Retailers offer refund policies as a voluntary practice, but there are no laws that require merchants to offer refunds, exchanges or credit on merchandise they sell, although laws do protect consumers from misrepresented or defective products.
Don’t assume you can get your money back just by taking the unwanted item into the store and asking for it. Return policies should be specifically stated by the store, but it’s up to the consumer to know what those policies are and to realize they can change from store to store.
A policy is often printed on a sales receipt or posted at the cash register. If you don’t see the policy, ask up front. Understand the policy of the store before you pay for the item. Keep your receipt and any packaging the item came in.
Different policies mean different things. Ask up front and do your part when returning a purchase in order to have a successful return experience.
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An exchange: When the store’s policy states you may exchange your purchase, it means the item may be returned to the store and another similar item taken in its place. This does not apply to “all sales final” policies or sale items unless stated.
A return for credit: This means the store will provide the customer with a store credit for the value of the purchased item. You may then apply that amount to the purchase of any other item in the same store. You may use the credit the day you return the item or at a later date. Ask if the credit has an expiration date.
A refund policy: This states that the item can be returned for your money back, and most of the time has stipulations such as receipt required, a time limit to get the refund or that items must be new and in original packaging. A refund is voluntary on the store’s part.
Restocking fee: A restocking fee is a fee assessed for the time the item was out of the store and unable to be sold to someone else. This is usually applied to specialty items or hard to find items and is one of the most complained about return policies. Inquire if there is a restocking fee before making your purchase. If you’re not willing to pay it and there is a chance the item will be returned you may want to consider buying something else.