Local News

Returns Can Be Costly

Posted December 27, 1997 12:00 a.m. EST

— Millions of people are returning Christmas presents this weekend. Some folks want exchanges. Those who seek refunds may walk away with less than the item's original cost.

A growing number of retailers, especially those in electronics, are charging people a "restocking" fee if they return certain items.

In some cases, the fee is 15 percent, so if someone buys a new computer system for $2,000, a return will cost $250.

It's bad enough to wait on long return lines this time of the year, but imagine if you got zapped with this 15 percent restocking fee. But Best Buy, one of the first retailers to start charging a restocking fee, designed it primarily for those customers who have the worst of intentions.

Best Buy Inventory Manager Tony Joyce says that some customers intend to take advantage of the store -- and other customers -- by buying an item, using it temporarily and then returning it. In addition to becoming a second-hand item, the product may be missing parts or have been damaged, resulting in a loss for the store or annoyance for the next soul who buys the product.

The key to avoiding the fee? Return an item in the exact condition in which you purchased it.

So what if you buy an item and try it, and then decide you don't like it? Best Buy's policy dictates you would have to pay the restocking fee, even if it's in perfect condition. But decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.

During a recent visit to a Raleigh Best Buy store, no one was found who felt the restocking fee would be a burden. Most customers didn't have a problem with the policy, which the store displays on a sign.

The fee also helps replace parts, manuals and other items that aren't returned. And if an appliance has been used, the company is not supposed to sell it at the regular price. The restocking fees help cover that discount. Other retailers that have similar policies include Circuit City and CompUSA.