Yes, a woman in California actually returned a dead Christmas tree in January and got a refund. While that's some excessive frugality, we'll note that Home Depot and Lowe's will accept returned plants for up to a year. Unless you bought a Christmas tree with a root ball and planted it, though, don't expect a refund.
30 Products Costco Will Take Back That Are a Pain to Return Anywhere Else
Costco membership has one great privilege, no matter the price: The incredibly liberal return policy. Whether for a $60 "gold star" or business member or a $120 "executive" member, the much loved club store lets members return just about anything, regardless of cost or condition. "We guarantee your satisfaction on every product we sell, and will refund your purchase price," is the store's deadline-free return policy, but even exceptions such as electronics, diamonds, tires, and batteries tend to have return policies that rival those of competitors (though Costco does draw the line on taking back booze, cigarettes, or special-ordered merchandise). It'll even refund membership fees for dissatisfied customers.
Sam's Club, which is basically Walmart Costco, has tried to match Costco step for step. But it outright refuses to accept DVDs, Blu-ray discs, video games, or computer software returns after 90 days and will swap them only for the identical item. Buy a copy of "Ferdinand" at Costco and find it insufferable even for a children's movie, and Costco will not force an exchange for another version.
Summer is three months at the least. If an air conditioner bought in May conks out by July, how unhappy will Walmart's 30-day return policy for A/C make you by August? Costco, remarkably, doesn't include air conditioners under its return-policy exemptions (though A/C purchases would still get a 90-day window even in that worst-case scenario).
Costco puts rare limit on returns for televisions, monitors, projectors, computers, tablets, smart watches, cameras, drones, camcorders, MP3 players, and cellphones. Even then, the return window is 90 days (though phones vary by carrier). At Best Buy, customers must be "Elite Plus" members to qualify for even 45-day returns. Others get just 15 days to return an item and must pay a 15 percent restocking fee for drones, cameras, and projectors. Best Buy isn't alone: Kmart, Sears, Target, Macy's, and other outlets freak out about electronics and limit returns to 15 to 45 days. Walmart claims a 90-day electronics return policy, but has a wall of 15-day exceptions.
Returns can stray into ethical gray areas with perishable items, but Costco sticks by its policy and will take back the occasional opened produce or returned meats. The Kroger grocery chain, which doesn't have membership fees to fall back on, has a similarly broad return policy, but notes some reasonable "exclusions." Costco has none.
Amazon has a 30-day return policy on books and will provide a complete refund during that window. It will even take back Kindle ebooks for up to seven days. Barnes & Nobles gives customers only 14 days to return a book and will judge a return based on the book's condition. You could decide tomorrow that a book bought from Costco five years ago is just taking up space and return it for a full refund.
Victoria's Secret sees a lot of lingerie and other underwear returned to its shops, but shuts the return window at 90 days. Even that policy demands customers return an item with a receipt and a sewn-in garment tag, with store credit after 90 days. Costco issues a full refund no matter how long you've owned them ... or what condition they're in when they arrive.
One would think we've reached the point of just bringing back any item bought online to a corresponding bricks-and-mortar store, but there are still some stores that don't quite play along. For example, JCPenney has restrictions for certain items sold only on its website. Costco will take back just about any item bought in its online store.
Costco does not mention video game consoles specifically in its return policy, but does sell consoles including the PlayStation 4 for $390 at stores and online. Costco has acknowledged that some folks return consoles when an upgraded version comes along, but hasn't slapped a hard return policy on them.
Pet stores are generally pretty understanding about returns. PetSmart and Petco have broad 60-day return policies covering the toys your dogs and cats don't love. If that toy gets lost for a month or two and the animal seems to wish it stayed hidden, though, Costco will take it back any time for a full refund.
There are some big retail scrooges out there once the holidays roll around. Lowe's won't let you return lights, lawn ornaments, or other Christmas-specific items after Dec. 26. Sears won't take back Valentine's, Easter, Halloween, or Christmas items at all. Considering that the first Christmas wrapping arrives at Costco in August (if not late July), it seems only fair that it'll take back holiday items year-round.
If you aren't feeling 100 percent sure about the prospects of an engagement or marriage, shop for wedding jewelry at Costco. JCPenney will give all of 60 days to return jewelry with a receipt, while Macy's limits such returns to 30 days. Costco will take back jewelry, but draws a line at diamonds of more than one carat. In that case, a member making a return must also present all original paperwork (IGI and/or GIA certificates) to get a Jewelry Credit Memo. The diamond will also be inspected for authenticity within 48 hours.
This is where return policies start to vary wildly. Kmart thinks mattress returns are icky and won't accept them after seven days. IKEA extends that deadline to 90 days, while Sears will take back mattresses after up to 180 days, but not before it's been slept on for a month. Macy's demands that the mattress be undamaged, unsoiled, and free of stains, but won't refund delivery fees and will charge an $85 pickup fee and 15 percent restocking fee. Costco may not have the biggest selection of mattresses, but also doesn't care when you return it, why you're returning it or what condition it's returning in.
Waiting in line at the service desk of a local Costco, we watched a customer return multiple boxes of Prilosec OTC ($25) after noting that the tablets he'd taken for heartburn didn't have the desired effect. Had he tried to return an open package to CVS, it's likely that the store wouldn't have accepted it. A similar return at Walgreens may have stood a chance within the 30-day return window, but even Walgreens can refuse to take back an open package.
This is a bit trickier. Costco will give refunds for returns on appliances -- of which it has surprisingly many -- but won't refund for services such as installation or delivery. That's still a better deal than at Home Depot, which accepts returns for only 48 hours after delivery, and only if a product is damaged or defective. Lowe's offers a 30-day return policy on major appliances, as does Sears (though with a 15 percent restocking fee). Costco's return policy on major appliances isn't as generous as for most other items -- 90 days for refrigerators, freezers, stoves, dishwashers, and the like -- but it's lenient relative to most competitors.
If your grill gets a summer of use but didn't really get the job done, where you bought it makes a difference. Home Depot and Lowe's will give 90 days to make a return, but may refuse if they see a grill as overused. Costco will take a grill back at any time, even if you make it to the next Labor Day and can't bear the thought of another season with it.
Home Depot gets stringent with furniture and limits returns to just 30 days, knowing what the elements can do to a patio set. Wayfair will take back a patio set after 30 days, but only in its original packaging. If you bought a patio set at Costco a year ago and the wind turns its umbrella inside out tomorrow, you can return it for a full refund.
Beach Bunny swimwear will accept returns only within 15 days of a purchase. PacSun and Zaful won't take returns at all if swimwear's been worn. Costco, which sells a lot of swimwear and seemingly keeps a blast furnace in the back of each store for burning compromised returns, will gleefully accept returned swimwear no matter where, when, or how it's been worn.
Walmart will take back a treadmill after 90 days, but the customer pays to have it shipped back to a store. Johnson Fitness & Wellness will take back a product only within 15 days of purchase. Costco won't refund for shipping or setup, but will take back even the costliest elliptical machine at any time for a full refund.
Customers get just 30 days to return Craftsman tools at Sears and 90 days at Home Depot and Lowe's. If a drill bit breaks or a pry-bar bends six months down the line, only Costco will refund you fully for tools that didn't pass the test of time.
Zappos has an incredible return policy that allows returns for a up to a year with free shipping. Compare that with DSW, with a 60-day return policy and an $8.50 shipping charge deducted from a refund. But even that yearlong policy doesn't compare to Costco's open-ended returns for shoes. The selection isn't the same, but that isn't really the point.
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