Returning Used Stuff – Cool or No?

When I was a senior in college I needed a new boombox something bad. My old one had broke, and if I was going to pull off these epic parties coming up I had to get a replacement STAT.

So I did what every college student does: I rushed out to Walmart, picked out the biggest most ridiculous looking stereo I could find, and brought it home with $75 less to my name – even though I only budgeted for $50 (priorities!).

Two months later I was baskin’ in the glow of these parties, knocking off my last remaining credits so I can nab that sexy degree, and still bumpin’ those sweet tunes from that hideous boombox…

Only problem, I was broke.

All that partying and mismanaging of my money had me scrambling to pay for food and real necessities, and long story short I ended up hightailing it back to Walmart to try and return the stereo when I learned they had a 90 day return policy. And there were still TWO DAYS left!!

You can see if I was successful here — Confessions of Clothes Returners — but needless to say it was one of the most embarrassing moments of my young adult life. And from that day forward I made a vow to pay attention to this stuff more and never have to come crawling back sheepishly again.

I was reminded of all this when I got the following email from a “Joe” who reads the blog:

What is your, or your readers, view on returning items? Stores like Bed Bath and Beyond take items back more than a year, and at Costco you can return 95% of merchandise even after they’re 12 years old and used.

I understand the ethics involved, however, if it’s the store policy and no laws are being broken is it a poor decision to return items using the store policy after years of use rather than throwing the items away and getting back your money? Or is it mindful of your money and merchandise when you shop at these places which offer returns no questions asked?

I wrote back that it does really come down to ethics and what you’re comfortable with, but no – I wouldn’t return anything anymore unless it was broke or didn’t work as expected or I ended up changing my mind (with tags still on/etc). But there was a time when I did, and fancied myself pretty clever for it ;)

I also mentioned that there’s plenty of ways you could discard of an item other than just throwing it away – like re-selling it or donating it and getting a tax write-off, which is kinda a happy medium? – but that I can’t speak to what my lovely readers would say and perhaps one day I’d ask (get ready for it!). I further agreed that it’s certainly not illegal to do anything within store policy, though my guess is you could only get away with it so much until they eventually catch on and blacklist you.

Shortly after, he wrote back:

Thanks for the reply…

I wanted a unbiased opinion as I moved and just couldn’t throw out my bedroom set that was in perfect condition and 10 years old. Because of a generous return policy, the store that I purchased at, Costco, took it back. I felt weird about it, but it was one less thing I had to deal with when moving and received my original purchase price… Ethical, no, but within the rules.

C’est la vie

WOW does that guy have balls! Makes my story look amateur up in here! :)

But that last part summed up my thoughts perfectly: Ethical, no, but within the rules.

Only you know deep down what you feel is okay and what’s not (and certain situations exacerbate it at times, depending on how badly you might need the money), but by and large we all have that little person inside of us trying to lead us in the right direction. Sometimes we listen to ’em, and other times we don’t, but either way we’re the ones who have to live with it and there’s no point in carrying around any unnecessary burden. Whether emotionally or financially.

So, dear readers, thoughts? You ever return something you’re kinda sorta ashamed of but still did it anyways? Would you have returned your bed set to Costco after 10 years of use?

No right or wrong answers here, but feel free to comment anonymously if it makes you more comfortable ;) The only request our guy Joe here had was that he prefers not to get any death threats, haha… I told him I couldn’t promise! We get pretty riled up here with our budgeting!

But seriously, keep it civil please :)

PS: A quick tip on returning stuff – any time you buy something and KNOW it was a mistake, put it in your trunk right away along with the receipt. That way you always have it on you whenever you remember to return it! (‘Cuz you know you’ll forget and/or get lazy)

[Photo cred: robertmontalvo]

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  1. Brian @DebtDiscipline June 15, 2016 at 6:13 AM

    I know someone that works at Costco and they tell me stories all the time about the stuff people return. The best one I heard recently was a couch. It was five years old at least and worn. The guys was asked why he was returning it and he said “I don’t like the color” It was returned for him at the original purchase price.

    I’m not on-board with this. This is really stretching the rules. I would feel really bad if I did something like this.

    1. J. Money June 15, 2016 at 7:49 AM

      Oh wowww… I’d never be able to do that.

      1. DIY$ June 15, 2016 at 11:35 AM

        Nordstrom is another store that has a very generous return policy. I know someone who worked there and said the he had accepted returns for items that they didn’t even sell, like JCPenney store brand clothes!

        Side note, if you’re ever in Phoenix, there is a store called ‘Last Chance’ where all the Nordstrom returns are re-sold for super cheap. I remember going through the shoes section and it’s very clear that some of the shoes had been worn a bit before being returned. I’ve seen a lot of shoes that normally retail for >$500 (Ferragamo’s) that get returned and then they try to resell them for $30-100. Judging by the volume that goes through this store, it happens pretty regularly.

        1. J. Money June 15, 2016 at 2:35 PM

          Sounds like the best store ever, actually :)

          1. DIY$ June 15, 2016 at 4:41 PM

            It’s pretty sweet — it’s almost like a luxury Goodwill. That’s the only place I’ll buy dress shoes since we visit Phoenix often enough.

          2. Brandon @ Nurse on Fire June 16, 2016 at 4:18 AM

            Kohl’s is the same way. While we were in college, my wife had bought a pair of Croc’s from an out-of-town mall kiosk and when she got home, decided they didn’t fit quite right. We attempted to return them to a local Croc’s dealer but they couldn’t take them back due to not being in their inventory or something weird. Anyway, the guy told us to try Kohl’s and he laughed while saying that “you can pretty much take them a rock and they’ll give you a sweater!” I still laugh when I think about that but…he was right! The shoes weren’t in their inventory either but they sold a similar model and gave us in-store credit for them. We used to spend a ridiculous amount of money at Kohl’s, shopping the clearance racks with 30% off coupons. :) lol!

          3. Femme Frugality June 18, 2016 at 7:51 PM

            Agreed! I’m going to see if we have something like that here….
            I didn’t know about these generous return policies. I think since the bed set was in perfect condition it’s really no big deal. The couch, on the other hand…

  2. The Green Swan June 15, 2016 at 6:23 AM

    Wow didn’t know Costco had such a generous return policy. Costco is getting what they are asking for, that’s for sure. I think that’s pretty ridiculous though to own something that long and then return it for full price! I know a buddy who bought a camping tent for a weekend then returned it. Shocking people do this stuff.

    1. Kevin June 15, 2016 at 10:02 AM

      It actually use to be even more generous. Also went towards electronics.

      They ended up changing the return policy for electronics to 90 days, as every year people were using the return policy to get the next generation ipod and model of their television.

  3. Jacq June 15, 2016 at 6:58 AM

    I think it can depend on the item. I bought extra fuzzy pads for the bottom of my chairs the other day, because I wasn’t sure what size I need. It is an item that won’t go bad (though the adhesive might not be as good in several years ), and can be easily restocked (I’ll only return the unopened package ). I think the used part is what I have trouble with – would you buy the item if you knew it was used? Some stores might resell at a discount price, like they do for slightly damaged things, or the used video games section. Other times they have to toss it in the trash & perhaps a better way to get rid of the item is donation or a yard sale, where the buyer expects the item had a history.

    1. J. Money June 15, 2016 at 7:51 AM

      Yeah, for sure. I’m all about returning stuff that ended up not being needed or didn’t work right – no shame in that at all! It’s the old, used, stuff that gives stores the trouble as you’re right – no one wants to buy that stuff.

  4. Roy Largo @ Band of Savers June 15, 2016 at 7:01 AM

    If I have gotten the intended use out of the item I don’t take it back – only if there was something wrong with it or it never got opened.

    In college I had a finance professor tell us about a company that made big blow-up water toys, the ones you pull behind boats with several people on them. The were so excited when Costco started carrying their products but when Costco accepts a return they aren’t the ones who eat the costs. they box it back up and return it to the manufacturer. Sales went great for this company all spring and summer but once the boating season ended people boxed up their used blow-up toys and took them back to Costco so that they could get their money back on an item that they had used all summer. Result: The company went bankrupt when they had to pay out for all of these returned items that were still perfectly good.

    Moral or the story was – Don’t sell your goods at Costco unless you are prepared to have all your goods returned, and don’t kill a company just so that you can get use out of an item for free.

    1. J. Money June 15, 2016 at 7:56 AM

      Unbelievable… You don’t often think of the consequences of this stuff since it seems like a “only me” problem, but man – this highlights the effects immensely! Never going to forget that story myself now!

    2. Shannon June 15, 2016 at 10:38 AM

      I’m glad you pointed out the a real consequence of abusing liberal return policies.

    3. Kate @ itsakatelife June 15, 2016 at 1:06 PM

      This is called Return to Vendor (RTV). The company should have negotiated with Costco to have a much stricter RTV in the contract, like 30 days. If the choices are either all your product returned or not doing business with Costco, I’d prefer the latter. Better to only invest in the inventory that will actually be sold than take a huge hit on used product.

      1. superbien June 16, 2016 at 7:22 AM

        Wow sad consequences! If you know, you can set it up differently, but as a new company, yikes.

      2. Donna Freedman June 19, 2016 at 5:12 PM

        I think the practice, like credit card fraud, winds up costing us all eventually. Your “great deal” — and the great deals of tens of thousands of others — means prices go up and that gets passed on to the consumers.

        When I saw “Return To Vendor” above, I immediately flashed on Elvis Presley. The following commentary can be sang (if you must) to the tune of “Return To Sender”:
        Return to vendor,
        Ethics unknown,
        It’s worn and dirty,
        Resale value blown.
        A sleazy practice
        NOT a frugal hack,
        You buy it, use it and then, you sleaze,
        It goes right back.
        We all find ourselves payin’ the price
        For your “super deal”
        When costs go up (and they will!)
        How do you think you’ll feel?
        Return to vendor?
        I don’t think so!
        Adult-up and get some class,
        You cheap mofo!

        1. J. Money June 20, 2016 at 6:47 AM

          Hahah…. you’re too much, over there :)

          I think you need to blog about it and see if you can land a record deal.

  5. Alex June 15, 2016 at 7:29 AM

    End of the day, you’re the one who has to look at yourself in the mirror.

    I wouldn’t feel comfortable returning a 5 year old couch that i had enjoyed. Maybe a 1-2 week old couch that didnt fit the color scheme of the room or wasnt as comfy as hoped.

    That said, the stores set their return policies and obviously do so knowing some may abuse them. I’m sure they also attract many customers who are attracted by their generous return policies.

    -sidebar, a friend’s mother was banned from Bed Bath & Beyond for taking advantage of their return policy. Apparently she was getting new sheets, towels, dishes every 6 months, returning the old for whatever reason and buying new ones. BB&B finally caught on and told her she was no longer welcome in their stores and was no longer eligible to return merchandise. I can certainly appreciate that rationale and hopefully we’d all agree this shopping behavior is unethical.

    1. J. Money June 15, 2016 at 2:37 PM

      True true… I’d imagine the pros greatly overcome the cons or else these policies would have been changed ages ago.

  6. Ali June 15, 2016 at 7:34 AM

    I just recently returned a worn bathing suit to Athleta knowing that it probably can’t be resold to someone else (I know I wouldn’t wear another woman’s bathing suit bottoms). They sell high end exercise clothing and swimwear, and part of their business model is that their stuff is so good, nobody will want to return it, so they allow you to return anything at any time for any reason.

    I tried the bathing suit on before i bought it, and it fit great, but once I swam in it, it began riding up in an uncomfortable way. I knew I was never going to wear it again, so I took advantage of their return policy. They specifically say to take their gear for a workout and return it if you’re not completely satisfied, so I don’t feel bad about it at all.

    1. J. Money June 15, 2016 at 2:42 PM

      Totally cool in my books to do that. I’ve returned plenty of used things over the years that didn’t match up with expectations. These policies are great for that!

    2. Amanda June 15, 2016 at 3:20 PM

      I don’t think you should feel bad about it. I returned a sweater to LandsEnd after it had been worn twice and developed a hole in the arm pit. I did not get the expected use out of the item. I also purchased another sweater from LandsEnd because I imagined I just got the one off bad sweater.

  7. Apathy Ends June 15, 2016 at 7:42 AM

    Haha – I am surprised Costco is that lenient when it comes to returns.

    Personally I don’t see myself doing anything like that – it’s one thing if the product broke writhing the warranty period or if it was brand new and still in the box – but returning something I actually used – not going to happen

  8. Adam June 15, 2016 at 7:45 AM

    Dude, I love the articles but what’s with the popups for the mailing list? Not cool. There’s already 2 places to sign up on the page! Don’t turn into one of those websites, please :(

    1. J. Money June 15, 2016 at 2:44 PM

      Hah! You are literally the first person in two years to mention it since I first installed it :) But sorry it annoyed you – def. hate doing that to people. The pop up actually only comes up one time a month and that’s it (at least if you’re on the same computer and haven’t cleared cache, etc) so you shouldn’t see it again for quite some time…. No way in hell I’m activating it every time you go to a new page or show up on the site – that’s for sure! I’d stop reading my own blog too!

      1. Adam June 15, 2016 at 11:33 PM

        Oh, I thought it was new and it was gonna pop up every time I opened an article! I hate that, you end up with 10 articles open and the same damn popup on every one. Now, if only there was a way to make it recognise when someone is already on the mailing list!

  9. Jen June 15, 2016 at 7:56 AM

    I work retail, and I never return anything unless it is unused, and can go back on the shelf, or it was defective or didn’t work as implied. I’ve seen so many items returned that obviously was a one time use, like an air mattress, or an item they have had for years. A lot of people justify it as, “well, the store makes a lot of money, they can eat it.” That’s true, the store probably does make a lot of money, but they also have a lot of money to pay out. A store that does not make enough profits cuts labor or raises prices. Not enough labor and people lose jobs. (Yes, I know this oversimplified, but the general principle is there.)

    Long story short (too late), I don’t do anything involving a store that I would not want customers doing if I owned the store.

  10. Stephen Weyman June 15, 2016 at 8:02 AM

    I have taken advantage of Costco’s generous return policy on several occasions but mostly for valid reasons with either very gently or unused merchandise. I have read stories of people returning 5-10 year old TVs to get upgrade to the latest model for free before they changed the policy on TVs and electronics.

    Seriously, I don’t understand a return policy that is as generous as Costco’s. I’m not completely against taking advantage of store policies either, that’s what they are there for, but theirs is just begging for abuse.

    I plan to use Costco’s return policy again sometime soon. We bought a brand new bike for my wife that cost hundreds of dollars as she has always wanted to learn to bike. Ended up sitting in the garage for 2+ years now never used. She’s decided she probably won’t ever use it. If we can find the receipt (now required), we will probably eventually return it when we have time. Too busy to make returns most of the time these days.

    1. J. Money June 15, 2016 at 2:48 PM

      Yeah, I don’t understand why 12 years is their magic number either. I feel like even just one year or two years beats out 99% of all other stores! You know there’s a reason for it all though – prob got a team of 1,000 people a day analyzing every single item there for optimum output :) Also odds of holding onto a receipt that long is pretty low too if that’s now the case?

  11. Aaron June 15, 2016 at 8:03 AM

    Interesting post as my wife and I were discussing this just the other day when she had purchased some items at Costco, washed them – didn’t fit right – and then returned ’em. She was pretty unsure about whether it was right to return them or not. To her surprise, they took them, no questions. I think this really depends on the store policy. Some – like Costco – are quite liberal in their returns.

  12. Heather M June 15, 2016 at 8:05 AM

    Nope, couldn’t do it. I’ve returned items to LLBean after years of use when they’ve been defective due to their replace or repair policy but not for money back, I just wanted a replacement. My conscience just wouldn’t allow me to take advantage of a policy like that.

  13. Mr. SSC June 15, 2016 at 8:24 AM

    In college, I showed up to a month long field camp, and got stuck with a broken cot. we were sleeping in glorified sheds, so after that night, I went to Wal-Mart, got a portable hammock dealio, used it for a month and returned it. Would I do that now, No, but I knew buying it then I didn’t need it after that trip and couldn’t afford $90 on a portable hammock. Like your reader said, Ethical, no, but within the rules….
    It doesn’t top a college friend that did that in Alaska with an inflatable boat. He was interning for 3 months, and wanted a boat to fish. He said he beat the heck out of it all summer, and then returned it for full price before heading back. Come to think of it, he was the one that suggested my purchase/return scheme. :)

    1. E June 15, 2016 at 9:38 AM

      I’m confused though. If you knew you couldn’t afford a $90 hammock, why would you ever go buy one to begin with?

      There’s the letter of a policy and the spirit of the policy.

      I guess I apply the idea that “what if everyone did it”. It’s not sustainable for anyone at that point.

      Those of us who purchase things and decide to sell them (or donate them) after we no longer need them are basically paying a higher price because other people use retail items like a library book.

      How strange — I had no idea people did this. I wish I still didn’t know.

      1. Mr. SSC June 15, 2016 at 3:23 PM

        Basically, it beat sleeping on a plywood floor since the only cot I was assigned was broken. So, I put it on a credit card, and then got it refunded to the card when I returned it at the end of the month.

  14. Paul June 15, 2016 at 8:29 AM

    If it no longer provides value and is within the store policy then whatever. Shoot I returned a lawn mower lift after I got done using it to replace my drive belt. Whatever, stores aren’t people there really is nothing unethical about returning something within the stores defined parameters. Plus I didn’t want to be out $150 dollar for something I may use 5 times in my life. This stuff is already built into the price you pay. AND Costco is pretty generous but they wouldn’t let me return an elliptical machine after 4 years of use so they do sometimes say no.

    1. J. Money June 15, 2016 at 2:57 PM

      See Free to Pursue’s comment down below on stores not being people…

      1. Paul June 15, 2016 at 4:00 PM

        I still see nothing unethical about it.

        Stores offer refund policies to make it so people don’t think about their purchases. If they didn’t offer them, people would buy a lot less in the first place. Any arguments against using a legitimate return policy are therefore null.

        Any complaining on the business owner’s part is just them being upset their attempts to trick people into buying stuff they didn’t need or really want failed.

  15. Fervent Finance June 15, 2016 at 8:42 AM

    Hey if Costco didn’t want people doing it, they’d change the rule…

  16. Bethany Meyer June 15, 2016 at 8:44 AM

    If I spend a good bit on something and expect it to last, I intentionally buy it from stores like Nordstrom, BBB, or REI so I can return it if I have any problems. If a product doesn’t meet my expectations, I won’t hesitate to return it. I don’t think I take advantage of it in a bad way, though. When too many people take advantage of return policies it forces stores to tighten up their return policy.

  17. BeachMama June 15, 2016 at 8:56 AM

    I worked my way through college selling ladies shoes in a department store – I made minimum wage plus commission after I met an hourly sales goal.

    Nothing in the world sucked more than for someone to bring back a pair of well worn shoes after months/year of wear and tear!

    If they had their original receipt, they received whatever price they paid for the shoes and the amount of the sale was deducted from the original salesperson’s current commission – no matter how much time had passed since the original purchase.
    If the person did not have their receipt or the original salesperson no longer worked there, the value of the shoes was split and deducted from all of the sales people in the department’s commission for the week.

    Needless to say, I quickly learned to avoid dealing with compulsive shoppers/returners (yes, this is a real thing) and would literally hide in the stock room to avoid dealing with them so I wouldn’t take a hit when they eventually returned their shoes!

    Long story short, you’re potentially messing with a salesperson’s income when you make the choice to return something. Not cool – unless the item is legitimately defective.

    1. J. Money June 15, 2016 at 2:54 PM

      Oh wow I didn’t know that!!! But def. make sense. Prob happens in all salesy positions :(

  18. Stefan @Mllnnlbudget June 15, 2016 at 9:15 AM

    I had a friend who used to buy socks and those shoes with the cotton inside of them from LL Bean just for the winter and when it was done he would return it and get all his money back. He was never asked questions but if you ask me that was pretty disgusting. I asked him if he ever felt bad and he said he was doing nothing wrong so what is there to feel bad about?

    While true I believe you should only return items if they are defective otherwise you are just being a scam.

  19. James June 15, 2016 at 9:16 AM

    Hi J. – Stores would never fully define their return policies for fear of insulting customers, but returns are meant for defective used items or items that have never been used. As for planning on returning before even purchasing, and returning a 10 year old couch, all I can say is, “Integrity (ethics) means doing the right thing even though no one is looking.” Costco knows most customers are ethical – the yearly membership fees will pay for those who are not.

  20. Tara June 15, 2016 at 9:55 AM

    I’ve returned things to Costco that broke or were defective before they were supposed to be.

    I bought an LED light bulb for instance, that only lasted a year. I know it’s silly to do that, but I was pissed and I returned it since it was faulty and I paid a bit for a bulb that was supposed to last 10 years.

    I also returned a sweater I wore once and washed because the arm seams started coming apart after that one wash. I loved the sweater too, but a big hole on my forearm for a sweater I had only washed once was not normal-wear-and-tear.

    I also returned a wireless router I bought online to a store that was acting faulty. I didn’t realize until later that they actually gave me more in the return value than what I paid because of some online coupon that was applied after adding the item to my online shopping cart. It was a $30 router and I think the coupon was an extra $5 so it wasn’t significant.

    I don’t know if I’d return a furniture set like the guy above, but to each their own. What someone says above about shoe returning is from Nordstrom’s. That is pretty messed up for people to return shoes after 10 years of use. I’d never do that, especially when you realize it does hurt the employee’s paycheck.

  21. Mrs. 1500 June 15, 2016 at 9:59 AM

    I felt guilty about returning a loaf of bread to Costco 2 days after I bought it and discovered it was covered in mold.

    There is right, and there is wrong. Taking advantage of a company’s policy, simply “because you can” is wrong.

    1. J. Money June 15, 2016 at 2:55 PM

      My wife always feels bad for returning food too – even though it’s totally legit! :)

  22. Lisa O June 15, 2016 at 10:02 AM

    I could never return after 10 years of use! That is almost stealing ~ I cannot believe he got his full price paid! I returned a kiddie pool many years back after using it for about 3 weeks and got my full price paid back because they couldn’t replace it because they were out of stock and not expecting any others in until the following season.

    I will return items if I haven’t used them within 48 hours of purchasing if they are not the right color, size or taste funny (fruit) after getting home with them. I will also return used items if they do not live up to what they were sold to be used for.

  23. Free to Pursue June 15, 2016 at 10:05 AM

    Nothing is free. Someone, somewhere is paying the price for one’s use of a returned item. Only items that are legitimately returned unused and in their original state result in only a small amount of cost (time to process return and restock/ship back).

    As a former small retail business owner, I can tell you returns hurt…everyone. It hurts businesses and everyone they support: manufacturers, suppliers & service providers, employees, owners and owners’ families. Oh, AND other shoppers. The costs have to be absorbed somewhere. They get built into the prices of what you buy, pulled out of potential pay increases for deserving employees and in a reduction of breadth and depth of products and services offered. It ends up sucking for everyone. Rules or not, don’t do it. Follow your moral compass and values instead.

    If these reasons aren’t enough for you, you can ask yourself this question: “Would I want what I’m about to do to show up on a billboard for everyone to see tomorrow?” If the answer’s “No.”, don’t do it!

    1. E June 15, 2016 at 1:40 PM

      Fantastic advice in that last paragraph.

      1. J. Money June 15, 2016 at 2:56 PM

        YES!! LOVE THAT!!

  24. Money Beagle June 15, 2016 at 10:17 AM

    We’ve taken advantage of the liberal Costco policy once, but we feel it was justified. We had a video baby monitor that was a couple of years old. It was setup and stayed where it was and worked fine for 2+ years. We went on vacation at a rental house and decided to take it with us. We unplugged and packed up all the components, and when we set it up and went to plug it in, the power receptacle in the charging station broke. This is something that had maybe been plugged and unplugged a few times, at most, so even though it was two years old, we returned it because we felt this was something that should have lasted beyond what it did.

  25. jestjack June 15, 2016 at 10:34 AM

    In short, you just can’t buy this kind of “goodwill”. Sure a generous return policy costs companies a bit BUT in this era of Yelp and electronic media, one bad experience can bring on a LOT of bad “press”. On the other hand, when one does make a “no-hassle” return….they will share that with EVERYONE they know. My most similar experience came from Aldi. I had bought “solar sidewalk lights” last year and they came with a 2 year warranty. This year I saw them again and the manager mentioned they just came in. I shared that “last years model” had failed and that I was gonna pass. He asked if I had the original box….which I had stored them in….and encouraged me to bring them back. I returned them the following week and got a new set of lights….Even exchange. Needless to say, they have a customer for life and I have told anyone that will listen that Aldi “backs up their products” …no questions asked.

    1. J. Money June 15, 2016 at 2:59 PM

      Daaaamn, that’s pretty sweet! And great point about PR and especially bad PR with social media these days. And especially as customers demand more and more as we’re connected to more options all around the world.

    2. Lisa O June 16, 2016 at 9:21 AM

      I love Aldi’s with returns. I bought a box of ice cream cones and when I opened them 3 weeks after buying them with no receipt….they were stale. I thought oh well my loss. When I was talking with the clerk ringing me out about it…she gave the new box free of charge. Told me if ever you are unhappy with an item for freshness…bring it back they will exchange it.

      I too, a customer for life!

  26. Ken June 15, 2016 at 10:56 AM

    Moral of the story: People are assholes, and they will do whatever they can to screw over others/businesses if they can get away with it.

    I sold cosmetics for a bit on Amazon which usually are absolutely no returns due to health concerns. Well, I’ve had people return half used bottles of expensive makeup and they say they don’t like the color, or some other lame excuse. I even had one buyer claim the item wasn’t delivered even though I had delivery confirmation that said otherwise. Amazon sided with the buyer and sucked the money out of my account and I got a strike against me. It really is sad how people can lie, cheat, and steal their way through life and get away with it. Too many enablers out there.

    1. J. Money June 15, 2016 at 3:00 PM

      That sucks man, sorry to hear :(

  27. PhysicianOnFIRE June 15, 2016 at 11:38 AM

    I’m reading examples that reflect crossing over from being frugal to being CHEAP. I’m proud to be relatively frugal, but being cheap like this just costs other people money.

    Costco and other places with generous return policies still need to profit. The loss incurred by accepting used returned goods has to be made up for elsewhere, i.e. higher prices.


  28. Fiscally Free June 15, 2016 at 11:56 AM

    Returning well used stuff is definitely a little unethical, but the stores should change their policy if they don’t want people to do it.

    I would say I don’t feel bad for Coscto, because they are doing fine, but I learned the way Costco handles these returns is to charge the vendor for any merchandise of theirs that is returned, so Costco don’t lose any money on returns, their suppliers do.

  29. Looby June 15, 2016 at 12:14 PM

    Recently I was discussing with a friend about getting a new camera for a vacation- I knew I would want better images than my iphone takes and couldn’t decide if I should get a budget point and shoot (~$150) or splurge (~$400) on a quality point and shoot.
    She suggested I get the better camera just before I left, use it for the vacation and return it after within the 30 day period! I was gobsmacked that she would suggest such a thing- she is the manager of a store and I thought would be annoyed about that behaviour but she said she sees it all the time so why not do it!
    I ended up getting the splurge camera on sale, and am definitely keeping it as it works fine.

    1. J. Money June 15, 2016 at 3:01 PM

      Awwww, good for you :) And hopefully your friend’s boss doesn’t hear what she’s advising!

  30. Crystal June 15, 2016 at 1:32 PM

    *Drags soap box out of closet*

    My husband and I have back problems, so I recently bought us special support cushions for our cars from Amazon ($25 each for two one week and a $50 one to try out 2 weeks later). I struggled with the decision to return one of the $25 ones we used for 10 days even though we were actually returning it because the $50 one worked way better for my husband.

    So, no, I don’t believe in returning used stuff just because you’re cheap or broke. It was hard for me to return something I used even though it was inferior to a brand that actually worked better for my husband. I don’t think it’s a good idea to make your personal life decisions based on what’s legal or allowed…wouldn’t the world suck if personal ethics weren’t part of the equation? And isn’t that why we have some pretty dumb laws? People shouldn’t need to be hand held through life just to do the right thing.

    *Steps down from soap box*

  31. The Professor June 15, 2016 at 2:23 PM

    Probably the one place I’ve returned things the most is to Home Depot. It might be that I bought too much of one item while working on a project (example- tile). The item was still in a box and can be put right back on the shelf. Or something that was the wrong size like a plumbing fitting, etc.

    I remember being in Fry’s Electronics store one time in the return line and talking to an employee. He said they had to be more stringent because college kids come in and buy printers, etc, and right after exams are over they come in and try to return everything. I’m sure I never would have done that in college. (even though personal PC’s weren’t around when I was in college..haha)

    I’ve heard from more than one good retail store how people will buy a nice dress for an occasion and then return it the next week. Prom’s, formal’s, weddings, etc..and you can tell it’s been worn when there is a smidgen of lipstick on it. Some places will not accept these now without the tags still attached. The worst offenders will buy one of those pricing tag guns and just reattach the tags. Amazing what people will stoop to.

    1. J. Money June 15, 2016 at 3:05 PM

      Sneaky!! Never heard of re-attaching tags once done – just seen people keep them on and then try to tuck them back in when they fall out on the dance floor ;)

  32. Peter June 15, 2016 at 3:01 PM

    One time I bought some toys on clearance at Wal-mart-. They were priced at 50 cents an item and I bought a bag full I returned them later without receipt and got 40 dollars back. Needless to say I felt guilty about doing though I was on hard times when I sold them.

  33. Hannah June 15, 2016 at 3:02 PM

    I’ve returned used stuff to REI, but they actually encourage that in a weird sort of way. If the product doesn’t meet your standards, you can return it with ease. I’ve always returned the product and immediately spent the money on something else in REI, so I didn’t feel bad.

    In other stores, I’m not down with returning used stuff unless the product was faulty. Like, we just bought a bunch of airtubes for my husband’s bike, and they all went flat immediately. Yeah, those bad boys are getting returned.

    1. Andrew June 15, 2016 at 3:23 PM

      REI is awesome for that. Sometimes items will fit right in the store but when under actual use are awkward or uncomfortable. Totally have used their awesome policy on that way. Most of the time I’ve gotten advice on the return as well. Ie: this brand doesn’t have this issue over that brand etc.

  34. Eddie June 15, 2016 at 4:46 PM

    Back before Costco changed their limit on electronics a friend returned a fairly ancient DVD player that died of old age. It’s their policy… if it becomes a problem… they can change it.

  35. Linda @ Brooklyn Bread June 15, 2016 at 7:25 PM

    I almost fell on the floor when my neighbor returned her unused yogurts to Costco that were about to go bad. “You can do that?!!” I said. She rolled her eyes… a Costco newbie, I have so much to learn. Costco has pretty good corporate karma. Especially compared to retailers like Walmart, it treats its employees well and I’m sure that even with its generous return policy, it is richly rewarded with loyal customers, most of whom are not nearly so aggressive about their returns.

  36. Rachel June 16, 2016 at 6:06 AM

    I have no problem returning things that are not fit for purpose or have not been used, but I think “Joe” to my mind took returns to far. My partner and I know our consumer rights and so will take things to be returned and if theverything sales assistant refuses a refund we explain the law and get our money back! Last 3 things were a rubber mallet (unused, found a better and cheaper one an hour after purchase so returned to store), 2 bras (worn twice but disintegrated in wash, normally great brand so I was very unimpressed, no issue with refund) and a bluray (digital code wouldn’t work, hadn-touched the disc, big discussion with manager as the code was a free gift and the disc was our purchase- we said no, the box said “bluray and digital copy”! Refund given).

    With costco, we know that if our freezer, which should last 10 years, breaks in month 13 we can take it back with no questions, and we would do. That’s why we shop there. If that same freezer broke after 9 1/2 years, we’do suck it up. The freezer worked perfectly well it’seems just time for a new one. I have just sold a costco sofa bed to my cousin for £100 that I bought 8 years ago and no longer suits my house. I could have taken it back for a refund but I think that would be ethically wrong or as my Dad says “extracting the urine”!

    1. J. Money June 20, 2016 at 6:51 AM

      Haha…. Can’t say I’ve heard of *that* saying before ;)

  37. Chris @ Flipping A Dollar June 16, 2016 at 8:53 AM

    This is really interesting. We returned a bunch of items from our wedding registry at Bed Bath and Beyond, but we hadn’t used any of these items. They’ll sell them again so I didn’t mind. The funniest part was a glass set that my wife brought to Boscov’s to return. She would have gotten $3 back. The nice checkout lady said “Le Creuset” has this same one for $40! Return it there! We did and got something else that was pretty neat.

    Again though, all brand new, resellable items. As an eBay (and a little Amazon) seller, there’s nothing worse than getting a formerly brand-new item returned. It’s lost it’s value tremendously when it’s been opened.

    I also have different standards for different companies. Large box store? Eh. Small mom and pop shop? Different story. Definitely slightly selfish but that’s OK.

  38. Jake June 16, 2016 at 11:03 AM

    I’m getting ready to return a pair of shoes to QVC – I’ve returned quite a few things to QVC that I wouldn’t have purchased without the option to return (including an iPad). But 30 days I consider reasonable. Although, I didn’t know about the Costco thing…hmmmm…

    I know of a bride who, when listing her “old, new, borrowed, blue” items, said that she “borrowed” her earrings from Bloomingdales! :)

    1. J. Money June 20, 2016 at 6:52 AM

      Oh jeez, haha…

  39. The Money Wizard @ June 16, 2016 at 12:56 PM

    I’ve only done this once. I forgot a cell phone charger while on a business trip, so I bought one from Walmart and returned it at the end of the week.

    I didn’t even plan on returning it at first. It was only after I realized the Walmart cashier had charged me not once, not twice, but FOUR TIMES for the same tube of toothpaste, and also intentionally hidden a rip in the bag of snacks I bought, that I decided a little bit of street justice was needed.

    I felt less guilty when I saw the person in front of me was literally returning a dead plant.

    1. J. Money June 20, 2016 at 6:53 AM

      It’s a good thing you look at your receipts! So many people never do and this stuff happens way more than we think.

  40. Rob June 16, 2016 at 2:31 PM

    Ok, if you have to wait 10 years to decide if you want something is pretty shameful. When I buy something, it only takes me 24 hours to decide if I want it or not. Why would stores accept things 10+ years after the fact, mine as well (mind as well? WHATEVER) take back used undergarments. People should be ashamed of themselves to be honest. Didn’t their upbringing and morals teach them anything? I don’t know, my opinion.

  41. JayP June 16, 2016 at 5:22 PM

    I wouldn’t do it, but I don’t feel sorry for Costco – they choose to maintain their policy knowing about the implications.

    On a similar note – Do you think it is ethical to open credit cards for the intro points then cancel them? I consider this ok, but knowing that its against the spirit of what they are trying to do – gain new permanent customers.

    1. J. Money June 20, 2016 at 6:58 AM

      Ooooh good one!

      I don’t do the whole c/c churning game so I don’t feel strongly one way or the other, but I guess technically yeah – it’s the same concept of milking the system to your own advantage. And as much as I love using credit cards myself, they do a lot more harm to people than good so I guess I’d say I’m cool if you can beat them at their own game… Even though for everyone who does there’s a good 10 who ends up paying the price :(

      Also – I feel like c/c companies expect a good chunk to just sign up and cancel more so than with stores and returns, so they’re even MORE aware/strategic about what they’re doing?

      You’ve got me really thinking about this now! :)

  42. Our Frugal Escapades June 16, 2016 at 7:52 PM

    Years ago, my husband purchased a pair of pants to wear to a coworkers wedding. He decided to return the pants the next day, and told the woman at the department store that he hadn’t yet worn them. When he got back to the car he discovered his wallet was missing. He left it in the pocket of the pants he returned!

    1. J. Money June 20, 2016 at 7:06 AM

      OH MY GOSH!!!!! Hahahaah…. That is hilarious!!

  43. ZJ Thorne June 16, 2016 at 8:28 PM

    I would not return something unless I hadn’t used it or it didn’t work properly. I would feel terribly guilty. What is permissible is not the same as what is good. I have to be able to respect myself.

  44. Scott June 17, 2016 at 8:42 AM

    Yeah, I do it all the time. Most recently I needed a nail gun. But I only needed it for one project, and didn’t want to have it cluttering up my life afterwards. So I bought it at Home Depot, used it, and returned it. They hassled me over it, trying to give me store credit instead, but I managed to talk my way into a refund fairly easily.

    I try not to make a habit over it, but will admit I do this more often than I’d like. Ideally what I’d do is buy what I need cheap on Craigslist, use it, and sell it for more than I paid! Then everyone wins. But that’s still a lot more hassle over simply returning something.

  45. Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank June 19, 2016 at 8:37 AM

    I used a pair of shoes for two months. I am glad that the store has this return policy and accepted their product as it is really a usual incident for them and its fault because the product had really defects.

  46. Ms. Montana June 20, 2016 at 3:58 PM

    I’ll never forget a college professor telling a story about how she was shopping for a GPS that she would only need for a week. The Walmart clerk said, “well, if you only need it for a week, buy the best one and just return it when your done!” Because the clerk suggested it, that is exactly what she did! I just remember thinking, “Are you really going to let some 20 year old clerk determine what you think is ethical for you?” It’s funny how if someone else says it’s ok, we are so much more comfortable going along with it. =)

    1. J. Money June 21, 2016 at 6:30 AM

      For real! If only people were telling others to save and invest more instead! The world would be a much better place! Haha…

  47. Finance Solver June 22, 2016 at 6:03 PM

    I generally do not like returning stuff unless what I bought doesn’t fit, what I intended the item was used for don’t match anymore (and so I return it because I’ve never used it), etc. But then again, there may come a time when I might be in desperate need of cash so that couch might just get returned.. We’ll see!

  48. Scott June 23, 2016 at 1:20 AM

    REI also had (or has, not sure any more) a lenient return policy. I bought some super expensive boots, hiked in them a few times, and got severe blisters (yes I know you’re supposed to break in boots, but these were bad from the get go). I shoved them in the back of my closet for a couple of years. After I realized they had such a lenient policy, I returned them. I do feel slightly bad for returning something so old, but they did blister me up in the first place, so I don’t feel overwhelmingly bad.

  49. Cate July 13, 2016 at 9:30 AM

    I’d return it. I have to live with myself, and I also have to be an example to my children. It opens up a great conversation with my kids, even if their little. My son is now almost 12, and he knows (hopefully) that taking things not purchased is wrong because of my actions.

    My husband has wanted to return items that were damaged after we purchased them and the damage has been our fault. I won’t do it and my son has agreed with me. Everything we do imprints on our kids.

  50. Valery September 27, 2016 at 4:29 AM

    I had a baby and all these toys are so expensive so I bought old ones on offer up then bought the new ones, switched them out and got my money back plus new toys

    1. J. Money September 28, 2016 at 10:44 AM

      So you rip them off?

      Why not just keep the used toys with the better price tag? Kids don’t know the difference and as long as they’re clean it’s all good…. They’re gonna move on to the next one soon anyways.

  51. Kay April 18, 2017 at 12:14 PM

    That guy with the bedroom set it just gross. Realistically what they stores should likely offer is a disposal service. I was recently moving and had a similar problem, about just not wanting furniture/beds etc. Truth is I’m getting married and have no use for my post college single girl stuff. I just gave everything away for free on craigslist. There was no way I felt ok charging people money for stuff I’ve been using for years. It never even occurred to me to try and return anything. The only thing that went back to a store was my TV and that’s because Best Buy makes it known that you can e-cycle there.

  52. J. Money April 23, 2017 at 2:59 PM

    Congrats on you upcoming marriage!

    Love that you gave away most of the stuff on Craigslist – so many Wins out of that :) (You, receiver, EARTH!)

  53. jon June 22, 2017 at 12:38 PM

    Disgusting, anyone who returns like this should be ashamed of themselves. What a horrible way to take advantage of a good policy meant for real concerns. Disgusting.

  54. Rebecca Flores June 4, 2019 at 12:47 PM

    I really hope someone still looks at this after time has passed on original post…
    My question is this: If I have items with store tags still on them that I sell at a garage sale, how do I prevent the buyer from returning it to store for credit or return?

    1. J. Money June 4, 2019 at 1:40 PM

      Well that’s an interesting question!!

      I don’t know if there’s a way to prevent it other than just taking the tags off before selling, but I’m sure stores account for this type of thing in some fashion or another… If it’s been out of stock for years and/or super discounted they’d only get a certain amount from it. And even if they did turn around and hawk them, the goal would still be accomplished at least on your side right? You sold stuff you no longer wanted? Or better yet – why not just return them back to the store yourself if they’re still able to be? :)