Friday, February 29, 2008

The World of Returns

My poor digital camera took a spin cycle (literally) when I accidentally put it in the washing machine last week. It died a horrible death- RIP Elph.

I went to Costco (aka the happiest place on earth after Disneyland) to buy a new one so I could document 80's dancing with the Snowbird crew. I picked out a cam similar to but beefier than my last and when I got the receipt I noticed some very odd words at the bottom. The fine print states that Costco has a new 90-day return policy for electronics. Say whaaat? Only 90 days? This means I won't be hearing about people returning their electronics after two years for a full refund just to get the latest version. Even if a camera, tv, camcorder, etc. had been through the wash, a house fire, or dropped off a cliff, Costco would still fulfill the return- in cash.

Nordstrom is similarly cracking down on those who take advantage of their previously lenient return policy. You used to be able to bring in whatever you wanted- fully used makeup, old jeans from D.I., even a set of tires- and they would take the junk with open arms and give you cash for it. Now you have to have proof of purchase, be it a receipt or the little bar code they put on each item.

Both places still have great return policies. Some places won't let you return items that are used or opened, but you can eat half a case of frozen Morning Star sausages from Costco and then take it back if you didn't feel like eating the other half. It would be ethically wrong because you did enjoy half the case unashamedly, but thankfully Costco forgives and you could return it nonetheless.

Good return policies help businesses retain customers and therefore increase profits. I ordered some pepper spray off a self-defense website a few weeks ago. I now want to return it for a smaller, less bulky model that can fit on my key chain without looking like a night stick, but the company's "no nonsense" return policy says you have to return the product within 7 days of receiving the item, and you can only return it if you bought the shipping insurance. I'm probably not going to purchase from them again.

Costco, however, will have me as a customer as long as it keeps doing what it's doing. Both the return policy and consistently high-quality products keep me going back for more. I bought some face cream by a funky brand called Borghese over the Oil of Olay because when it is branded "for Kirkland Signature," I know I have nothing to fear.

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