There’s been a lot of confusion recently on how the return policy at Amazon actually works. Are all returns free? How often can you return something? Do you have to be a Prime member to get free return shipping? All questions that aren’t clearly answered by Amazon. So I figured is was time to do the research and find the answers to these questions. After several phone calls and live chat sessions, here’s how their return policy currently works.
COVID-19 Policy Update 6/22/21
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Amazon had extended it’s return policy to both U.S. and Canadian shoppers, BUT has since gone back to their original policy.
But it’s worth noting that if you start a live chat and politely ask if you can return something beyond the 30-day return window they will allow it in many cases, especially if the item is damaged or defective.
What Exactly is Their Return Policy?
Here are the important details:
– You have 30 days from date of delivery to return items for free for a full refund if the item is defective, damaged, or the incorrect product.
– Items must be sold and/or fulfilled by Amazon directly, otherwise the customer has to pay for return shipping, MAYBE. See below for details.
Return policy does NOT apply to international shipping.
Any Exceptions to the 30 Days?
Yes, there are a few important ones…
– 3rd Party Sellers – Sellers sometimes have their own stated return policy which ranges from 7 -30 days.
I recently was denied a return from a 3rd party as they told me I had to deal with the manufacturer directly. It came as quite a surprise to me.
This is a relatively new change. Because of this it’s smart to be aware of their policy before you make the purchase.
– Wedding Registry Gifts – These come with 180 day return policy from the date the item is delivered.
– Baby Registry Gifts – You get a generous 365 return days for most items purchased from your registry.
See Also: 8 Brilliant Ways to Save Money on Amazon
2020 Holiday Return Policy
The VAST majority of stuff bought between October 1st – December 31st, 2020 can be returned all the way until January 31, 2021.
This is great because it allows you to start your Christmas shopping now, knowing that the gift recipient can return items up until the end of January.
Do I Have to Pay Return Shipping Charges?
If items are fulfilled by Amazon, you typically won’t have to pay return shipping charges.
If items are sold by a 3rd party and you try and initiate the return through the Amazon return page, you’ll probably have to pay return shipping fees.
But…if you start a live chat and initiate the return that way, you stand a great chance of NOT having to paying return shipping fees.
Your chances of success rise greatly if you’re a Prime member and order quite a bit every month.
To prove it, here’s a screenshot of this exact scenario. I was going to be charged return shipping until I started a live chat and then the operator gave it to me for free.
What if the Item is Opened or Used?
If the item had been opened or used they’ll take it back within 30 days. Plus, they’ll pay for the return shipping charges.
Keep in mind that the item must be sold and shipped directly by Amazon and not a 3rd party.
Can You Abuse Their Return Policy?
If you tend to return a lot of the stuff you buy, Amazon will take notice and could flag your account and not let you make any more returns for a certain amount of time.
Also, if you ask for a return, but never actually return the item, Amazon reserves the right to take action against you although I think you’d have to do this a lot for them to notice.
The action they’ll take is to check the “concessions limit” of the seller.
For example, it could be a $1000 limit, or it could be $500. Amazon actually has a team that researches your returns and comes up with the specific dollar amount for policy “abusers”.
If you cross this limit, Amazon will mark your account as “concession abuse”.
In other words, if you typically only contact Amazon for a refund or discount, and abuse their policy frequently, you’ll fall into this category.
Once your account is marked “Concession Abuse”, no returns will be accepted on any orders made by you in the future.
Worried about getting banned? Amazon will send you a warning notice via email first.
If you keep abusing their policy you’ll get your account banned permanently.
How Do You Return a Gift to Amazon?
Returning gifts to Amazon is slightly different than a normal return.
Start by visiting the Gift Return Page and enter your order number which is the 17-digit code found on the packing slip.
Next, follow the online prompts and you’ll get a free shipping label which you can print and attach to the box.
If you DON’T know the order number you can either ask the gift giver or contact Amazon customer service at 1-(888) 280-4331.
When calling, make sure you have the”gift giver’s email address, phone number and the package tracking ID ready (if you have it).”
Is the Policy Different for Prime Members?
No, it is not.
Amazon Prime and non-Prime members get to use the same return policy.
Do You Need a Reason to Return an Item?
Yes, you need to state a reason.
It could be you just don’t need or want the item and that answer is perfectly acceptable.
You’ll be asked if it’s broken or the wrong item, but you’re under no obligation to answer.
Does Amazon Limit Your Returns?
As long as your issue or problem with the product is genuine, there is NO limit on the number of returns you can make.
What’s the Return Policy on Electronics?
You can return consumer electronics and computers to Amazon within 30 days of purchase.
If the reason for the return is a defective product, incorrect description, or wrong item sent, you will not have to pay the return shipping fees.
Be aware that you may get hit with a restocking fee if the item is damaged due to misuse, missing parts, or unauthorized tampering.
Can Amazon Ban You For Making Too Many Returns?
Amazon has never come out and said that they can ban your account, or limit your returns, because you made too many returns.
But it goes without saying that they track your return history and absolutely reserve the right to take action if they feel you’re abusing their policy.
I’ve heard of account holders being warned via email if they return 15-20% of all their Amazon purchases but have yet to find any concrete evidence of a specific percentage that triggers a warning.
Can Any Sized Item be Returned?
Yes, any product on the Amazon website can be returned.
It doesn’t matter what size or weight, it can be returned within 30 days.
What About Returning Items Bought via Alexa?
Items bought through Amazon Alexa voice shopping can be returned just like any other non-digital item you buy on Amazon.
Also, if you accidentally buy a digital song or album with Alexa you can request a return and refund within 7 days of date of purchase.
Just contact Amazon customer service and let them know you’d like a refund.
Why Won’t Amazon Let Me Print a Return Label?
In an effort to make your returns “easier” Amazon often doesn’t give you the option to print a label at home and box up the item yourself.
Instead they want to send you to Kohl’s location or a UPS Store and let them box it up for you.
If you’re like me, this is a pain in the butt as I don’t live near a Kohl’s or UPS Store and would rather box up my return myself and drop it off at a UPS collection station.
But a clever workaround is to start a Live Chat session and tell them you need a return label, they’ll email you one and make one available in your account.
What Items Cannot be Returned?
Because Amazon sells so many different products this list is quite long.
– Grocery/Prime Pantry products – Perishable produce, dairy, and meats are not eligible for a return.
– Live Insects – Unless your lady bugs or ants show up dead you’re stuck with them.
– Downloadable Software – This keeps people from downloading the program then returning it.
– Gift Cards – Fortunately these are basically like cash.
– Online Subscriptions – This includes Amazon Prime, Kindle Unlimited, and Prime Student.
– Hazardous Materials or Gas – You’ll need to contact the manufacturer directly.
– Some Personal Care Items – Not sure what items specifically.
– Pet Food – Not returnable but you’re eligible for a refund if there is something wrong with the food.
– Live Plants/Fresh Flowers – Make sure you really want that house plant before you order it.
– Some Jewelry Items – Think personalized jewelry that can’t be resold.
– Stuff Missing the UPC or Serial # – If an item is tampered with and this information is removed you’re stuck with it.
If you order one of these non-returnable items and it arrives damaged or defective you should contact Amazon to get resolution to the problem.
Can I Make a Return to Amazon Brick & Mortar Stores?
Yes…in most cases.
If you’re lucky enough to live close to an Amazon store you can take “eligible items” bought on Amazon.com there for a full refund within 30 days.
According to their website, items that are NOT eligible for an in-store return are really large items, or stuff that doesn’t meet “safe to ship standards”.
Keep in mind that you can also take your return to your nearest Kohl’s store and they will process your return for free.
No box or packaging supplies required.
What About Holiday Orders?
Typically, any purchases you make between November 1st and December 31st have an extended “Holiday” return period.
As noted above, this starts on October 1, 2020 which is convenient for shoppers.
You have until January 31st to return any items bought within this 3-month time period.
Will Amazon Ever Give Me a Refund But Let Me Keep the Item?
If you order from Amazon regularly this has probably happened to you. They’ll give you a refund, but tell you there is no need to mail it back.
Personally, I’ve had it happen when I was sent something I didn’t order, but it can also take place if they send you too many of an item, or for any random reason…they’ll tell you to keep it or donate it to charity.
Ask the Reader: Have you ever returned anything to Amazon? Was it a smooth process, not worth the hassle, or somewhere in-between?
By Kyle James