SHOP TALK

Bed Bath & Beyond tightens return policy

Returning goods without a receipt could be costly

Published: May 05, 2015 12:00 PM

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Bed Bath & Beyond may be recognizable for those signature blue 20 percent-off coupons that routinely show up in your mailbox, but the home and decor chain is equally known for its generous, hassle-free return policy. However, a recent policy shift now means a penalty for those who bring back goods without a receipt or other verification.

While Bed Bath & Beyond will continue to take back unwanted merchandise without time limit, restocking fees, or shipping charges for online orders, customers who lack a receipt will receive a merchandise credit for the current selling price minus 20 percent. Customers who can’t produce the credit card used in the transaction will be similarly penalized. The same holds true if a purchase was made off of a gift registry but there’s no record of it.

Previously, these types of returns were allowed but without the 20 percent hit.

Read about the best shopping sites to visit if you want to make purchases online.

The new policy took effect in late April, though customers were alerted to it well in advance via in-store signage and handouts, says Jessica Joyce, public relations manager for the company, which operates around 1,400 stores. The policy also applies to the chain’s sister merchants Buy Buy Baby and Harmon Face Values.

Joyce wouldn’t explain the reason for the policy revision, saying only, “We pride ourselves on providing customers with a noticeably better shopping experience and modifications such as this will allow us to continue to deliver exceptional service in the future.”

But retail industry consultant Jack Abelson is convinced the change was prompted by internal auditing that revealed “at least a hint of (return) fraud or something akin to it,” resulting in financial losses. Return fraud takes make many forms including when criminals attempt to return stolen merchandise for cash or credit.

“I’ve never seen a number (20 percent) like this attached,” says Abelson, who described the penalty is reasonable, though it’s too early to tell if it will result in a consumer backlash. “If the sales impact is large enough, Bed Bath & Beyond can always revert to the old policy.”  He predicted other retailers would adopt similar policies.

We checked with a handful of companies, and two responded. A Kohl’s spokeswoman referred us to the company’s written policy, which makes no mention of a penalty for receipt-less returns. At Macy’s, senior vice president of corporate communications Jim Sluzewski said the chain doesn’t have any plans to amend it’s policy.

“We will accept for return or exchange any merchandise that does not completely satisfy the customer,” Sluzewski says. “Our goal is to refund the original price paid whenever possible. In addition to providing a receipt to the customer, we also attach a separate Merchandise Return Label (with a barcode) to each item. That label records the actual price paid for the item so we can return the appropriate amount paid if it is returned. We ask customers to keep their receipt, gift receipt, or merchandise return label. If there is no receipt and we are unable to determine the actual price paid, we will refund the lowest selling price on that item within the last 180 days.”

—Tod Marks

 

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