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How To Get A Refund: Don't Throw Out That Box

Updated on January 24, 2013
Home Theater Box
Home Theater Box | Source

Don't throw out that box! Five words my husband hates to hear. Whenever we purchase anything that can break, especially electronic, I tell him we have to keep the box in case we have to return the item. How long do we have to keep the box? CAN we return the item? It is scary territory.

Every store, every manufacturer and every Internet seller has different rules about how and when you can return items. Do they do this to confuse you? It seems to me if something is broken when you get it or doesn't work properly you should have the right to return it, but then, that's just my opinion.

If you start to look around at return policies it can be really scary. Some say the item must be returned in its original packaging - unopened. Can you explain to me how you know if something works or not if you don't open it? How do you even know what's in the box?

You really need to do some research to find out who has the best return policy. Imagine a new car return policy? Funny, you can't return your laptop but you can return your car???

Others, like Amazon, have different policies for different items which makes returning things as easy as climbing Mt. Everest. Amazon tells you, "Our return policies vary depending on the type of item you'd like to return. See our Product Return Policies Help pages for details." Is it comforting to know they have eighteen different categories....

At I found advice to retailers about writing a return policy;

Retailers should keep customer service in mind while writing a return policy. It's a delicate balance to strike, but an obtainable one. First, understand what customers want.

Shoppers want their returns to be effortless. They want the returns to have a reasonable time frame, include the ability to receive credit for the merchandise and not be penalized for making a return.

Isn't that a novel idea? It is not unreasonable for the merchant to want the item returned in good condition with the original box (don't throw out the box.) There's a lot of fraud out there. There are people who buy, say a dress, wear it for awhile then return it. There are also those who steal things then return them to get the money.

While researching this hub I found an article about people who are addicted to returning things. I've heard of a lot of addictions and can understand most but this one takes the cake. It's hard enough shopping and finding the right item but then to keep returning it? Or those that buy say four items as a gift because they're not sure which one they really want to give. They later return the other three. Somehow that doesn't sound like fun to me but I'm not addicted to returning things. Really? Yes. "Timothy Fong: This is a brand new area of compulsive shopping that we're starting to see, and these are folks who are consumed with the process of returning items, whereas for a long time we saw a lot of compulsive shoppers consumed by the process of getting the item. We're starting to see more folks just really consumed by just returning the item."

I also found another interesting tidbit, ", a company that buys returned merchandise from large retailers then auctions it off to other stores, told the Associated Press that return rates have more than doubled since the recession hit."

Garbage can box
Garbage can box | Source
Telephone box
Telephone box | Source

Authorities advise us that returning items is a privilege, I don't want to go down that road right now as I do not see it as a privilege. There are times when an item is missing parts or broken in shipping. Returning it is not a privilege to me but a right. However, let's look at what you need to do to return items. First of all, check the store or Internet sellers return policy before you buy - make sure they have a return policy. Second, don't throw out the box. Whenever you return any item it should always be in the original box. Next, keep all your receipts. I always tape my receipt to the box so I have both in the same place. Whenever I give a gift I keep the receipt and write who I gave it to on the back of the receipt so I know what goes with whom.

Some stores do not accept sale items for returns - All Sales Final. Another caveat and something new to me is "restocking fees." Some sellers are charging up to 25% of an item's cost as a restocking fee. However, Overstock. com has a 60 percent restocking fee for some items that have been opened; bigger televisions are not returnable! These are all things you should check out before you even buy the item.

Along with the stricter return policies it seems Toys R Us may not accept certain 'opened' electronics and similar items. So you can see things vary from store to store and from item to item. It is definitely not a fun thing but there are times when you really need to return an item.

I hope I have provided you with some useful information and remember, "Don't throw out the box!"


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    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      3 years ago from New York

      I hope you had luck taking that jacket back Audrey. Receipt or no, it shouldn't fall apart the first time its washed. I'm glad you find this so useful ;) Thanks for the share and votes.

      I had to laugh Millionaire Tips, you sound like me. I keep varying sizes of boxes for gifts as well yet it seems when I need one they're never the right size!

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 

      3 years ago from USA

      Wow, I didn't know about those companies that don't accept returns or charge restocking fees. That is crazy! I guess I have been lucky that all the companies I buy from have good return policies. I have a tendency to put all the boxes in the basement after I buy something. My biggest issue is scheduling a time to throw out those boxes - since they tend to sit there for in case I need them for giving gifts.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 

      3 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      You would think I would learn! I read this hub only 3 weeks ago and here I a jam!

      Purchased an article of clothing about 3 weeks ago and didn't hang onto the tags. Tried to match the clothing with the receipt but no luck. What worse - I washed it. This is how the jacket fell apart. I can't possibly wear it. Will try to return it tomorrow.

      I may be back yet a third time! :) Shared and voted across. Thanks, Mary.

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      3 years ago from New York

      It can be difficult to do but it can also save aggravation if you need it. I know Audrey, we all have space issues. I'm glad you enjoyed reading and love the happy thoughts and hug.

      Linda we know no one can get away from you when you've made up your mind and that's no ifs, ands or buts, that's another reason we love you!

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      3 years ago from Orlando, FL

      My SIL's always save the boxes for over a year. I toss the boxes after a month, but I hold on to the receipt...if I should have an issue with a product I purchased after I toss out the box, they WILL accept my ifs, ends or buts. Great hub! :)

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 

      3 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      If I had an extra room, it would be piled high with boxes. I like your idea of affixing receipts to the proper box. I need to start doing this. When a retailer gives me a hard time about returning an item, I never shop with them again.

      Thanks Mary for this popular hub. I enjoyed reading it and will do some sharing. Sending you happy thoughts along with a warm hug. - Audrey

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      3 years ago from New York

      Mary I know space can be an issue when holding onto big boxes. There are just certain stores that accept returns without a hassle while others want a pint of blood! Thanks for the votes and share.

      I know a few people like that too Peg. Not only embarrassing but just plain wrong! Thanks for the great comment and yup, me too, empty boxes in the attic...could be worse ;)

      Most welcome whonu.

      Exactly as Mary said handymanbill. Guess Walmart does have its redeeming qualities.

      Of courses you're always welcome Rebecca!

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 

      3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA interesting. Thanks, great info here!

    • handymanbill profile image


      3 years ago from western pennsylvania

      I deal with Walmart a lot to on electronic items. They will take them back with no hassel as long as you have the box. Then even if you are exchanging they will just trade boxes and give you the new one.

    • whonunuwho profile image


      3 years ago from United States

      Nice information to underscore. Thank you for sharing this. whonu

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      3 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Hi Mary, I'm back to check out your boxes and return policies hub again. I've actually known people who wear clothing from a store and then return it. Now I'm careful to wash every item first before I wear it. Eewww. Some stores like Big Lots sell refurbished items, like coffee makers and toasters, so I imagine that's why they need the original packing material and boxes to accept a return. Anyhow, that's how I explain an attic full of old boxes.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      3 years ago from Florida

      A lot of folks hate Walmart, but of all the stores I have ever dealt with, they were always the easiest to return items for a refund. I always save my boxes. This was a real problem when I downsized from my big house. I had to throw my boxes out!

      Great Hub with good info. Voted UP, etc. and shared.

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      5 years ago from New York

      Some places are so bad about returns Moonlake its almost not worth the hassle. I'm glad you sent your son-in-law and got some action! Glad you enjoyed my hub. Thanks for the vote.

    • moonlake profile image


      5 years ago from America

      Sears is the worst if you run into the wrong person in the store. I bought a computer there long ago and happened to notice the computer wasn't what they claimed it was after I had it for a year. I took it back and the main office told me to take it back. The man at the store said "your not getting new computer out of this." I had to send in my son-in-law the guy didn't bully him the way he did me. The guy was mad at me for sending in my son-in-law and told me so. I got a new up graded computer.

      Kohl's claims hassle-free return. The last time I returned something there. I had to show my drivers license for a return!

      My basement is full of boxes. Enjoyed reading your hub and voted Up.

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      5 years ago from New York

      You're right Mary, there's just so much room for stuff and when empty boxes are added, oh dear! Thanks for the vote and share.

      Danette I'm beginning to think it's a female thing ;)

      Stephanie you're right too. There are times you need an odd sized box. I have many boxes from collectibles I have as well though I have started to throw some away.

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 

      5 years ago from USA

      I can relate to the practice of saving the box! My attic is full of empty boxes that I've saves "just in case." They have come in handy, though, not only for returns, but for packing things when moving. I'm so OCD that I have all the original boxes from collectable figurines I received 30 years ago! Good advice about saving receipts, too! Always be prepared. :)

    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 

      5 years ago from Illinois

      I save boxes whether I think I'll have something to return in it later or not. Must be a psychological thing - nice hub

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      5 years ago from Florida

      I'm with your Hubby on this one! I have a stack of boxes in my garage that I'm saving "just in case". I think the big reason Walmart is so popular is that they do accept returns. When I was "divorcing" my cable company, I had to return 3 different interior antennas until I got the right one. No problem. I keep all my receipts.

      Great Hub. I voted this UP, and shared. too.

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      5 years ago from New York

      OMG, I can't imagine undecorating a tree and returning it! Thanks for sharing that story Sherry.

    • Sherry Hewins profile image

      Sherry Hewins 

      5 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      Interesting, I once had a friend who had a strange shopping addiction. She was so indecisive, and if she didn't purchase an item she always regretted it, but if she did, she would often return it. One year she picked out a Christmas tree, took it home and decorated it, then decided she didn't like it, so she undecorated it and took it back to the store.

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      5 years ago from New York

      Glad you found this useful and interesting. I can not imagine buying several items knowing I am only going to keep one and return the rest! Thanks for the share.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 

      5 years ago from North Texas

      Agree with you that one should know the return policy of a store or a mail-order entity before making a purchase. A person especially doesn't want to get stuck holding the bag on expensive items that may, as you said, be missing parts of have broken parts, etc.

      I often 'keep the box' because some things are better packed in the container they came out of for long distance moving.

      Yes, I know people who actually do purchase several items because they can't decide which one they want, and then return the others once they make up their minds. Guess they're blessed with oodles of time and a yen for standing in line.

      Very useful hub! Voted you up,useful, & interesting. Will share.

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      Thanks Alocsin. It never fails, if we keep the box we don't need it, but if we throw it out, well...

    • alocsin profile image


      6 years ago from Orange County, CA

      I always keep the box for at least a week just in case I need to do what you say. You have to watch for that pesky restocking charge because many stores that say they cheerfully accept returns, hide that fee in the small print. Voting this Up and Useful.

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      That's exactly the kind of stuff I'm talking about! How can they punish you for something they did? Glad you won and got the free cord.

    • James Halpin profile image

      James Halpin 

      6 years ago from York, Pennsylvania

      I bought a compaq laptop a few years ago and came face to face with some people ignorance of good customer service. Upon opening the box I found that the power cord was damaged. The store would not accept a return because it was open and told me to call the manufacturer. For which I was greeted my a man who couldn't stand why I wasn't going to pay $50 for a new powercord. I know he didn't believe me that I had just bought the computer. I even offered to email a picture of the receipt.After 20 minutes of arguing with him and talking to a supervisor a got a free power cord.

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      Is that why I count the dead flowers when I trim them off?

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      6 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      If only it were a "little". LOL Wait a minute. I have to make all the letters even. Erase, retype, reread.

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      Peg, sometimes a little OCD goes a long way. Thanks for reading.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      6 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Great hub with quite an effective title. That got me right away. I remember working at a hardware store a long time ago and tossing out the boxes that the display merchandise came in. Boy, was that a mistake. I thought at the time the person in charge who gave me a lashing was harsh. Now I've become just like that and keep all the boxes too. OCD and just in case.

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      Carol, seems we all have to learn lessons the hard way. Guess that's why I know I have to keep the box! Happy New Year BTW.

    • carol3san profile image

      Carolyn Sands 

      6 years ago from Hollywood Florida

      Thanks for this great hub. I've been like your husband was on many occasions and unfortunately for me, I threw out the box. Hopefully I've learned my lesson now. Voted up.

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      fpherj, how right you are. There is a balance between fair to the company & customer and the company just making money. You certainly proved that when they agreed to waive the fee!

      Jaye, I think you strike a note between frugal and hoarder...I would say it depends on how many boxes of the same size you have ;)

      Rebecca glad you enjoyed.

      Bob, things are getting tougher here in America. There are a lot of places that won't refund at all but will return/exchange.

    • diogenes profile image


      6 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Useful hub. I did one on cardboard boxes a couple of years ago, but from another slant. In the UK, stores are very easy going about returns if you have the reciept and box...but I usually chuck em and regret it Bob

    • RebeccaWhitman profile image


      6 years ago

      Great article, lots of helpful points, thanks!

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 

      6 years ago from Deep South, USA

      This one struck a nerve! I not only save the box that something electronic was packed in, I save all the Amazon boxes I receive (I do much of my shopping online)so I won't have to buy new packing boxes in order to ship something I sell online. This means that half of the space in my home office looks like a warehouse! (Does this make me frugal or a hoarder?)

    • fpherj48 profile image


      6 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Tillie....Great hub! One of my favorite subjects as well as pet-peeves. Your "Save the box!" comment, cracked me up. My mother said it, I say addition to "put the receipt in a safe place." Having been on both sides of the fence, I can understand some of the stricter return policies in effect presently, but it also annoys me....a LOT! Because I can be a "contrary" sort of UNsweetheart, I like to voice my opinion to merchants in passive-aggresive ways. I shopped in a well-known electronics franchise once, for about an hour. I asked at least 2 dozen questions, had the saleperson jumping hoops because it was a big-ticket item & I knew they got a commission. After all the hoopla, when we got to the checkout counter, I asked casually about their return policy. I was told about their "10% RESTOCKING fee." Horrified I asked, "Oh? and just what IS this restocking fee all about?" After his uncomfortable & long explanation, I shook my head and told him I felt this was unacceptable & simply created to take money unnecessarily and no way to treat customers. I began to walk away. The poor guy looked like he would cry and he asked me to wait while he spoke to his "supervisor." A few minutes later he came out and informed me that they would "waive" the return fee for that item, in this case. Sure, I wouldn't do this more than once, but I did prove to myself that I was right and that so many of these "policies" are just plain old "tricks" of the trade. If companies want to establish a strong, dedicated customer base, they HAVE to learn not to nickel and dime customers to death! Consumers have to be tough and stand up for themselves to protect their money! Thanks for this hub, Tille!


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