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Comparison: All Major Electronics Retailers and Website Holiday Shopping Return Policies

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 9 comments

Knowing is half the battle.

Holiday Return Policies 2012

This is the season for giving, but sometimes gifts don't turn out as well as you had planned.  If your gift needs to be returned, do you know the return policy of the merchant, or whether the gift even can be returned?  When an item is available at a similar price at different retail or web stores, the return policy can make a difference in where you choose to shop.  We looked into the return policies of 11 major technology merchants to find out more.

Before going further, we should note that there are general return guidelines that apply to almost all merchants.  For example, receipts are required, and your returned item should be in "as new" condition (which generally means that the product should be in its original packaging, with no accessories missing).  Also, UPC labels (bar codes) must remain intact, since some unscrupulous customers will buy a product just to get the UPC code, which can be used to acquire mail in rebates, and then attempt to return the item (and keep the mail in rebate). 

Finally, technology items often have different return policies when compared to non-technology items, so be certain that you understand the return policy for the specific product that you plan to purchase.  For example, digital content (such as DVDs, software, and video games), can normally only be returned if defective, and even then only for an identical replacement product.  This is done to discourage shoppers from buying an item, making a duplicate copy, and then returning the item for a refund.  

Amazon

Amazon.com typically offers returns for most items within 30 days of your receipt of the item.  Amazon's Holiday return policy expands on this, by stating "Items shipped by Amazon.com between November 1, 2012 and December 31, 2012, may be returned until January 31, 2013, for a full refund, subject to our other return guidelines listed below." Note that this applies to items shipped by Amazon.com.  Since Amazon deals with thousands of vendors, if a vendor is handling the shipping instead of Amazon, you need to check into the return policy of that particular vendor. 

We also noticed a special return policy for computers:  Defective computers must be returned to the computer vendor for support, not Amazon.  This may result in a longer turn around time than you would get if Amazon would simply ship you a replacement computer.

Amazon's return policy

Best Buy 

Best Buy typically offers a 30 day return period, with some restrictions, depending on the product that you purchased.  Best Buy's holiday return policy improves significantly on this, by stating "Gift purchases made between November 4, 2012, and December 24, 2012, qualify for our Holiday Return and Exchange policy. Products (goods) purchased as gifts may be returned through January 24, 2013."

Unlike several other return policies, we found no exceptions for computers in Best Buy's policy.  Also, Best Buy offers in store returns for items purchased from BestBuy.com (which eliminates return shipping charges), and Best Buy's customer friendly policy is the only one we found that specifically states "No restocking fees". 

Best Buy's return policy

CompUSA/TigerDirect

CompUSA and TigerDirect accept General merchandise returns within 30 days of the purchase date (not "shipping date" or "delivery date").  Although it is not mentioned on their web page, TigerDirect advised us via email that "TigerDirect.com has extended our return policy to January 15, 2013 for all purchases".  We are awaiting confirmation from TigerDirect that “all purchases” includes computers and televisions (which must normally be returned within 14 days). Unfortunately, TigerDirect items may not be returned to CompUSA stores.

Items such as computers and televisions are covered by a special policy which states "Some manufacturers have implemented returns restrictions that prevent CompUSA.com [or TigerDirect.com] from being able to accept returns or offer exchanges, replacements or credits on their products for any reason. Please check the item listing on our website to determine if special return policies are applicable to your products." So, be certain to check for those "special policies", particularly when buying a high end item.  The policy also allows for restocking fees of up to 25% for "Non-qualified and non-conforming returns".      

CompUSA's return policy

TigerDirect's return policy

Costco

Costco probably isn't the first company that you think of when you shop for technology items.  Still, we feel that they should be discussed here, since their return policy is one of the most liberal in retail.

Costco does not have (or really need) a holiday return policy, since their regular policy is so consumer friendly: "We guarantee your satisfaction on every product we sell with a full refund. The following must be returned within 90 days of purchase for a refund: televisions, projectors, computers, cameras, camcorders, touch screen tablets, MP3 players and cellular phones."  We found no special conditions (such as restocking fees) for technology items on Costco's website.

Costco's return policy

Fry's

Fry's general policy allows a 30 day return period from the time the order is shipped.  Unlike Amazon, Fry's does not wait until you receive the product to begin counting down your 30 days, and Fry's does not have a separate holiday return policy.

Regarding technology items, there are several exceptions to the general policy.  Fry's website states "Due to manufacturers' policies, Frys.com cannot accept returns or exchanges of certain products manufactured by … Apple, Compaq, Hewlett Packard, Intel, Mitsubishi, Sony, and Toshiba." There is also a restriction on television returns: "Refunds cannot be given on televisions 24" and larger. In-home service is offered by the manufacturer on large TV's and may be your most convenient option. Defective items may be returned within 30 days of the purchase date (in this case, not “shipping date”) for replacement or upgrade (not “refund”)."

Fry's return policy

Geeks.com

Geeks' return policy begins with the words "All sales are final".  However, it does go on to say "Return of non-defective product after the first 30 days from date of purchase are subject to a 15% restocking fee."  Geeks did not reply to our email, so the only conclusion we can draw from this apparent contradiction is that returns are at the sole discretion of Geeks.  There is no holiday return policy. 

It would appear that Geeks' policy prohibits returns on defective higher end items such as computers and televisions.  The policy states, "Products sold with a Manufacturer or Direct Warranty must be returned directly to the product manufacturer for repair or replacement. For these items, the warranty policy from the product manufacturer explicitly requires that any returns, repairs etc. be requested and processed directly by the consumer (or "end-user") of the item".       

Geeks' return policy

h.h. gregg

h.h. gregg's general return policy states "All returns must be made within thirty (30) days from the original purchase date".  There is no holiday return policy.  Online purchases may be returned to stores, but note the use of the term "purchase date" (not "shipping date" or "delivery date"). 

There do not appear to be any particular restrictions for items such as televisions or computers, but a restocking fee exists, and can apparently be quite costly: "A minimum restocking charge of 20% of the purchase price may apply if all conditions for returning are not met".  The policy also states "Any product that was purchased with a mail-in rebate is subject to having the amount of the rebate deducted from the refund amount".

h.h. gregg's return policy

Micro Center

Micro Center appears to have one of the more customer friendly return policies in the mail order business (although Micro Center does have 23 stores, the majority of its business comes from mail order).  Micro Center's policy states, "We guarantee your satisfaction on every product we sell with a full refund".  Micro Center's general return policy allows for returns within 30 days of the purchase date (not "shipping date" or "delivery date").  There is no holiday return policy.  There is no mention of the term "restocking fee" in Micro Center's return policy, and you may return items purchased online to any Micro Center store.

A specific policy exists for computers and other items such as motherboards, which must be returned within 15 days of the purchase date.  Interestingly, Micro Center does appear to accept returns of media items such as software, games, and movies.  Micro Center's policy states "If you need to return software, a game or a movie, remember that you may not retain any copies — it’s not legal, and it’s not nice".  We found no other vendor that does this (most vendors only accept these items if defective, and even then, only for an exchange of the exact same item). 

Micro Center's return policy    

Newegg - updated

Newegg has one of the better reputations for customer service in the mail order technology industry.  Still, their policies can be somewhat restrictive when compared to other vendors.  Newegg's "Standard Return Policy" requires that returns must be received by Newegg within 30 days of the invoice date (not "shipping date" or "delivery date").  Also, even standard returns are subject to a 15% restocking fee.  Newegg's "Iron Egg" holiday return policy improves on this by allowing certain returns or replacements until January 31, 2013, and by waiving certain restocking fees.

Newegg's policy states that you must look for the "Iron Egg logo" on a product's web page to know if the product is covered by an "Iron Egg" holiday return policy.  There are three different Iron Egg  policies: One accepting returns or replacements with no restocking fee, one accepting replacements only with no restocking fee, and one accepting returns only with a restocking fee.  So, be certain that you understand which policy applies to the particular product that you're considering purchasing.  Also note that Newegg's policy does restrict returns on some computers.  The policy states:  "Some computer systems will require pre-authorization from the manufacturer technical support in order for an RMA to Newegg to be authorized".     

Newegg's return policy

Target - updated

Target's general return policy states "Most unopened items in new condition returned within 90 days will receive a refund or exchange".  When are inquired as to how opened items in new condition are handled, we received the following reply: "Most unopened items in new condition returned within 90 days will receive a refund or exchange. Open music, movies, video games and software cannot be returned, but may be exchanged for the same title, for the same or different gaming platform. Open collectibles (e.g., sports cards, special-edition Barbie dolls, porcelain dolls, action figures and die-cast cars) cannot be returned."  Target’s return policy also states that “Most online purchases can be returned to a Target store.”  Target does have a holiday return policy.   

The general policy for computers allows a 30 day return period.  Target's original email to us stating that "Computer hardware (netbooks, tablets, eReaders)… must be returned with 45 days" was incorrect.  Target has informed us that the correct policy is the one stated on their web site:  "[For] Computers, netbooks, laptops, eReaders, [and] tablets… purchased between 11/1 – 12/25, the 30 day refund period will start on 12/26".   

Target's return policy

Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart's general policy allows 90 days for most returns.  There do not appear to be any restrictions on opened versus unopened items.  Walmart.com items can be returned to Wal-Mart stores. Wal-Mart's holiday return policy apples to specific items including computers.

Computers must normally be returned within 15 days.  However, Wal-Mart's holiday return policy states "If you buy an item between Nov. 1 and Dec. 24, 2012 that has a normal return policy of 15 or 30 days, we will extend the time you have to make a return by starting to count those days on Dec. 26, 2012".

Wal-Mart’s return policy is located

Conclusion

We've seen quite a bit of variation in return policies for both retail and mail order merchants.  Higher end items such as computers, and sometimes televisions, may have special restrictions applied.  To avoid making a purchase decision that you might regret, we strongly recommend that you review the return policy of your selected merchant before purchasing.  Also, please keep in mind that our look at return policies is not a replacement for your reading the actual return policies posted on merchants’ websites.  Shop wisely, and Happy Holidays from Tom's Hardware.        

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Display 9 Comments.
This thread is closed for comments
  • -7 Hide
    bak0n , December 17, 2012 4:20 PM
    I've been burnt by new egg 2x. I do my business with others.
  • 2 Hide
    jonjonjon , December 17, 2012 5:24 PM
    somehow you managed to miss the newegg iron egg guarantee

    http://promotions.newegg.com/ironegg/index.html?nm_mc=EMC-IGNEFL121410&cm_mmc=EMC-IGNEFL121410-_-EMC-121410-Index-_-MECH-_-Ironegg-EB1B

    We want to ensure your holiday shopping this year is hassle-free. That's why we're automatically extending our return policies on almost every product to 60 days. There's nothing additional that you have to do!

    On top of this, look for items with the Iron Egg icon and you'll also get the lowest price on select products through our comprehensive Price Guarantee service. Best of all, Iron Egg guaranteed products also ship for free!

  • 2 Hide
    Abion47 , December 17, 2012 7:53 PM
    I like to get peripherals at BestBuy for no other reason than if I like it I can order it online, wait a week for shipping while using the BestBuy model, then return it for a full refund. It boils down to free hands-on testing.
  • 2 Hide
    AnthonyC , December 17, 2012 8:32 PM
    Dear jonjonjon:

    NewEgg did not respond to our email asking about their holiday return policy. For reasons I certainly cannot explain, their holiday return policy is not listed as even existing in the table of contents for their return policies. Further, they buried the policy in between their furniture return policy and their dishwasher return policy, which is why I did not see it when I finished reading Newegg's general return policy and technology return policies.

    Thank you very much for the clarification.

    Anthony
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , December 18, 2012 7:12 AM
    geeks.com the most shady website most stuff they sell is self refurbished/used except cheap china stuff not worth ordering from them they will try to tell you that you have to pay for return shipping even if the stuff is DOA no wonder they did't reply to the e-mail.
  • 1 Hide
    bellman80 , December 19, 2012 4:37 PM
    I can guarantee you that out of these merchants Target has one of the least customer friendly return policies. Shame on them!
  • 1 Hide
    dougsgeeks , December 19, 2012 5:17 PM
    I'm the Social Media Manager for Geeks.com. Thanks for including us in the article. We wanted to take the opportunity to clarify our return policies.

    The bottom line is we want to make our customers happy, and keep them as customers. Any time a customer has an issue they should contact us right away (http://www.geeks.com/online.asp), and we’ll do whatever we can to work with them. Every return is different, and we want to talk to our customers.

    Items can be returned within 30 days of purchase. All of our products come with warranties, some through Geeks.com, others through manufacturers. We may at times advise you to contact manufacturers regarding their warranties.

    We do sell refurbished items, and a large number of new items as well, but once again, all products come with a warranty, and extended warranty options are available. If a customer has an issue, they should contact us (http://www.geeks.com/online.asp) immediately, and we will work with them to come up with a solution, whether that be a replacement, refund, substitute, or referral to a manufacturer.

    For more information, please see our return policies (http://www.geeks.com/policies.asp?). As always, you have several contact options to reach us (http://www.geeks.com/online.asp), or you can find us on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/computergeeks) or Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/computergeeks).
  • 2 Hide
    dougsgeeks , December 19, 2012 5:25 PM
    aligwashingtongeeks.com the most shady website most stuff they sell is self refurbished/used except cheap china stuff not worth ordering from them they will try to tell you that you have to pay for return shipping even if the stuff is DOA no wonder they did't reply to the e-mail.


    Hi, wanted to also respond to your comment. Geeks.com does carry a lot of used and refurbished merchandise, all marked as such on product pages, and including warranties. If you receive something that is defective or has an issue, we'll work with you. We charge a restocking fee for non-defective returns. This is a common practice in the industry. If something doesn't work or there is an issue and it needs to be returned, we wouldn't charge a restocking fee. We would work with you to get you a replacement, similar item, or a refund.

    What was the item that you had an issue with? Do you have an order number? We can look into this for you.

    If you need to reach our Customer Service Department to discuss, please feel free to do so: http://www.geeks.com/online.asp
  • 2 Hide
    ericlw , December 20, 2012 4:50 PM
    yea and dont forget all of frys crap they sell repackaged as new for full price.