By Ginger Allen

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.: 

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