Why stores are changing return policies

November 5, 2010 8:35:06 PM PDT
Americans return 10 percent of what they buy, and since times got harder that number has inched higher.

Now stores are tightening the reigns on returns.

Regret and affordability have people taking things back, but for some, returns are simply fraud.

"I know a lot of people leave tag on wear it and return it," one person told us.

"People have bought Blue Ray, then return the box with receipt but inside is an old vcr," said another.

All of that costs stores money, so they are pushing back.

John Long of Kurt Salmon Associates is a retail strategist. Increasingly, he says, stores want to see more identification, even to the point of scanning a driver's license when returning something.

"What they want to make sure of, this isn't a habitual thing you're doing," he said.

Another thing to watch out for is the time you have to return something.

Those old liberal 90 day return policies are shrinking to 30 days, which may be a problem if you are doing early holiday shopping and the person for whom you bought a gift wants to take it back.

"The earlier you start shopping, challenge to stay within the return window," long said.

On receipts we collected, we saw "store credit or exchange but only within 10 days" and that item wasn't even on sale.

Most policies are now 30 days. We found one store, The Gap, where the buyer has until January 31st.

Reading the small print on your receipts might be something to add to your holiday to do list.

Many happy returns.