it takes 7-10 business days.” On December 8th, I sent a message to customer service online. I too received the auto confirmation, which acknowledged receipt of my request and stated someone would respond in 2-3 business days. It is December 14th and I have not received my credit to my Macy’s credit card, nor has anyone contacted me. I writing letters and canceling my credit card with them.

  17. JBT on December 2nd, 2014 5:09 pm

    I thought the return policy at Macys is 6 months. It says so on their receipt and website.

    My trick to get the best price… I would usually buy something at Macys and keep an eye out on that same item I bought in case they have a sale or have better pricing months later. I then buy same item and return it using the original receipt from my 1st purchase.

  18. MIchelle on December 13th, 2014 12:10 am

    Bed Bath and Beyond has the same policy as Kohls. You can return anything whenever. The say they offer lifetime guarantees on everything they sell.

  19. amanda on December 16th, 2014 5:00 pm

    Carters has no time frame for returns either. If u have a receipt you get back in cash or how you layed if you don’t have a receipt you get store credit back!!! Love carters

  20. Jeff on January 19th, 2015 11:44 am

    Kohl’s just changed their return and exchanges policy at the end of 2014. I was turned away when trying to exchange a pair of pants with a defective zipper, because they didn’t have the exact same style of pants in stock anymore. The most they would compensate me in trying to purchase a new pair of slacks was $13! (for a $60 pair of pants purchased on sale?) Kohl’s now has the WORST return and exchange policy, because as their store management told me, corporate leadership says they were losing too much money from allowing people to exchange merchandise (especially if it was defective).

  21. shanshan on July 29th, 2015 1:22 pm

    At Kohl’s, this happened to me. I bring my stuff in to return without a receipt. They promised to send me a check through corporate refund within 7-10 days. I wait for 30 days, call back many times, no check. They would ask which day I bought them, which card I used, which store, and then tell me they cant find it. So they can’t send you the check without a receipt. But they also won’t return your stuff! They robbed all of my stuff and money. I don’t know what to do. So never do a corporate refund!!! If they can’t give my money back in first place, just tell me. I will keep my stuff. Instead I lost it all and got nothing back.

  22. Danielle on February 1st, 2015 10:00 am

    Just wanted to let you know, if you purchase an item from Zappos on February 29th you have 4 YEARS to return it! Once, I ordered on that day and the rep told me since the next February 29th was not for 4 years, that’s how long I had to return it!

  23. Tara on February 27th, 2015 12:19 pm

    I bought a Clarisonic Mia at Macy’s and about two years later it crapped out and stopped taking a charge. Of course I was just outside of the warranty time to get my money back or a replacement directly from Clarisonic, so I figured I’d try to exchange it at Macy’s. They exchanged it, and happily! I was really amazed at their customer service.

  24. faaz on April 28th, 2015 4:20 pm

    My comment is about nordstrom, they say you may try different size and return the one it didn’t work. But they didn’t mention how long will take until they process the return and they will refund you. You how long I will tell you for ever and you keep calling every day asking for your money. So frustrated. And unorganized company.

  25. Karen on August 4th, 2015 11:54 am

    I HATE Target SO MUCH now I cannot even bear to see their tv ads or drive by and see the bullseye (which is across from the park where I used to take my grandkids until it got so unsafe).
    I have spent thousands of dollars there, and my family even more! Last Christmas I went to buy several pair of men’s sweatpants, shirts and hoodies for my ever cold terminally ill husband. The selection was terrible. When got home the fit was poor and the first pair shrunk. Went back 2x to exchange, but still no stock. Got slammed by life events and did not get back again until 100 days after purchase. Most were in stock then, but on sale. Return clerk was a horribly rude parody of a 1950’s “Bon March” clerk (the worst ever!!).
    He/she was also dressed like a freak with multicolored hair, unprofessional clothes, etc.
    PLUS. in the men’s department was a skinny drug addict gangbanger with his full bottom showing (covered by thin dirty underwear). I realized later he was shoplifting but I did not actually see it). This is in a store where the shopping mall has had armed robberies, assaults, attempted kidnapping of children, stabbing of employees, etc.
    I was only given back the sale price instead of the retail price I paid. Then I had to pay more for the larger size!
    I have spent thousands, my family together has spent tens of thousands at Target, and because I am getting to be an un-savvy old lady now (should have just returned the junky product the first week) I had hours of my time wasted, was treated rudely, cheated financially when I no longer can afford that, and put in danger from a gangbanger (while Target refuses to participate with the other stores in the mall to hire security).
    I have been so mad for all these months. I am driving ten times as far to shop elsewhere.
    Last night in bed I was trying to compose an email to their customer service and I got so worked up and upset again about the whole experience I had a very severe Angina attack and almost had to call 911.
    See those signs that say how much they give back to the community? Well that just proves they are charging buyers TOO MUCH.
    Plus all the identity information breaches!
    90 days is NOT a good return policy.
    Nordstrom would NEVER treat a customer so badly.
    I hope everyone who has been treated this way stops shopping there like I have. I am trying to get my whole family to stop also, and one branch has joined my boycott.

  26. Dr. C on December 3rd, 2016 4:43 am

    Wow. I would feel bad for you, but I, too am a freak with multi colored hair. Must be a gang banger, huh? Try again, I am a doctor.

  27. Sizzle on December 10th, 2015 2:00 pm

    Is there an updated version of this list or are these still the same now, in December 2015

  28. surindra on December 22nd, 2015 11:56 am

    I got reply from Kohl, challenging their advertised return policy, copy here:

    Subject
    Help to return the ring.

    Discussion Thread
    Response Via Email (Lilibeth S.) 12/22/2015 01:26 AM
    Dear Surindra,

    I’m so sorry if the store didn’t accept your return. We apologize but we can no longer process a return on your order since it was placed on 02/09/13. The order is no longer on our system and we are unable to make a credit to the order anymore.

    We apologize for any inconvenience this issue has caused you.

    Sincerely,
    Lilibeth S.

  29. surindra on December 22nd, 2015 11:58 am

    PS: I have original receipt.

  30. john on July 14th, 2016 11:07 am

    Don’t forget what you just said, Costco is keeping track of your returns…so if you return too much then they may limit or stop you in one way or another. I can’t place an order online anymore cuz they said I returned to much (the only way I even found this out was calling in, my order was cancelled without any notification).

  31. Hillary on November 24th, 2016 10:11 am

    I used to work at Macy’s and while I don’t think it’s the best place to work, I can attest to their generous return policy. A lady returned a Coach handbag that had been sitting in her closet for SEVEN YEARS! We of course took it back, no problem. Just make sure when you buy whatever from them that you try to hold on to either the receipt or the tag with the little Macy’s sticker on it that is added at checkout.

  32. Mimi on December 12th, 2016 9:37 am

    What about gifted boots? A friend gave me a pair of boots she bought online. They are still in the box but no macys tag nor does she have a receipt. Problem is the calf is way big for me. Can I exchange them?

  33. Fari on December 27th, 2016 7:10 pm

    Nordstrom rack will NOT take anything back for return or exchange without the receipt!!! Even with tags that say their name .

  34. Altheajo on December 30th, 2016 8:30 am

    I returned $70 worth of merchandise at kohls in 2016. Some were my daughter items they didn’t wear. I wasn’t sure how old they were. One item was purchased in 2011 and the other two were purchased in 2014. The gave me a merchandise credit. I was so embarrassed. They were kind and told me they could resell them. I received what they sold for at sale price. They are an amazing company. Macy’s, and bed bath and beyond are terrific as well!

  35. Jessica Deratany on March 13th, 2017 1:57 pm

    I just wanted to throw out a shout out for home depot! They have the most amazing return policy. I do a lot of business there and have taken back some questionable returns and they always take them. They have my home store loyalty!

  36. Hdgru on April 22nd, 2017 4:13 pm

    I don’t know if anyone else has mentioned this one, but Bed Bath & Beyond has a great return policy!

  37. Johanna on December 4th, 2017 10:18 pm

    Did Kohl’s change their return policy as of 12/1/2017? I’ve always known their return policy is “return anything, anytime for any reason” but now the website says something else? I’m terrified!

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