Beware of Retailers With Difficult Gift Exchange and Return Policies

Difficult return policies for BJ's, Barnes & Noble, Best Buy & Target

How a retailer handles a merchandise return is no less important than how the retailer handles sales. Customer unfriendly policies which make a gift return difficult or impossible can cause a retailer to lose two customers if giver and recipient are inconvenienced or embarrassed.

Some very small or micro-businesses may not have the resources to offer gift-friendly return policies. Larger retailers that understand how return policies can impact customer retention, however, should avoid these gift return practices employed by someĀ major U.S.retail companies.

Target, Target.com

Target Store
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Some items purchased at Target.com cannot be returned to a Target store. This information is usually contained in the "shipping & returns" section of the online product description.

If you want to return a gift in-store, you'll need a gift receipt or packing slip to do so, but you won't be able to get a cash refund. Refunds are given in the form of Target gift cards. If you don't have a gift receipt or packing slip, you'll only be able to exchange the item for a merchandise return card. These cards can be used in-store only and are not valid online.

For gifted items, Target generally doesn't do exchanges. And if you want to return gifted items from Target.com through the mail, you'll need to contact Target.com Guest Services by phone to get approval to send the items back. There is no guarantee that Target will cover the cost of shipping the item back, so the gift recipient might be responsible for these charges.

BJs Wholesale Club, BJs.com

BJs Warehouse Clubs
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BJ's has updated its return policy to allow gifts purchased online to be returned in-stores.

However, if you don't live near a BJ's location, the process of returning or exchanging a gift becomes difficult. Returning an item requires a return authorization number, but only the purchasing BJ's member can obtain this number. The gift recipient must call BJ's Member Care to get a return authorization and shipping instructions, making a discreet return of a BJs.com gift impossible.

Gifts purchased through an Online Access Membership still cannot be returned in-store and require a call to Member Care. If you are returning an item by mail, BJ's doesn't cover shipping, so either the gift giver or recipient will be responsible for the cost of the return.

Beware of purchasing electronic gifts through BJ's.com. These items generally have a two-week return window, after which is it impossible to get a refund for a defective item without going through the manufacturer.

Barnes & Noble, BN.com

Barnes & Noble Store
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You can return gifts purchased from a Barnes & Noble store or from their e-commerce site to any of their retail stores, but you have to do it within 14-30 days, depending on the item. This limits the window that givers have to buy gifts without risking that recipients are unable to return or exchange them.

If you don't have a Barnes & Noble nearby, you'll have to return items via mail. Barnes & Noble does not offer prepaid shipping labels or refund shipping fees for items purchased online.

The Barnes & Noble return policy that is the most unfriendly to customers and gift recipients, though, is their "you pay for it, we keep it" policy. If you return merchandise through the mail and it misses the 14-day return deadline or doesn't have the proper packing slip, Barnes & Noble will not issue a refund or send the item back to you.

Best Buy, BestBuy.com

Best Buy Store
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Those who purchase a gift from Best Buy or BestBuy.com should make it a last-minute purchase. Opened or not, receipt or not, in-store or by mail, Best Buy will not accept returns after 15 days (14 days for cell phones and cellular products).

The one exception to this policy is during the holidays: some items purchased in November and December can be returned as late as January the following year. However, this policy does not apply to gifts such as cell phones, drones, DSLR cameras, and others.

Best Buy also has high restocking fees, $45 or up to 15 percent of the purchase price for items that have been opened.

If you make a purchase for $800 or more with cash or $250 or more by check or debit card, you will not receive a cash or debit card refund if you return the purchase. Best Buy will issue your refund by check within 10 business days. Cash customers may choose to shop someplace where receiving a refund is less difficult.