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Overcoming Online Holiday Merchandise Returns

If you're like other shoppers, you may want to return up to 20% of what you purchased online

December 29, 2022, Los Angeles, CA – Holiday shoppers and gift recipients can close out the holiday season with just one more daunting task -- returning merchandise for replacement, exchange, or a refund. E-commerce purchases can be more of a challenge than a simple return to a local retail store, as e-commerce sites each have their own policies and practices.

Consumers will find that the return period is usually extended over the holidays, but don't wait on returns. You may discover stricter return policies or additional fees charged this holiday season. It's best to read a store's returns policy before you make any purchase or return, and always keep the receipt.

Shoppers return about 20% of merchandise purchased online, nearly double that of retail store purchases, according to Appriss Retail, a service that helps companies manage returns. Over $761 billion in merchandise was returned last year. The reasons vary from not getting what you want, wrong or damaged items, or dealing with the inexhaustible flood of counterfeit, fraudulent, and replica merchandise. Consumers may find that the third-party online seller they purchased from and paid months earlier has vanished.

Amazon's return policies

Amazon's lax return policies have conditioned consumers to easy returns, but be aware, the e-commerce giant bans shoppers from the site for infractions such as returning too many items, sometimes without telling them what they did wrong.

Year-round, you'll get 30 days to return your Amazon purchases. Amazon extended this policy over the holidays; items purchased between October 11 and December 25, 2022, can be returned for a full refund until January 31, 2023. Items "Fulfilled by Amazon" (FBA) can be returned for free to Amazon, but third-party sellers may have their own stated return policy and require the purchaser to pay return shipping. Out-of-country destinations require additional postage and a U.S. Customs declaration.

For information about products that can't be returned, see Items That Can't Be Returned.

Consumers may avoid shipping fees if the item is taken to drop-off return spots like Amazon's Whole Foods Market or Kohl's. Amazon previously offered a simple and free process to return products, but the cleverly hidden option is gone. Amazon now charges $7.99 for a UPS pickup. Consumers can still print a UPS label and hand the item directly to a UPS driver to skirt the charge and avoid driving around town looking for a drop-off point.

Amazon's online automated "bot" customer service system is a challenge; phone calls are better if you can avoid the overseas customer service "outsource partners."

Walmart's return policies

Walmart's return policy allows holiday item purchases from October 1 to December 31, 2022, to be returned until January 31, 2023; otherwise, 90 days from purchase with some exceptions. The consumer's purchase history on displays the latest eligible date for a return or replacement.

Return policies for items purchased from online third-party Marketplace sellers vary, check the item listing page. Most items don't have a return shipping fee, but check the Return Policy link on the item's listing page for more details

Items purchased from dealers or resellers and not Walmart or directly aren't eligible for return, refund, or exchange.

Items sold and shipped by Walmart can be returned or replaced, when available, by mail within 90 days of receipt.

The first step in returning an item is to contact the seller or e-commerce website, often through online forms that open the communication channel. For low-dollar items, the cost of returns can obviate the value to the seller of getting the product back, so sellers may tell the customer to keep or donate the item.

If you don't get the desired results or resistance from the seller, open a formal complaint or claim with the website or dispute the charge with your credit card company or payment service. You can always shift your loyalties to another retailer, and don't forget to leave seller feedback about your return experience.


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