Consumer World

2022 Return Policy Survey: New Return Fees NOT Common

shopping (BOSTON) -- Despite media reports of some fashion retailers adding new fees for online customer returns this year, the dozen mass merchandisers and retail chains in Consumer World's 19th annual return policy survey did not do so, and most still offer completely free returns. A number of large retailers, however, did provide shoppers with a slightly shorter window during which to make purchases that qualify for an extended holiday return period.

Extended holiday return policies allow gifts bought as early as October 1, such as in Walmart's case, to be returned until mid- to late-January, considerably beyond the normal deadline. What hasn't changed is the complexity of stores' return policies that are designed in part to reduce return fraud. The combined policies for the dozen chains surveyed amount to over 35,000 words and 79 pages of fine print.

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Noteworthy changes and novel return policies for 2022 include:

  • Amazon delayed starting its holiday return policy by 10 days, allowing returns of most items purchased starting October 11 to be sent back as late as January 31. Some products such as pet food, groceries, plants, opened mattresses, and other items are refundable but may not have to be returned. Restocking fees apply in limited cases.

  • Walmart started its holiday return policy a month earlier than in 2021.

  • Best Buy delayed its holiday return policy by about a week. It eliminated two of three member categories for extra time to make returns.

  • Kohl's introduced self-service return kiosks in-store to help avoid lines.

  • Home Depot continues its novel policy of allowing one year to return purchases made using the Home Depot credit card.

  • TJ Maxx and Marshalls will accept online returns bought October 9 - December 25 until February 3 -- about a week later than usual.

  • Staples shortened its purchase window by five days, accepting returns until January 23 for items purchased since November 13.

  • Target continues to offer a one-year return period for house-branded items. Its purchase window was shortened by five days to October 6.

    "Many major retailers continue to recognize the longer holiday shopping season and give customers more time to make returns. And while some companies have begun imposing return fees, the dozen big retailers in our survey held the line with no new or increased fees and the vast majority still provide free returns in person and by mail," said Edgar Dworsky, Founder of Consumer World®, a leading consumer education website.

    Summarized below are some chains with generous regular or holiday return deadlines and their return fees, if any, for online purchases: January 31 for most items shipped Oct. 11 thru Dec.31. Some returns have restocking fees. Most returns free using dropoff locations. Fees for mailed change-of-mind returns.
    Bed, Bath & Beyond 90-day return period for most items. 30 days for smart tech (but Jan. 31 for those items purchased Nov. 15 onward). 30 days for seasonal; 60 days for electrics. If there is no receipt and it is not findable, a 20% fee is deducted from the refund for customer's presumed coupon use. Free return shipping.
    Best Buy January 14 for most purchases made between October 24 - December 31. Totaltech members generally get more time. Some restocking fees. Free returns with their label.
    Costco No deadline, but 90 days for: TVs, computers, cameras, smart watches, MP3 players, cellphones, monitors, major appliances, etc. Free returns for purchases.
    Home Depot 90-day deadline most items. Others 2-30 days. Free returns.
    Kohl's 180-day deadline, but prem. electronics, watches, Sephora bought after Nov. 1 returnable until Jan. 31. No free shipping.
    Macy's stores 90-day deadline for most returns. Holiday return deadline of January 31 for most items purchased October 3 or later, but seven exceptions apply. Apple products bought 12/3-12/24 returnable 'til Jan 8. Free mail returns for orders.
    Marshalls January 25 for purchases October 9 - December 25. These retailers post clear in-store signs about their extended holiday return policy every year - a rarity among retailers. $10.99 fee deducted for postage/handling for .com mailed returns.
    Staples No deadline for office supplies. January 23 for electronics, and furniture bought since November 13. Free online returns.
    TJ Maxx January 25 for purchases October 9 - December 25. These retailers post clear in-store signs about their extended holiday return policy every year - a rarity among retailers. $10.99 fee deducted for postage/handling for .com mailed returns.
    Target 90 days most items. 30 days for electronics and entertain. items, 15 days for most Apple items, 14 days for cell phones. Days begin 12/26 for these non-90-day items bought since 10/6. RedCard holders get 30 extra days. Free mail returns.
    Walmart stores 90 days most items. For the following purchases made from October 1 onward, 30 days (most electronics), and 14 days for cellphones, but count days starting December 26. Free mail returns for online purchases.

    Return policy law varies state to state. Generally, a store can set up any return policy it wants, whether it is "all sales final", "merchandise credit only", or "all returns in 30 days." Many states require the policy to be clearly disclosed to the buyer prior to purchase, usually by means of a conspicuous sign. Some states do not consider a disclosure that only appears on the sales receipt to meet this requirement. It is not unreasonable, however, to require customers to provide a sales slip or gift receipt to establish where and when the item was purchased, and at what price. Those with a gift receipt will generally only receive an even exchange or store credit, but not cash.


  • Don't fight the crowds on the return lines the day after Christmas. Go back a day or two later, or better yet, see if the store provides free returns by mail. To improve your chances of getting full credit, provide a sales slip or gift receipt, return the item in new condition, unopened, and with all packaging material. Returns without a receipt are subject to the posted return policy, which might result in your receiving only a merchandise credit for the lowest price the item has sold for recently, or possibly no refund or exchange at all.
  • Check if online purchases are subject to any return fees. If possible, return those purchases to a retailer's brick and mortar location or free drop-off spots to avoid those charges and/or the cost of postage.
  • If the item to be returned is defective, some states such as Massachusetts, require the store to give the consumer his/her choice of one of the three "R's": repair, replacement or refund, irrespective of the store's posted return policy.
  • Consumers who have a problem returning a gift, should first contact the store manager or customer service department of the retailer. If a satisfactory resolution is not obtained, then a complaint can be filed with the state Attorney General's office or local consumer agency.

    Posted: December 15, 2022

  • Return Policy Survey 2022: retailers' return policies compared

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