Consumer World


shopping (BOSTON) -- Some mainstream retailers tweaked their return policies this year by adding or raising return-by-mail fees or shortening the return window for holiday purchases according to Consumer World's 20th annual return policy survey. Amazon, Macy's, Staples, TJ Maxx and Marshalls were among the stores making changes.

Though some are shorter this year, most stores continue to offer extended holiday return periods whereby gifts purchased as early as October first, such as in Walmart's case, can be returned until mid- to late-January, considerably beyond the normal deadline. What hasn't changed is the complexity of stores' return policies that are designed in part to reduce return fraud. The combined policies for the 11 chains surveyed amount to over 36,000 words and 78 pages of fine print.

Please Help Support Consumer World

MrConsumer For 28 years, Consumer World has served readers with the latest consumer news, money-saving tips, and independent investigations. It is your generosity (and not advertising alone nor corporate contributions) that keeps this site and Mouse Print* available as free consumer resources. So MrConsumer turns to you and humbly asks for your support again this year. Your gift will be most appreciated.

Noteworthy changes and novel return policies for 2023 include:

  • Amazon delayed its holiday return policy by 21 days to November 1 allowing returns of most items purchased starting then to be sent back as late as January 31. Apple products now have a shorter 15-day return window but it is extended until January 15 for holiday purchases. Some UPS drop-offs cost $1 if an Amazon-affiliated location like Whole Foods or Kohl's is closer. Restocking fees apply in limited cases.

  • Walmart added a new major appliance return policy. It is only two days. will no longer match prices of other retailers.

  • Macy's added a $9.99 return shipping fee for non-Star Rewards members. They lowered the mattress pick-up fee from $110 to $99. They also shortened the return period for toys from 90 days to 30 days.

  • Kohl's continues to not pay for return shipping by mail.

  • Home Depot continues its novel policy of allowing one year to return purchases made using the Home Depot credit card.

  • TJ Maxx and Marshalls raised their returns-by-mail shipping and handling fee by one dollar to $11.99.

  • Staples shortened its holiday purchase window by nine days, accepting returns only until January 14 for items purchased since November 12.

  • Target continues to offer a one-year return period for house-branded items. Its purchase window started five days earlier on October 1.

    "Many major retailers continue to recognize the longer holiday shopping season and give customers more time to make returns. And while some companies have begun imposing fees for mail-in returns, the eleven big retailers in our survey and virtually all brick and mortar stores still provide free returns in person," said Edgar Dworsky, Founder of Consumer World®, a leading consumer education website.

    Summarized below are some chains with generous regular or holiday return deadlines and their return fees, if any, for online purchases: January 31 for most items shipped Nov. 1 thru Dec.31. Some returns have restocking fees. Most items have at least one free return option. Some UPS locations are $1 for drop-offs if an Amazon-affiliated return location like Whole Foods or Kohl's is closer.
    Best Buy January 13 for most purchases made between October 27 - December 30. Loyalty members generally get more time. Some restocking fees. Free returns with their shipping label.
    Costco No deadline, but 90 days for: TVs, computers, cameras, smart watches, MP3 players, cell phones, monitors, major appliances, etc. Free returns for purchases.
    Home Depot 90-day deadline most items. Others 2-30 days. Free returns.
    Kohl's 180-day deadline, but prem. electronics, watches, Sephora bought after Nov. 1 returnable until Jan. 31. No free shipping.
    Macy's stores 90-day deadline for most returns. Holiday return deadline of January 31 for most items purchased October 2 or later, but many exceptions apply. Apple products and tech accessories bought 12/2-12/24 returnable 'til Jan 7. Free mail returns for orders made by Star Rewards members only, otherwise $9.99.
    Marshalls January 25 for purchases October 8 - December 24. These retailers post clear in-store signs about their extended holiday return policy every year - a rarity among retailers. $11.99 fee deducted for postage/handling for mailed returns.
    Staples No deadline for office supplies. January 14 for electronics, and furniture bought since November 12. Free online returns.
    TJ Maxx January 25 for purchases October 8 - December 24. These retailers post clear in-store signs about their extended holiday return policy every year - a rarity among retailers. $11.99 fee deducted for postage/handling for mailed returns.
    Target 90 days most items. 30 days for electronics and entertainment items, 15 days for most Apple items, 14 days for cell phones. Days begin 12/26 for these non-90-day items bought since 10/1. RedCard holders get 30 extra days. Free mail returns.
    Walmart stores 90 days most items. Major appliances: 2 days. For the following purchases made from October 1 onward, 30 days (most electronics), and 14 days for cell phones and luxury products, but count days starting December 26. Free mail returns for online purchases.

    Return policy law varies state to state. Generally, a store can set up any return policy it wants, whether it is "all sales final", "merchandise credit only", or "all returns in 30 days." Many states require the policy to be clearly disclosed to the buyer prior to purchase, usually by means of a conspicuous sign. Some states do not consider a disclosure that only appears on the sales receipt to meet this requirement. It is not unreasonable, however, to require customers to provide a sales slip or gift receipt to establish where and when the item was purchased, and at what price. Those with a gift receipt will generally only receive an even exchange or store credit, but not cash.


  • Don't fight the crowds on the return lines the day after Christmas. Go back a day or two later, or better yet, see if the store provides free returns by mail. To improve your chances of getting full credit, provide a sales slip or gift receipt, return the item in new condition, unopened, and with all packaging material. Returns without a receipt are subject to the posted return policy, which might result in your receiving only a merchandise credit for the lowest price the item has sold for recently, or possibly no refund or exchange at all.
  • Check if online purchases are subject to any return fees. If possible, return those purchases to a retailer's brick and mortar location or free drop-off spots to avoid those charges and/or the cost of postage.
  • If the item to be returned is defective, some states such as Massachusetts, require the store to give the consumer his/her choice of one of the three "R's": repair, replacement or refund, irrespective of the store's posted return policy.
  • Consumers who have a problem returning a gift, should first contact the store manager or customer service department of the retailer. If a satisfactory resolution is not obtained, then a complaint can be filed with the state Attorney General's office or local consumer agency.

    Posted: December 18, 2023

  • Return Policy Survey 2023: retailers' return policies compared

    Return to Consumer World.

  • If you have a comment about Consumer World®, write to: comment [at symbol]

    Copyright © 1995-2024 Consumer World®. All rights reserved. Privacy Policy and Terms ++