MEMPHIS (WMC-TV - WWBT) - Costco: nice. Best Buy: naughty. The two retailers showed up on opposite rankings in Consumer Reports's first holiday "naughty & nice" lists of customer service and return policies. "We asked our experts and reporters in these various areas what they had seen in terms of either policies they thought were really consumer-friendly, or on the other hand, policies they thought consumers really should watch out for," said CR's Executive Editor Greg Daugherty.
Costco made the magazine's top 10 "nice" list for its generous 90-day return policy on virtually everything it sells, as well as for the wholesale club's track record of customer satisfaction.
"They're fabulous," said East Memphis shopper Shayna Somer, packing her SUV with the stuff she bought from Costco's Germantown Parkway store. "Very accommodating and nice."
"Our readers generally like Costco, both in terms of price and customer service, and that's a hard combination to beat," Daugherty said.
"Best Buy has a very short return window -- in some cases, 14 days -- so that's tough if you try something out and have to get it back to the store, especially how busy some people are these days," said Daugherty.
Best Buy's corporate folks canceled our on-camera interview with local General Manager Jason Sampson, but Sampson told Action News 5 on the phone and by e-mail that the 14-day policy is only enforced on five electronic items: laptops, radar detectors, GPS trackers, projectors and digital cameras.
Sampson said that's because those items are the ones buyers abuse the most.
"They buy them, use them for a week, then return them," he said. "These items are for sale, not for rent. We also do not enforce the 14-day return policy on Reward Zone Silver Customers. They have 45 days on any item purchased."
"TAKING IT BACK" - ANDY'S RULES OF HOLIDAY RETURNS & REFUNDS:
There is no law - federal, state or local - that requires retailers to have refund/return policies. Stores can have any kind of refund/return policy they want, including no policy at all. Here's what you should know:
* The only thing stores are required to do with return policies is POST THEM where every customer can see 'em. They're typically posted on price tags, the walls at the exits or check-out or the back of their sales receipts. That's it. That's all the disclosure that's required.
* Be aware of TIME LIMITS. Stores may only allow a return up to 30 days after the purchase. Some may go as long as 90 days.
* Be prepared for NO CASH RETURNS. Because of retail theft, more and more stores are allowing only store credit on returns...
* ... which means when you buy a gift, always request a GIFT RECEIPT. That will guarantee a return for the recipient, and maybe even cash back.
* If it's an electronic item, the store may charge up to a 15 percent "RESTOCKING FEE" if it has been removed from its original box. If you got an electronic item you didn't want, leave it in the box and the original packaging.
* Depending on where you live, your county or city's health regulations may prohibit the return of certain types of clothes, like intimate apparel, underwear, etc.
* You may find longer time periods for returns (90 days extended to 120, 30 days for electronics extended to 90 days, for example) and lower 'restocking' fees on furniture and other big-ticket items.
* Retailers have the right to request to see your driver's license in order to track your return history in case there's any return fraud in your past.
* Get to know your favorite stores' managers and employees. The more they know you are a loyal customer, the more likely they will be flexible with returns.