Paying with credit

Shopping 101: Refunds and returns

By Amanda Owusu

Posted on April 19, 2021
buying with credit
Have you ever been shopping and ended up being unhappy with your purchase? If you have, you’re not alone. Many people often find that they are not satisfied with their purchased products for a variety of reasons. Fortunately, in Canada, most stores offer free returns and refunds. Return and refund policies vary from store to store and among products. This article will break down what you need to know about them to make your shopping experiences better.

What is a refund?

A refund is when a customer returns their item for their money back. This is a solution offered to customers when they’re unhappy with their purchase. Typically, when you return a product, the amount you spent on it will be paid back to you through the method of payment that you originally used. Not every seller offers refunds, and not every item qualifies for a refund. Before you make a purchase, it is wise to double-check if the store you’re shopping at and the product you’re buying is eligible for refunds.

Most stores only accept refunds for a limited time, which means you only have a certain amount of time to turn it back in before your item is ineligible for a refund. Typically, this is seven to 30 days. Due to COVID-19, many retailers have extended this time frame to encourage online shopping. It’s best to double-check with the retailer you’re interested in to see what their time frame is.

The general rule is that if you’re bringing an item back to the store, it must be unused or unworn. Typically, you’re not able to return food unless it is non-perishable. This does not apply to products that are defective, or there something is wrong with them.

Types of returns in Canada:

  • Product return with receipt: This is the most common form of returns offered in Canada. Most sellers offer a full refund with a receipt and the item in its original condition.
  • Returns with no receipt: Some stores accept returns without requiring that you show your receipt. However, this is rare.
  • No returns allowed: This means that whatever you purchase from the seller cannot be returned under any circumstances. There are no returns, exchanges, or refunds allowed.

Additional conditions for returning items:

  • Exchanges only: Some stores don’t accept returns for any of their items, but they will allow the buyer to exchange their product for something else of equal value.
  • Specific product refund policies with receipt: Some sellers offer returns but only if you meet certain criteria. Double-check the product and store policy before buying and returning it.
  • Zero returns or exchanges on certain products: Some stores don’t accept returns on certain items. For example, some shops don’t accept returns or exchanges for personal items like undergarments or underwear.

buying flowers

Additional conditions for returning items:

  • Product return time frame: This policy allows buyers to get a full refund if they bring the item back to the store within a set amount of time. This can range from a week to 30 days, and it varies depending on the store and item bought.
  • Restocking fees: Some sellers allow you to return your product but will charge a restocking fee. A typical restocking fee is 15 per cent of the purchase.

How can I do this?

When shopping, ALWAYS keep your receipt. This will be what allows you to make a return and get your money back. Most stores will not accept your item back without a receipt as proof of purchase. You can keep all your receipts in a folder or even take a picture of them to store on your phone. Whatever you do, make sure you always have a receipt readily available.

If you’re making a return in person, you should take your item in its original condition with your receipt to the store. You can go to the customer service section and ask a customer service representative how to go about returning your product. If you used debit or credit to pay, make sure you have the original card, as some retailers will ask for it to process your refund.

If you’re returning an item to an online store, visit their website to get familiar with their return policy. Most websites have a designated section with this information. If you can’t find it, you can also contact a customer service representative through email. Send them an email with your order number and name along with information about what you wish to return. This will usually start the return process.

What do I need to know?

Not every seller offers refunds or exchanges.

Stores might change their refund and return policies; it’s smart to get a copy of their policy at the time of purchase in writing. You can usually find these policies on the backs of receipts or their website.

You should also know that sellers are not legally obligated to offer you a return or refund. That’s why you should try to take all the precautions you can when buying an item. This includes getting a copy of your receipt and asking the right questions.

Some stores charge restocking fees for certain items. Although you’re returning the product to get your money back, you may be expected to pay a fee for this transaction. Sometimes, this fee is more than the item itself. Check with the retailer to see if they charge restocking fees.

Questions you should ask before buying:

  • Do you offer full or partial refunds, exchanges, or store credit?
  • What do I need to bring as proof of purchase? (For example, the receipt, sales tags, original packaging)
  • Are there any extra fees to return an item? (For example, restocking fees)
  • Are there rules about returning seasonal products after a certain period?
  • Can I return personal items, such as jewelry or lingerie?
  • Can I return a product I opened or used?

Source: Ontario Government
checking an item

What are my rights when it comes to this?

Your guaranteed rights for returns and refunds are limited to very specific situations. Legally, sellers are not obligated to offer you a return; however, you still have some consumer rights when it comes to returns. For instance, you have the right to ask for a refund if the business misrepresents its product, or there is a defect with the product.

Where can I go to find out more or if I have a complaint?

You can file a consumer complaint with the provincial and federal governments. You can visit the Canadian government’s website for more information on how you can file a consumer complaint. You can also reach out to the corporate division of the store you were shopping at and write an email to someone in a position of power explaining your poor experience. Sometimes, when none of those options work, people use social media to express their complaints and find success through this medium. Whatever method you use to advocate for yourself, stay persistent and stand up for what you believe in.

Example of a refund policy:

Here is excerpt of Walmart’s Return Policy. You can visit their site to find out more. As you can see, their return policy has special requirements for different types of items. This is an example of why it’s so important to check the policies in place for the product you’re buying at the store you’re shopping at because it might not be the same all the time:

Our return policy is the same for both online and in-store purchases with just a few minor differences:

  • Online purchases: the return time frame begins on the date of your order’s arrival
  • In-store purchases: the return time frame begins on the purchase date. Make sure to bring along your proof of purchase.

Almost anything you buy from Walmart can be returned within 90 days with the exception of a few items below.

Exceptions:
There are a few exceptions you should know about, which are listed below:

Within 14 days
Computers, Tablets, Laptops, Monitors, Printers, Camcorders, Digital Cameras, GPS Units, Wearable tech, Video game consoles & handhelds, Video games, Computer Games, Wireless Prepaid Phones

Within 15 days
Contract post-paid phones. Subject to applicable legislation. Conditions may vary by carrier. See plan terms and conditions.

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