Everyone at some point in their lives will need to return an item to the store from which it was purchased. Maybe it was an article of clothing that was too big or an electronic device that burned your fingertips off, or maybe you’re just having second thoughts about that 52-inch plasma television. Whatever the reason, you’re probably going to worry about the hassle you’ll receive from the store when you try to get your money back.
Fortunately if you know the Rules of the Return Game, you can usually come out as the winner in the end by just keeping in mind some simple guidelines.
- Know the return policy. By law, stores only need to provide refunds or exchanges for defective or “not as described” purchases. Luckily most major retailers do have some sort of return policy, but you should read it and understand it before you ever purchase the item so you’ll know what you’re getting into if you try to bring that purchase back later.
- Keep the receipt safe. When you buy an item, even if you’re sure you won’t need to return or exchange it, put the receipt somewhere safe. If you bought something with an instruction book, that’s a great place to store the receipt so it doesn’t get lost. Hanging on to that little piece of paper can relieve more than half of the hassles you’ll face when making returns.
- Make returns early in the morning. This is the best non-obvious strategy when it comes to making returns. If you go to the store when it first opens, you’ll encounter employees who aren’t fatigued or frustrated from a long day and who will be more amenable to helping you complete your return.
- Try not to involve management. It’s likely that you’ll encounter a regular employee instead of a manager when you attempt to make your return, and that’s exactly how you want to keep things. While at some stores only supervisors or managers can perform returns or exchanges, others are okay with letting regular employees handle them. Regular employees may be less educated in the store’s return policy and therefore more likely to okay your refund. Some may see this as taking advantage of a lowly employee; but it’s the store’s job to make sure all employees are properly trained, so you shouldn’t feel bad about pulling off a tricky return thanks to an untrained clerk.
- Escalate if necessary. While your best bet is to keep management out of the situation, it’s also possible that bringing them in can produce results a regular employee cannot. The whole time you should remain calm but focused on your objective, explaining your return situation carefully and clearly and providing the necessary documentation to back up your claim.
- Be prepared to negotiate. If it looks like the odds of a successful return are against you, offer to settle for store credit or only a partial refund. Sometimes workers will accept your offer just to be done with you even if their store policy indicates they’re right.
- Retreat as a last resort. Leave and come back another time if you can’t make your case to any of the employees present. Try a shift at the opposite end of the day, on the weekend, or during a busy period where workers may grant your refund request to get you out of the way.
To avoid the hassle of returns in the first place, always inspect your items before purchase, try on clothes, and talk to employees who might know more about how your product works than you do.