Having to return something to a store is never a particularly pleasant experience: Getting something all the way home just to realize that it doesn't fit/doesn't work/isn't quite what you thought you were purchasing is annoying enough.
When stores hedge at refunding your money for multiple, sometimes arbitrary-seeming reasons — you didn't to do it within 10 days/you lost your receipt/you forgot to summon the shopping spirits on a full moon by chanting the words to Macklemore's "Thrift Shop" backwards — the entire experience can take a full day and a full bottle of ibuprofen to accomplish. That's why stories like Zulily's "will give you your money back — go ahead and donate that coat" catch our attention. Could the mythical "hassle-free" return policy actually exist outside of lore and legends? Yep! And we've compiled the stores that have them into a handy list for your next shopping excursion: 10 stores with return policies that are particularly generous or easy to navigate.
Nordstrom's return policy is essentially, "Pfft, who needs a policy?" According to their website: "We handle returns on a case-by-case basis with the ultimate objective of satisfying the customer." That line of thinking makes for a pretty easy returns process. If you buy anything in a Nordstrom or on Nordstrom.com, there's no time limit to when you can return it, and you don't need to have your receipt.
One caveat: Nordstrom Rack, HauteLook and Trunk Club, which are the outlet, member's only site and personal shopping service that Nordstrom operates respectively, all have stricter policies, such as 90-day time limits and proof of purchase.
Kohl's is also much beloved for their generous return policy, which they bill as being offered with "no questions asked." Return anything with or without a receipt within a year of purchase, and you're very likely to get your money back, especially if you used a Kohl's Charge or major credit card. Once a year has elapsed, it's up to the store on how they want to deal with it — an on-the-spot refund, an even exchange or a corporate-issued refund.
The only two exceptions to Kohl's policy are gift cards, which are never refunded, and items purchased through third-party seller Wayfair, which have to be dealt with through them instead.
Who doesn't love Costco? Here's another reason: Their policy for returns and refunds is a pretty sweet deal. They'll refund you completely on just about anything, no time limit, no questions asked. Electronics like TVs, computers, tablets and phones must be returned within 90 days, and certain items like cigarettes and diamonds over a carat (oh, Costco!) have restrictions that might not result in straight cash back.
As far as online retailers go, Zappos sets the bar when it comes to stress-free returns, refunds and exchanges. The online boutique best known for shoes will take anything back within a year, and they'll even pay the postage for you. The catch is that the shoes must be unworn, so there'll be no gaming the system with a night out on pricey Oscar de la Renta stilettos.
BB&B already has the coupon game on lock, and if you need another reason to shop there, their generous return policy might just be it. You can return an item to any store nationwide with a receipt for a full refund, and without a receipt for up to a year after purchase. After that, you'll still get a refund — it'll just be 20 percent less than the original selling price.
Maybe it's their co-op status that allows REI to do totally un-evil stuff like give their employees Black Friday off and offer returns and refunds (even on used clothing!) for up to a year after purchase. You will need your receipt for this one, unless you're a REI member, which means you'll have proof-of-purchase on record. However, we think that's a fair enough trade, especially considering that whether you buy online, over the phone or at their outlet store, you can just walk into any REI retail storefront and do the exchange in person if you want.
Macy's is another retailer that really lets you take your time deciding whether or not you want that cocktail dress/duvet cover/flatware set. They don't have a time limit at all for items with receipts, and items without them can be looked up for up to two years after the original purchase date, so long as they aren't worn or damaged. That assessment is left up to the associate's best judgment, so it always pays to be pleasant at the returns counter.
There are a few caveats though: The biggest is that if you receive a gift you dislike, you'll get a gift card instead of cash when you return it. Macy's also has special limitations on things like furniture, furs and jewelry, so if you're thinking of making a big-ticket purchase you'll want to review them thoroughly.
Remember the great duck boot shortage of '14? When a retailer can consistently make high quality, high demand products and still offer incredible customer service, that's a store worth shopping at, even if you don't live in a magical catalog world where it snows all of the time and no one's nose ever runs. L.L. Bean's policy is one of the best on the list: You can return with a receipt at any time for a full refund, and if you don't have your receipt, they'll do their best to locate the purchase information. If they can't do that, you'll get a gift card for the purchase price, which should keep you in chunky sweaters and anti-pill fleece all winter long.
They have few limits on this policy, but will turn people away if they purchased the item at a yard sale or thrift shop, if the label's been removed, if the item is "soiled" or if the customer has a history of abusing the returns policy. Basically? Stay honest and away from instances where you're likely to do something where "soiled" is a possible adjective.
Athleta is The Gap's answer to lululemon-type retailers, and has a pretty straightforward, stress-free policy. In their own words (emphasis ours):
"We hope you love what you ordered. But in case you don't — perhaps it's a little too big or the style just isn't you — we'll send you a new size, color or style, or issue you a quick refund. Returns and exchanges are FREE when you use our prepaid return shipping label. You have up to 45 days to return items purchased at Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic. Items purchased from Athleta may be returned at any time."
It really doesn't get much easier than that, honestly.
Target is already a retail darling, but their recently updated return policy makes shopping there even more attractive. For Target-owned brands like Circo, up & up and Threshold, you have a whole year to return an item for a full refund. Officially, that's with a receipt, but some stores will do their best to look up the purchase if you managed to misplace yours.
Anything that's not a Target brand has a 90-day return window, and if you pay with a manufacturer's coupon, you'll even get that back, usually on a gift card.
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