What Do Walmart, Costco, and Other Big Retailers Do With What You Return?

Costco shopper

Joe Raedle/Staff/Getty Images News/Getty Images North America

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Costco shopper
Joe Raedle/Staff/Getty Images News/Getty Images North America

Return to Sender

Sometimes it doesn't work out. You go shopping, or perhaps order something online. It arrives and then ... meh. It doesn't thrill you, at least not enough to justify the price. So you take it back. Next time, though, the store might tell you not to bother. CNN reports that big-name retailers are considering refunds without returns, because it's so expensive to deal with the merchandise customers decide they don't want. Here's a look at how some of your favorite retailers handle returned items.

Related: 28 Products Costco Will Take Back That Are a Pain to Return Anywhere Else

Target Shopping Cart


Minneapolis-based Target often returns saleable items back to the shelf. Other items are gathered in batches in an effort to liquidate returns. Target liquidation auctions can be anything from a few pallets of goods to a truckload. 

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Costco's Face Covering Policy During COVID-19 Crisis


Costco places returned products that are unused and undamaged, like home goods and electronics, back on the shelves — albeit at a discount. Used and slightly damaged returns are sent to a liquidator, and groceries are thrown away.

Related: 12 Costco Products You Can't Return

Ho Ho No


In the store or online, Walmart resells products returned in their original packaging. Products that have been opened or used are resealed and resold at a discount price or put on clearance. All returned groceries, defective, damaged, or recalled products are disposed of. A majority of Walmart's returned goods are now recycled. Liquidation companies can purchase returned goods in bulk for resale.

Related: Things You Should Never Buy at Walmart

Amazon Store at Purdue. A brick-and-mortar store customers can receive products from Amazon.com III


Amazon — perhaps under pressure after a video showed the company destroying returns — recently started a program where third-party sellers can donate their returns or extra stock to charities for giveaways instead of throwing them away. Amazon also sells less-than-perfect items through Amazon Warehouse.

Related: Things You Should Never Buy on Amazon

Lowe's Price-Match Policy
August 20, 2019 Palo Alto / CA / USA - Lululemon store entrance
Sundry Photography/istockphoto


The activewear company has debuted a program called "Like New." The initiative allows customers to trade in their gently used Lululemon items. The company says that all traded-in items will be cleaned, and the items that don't meet its quality standards will be recycled, although it's unclear what is meant by the term "recycled." 

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