Shoppers may find that returning merchandise is not as easy as it once was. Many stores that used to pride themselves on having liberal return policies with "the customer is always right" philosophy are tightening their belts as profit margins dip.
This should not affect the responsible shopper who returns items intact, unused, and within a reasonable time period. But those shoppers who pride themselves on abusing the liberal return policies that many retailers used to have, may be in for a big surprise.
Popular stores such as Guess and The Limited use software that tracks customers' return history and if a store believes that the returns are too frequent and show signs of return fraud, the customer may find themselves getting a firm, "no" at the return counter.
Shorter Time Limits
Retailers have also tightened up time limits. Stores are limiting returning items after the allotted time printed on the receipt by either refusing to return them at all or compromising by offering the current selling price which can often be 75 percent less then what was originally paid.
Since this new stand on abusive returns is coming from the top, the old "I'm going to contact your boss" line probably will not work at some stores. The rules are coming from headquarters and the store managers are obligated to honor the policies.
You can hardly blame the retailers for finally taking a stand. Many of the electronic and appliance stores have warehouses of merchandise which has been returned after being used and cannot be resold as new.
Who Really Foots the Bill?
The loss ultimately gets added to the markup next year and honest consumers end up having to foot the bill for those individuals who believe retail stores are really retail libraries.
How do the stores feel about losing customers over tougher return policies? That depends on who you ask. The companies tracking abusers believe they really have not lost much if those customers shop somewhere else.
For shoppers who do need to return or exchange items, the retail industry is suggesting to do it soon after you've made the purchase and within the guidelines specified on your receipt. However, if the new sweater you had on the other night is covered in red wine and you think you will be able to return it for something else -- you may end up disappointed and out the gas money it took to drive to the store.