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How-tos

Money tip: 9 ways to make sure you can return the things you buy online

Buying stuff is fun, but it sometimes doesn’t work out as planned. Your purchase is either defective or not what you expected. Not to worry — you can always return it for a full refund, right?

Did you know that Costco’s “100% satisfaction guarantee” statement can actually be taken at face value? You can bring back anything from a dead plant to partially eaten food! Tap or click to hear Kim tell you all about it.

Not every company makes it easy to return stuff. Policies vary from one online retailer to the next, and it’s important to know your rights as a customer.

Read this before you make your next online purchase

Online shopping has been on the rise since the start of the pandemic and with that comes more returns and exchanges. The Better Business Bureau has some tips to ease the pain of returning your online purchases:

  1. Check the store’s return, exchange and refund policies. This can vary state-to-state, and you can check out your state laws via this page at FindLaw.com. If a store doesn’t have a return policy, shop somewhere else.
  2. Always read the fine print. There may be restocking fees or penalties for returns and exchanges. Shipping may be paid for by the store, seller or yourself. High return fees can make a purchase too risky.
  3. Is the product being sold by a third-party seller? This could entail different policies than buying directly from the store — be sure to check out seller policies.
  4. Check out reviews from other buyers. Aside from learning more about the item, you could get some background on the return experience from someone who went through with it. Not all reviews can be trusted, however. Tap or click here to spot fake Amazon reviews.
  5. Which payment method are you using? Return policies may not work for all of them. For example, a product you purchased outright may be easier to return than the one you bought using a buy now, pay later service. Tap or click here for more reasons you should reconsider using BNPL plans.
  6. Save all your documentation. You’ll probably need your confirmation number and receipt to give to customer service if something goes wrong.
  7. Save the packaging and any paperwork/tags that came with the product. While you can sometimes return items without original packaging, it’s not always the case. And you’ll want to send back the product as complete as possible to avoid rejection or penalties.
  8. Store or post office or pickup? You may be able to return some items to a physical store, but check if that’s allowed for any particular item.
  9. Contact customer service if needed. It’s not so simple as finding a phone number and calling. First, you may be unable to speak to a live representative and be stuck with a chatbot. Second, you must be very careful when trying to find a contact number. Scammers put up fake websites and contact information that can lead to big trouble for you and your accounts. Tap or click here to find any customer service number.

Before making an online purchase, you might want to check BBB.org for reviews and information to avoid fraudulent sellers and retailers.

Here’s some help for five hugely popular retailers

We don’t want you wandering all over the internet for the information you need, so we put together a list of five of the biggest online retailers in the U.S., along with links to important pages on their sites.

Amazon

Walmart

Apple

eBay

Home Depot

You may also like: What are Amazon mystery boxes? Are they worth the money?

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