Sometimes Santa just flat out get’s it wrong. Wrong size, wrong shape and/or wrong color. But whoever bestowed the wrong gift on you always adds a safety net. “If you don’t like it you can always exchange it.”

Those words always sound comforting on Christmas morning but lose their luster when you are standing 40 deep in a merchandise return line. Root canals score higher on surveys of things people would rather do.

Retail Store Return Policies

All the major retailers have some kind of return policy. Your method of payment almost always affects how your return is handled. For example, exchanging a sweater in a different size sold at the same price is usually done dollar for dollar.

If you paid by check then there might be a waiting period for the check to clear the bank before cash back will be issued — usually about 10 working days. If you paid by credit card then a credit is issued back to your account and is usually available in a day or so.

If you paid by cash then you usually get cash back if you have a receipt showing your method of payment. If you don’t have a receipt then you might be issued a cash card to be used only in that particular store.

Shipping, Handling And Restocking Fees

Some online stores will refund the purchase price but not shipping charges to return the item. Many catalog retailers will provide a return sticker and will pay the postage for a return. Check the fine print or ask if you are ordering by phone.

Some stores charge a “restocking charge” that will reduce the amount of your return. Since you opened the item someone may have to be paid to repack it into the original packaging to make it resalable or returnable to the manufacturer.

Restocking fees can produce big bucks for retailers on high ticket items. One Connecticut shopper was hit with a $260 restocking fee on a $1,299 stove that didn’t fit the kitchen as she thought.

Are Return Policies Profitable To The Retailer?

Actually they are in some cases. Many people buy things they really don’t want or need but buy them anyway because they know they can return them. The upside is many keep the product rather than go through the return hassle.

Some Final Thoughts

The return line is when patience and customer service get the toughest test. Customers are frustrated, tired and unhappy. You can either turn them into life long customers or send them out your doors to comment negatively on your business for years to come.

You need to have your best people on the return lines if you want to keep future customers. Customers don’t yell at employees. They are really yelling at the company and it’s policies. The employee just happens to be standing in the way. Most people are kind and courteous but there are some jerks as well. Keep in mind that the person on the other side of the return counter wants things to go smoothly too.  So the next time someone says, “Happy Birthday and Many Happy Returns,” they might not be thinking about more birthdays.

So in closing let me wish you a very Merry Christmas and Many Happy Returns.

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