Some Stores Short-Changing Buyer When Item Is Returned

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – When David Schmitz found a $15 makeup kit at a Walmart near his Sacramento, Calif. home, he was certain he found the perfect gift. But, as many can relate, it wasn’t what the person had in mind, and Schmitz found himself at customer service, attempting to return it with a gift receipt.

“I bought the time, so I know what I paid for it,” he said. “When I tried to return it, I was offered $7.50.”

Walmart’s policy is to refund the amount reflected on the gift receipt. However, CBS affiliates across the nation tested the policy and ran into similar situations as Schmitz at locations in Sacramento and New Jersey.

A Walmart spokesperson said the company circulated a memo alerting its stores to “follow the proper refund process,” but stores in Dallas, CBS 11 found, continued to offer the sale price on certain items instead of the original cost.

Trying to return napkins, plates, and a Fourth of July Flag a month after the purchase, a salesman offered the sale price instead of the full amount originally paid. The clerk said if the items were paid for at the full price, then they weren’t ringing up correctly “on the gift receipt.”

Walmart spokeswoman Ashley Hardie said the company would once again alert stores in the region to refund the full amount on gift receipts.

But this is also a problem at other chains throughout North Texas, an investigation found.

At Ann Taylor Loft in Dallas, a store employee assured CBS 11 that the $39.50 shorts purchased would be reimbursed for the full amount if they were returned at a later date with a gift receipt.

Weeks later, however, the sales clerk offered the sale price on an in-store exchange using that very gift receipt.

“These are on promotion for $25 right now, so you’re going to have a $25 credit,” the sales clerk said.

Ann Taylor Loft spokeswoman Kea Morgan said this was “inconsistent with their policy.” The clerk should’ve offered the original price.

At the children’s store Carter’s in Dallas, $28 worth of baby gifts ended up being 10 percent less when CBS 11 tried to return them. And at Sports Authority in Dallas, a clerk offered just $10 when a Dallas Mavericks shirt that retailed for $22 was returned.

A Carter’s spokesperson called the incident “a procedural error” and a Sports Authority spokesperson said the store made a mistake and sent out an internal memo clarifying its policy.

“You can’t treat customers like that,” said Professor Dan Howard, who teaches marketing at Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business.

After reviewing the investigation, Howard said he was curious to see how much money stores are making this way.

“You have no legal, moral or ethical right to pocket the difference, in my professional opinion,” Howard said.

CBS stations bought $267 worth of merchandise. If all the items were returned with gift receipts, only $177 in store credit would’ve been offered.

Two businesses did go the extra mile to offer the full amount back on the gifts. Old Navy and Toys-R-Us both used the gift receipt to look up the original price.

Customers should consider asking stores to look up the original amount paid when returning an item with the gift receipt.

Target, Children’s Place, Dillard’s, The Limited, Gymboree, Bath and Body Works and the Gap also offered to give full store credit for the original amount.

Here are full statements from Ann Taylor Loft, Carter’s, Sports Authority, Wal-Mart Inc.: 

More from Ginger Allen

One Comment

  1. Wills Point says:

    Excellent reporting, Ginger! Hope you earn an Emmy for it.

  2. 2sister says:

    They need to fix it so that the gift receipt will ring up the price that you paid for the item unless you go way over the return date that is allowed. The story doesn’t mention how long any of them had the merchandise before they returned it. It just says weeks. Many stores have you take the sale price if you don’t have a receipt or if you go past the return date limit (i.e. past x amount of days past purchase). Some stores won’t even let you return items if you are way past the purchase date even if they still have it in stalk. I had a situation where I bought something and waited too long to return it. They wouldn’t take it back. I didn’t get all bent out of shape, because it was my fault and not the stores that I waited too long.

  3. Nustytoi says:

    get cheap gucci bag sale online shopping to your friends

  4. Lynn says:

    I realised yesterday when I bought something at J C Penny’s in Plano, that my receipt, under the return policy said if returned for a refund, a less amount than what I paid for it would be refunded. I can’t believe stores are doing this to people, especially in today’s economy. People are going hungry and they are going to steal from their customers?

    1. Mike says:

      Uh Lynn, no it doesn’t. I have one in my hand now. Just as mentioned in a response above yours it’s if returned without a receipt. The wording, “Returns without a receipt will be refunded at the lowest on sale price within the last 30 days, and be given in the form of a JCPenney Merchandise Return Voucher. No refunds 90 days after original purchase.”

      If you do not have your receipt how do they know how much you paid for it? Did you buy it on sale? On clearance? No way to know is there? As soon as you buy your merchandise it clearly informs you so in other words, hold on to your receipt. At the same time, it’s in the store’s return policies at the counters.

  5. Ralph says:

    Know the policy before you buy dont expect to make a profit on the return. Most stores have a policy if you buy an item and then return it after it goes on clearance you either can’t return it or you get the clearance price. The Walmart items are a good example they were probably purchased before the Fourth of July Holiday and returned after the holiday the stores marks down the product to get rid of it.

  6. upchkn says:

    Stores have done this for years! Don’t have a receipt? You only get the current “sale” price refunded.

  7. Ana says:

    Getting the current sale prince when you return an item without the receipt is normal as there is not a way to determine what was actually paid for the item. Some stores do have the ability to look up the customer’s purchase based on the purchaser;s name and zip code. This is the case with Coldwater Creek where I worked for 6 years. No receipt? No problem. What you paid is what you’re refunded as long as that price can be determined. As far as I could tell, gift receipts properly coded what was actually paid, so using a gift receipt to return something did not make a difference in your refund.

    1. Ana says:

      Price, not prince. Although I wouldn’t mind getting a prince on sale,. Anyway, please forgive my typos.

      1. YRofTexas says:

        LOL – you are funny! Yeah, I’d like a prince, too, but he must come with a beautiful charger (horse) and sweep me off my two left feet! LOL
        Anyway, back to the subject. I was impressed with SEARS when I had some drapes to return. My ex and I could never agree on home decorating, so I returned the curtains after YEARS, still in their original packing.
        They honored my old receipt.
        Because the sales tax had actually gone UP since I paid for the items, SEARS actually refunded me the price PLUS additional sales tax. I actually made a few quarters on the return.
        Go figure that one out!

  8. Rick McDaniel says:

    The sale refund price is only proper, if the customer has no receipt. Then, the lowest price offered, is the refundable price.

    The reason…….dishonest consumers, who buy on sale, and try to return for full price refunds.

    Most retail policies, result from consumer abuses. Will people stop being dishonest? Absolutely not. Dishonesty on the part of the consumer is rampant, in numerous devious, and dishonest, schemes.

    The war is not between the retailer and the people, it is between the retailer, and the very high level of dishonest behavior, by consumers. I can give you a lengthy dissertation, on what people actually do, on a daily basis, in retail stores, and I assure you, it will dissuade anyone who really thinks most people are honest………they aren’t.

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