Return Policy Ethics

Email  Print Print  

My last post on Costco’s extremely generous return policy garnered some comments that opened my eyes a little to the return policy “tactics” some may use to get a little more for their money. I’m curious as to what most of you believe is ethical and what is not ethical when dealing with returns.

{ 50 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

Related Posts

RSS Subscribe Like this article? Get all the latest articles sent to your email for free every day. Enter your email address and click "Subscribe." Your email will only be used for this daily subscription and you can unsubscribe anytime.

50 Responses to “Return Policy Ethics”

  1. Cynbad says:

    I know this is an old thread but I feel the need to comment. I work for a small company who was once a supplier for costco. We supplied lamps and home accessories. Our company pulled from being a costco supplier nearly a year ago due to the chargebacks by the costco to suppliers on returns. Costco’s return policy does not hurt them, they simply charge back the vendor.

    Our company, which is a small company regularly saw return chargebacks after a year for reasons like ” wrong color”. Come on , it takes a year to decide the lamp is the wrong color or did someone paint their house and this lamp no longer fits in their decor. Today we received a return authorization for which our company will be charged for (costco will send us a bill since we no longer have any items listed with them) for two lamps that ” doesn’t light anymore” from Northridge , Ca. These lamps were purchased 1 1/2yrs prior to their return.

    My first question was why would two lamps quit working at the same time. Power surge, lightening strike? Then it occured to me that California has had a rash of wildfires that may have burned through wires and created a power surge. So I go to the trusty internet and lookup wildfires Northridge, Ca. What do you know, the search results turn up an article and vivid pictures of a wildfire that raged through the Northridge , Ca area on 10/13/2008 and we received a chargeback and RTV (return to vendor) authorization on 10/31/2008. Coincidence or blatant abuse of a generous return policy.

    Now the company I work for will be charged back for the cost of the two lamps as well as the shipping for lighting that a costco customer enjoyed for 1 yr and 8 months until wildfire caused their demise. That would not be covered by the most liberal of warranties, yet it will cost us money.

    How this kind of behavior can be ethical, i don’t understand. Yet costco doesn’t care because it doesn’t cost them anythign in their bottom line. They simply pass the cost off to their suppliers because they don’t care about their bottom line. There are enough small companies out there that if one goes out of business they will just find another. Costco sale people mislead our company on the rate of returns and they make everything sound very beneficial to the small supplier to lure them in. However if it had been really profitable we would still be selling to them. After two years we found that their return rate was much higher than we had be lead to beleive and in far to many cases they were returns after extended periods of time for “wrong color” or “didn’t like” as reasons.

    Costco’s return policy may be great for consumers, however not good for small vendors at all. Unfortunately, being on the supplier side of this coin we have learned to try to avoid clients with the “costco mentality”.

  2. Skyler McNasty says:

    I once had a meeting with a VP of Merchandising at Costco (he was one of 3 who oversee the buying team for the entire chain) as they were interested in buying a product my company manufacturers. He made a comment regarding the Costco return policy that has always stuck with me…he said (and I paraphrase)…”You can buy your fiance a diamond ring here and then 5 years later if you get a divorce you can return it for a full refund or if you are still married you can return it for a full refund and get her a bigger diamond.” Based on this why would anybody consider making a purchase anywhere but at Costco. This policy is about creating customer loyalty and it clearly has been successful. A minority of people abuse the policy, but it gives the majority the peace of mind that making your purchases (especially your major purchases) at Costco is a wise investment as they will stand behind what they sell. To top it off, nearly every vendor who sell to Costco (or other large chain stores) are already giving them a couple of percentage points in discount to cover any returns.

  3. diana says:

    A friend of mine returned a 50 inch tv after 3 years,just because! No box,nothing.

    Unethical? Returns of food: eg,birthday cakes,open bags of vegies,fruit. I asked one, “what do you do with this food? We throw it away.! I would think so since we can’t/even let our trickor treaters eat apples!!!This is totally wasteful considering the starvation around our world.

    This definitely should be stopped!!!!!!!No-omne let’s you return food unless it’s spoiled upon returning home.Not one week later or more!!!!

  4. Neo says:

    I bought a net book about a month ago and it was a display model (one of the last XPs since Windows 7 was coming to the shelves). I am very particular with my belongings and thus treat my laptop like it was my first born. Today I took out the netbook from my backpack designed to carry laptops, take it out of an additional carrying case, open the netbook and the screen was cracked from the inside…no actual crack to the touch….I take it to Costco and had to call the manager who pretty much said he couldn’t do anything…I was livid, angry, upset, disappointed…Not even two months have passed by and I explained that (and I swear to God) I didn’t drop it or anything that would cause it harm…I basically threatened to pull my business and contact bad business bureau, finally after checking my history he angrily said he would do it but that he would never accept a return from me because I was execessive…for $250 he was willing to throw away all the thousands of dollars I’ve spent there….I was going to buy a new set of appliances for my kitchen but that is no longer the case. Costco has lost my business for not upholding its Code of Ethics to have 100% satisfaction, customer service claims, and back up their products. I felt like he attacked me in a very hurtful way after all the loyalty I’ve given Costco.

    • kris says:

      to store manager: if i returned several of the same items over a few years becuase they were gifts and i just assumed they were from costco and thats where i shop is that illegal? i would always say im not sure if these are fom cotsco and the clerk would return them. i recently found out i have notes in the system next to my name saying i am blocked from returns stating they might be stolen. they are not stolen. i am however guilty of returning them. all the merchandise was unused and unopen. the manager was really nice to me but as i was leaving i realized ” oh my gosh” can they arrest me or send a summons for return fraud? they new i didnt purchase the merchandise because it wasnt on my account but they always took it back? now im scarred to even go to costco. should i call the store and ask to pay for all the returned merchandise? im certain they resold it, nothing was opened. im terrified. i cant eat or sleep. what should i do? and what can they?

  5. Randy West says:

    Is it illegal to buy a TV at Costco and return it every 88 days to buy the newer model, and do this for 5 years?

    • TOM BURBA says:

      NO SIR it is not illegal. but do it 3x times your card and you will be severed. remember its up to the individual store mgr what he will accept back and how many times. TB , HAWAII

  6. g.t says:


  7. Mr Frugal says:

    Would you consider this ethical or not? Sam’s Club has a 90 return policy on their items including TVs. I bought a TV 35 days ago which has now dropped in price by double digits. They only price adjust within 10 days. So the only option is to return the TV and then buy it again to get my adjusted price. Seems like a policy that needs to be revisited b/c it doesn’t make sense to me. I agree with the comment above though that if it’s part of their existing policy and not abused, there’s nothing wrong with it.

  8. Ben says:

    Mr. Frugal. There’s nothing wrong with that. First, you need to understand it’s THEIR POLICY. I know this won’t be popular and everyone is going to go off on me, but I’ve been taking advantage of Costco’s 90 day return policy on TVs since 2007. That means that approximately every 90 days, I put my TV in its original box, head to Costco, return the TV and buy another one. Sometimes I’ll even get the same TV just to keep my 90 days going. I’ve gone from a 42″ Vizio up to a 55″ Sony 240HZ TV. As a consumer, it’s within my right to do this. Technology changes so fast, that 42″ Vizio I bought in 2007 is awful compared to what’s on the market now. Why not take advantage of an awesome policy that Costco created FOR THEIR CUSTOMERS to take advantage of?

    Also, the manager of an area Costco is a family friend. They don’t have a problem with this. In fact, when it comes to TV’s, Costco has a deal worked out with the manufacturer that they get their money back if a TV is returned. Ever notice how TV manufacturers create specific models for Costco and Sams? You can’t buy those same TV’s in Best Buy or other big box retailers.

    Return policies are there for the customers to take advantage of. It’s that simple.

    • Mike Young says:

      Return policies are in place to keep and attract more customers. It’s a very tough economy today and even Costco feels the pinch I’m sure. You are misguided in your attempt at justifying your actions here.I don’t believe you when you say the manager is your friend and doesn’t have a problem with this. I’m sure the employees (customer service) roll their eyes at you behind your back. You sound proud of what you do , but it’s actually a shameful act.
      btw , I work in construction, not retail. I love good deals as well as anybody but thankfully I was raised with morals.

  9. serafino says:

    I usually believe that returning items after good use is unethical, however, recently i found myself in a tough predicament: I bought a $2500 tv from costco in 2005 and 4 years later it stopped working. This is an expensive item to break so quickly!! I went online a it was a known defect. After trying to manage the issue with the manufacturer and was not getting anywhere, they tried fixing it but where unsuccessful, so I decided to go to my local costco to ask for a replacement or store credit (current cost) to purchase a replacement, they immediately took my tv back and gave me full credit. I was truly shocked, but after all i realized that this is the reason why i shop at costco in the first place…I can feel confident that they take care of their customers.

    • Bertha says:

      Could u please tell me which Costco you returned it to because we are dealing with the same issue right now and we are being given the run around. Thanks!

  10. Feeling Betrayed says:

    I was made to feel like a criminal because I tried to return a TV that was 4 years old. I was demeaned, ridiculed and talked down to by the assistant manager and store manager. A TV older than mine had just been returned by another party. I suspected discrimination since I was not the same ethnicity as the manager. I now have a sick feeling about even shopping at this store and there are no other stores in my town. Because I loved Costco, I drove clear across town to shop for groceries there and other items which now I guess I will shop closer to home where I won’t feel humiliated if I need to return something. I took their return policy to be what I was told by several employees over the years, and had called before taking back the TV which had never had a satisfactory picture in my opinion even tho it was not broken, but definitely inferior. And why so long to return, I am an older woman unable to lift such a heavy item. My son was finally able to help me and we called before going in and was told it would be ok to return it as long it was sold before the 90 day policy began. So I didn’t think it was unethical since I was told it was their policy. If there were a written policy saying there was a time limit, I would have been fine with it, but to say it is up to their discretion when another TV had just been returned, it seems very prejudicial and unfair. And if I return a 1000 dollar TV and replace it with a 2000 dollar TV, what has Costco lost? They would have kept a good customer for the rest of my life, but now I feel more comfortable to shop elsewhere. I will miss Costco, it is too bad a few misguided manager chose to enforce their discretion on a defenseless older female. God bless them anyway and may they enjoy whatever reward Costco gives them for being disrespectful to elderly people.

    • Michelle says:

      I’m so sorry this happened to you! You did nothing wrong. All is not lost. They will not remember who you are and it is a minor thing.

    • Mike says:

      Did nothing wrong?? Beside the fact of accusing racism , the tv was 4 years old…I run a small business and people like you are not welcome. If there were more people like you then there would be no Costco .

  11. Kot says:

    Just tried to return 8 years old TV (original price $1400) COSTCO did not take it, saying it is up to their discretion each time

  12. BubbaMcTrasten says:

    Why hello!
    I have been surprisingly amused at all the above posts! I had quite a laugh at the gent or lady who tried to return a tv after 8 years! While some of the replies here have been a wee bit snarky, I’ve been a’ laughin!

    Here is my query, be kind y’all!

    (Warning, this is pretty BORING!)

    I received three very ugly shirts from a well intending parent with dementia in regards to fashion. (Now I’m not saying Costco sells ugly clothes…just that every person wears their own thang!)

    The person who gave me the gifts included the receipt (the items were purchased on 10/2/11). Can I waltz into my local store (Proud member since ’05) give ’em the receipt, my unworn, unopened boxed shirts, and go on a lil shopping spree? Can I do this or will the fashion bumpkin (I keed!) just get the stuff put back on there ole credit card?

    Thank you!


  13. levenosky says:

    I know now why God does not have a return policy, or people would return their kids after 20 years saying they don’t like them! !

    Return policy is offered for convenience and to get the best for our hard earned bucks so abusing it would only harm a consumer. Cracked laptop screen is not a defect, it is an accidental damage. How could one return their TV used for over 46 months! ! Now because of all the abuses return policy has come down to 90 days for electronic items. If people still continue the abuse it would apply to almost for all items. I know a person who buys a GPS every time he he travels and returns it once back from the trip ( of course he uses different retailers every time). If you really want to know how fortunate a consumer here in US / Canada, then check out the Asian or European ( some countries) consumers. Even if the TV breaks down next week after purchasing all they can do is fight with the manufacturer, there is no room for the word “I didn’t like it” out there. We too would end up with same result if we don’t stop abusing the privilege we have.

  14. Fred Garvin says:

    Be a small vendor to Costco, and learn how spoiled they have made their customers. Yes, I am a customer and a vendor. I heard a conversation one day from another fellow vendor who sells bicycles to Costco. He now states that he owns the biggest bicycle rental company for Costco. Customers buy in May and return in October. I think it is a ruthless policy for Costco, because it only hurts the vendor. Not only the purchase price, but also the shipping cost. Costco’s policy only encourages returns, and these returns fill up the land fill. Nice!!

Please Leave a Reply
Bargaineering Comment Policy

Previous Article: «
Next Article: »
Advertising Disclosure: Bargaineering may be compensated in exchange for featured placement of certain sponsored products and services, or your clicking on links posted on this website.
About | Contact Me | Privacy Policy/Your California Privacy Rights | Terms of Use | Press
Copyright © 2016 by All rights reserved.