The 8 Best Return Policies in the Known Universe

Updated August 3, 2020 by Kyle
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Some stores make it a total pain in the butt to return stuff. 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. I did some research and came up with the eight best return policies in the known universe.

The 8 Best Return Policies in the Known Universe

1. 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 by some shoppers so they had to dial it back. But it’s 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 tip: Also, if you’re unsatisfied with your annual membership for any reason you can get a full refund at any time.

2. Kohl’s

The Kohl’s return policy often doesn’t get the credit that it deserves. But 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.

3. 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.

  • Update: As of 2/09/18 they have changed their lifetime policy to 1 year from date of purchase. Apparently too many shoppers were abusing their “lifetime” policy.
  • After 1 year, L.L.Bean will still consider letting you return the item if the reason for the return has to with poor craftsmanship or defective materials.
  • Their 1-year 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.

4. 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 with 180 days 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.

5. 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.
  • Be aware that Nordstrom now tracks all returns and will ban you if you take advantage of their policy.

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

6. 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.
  • The only exception to this policy is outdoor electronics which must be returned within 90 days of purchase.
  • 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.

7. 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 online 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.

8. Zappos

Zappos revolutionized the online return policy years ago and it has since 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.
  • They also give you the option of doing a free exchange if you need a different size.

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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Dee @ Color Me Frugal

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!

DC @ Young Adult Money

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.

courtney hennagir

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.

Mel @ brokeGIRLrich

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.

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.

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.

Andrew@LivingRichCheaply

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..

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.

Elizabeth

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.

Tish

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.

JBT

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.

MIchelle

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.

amanda

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

Jeff

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).

shanshan

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.

Danielle

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!

Tara

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.

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