Christmas Returns: Stores Tighten Return Policies

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A return sign at Target Photo/Mark Copier

Christmas 2012 is officially over and it’s a sobering morning after with retailers counting their profits.  CNN news reports that Holiday sales  for 2012 were lower than expected.  This means that retailers are tightening their return policies.  The days of the 90 day return policy are coming to an end.   If you’re out at the stores or the malls today, here’s what you need to know about store return policies.  Thanks to for compiling this information.

Noteworthy policies, policy changes, or unusual return policies for 2012 include:

  • Target has tightened its return policy for the second time in two years by reducing the return period for computers (tablets, netbooks, and eReaders), cameras, game consoles, GPS units, etc. to 30  days (instead of 45, and previously 90). Open items may be denied a refund/exchange. Target can search its system for receipts for customers who lose them.  And remember, the official return date for the Target Neiman Marcus holiday collection is Jan. 5th.
  • Sears shortened its regular return policy for many categories of items from 90 days to 60 days. Its extended holiday return period is no longer 120 days across the board, but 30 and 60-day category items can be returned until January 24 or maybe later. Sears continues to impose a 15% restocking fee for missing parts or if items are used. Exchanged items not eligible for a subsequent refund, only another exchange. Must report visible damage to major appliances and certain other goods within 72 hours to qualify for refund/exchange.
  • Best Buy extended its regular return period to 60 days for certain Reward Zone members. That means you have to be a  regular Best Buy shopper who accumulates points like a frequent flyer to get an extended return policy.  For everyone else, it will be 30 days for returns at Best Buy.
  • extended its holiday return period from January 31 to February 15.
  • Toys-R-Us eased its policy to now accept electronics and similar items for return even if the package has been opened. Previously, they were not returnable. Online purchases returned to a store still only qualify for a merchandise credit.
  • Macy’s only provides a three-day return/exchange period for furniture.
  • Amazon no longer has 30 different product-specific return policies.

Unusual policies:

  • Macy’s affixes a customer return label to some goods so a receipt may not be necessary.  Look for the label on your apparel.
  • Express requires special occasion dresses to be returned with their tags still in place. (This deters “wardrobing” – buying then returning after a one-time wearing.)
  • 37-inch and larger TVs are not returnable, and there is up to a 60% restocking fee for some open, used, or late items.
  • Sports Authority stores will not accept returns of goods purchased at their online store.
  • Office Max’s 30-day return policy excludes refunds on goods that it no longer stocks.

“If shoppers follow the rules, they should have many happy returns,” said Edgar Dworsky, Founder of Consumer World®, a leading online consumer resource guide. “But, since the rules vary so much store to store, you really have to read the fine print.”

So read your receipts carefully before you head out today.  Dec. 26th is the most hectic day for returns for retailers in the US.  It’s the day most of us return those gifts we didn’t want, or that didn’t fit to get what we really want.


Since 2008, Mary Hall has been the author of The Recessionista Blog, which is read by thousands of regular readers in over 160 countries. An internationally recognized expert on the art of the living the good life for less, she has been a commentator on local, national, and international radio and TV shows. Her advice has been featured in over 2,000 media outlets, including The New York Times, Reuters, Life & Style magazine, ABC News, NBC News and now The Huffington Post, among many others.

1 Comment

  1. Target-Addict

    December 27, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    Thanks for the tips on Target returns; I linked to your tips on my blog today. I personally don’t shop on the day after Christmas, especially at Target. I wait a couple of days for the “mayhem” to die down. Plus, the selection is better by the 28th/29th, because then the returns have trickled in and are back on the racks.