The 8 Best Return Policies in the Known Universe
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
By Kyle James
Photo credit to Jori Samonen.