Basically, you must contact the store and get their OK before you send the product back, for whatever reason, and you should do this quickly, to make sure you are within the time frame they have established for returns.
A good store posts its policy on returns in an area called something like Customer Service, FAQ, Help, or Returns.
The Azazz store at http://www.azazz.com/ has a policy we like: "We want your business over the long term, not just today. If your order is damaged or defective, return it. If it is the wrong color or size, return it. If you simply made a mistake in purchasing a product, return it. Your satisfaction is our number one goal." OK!
You might want to print out the returns policy during your visit, if you anticipate you might ever have to return an item. The return policies we’ve studied are all over the ballpark. Some are generous, some incredibly nasty.
The FTC says that if the store uses a phrase like "money-back guarantee," that means they have to give you a full refund without asking nosy questions or forcing you to jump through hoops. But the stores have developed several variations you ought to look for if you are concerned about being able to return the product. Questions you might want to explore:
• Can you return a product just because you don’t like it? (You should be able to, if you are quick to ask.)
• Can you return a product if you opened the box? The question for the store is: Can we resell this item? In many cases, all you have to do is slip the gizmo back in the original package, and as long as you haven’t ripped and torn the packaging or the product, the store will accept the return. On the other hand, some products, such as lingerie, swimming suits, and food cannot be returned after opening, for health reasons. And software vendors will not allow stores to resell an opened box, because you could easily have loaded the software on your hard disk, then asked to get your money back.
• If the product is defective, can you get your money back, or do you have to settle for another product of the same kind? (Usually your credit card company will back you up if you insist on a complete refund, no matter what the official store policy is.)
• When do you have to ask to return the product? You are often given between 10 and 30 days, no more.
• Is there a restocking fee (usually 10% to 15% of the purchase price) for returning a product just because you don’t like it? (Lousy requirement, suggesting that the store may be receiving too many returns by unhappy customers,)
Usually you have to email or phone the store, telling them your order number and the complete product name (both are on the confirmation page that you printed out when ordering, and the email you received confirming your order, which, of course, you saved).
Then you have to tell the store your reason for wanting to return the product, your name, daytime phone, and email and shipping addresses. All of this information helps them locate your order in their system.
You must get their OK for the return, and that usually means they will send you something like a Return Merchandise Authorization (RMA) with a special number. You place that RMA and number in the original package with the product and send it to the special address they give you. (The return location is often different from the warehouse that shipped you the product in the first place.) The RMA number is good only for returning this particular product. If the number doesn’t match the one the store sent, you will have great problems getting a refund or exchange. To make sure your return does not get lost, use a service that allows order tracking, such as FedEx or UPS, or the Post Office’s Priority or Express Mail.
If the product breaks at some time after the store will accept a return, you have to turn to the original manufacturer, using the warranty.
A store may refuse to accept a return if:
• You waited too long to complain (like more than 30 days after receipt).
• You just sent the darn thing back to the warehouse, without getting an OK for a return, and without enough information for them to recognize that you are the person sending the package.
• You sent it to the warehouse, not the returns location.
• You forgot to send back all the items the manufacturer included, such as the manual, the warranty, the registration card, and, oh yes, the product.
• You forgot to send the RMA number.
If you can return a product for credit, the credit shows up about three weeks after the product reaches the vendor. Most of that delay is due to the credit card companies slow accounting processes, not the store.