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Target's new return policy: Better, if you can figure it out

Consumer Reports News: October 23, 2009 05:23 PM

Mega-retailer Target has improved its return policy, but it’s still far more complicated and less consumer-friendly than Wal-Mart's.

First, what doesn’t change: Target customers with receipts can make an unlimited number of returns or exchanges within 90 days. Products can’t be used, and must be in their original packaging.

What does change: Now, you can make as many non-receipt returns as you want, up to $70 in any 12-month period. Target’s previous “hidden” return policy allowed customers to make just two non-receipt returns of up to $35 each, over 12 months.  

Another new twist: Those who receive gifts through the store’s gift registry now can use the registry listing as a de facto receipt. If you’re a newlywed who got six identical toasters from Target but no receipts, you can return five of them by printing out a copy of your gift-purchase log. Before, you could to return only two items if each cost $35 or less, and you hadn’t already reached your two no-receipt returns limit. 

But wait, there's more!

One of the biggest changes affects holiday gifts. Target allows for even exchanges if you’ve exceeded your $70 return limit. So if Aunt Minnie gave you a shirt in "large" but you're a "medium," you can exchange it without a hassle, even if she tossed the receipt. In the past, if you had reached your non-receipt returns limit, you couldn’t exchange the shirt, even with Target tags intact.

If you decide to exchange the returned item for something that costs less, Target will give you a gift card for the difference. But you’ll have to use it in the same department.

In all these cases, you’ll have to show a driver’s license or some other identification so Target can record your non-receipt transgressions.

Too complicated? We think so.

Why doesn't Target simply have the same policy as Wal-Mart's? That store lets you return just about anything without a receipt up to three times within 45 days (records are kept for six months). If you exceed that, a manager has to approve the return. If the price of the item is $25 or less, Wal-Mart gives you cash or a gift card to use anywhere in the store.

Also, Wal-Mart is upfront about its return policy on its Web site. Target’s Web site says only that “Target does allow a limited amount of no receipt refunds or exchanges for guests that don’t have a receipt,” without providing further details. The new gift registry policy is explained fully.

At a New York Target we visited this week, the posted refund policy continues to say only that customers must have a receipt for all returns. A Target spokeswoman said the retailer is updating its in-store signs but that they “aren’t inaccurate.”

Target customer service reps still have the ability to retrieve the receipt for purchases made using a check or credit, debit, or gift card within the last 90 days. But if you got the item as a gift, the person who bought it for you will need to be present.–Anthony Giorgianni

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