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Return Policies: It pays to shop where they’re generous

Yesterday, at Frugal Scholar‘s repeated urging, I returned to Costco’s optical department, bearing the goggle-like glasses I’ve disliked so vigorously. As you may recall, the progressives work adequately for watching TV (which I rarely do) and for eating dinner, but I can’t read sheet music for choir through them, or much of anything else; the “intermediate” pair the optometrist proposed to take the place of a pair of glasses that worked fine for reading and computing is more or less adequate for the computer but I can’t read a book or a newspaper through them.

The optician proposed to make a new pair of lenses for the progressives. Tentatively, I asked if there was any chance I could get my money back instead, since I’d had to buy another pair somewhere else.

“That’s your choice,” said she.

“Well,” said I, “I’d rather have my money back, if that’s possible, since these new glasses I had to buy were pretty expensive.”

Amazingly, she agreed to refund the entire cost. But it gets better!

“Is there any chance I could get my money back for the other pair, too, since I can’t read through them, either?”

To my astonishment, she agreed to that, too!

I walked away with $283.96 credited to my American Express card.

What’s staggering about this is not just that they returned my money for something they can’t resell. It’s that I bought these glasses LAST NOVEMBER!

Can you imagine? I still can’t, and I watched it happen.

This refund erased the $94 worth of red ink in this month’s budget and put me $151.46 in the black. I then bought $82 worth of groceries and household products. leaving me about $70 to the good.

Today is the 9th. I bought gas over the weekend, which, since I’m not driving around much, should run the car for another ten days. The grocery run provided enough food to last, probably, until the end of the budget cycle on the 20th. I may need a head of lettuce, but that’s sure not going to cost seventy bucks.

So. Despite overspending the budget this month, I come out unscathed.

It really does pay to shop at stores with generous return policies. With this sort of customer service, Costco has made such a fan of me that one little troll, gorged on troll kibble (I buy it at Costco, of course), decided that Funny must be a paid shill for Costco.

I wish. But they certainly have me coming back.

In contrast, I try to avoid shopping at stores that won’t let me bring back unsatisfactory items. I rarely go into Fry’s Electronics, for example. They have a one-month return period, and although they’ll eventually give you back your money,  in the past I’ve found it’s quite a hassle to engineer a refund. The useless vacuum cleaner, whose replacement is the main cause of this month’s budget overrun, was purchased there over a month ago and so can’t be returned. The new vacuum came from Costco. You can be sure I won’t be buying much from Fry’s again.

B’Gauze, one of the few stores that carries clothes that fit and don’t look just hideous on me, accepts no returns at all. Consequently, the $700 spent on the late great shopping spree went to J. Jill, not B’Gauze. Women’s clothing is weird stuff: it can look OK in the store, but when you get it home and look it over by the light of reality, you’ll find it doesn’t actually fit very well, or it’s shoddily made, or the red dye rubs off on your white pants. So when a clothing store refuses to take returns, it discourages one from shopping there. I never buy more than one or two items at a time from B’Gauze, and my trips to the store are few and far between.

Paradoxically, then, a generous return policy works as much to the store’s benefit as it does to the consumer’s.

8 thoughts on “Return Policies: It pays to shop where they’re generous”

  1. Wal-Mart’s another one with a generous return policy. I took back a TV/DVD combo that broke one year after it was bought, and they exchanged it, no problem.

    I had to laugh when I read your, “I bought gas over the weekend, which, since I’m not driving around much, should run the car for another ten days.”

    I’m sure glad for my old Chevy truck. I can fill it up and drive a couple of times a week and not have to fill up again for another year.

    • @ Victoria: LOL! Those old trucks DID have gas tanks, didn’t they? A 1996 Chevy Silverado held 30 gallons and got about 12 to 16 mpg. A 1990 F150 with two tanks could carry 36 or 37 gallons. The Ford F 150 of that vintage supposedly got 14 to 18 mpg (although one sources says 11…gasp!). By comparison, my Toyota Sienna holds 20.9 gallons. It gets an alleged 19 to 24 mpg…probably because it doesn’t have to haul all that gasoline around!

  2. Costco and should I EVER be able to afford them more than once in a blue moon: Nordstrom. I believe they also have an excellent return policy but let’s be honest, it’s well out of my pay grade.

  3. Nordstrom’s functions the way all department stores used to, in the good old days.

    I remember standing in…I think it was the Broadway, or maybe Bullock’s, when a woman showed up with something she’d bought three months before, had obviously used, and had put a fair amount of wear on. She had some weak excuse for bringing it back, like “I don’t like this thing any more” or “the color doesn’t match my green skirt.” And darned if the sales clerk didn’t take it back and give her a full return of her money! No grousing, no questions asked.

    You won’t get away with that in many places any more.

  4. I’m sure I sound like a shill for Costco as well. They are fantastic about taking anything back that they sell.

    Did you know they also offer support for any electronic items you buy there? We bought our HD TV there and they double the warranty and had a free support line to help us figure out how to get it set up.

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