Hate that gift? Some e-retailers ease holiday return policies

November 23, 2011 01:05 PM

Discounts are not the only way to encourage consumers to complete an online purchase. Some major retailers are also offering more generous return policies on items bought during the holiday season, hoping to avoid losing sales from consumers worried that a recipient won’t be able to return an unwanted gift.

Fourteen of the 100 largest retailers by sales, based on the rankings in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, are offering consumers more than the usual time to return holiday purchases, based on a survey this week by Internet Retailer. For example, office supplies retailer Staples Inc., No. 2 in the Top 500 Guide, is offering to accept returns until Jan. 8 for electronics and furniture bought online between Nov. 13 and Dec. 24, instead of the usual 14-day returns policy on those items., No. 6, which accepts returns for 90 days on most items, is extending that policy for 90 days after Dec. 26.

Such easy return policies can spur impulse buying, especially early in the holiday shopping season, says Kylee Magno, senior analyst at e-commerce research and consulting firm The E-tailing Group Inc. “If you see something you really want, and it’s still 30 or 60 days from Christmas, you know they can return it,” Magno says. “I personally look for retailers that have a more lenient return policy at the holidays because I don’t want to give a gift that someone will have trouble returning.”

The most common window for returning an item among the Top 100 online retailers is 30 days, the time limit set by 40 of the Top 100 e-retailers. Ten retailers accept most goods back up to 30 to 60 days after purchase and 12 up to 90 days. Thirteen give consumers less time to return online purchases, or don’t accept them at all. Twenty-five have more generous return policies, such as Eddie Bauer, which guarantees satisfaction, without a time limit. Asked how long a gift recipient has to return an item, an customer service agent replied, ““Everything is 100% guaranteed. They have forever to return it.”

Here are the 14 online retailers that offer special holiday returns policies, with their Top 500 rank, normal return policy on most items, and holiday return policy:

• Staples, No. 2, 14 days on electronics and furniture, until Jan. 8 on those items if bought between Nov. 13 and Dec. 24.

•, No. 6, 90 days, 90 days after Dec. 26.

• Best Buy, No. 11, 30 days, until Jan. 24.

•, No. 27, 30 days, until Jan. 31 on items bought Nov. 1-Dec. 31.

•, No. 32, 45 days, until Jan. 31 for items bought from Nov. 21-Dec. 21, except for purchases from marketplace sellers.

• Saks Direct, No. 38, 30 days, until Jan. 15.

•, No. 41, 14 days, 30 days for marketplace sellers.

•, No. 46, 30 days, until Jan. 31 for items bought after Nov. 11.

• Urban Outfitters, No. 48, 30 days, until Feb. 28 for items purchases Oct. 1-Dec. 25.

• Crate and Barrel, No. 55, 30 days, to Jan. 31 for Land of Nod products bought Oct. 25-Dec.24.

• Blue Nile, No. 60, 30 days, until Jan. 15 for items bought Nov. 15-Dec. 15.

• Hayneedle, No. 77, 30 days, until Jan. 31 for items bought Nov. 1-Dec. 31.

•RueLaLa, No. 82, 30 days, to Jan. 15 for items bought after Nov. 11.

•, No. 87, 60 days, 90 days on items bought Nov. 1-Jan. 1.




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