December 13, 2012

FYI: I am amazed at how generous the return policies have become at big chains. Well, at least that’s what I found at two stores that I visited recently. In both cases, I had no receipts for years-old purchases — but still received full store credit.

The first time, it was at Bed Bath and Beyond. The product was a scale. Bought it when I was on a diet kick. The glass covering its needle and face had cracked. It was never accurate. Still, the useless thing took up space on the floor of my closet for who knows how long.

So one day, I convinced my daughter to go to the store with me for moral support. When I put the scale on the customer service counter, the only question the rep asked was, “When did you buy this?” My answer was just as simple: “I don’t remember.” With that, she turned to her computer, did some searching, found what she needed and scanned the product code on the scale. In a matter of minutes, I received a full store credit of about $29.

My daughter and I were speechless.

How far could this go? Well, for the sheer sport of it, I went recently to my neighborhood Costo, lugging a broken space heater. The picture with this post shows what it looked like new. Nobody even makes that style of space heater anymore, for good reason. It had gotten very grimy from years of faithful use — until it conked out this fall.

As I place it on the customer service counter, I said, “It just died on me.” The rep eyeballed the item, then asked, “When did you get this, 2004?”

Maybe, don’t remember. The photo was taken in 2005. “It’s okay if you can’t take it back,” I said politely. Apparently, no explanation was needed because she went to her computer, looked up what she needed, scanned the old sucker — and put the full price of more than $60 in credit back on my credit card.

I’m not sure what my experiences say about customer service trends. No doubt, retailers are desperate to make nice to shoppers in a terrible economy. Quite frankly, I would never, ever drag an old product back to a small business because the entrepreneurs are under such tremendous survival pressure. But the big box stores and major chains don’t make me feel guilty about that.

Every dollar counts these days. A generous return policy encourages me to shop but it also helps me feel that retailers are carrying merchandise that they might believe in. After all, they don’t want to spend all day dealing with people like me.

Soooo, have any of you had similar experiences? Maybe we can make a list of retailers and policies. Just in time for the holidays.