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Tis the Season of Purchases: The 5 Best Retailer Return Policies

Last updated by on 10 Comments

Strategically, I’ve started to do a good portion of my shopping at retailers with the strongest return policies. I am a FIRM believer that these retailers successes are in no small part to how customer-centric their return policies are. When I believe that a particular brand or reseller really cares about my satisfaction, I tend to become intensely loyal to them.

You’ll have a difficult time finding return policies that are as generous by any of the competitors of the retailers listed below. Are their liberal return policies hurting business? Absolutely not! In fact, each of the retailers listed are in great financial condition and among the fastest growing retailers in the country.

Zappos Return Policy

zappos return policy

# of Days to Return Item: 365 days, provided it is in original packaging and condition.

Receipt Required? Yes. You must get an order # and follow Zappos return shipping instructions.

Commentary: Zappos pioneered the ‘free shipping both ways’ policy, which was revolutionary at the time for an online retailer, and is still matched today by only a few. On top of that, their 365 day return policy is extraordinary. This generous policy helped them overcome the negative stigma around buying clothes or shoes online for fear that they won’t fit and you’ll have to pay for shipping to return them – which led to them blasting the competition and an eventual acquisition by Amazon.

Kohl’s Return Policy

kohls return policy

# of Days to Return Item: Unlimited

Receipt Required? No, but if no receipt is given, you may receive a store credit, corporate refund, credit to your Kohl’s charge card, or an even exchange.

Commentary: Unlimited return days is a rarity amongst department store chains. In comparison, Macy’s return policy is 180 days (not bad, in its own right compared to many retailers), JCPenney’s return policy is 90 days, and Sears return policy is 30 or 60 days. ‘Unlimited’ just has a certain liberating ring to it, doesn’t it?

Don’t have a receipt? From my recollection, Kohl’s can look up the purchase in their system by your credit card and issue a refund to your card. If they don’t, however, and you  really want your cash back or charge refunded, you can simply return your item for an even exchange, get a new receipt, and then later return it with the receipt.

REI Return Policy

REI return policy

# of Days to Return Item: within a year

Receipt Required? No. You can use your REI Membership card number and I haven’t run into this situation because I am a member, but if you didn’t have a membership, I’m sure they’d find a way to make it right.

Commentary: If you are an outdoor sports enthusiast or simply like their great clothing line, you understand how good REI’s return policy is. In fact, it is the primary reason that I buy all of my backpacking gear from them. Why is it so important? If you’ve ever purchased a $100 air mattress, $300 backpack, $200 lightweight rain jacket, or $400 tent, only to have it tear on its second or third use, you know how big of a deal this is.

I’m willing to pay a little more for the same goods that another retailer might be offering because of this policy and also because I will get a dividend check at the end of the year of 10% for my REI purchases with my REI Membership (which costs $20 and lasts your lifetime).

Costco Return Policy

Costco return policy

# of Days to Return Item: Unlimited on everything, except 90 days since purchase for a refund on: televisions, projectors, computers, cameras, camcorders, touch screen tablets, MP3 players and cellular phones.

Receipt Required? No, but as with all Costco purchases, you must be a member to purchase.

Commentary: You have to love the unlimited days to return. And even 90 days on electronics is outstanding. In comparison, Best Buy’s return policy allows only 14 days on computers, monitors, projectors, camcorders, digital cameras, and radar detectors, and 30 for everything else. God forbid you actually do have to return an item to Best Buy because you will have to have your receipt, return it within those short time frames, and you could even be charged a restocking fee on top of it all.

If you have a Costco American Express card, American Express extends the manufactures warranty an extra year for any items you purchase.

Trader Joes Return Policy

trader joes return policy

# of Days to Return Item: Seemingly unlimited, but if you want to return a one year old loaf of bread, you are a ridiculous human being.

Receipt Required? No.

Commentary: Trader Joe’s does not have an expressly written return policy on its website, however, I have returned goods to them a number of times and can speak to personal experience on this one. Trader Joe’s has ALWAYS taken back any items that I return without any hassle and without a need for a receipt. A number of other grocers that I have shopped at are not as liberal, and many will issue a store credit if you do not have a receipt. Gotta love Trader Joe’s.

Return Policy Discussion:

  • What are your favorite/least favorite retailer return policies?
  • Are their any retailers on this list that you have a good return story on?
  • Any selections that you disagree with? Why?

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About the Author
I am G.E. Miller, & this is my story. My goal is financial independence ASAP. If you share that goal, join me & 7,500+ others by getting FREE email updates. You'll also find every post by category & every post in order.


10 Comments »
  • Costco is also great with things you buy on Costco.com. Costco doesn’t charge shipping, and all items (including special stuff) can be returned to a warehouse!

  • Corky says:

    I have had great return experience with Khol’s, REI and Trader Joe!

  • Jessica Bosari says:

    What about LL Bean? You can send stuff back ten years later an they will take it…even if you just used and abused it a little too much. I’ve never had a problem with Wally Mart either. The worst ones: Target and ToysRUs.

  • Matt says:

    I’d like to see a review of the return policy of online only retailers. One of the primary reasons I’ve dealt with Zappos is because of the ‘free shipping both ways’ policy. What other online retailers offer a similar policy?

  • Amy says:

    Notice: Costco is now limiting returns. I was told today they have a new “food” return policy of 2 weeks. I was told last month that some items may not be returnable due to “vendors” not taking returns from them. When I asked what specific items these are I was told seasonal items and sometimes just random items – that they never know until they try to ring up the return on the computer and it says “vendor rejected”. It all seems to be very sketchy with returns to Costco now. I am not renewing and taking my business to Aldi (cheaper price) and Kohls (awesome return policy) now.

  • Laura says:

    I accidentally purchased the wrong kind of tortillas and tried to return them I was informed that they no longer accept perishables for return. They said I could “do it this one time” but wouldn’t be allowed to fo so in the future.

  • Natalie R. says:

    I just tried to make a return at Kohls today. I wanted to return an item that I purchased with my Kohls card (which I used to get an extra 30%off). I paid off the amount charged the day it was charged. They told me that they could only give me a refund on the card or store credit (even though I didn’t owe money on the card now). Just to make things worse, they were taking away my Kohls cash bc the return put my original purchase $2 under the amount to receive it. I asked why, if I was being forced to take store credit and spend the money in Kohls, I wasn’t allowed to keep the Kohls cash and the guy looked at me like I was speaking a different language. Hassle-free returns…that’s BS. I am a very dissatisfied customer.

  • kim says:

    Hi, I agree with all of the above statements, but I have to say that if you aren’t shopping at bed bath and beyond due to the prices, then the return policy should be the reason you start! It is every bit as good as REI. I purchased an Aerobed mattress from them 5 years ago. In the first 3 years I had to replace the mattress 4 times due to it losing its shape. Each time I took it back without a receipt and all they said was ‘do you need help with getting the new one’?

    No hassles at all! My 2 year old Krups convection oven door hinge just broke and I am taking it back today to see if they will let me get a new replacement. I believe they will based on my past experience. I’ll post the outcome.

    • kim says:

      Okay, so here is what happened. I took my 4 year old (it turns out) Krups toaster oven back to the Bed bath and beyond where I originallnally purchased it. They took about 20 minutes trying to find the SKU number of the item in their system. Finally they found it and said the price had been reduced to $149. I’m pretty sure that’s what I paid for it new after the 20% coupon. I said…okay! They then sold me the new Breville that I picked out at $249. Minus the new 20% coupon. now its $199. Then they subtract the $149 from the return and I end up paying $53 with tax for a $249 toaster oven! I actually had set the other one out by my garbage can the night before, and then remembered that BBB had an excellent return policy.

      So in the end, They have a customer for life, and I have a state of the art convection toaster oven for the price of an entry level unit.

      WIN WIN!

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