Returning Items to the Store? 4 Tips to Make It Easier

Returning something to a store is something most us do not look forward to. And you never know how it is going to go. Sometimes, it’s surprisingly easy (hey, the shirt was new with tags and you bought it yesterday), but at other times, it’s painfully hard. If you’ve had a change of heart about a purchase or even bought the wrong item by mistake, here are some tips to make those returns easier.

1. Know the store’s policy in advance

A man returning a shirt to the store

A man returning a shirt to the store | iStock.com

If you are the kind of person who has a tendency to return things (you know who you are), it is best to know what you might have to deal with in advance. Every store has its own return policy and whether it is a local boutique or national chain store with hundreds of locations, you need to know what that is if there’s any chance you might want to take back your purchase. If you have a problem with a stringent return policy, then perhaps take your business someplace else.

You should also make an effort to avoid returns in the first place. Try on clothing items in the dressing room, make sure they fit, and inspect them for any defects. Don’t forget to check expiration dates on grooming products.

Some stores do not allow returns at all, such as Forever 21. You can bring back unworn clothing within 21 days of purchase with the tags still on in exchange for something else or a merchandise credit. Bearing the line to try on those jeans in the dressing room might just be a good idea when you need your fast fashion fix. 

2. Keep your receipt

shopping bill receipt

A receipt | iStock.com

No matter where you shop or what you buy, it is much easier to return something with a receipt than without one. Devise a system to keep track of your receipts. Instead of stuffing them in your wallet, put them in an envelope at home or even in your car. That way, you won’t lose or forget one.

It is very rare that a store will give you cash back without a receipt. Most of the time, it will be store credit. One of the few exceptions to this rule is Nordstrom. It has one of the best return policies, which is actually no return policy at all. It evaluates all situations on a case-by-case basis, so returns are generally hassle-free.

Two other stores where you don’t need a receipt are Sephora and CVS. And yes, you can even return used products. Both stores will give you a merchandise credit. However, if you are a Beauty Insider at Sephora, the company can track your purchases and actually give you a cash refund. Being a Beauty Insider is free, so you may want to sign up.

3. Be timely

Months and dates shown on a calendar

Don’t let too much time pass | iStock.com/BrianAJackson

If you are trying to return last year’s socks, you’re probably going to be out of luck in most places. However, the closer the return is to the date of purchase, the less challenging the entire process will be.

However, there are a few stores that let you return anything at any time including Kohl’s, L.L.Bean, and Macy’s. But these polices are not “no questions asked,” so there are some restrictions. Just because you can return something doesn’t mean you will get your entire purchase price back, especially if that something is from three seasons ago.

4. Be nice

Source: iStock

Things always go better if you’re friendly to the people working at the store | iStock.com

It’s not the clerk’s fault you bought an orange tie with little lizards on it. They don’t set the policies. However, they are more likely to respond to someone who is nice and respectful than someone who is mean or intimidating. It’s an unofficial rule of retail that exceptions can be made to every rule, but no one is going to make an exception for someone who acts like a jerk. Also, if you are a frequent customer (meaning you spend a lot of money there) and have a nice rapport with the sales team, they will be more likely to accommodate you.

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