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Unfriendly returns

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As if Toys R Us were not quickly fading from relevance already, they’re failing at the customer service game, too.

Toys R Us return sign A relative bought a small gift for my son—something that I thought he wanted, but apparently something he already had. It had a Toys R Us sticker on the side, so on December 26 we headed over to the nearest Toys R Us to return it.

We were greeted with the following sign.

No Receipt
No Return
No Exchange
No Exception

Toys R Us are certainly within their rights to establish whatever return policy they’d like. Unless the item was misrepresented or defective, they don’t have to take returns at all. Most stores accept returns mainly because if they didn’t, they’d have no customers at all.

Consumer friendly return policies help stores attract customers. Nordstrom famously has a liberal return policy and once allowed a customer to return snow tires to the store—and Nordstrom doesn’t even sell tires.

When I worked at Macy’s as a teenager 20 years ago (wow, was it really that long ago?) we had a decent enough return policy. With a receipt, we’d take anything back for cash 30 days after purchase. Without a receipt or after 30 days, we’d give an exchange or store credit. We once took back an item that hadn’t been sold in the store for years. The couple of days following Christmas, we relaxed this policy even further, mailing checks to anyone without a receipt and giving cash refunds for items under a certain price.

The easier you make it for a customer to purchase from you, the more they’ll buy from you. Smoothing over customer objections and concerns will help them feel more comfortable buying from you.

Toys R Us has increased my concerns. What if I buy something from them and it turns out I don’t need it. Will they take it back? What happens if I misplace my receipt?

Toys R Us can do whatever they want with a return policy. They’re well within their rights to reject returns for any reason. But I also have choices where to shop. You can bet I’ll do all my shopping at a store with a friendlier return policy in the future.

Dommo
December 28, 2008 12:04 PM

I had the thought that perhaps just this store was going rogue. But check this out: http://www2.toysrus.com/guest/storPoliGuarantees.cfm "1. Bring your dated purchase receipt. Receipts will help us process your return quickly and fairly. For your convenience, we also offer gift receipts for any item purchased, at any time. We will not accept returns or exchanges without an original receipt." It's company-wide. Wow. Well, I guess that's why they're not Nordstrom.

janet
December 28, 2008 2:14 PM

Every retailer has rules for returns. You have never run a store, so it makes sense that you expect things to be hunky dory for all. Do you know how many returns bad claims and abuse. And to say that Toysrus is fading means you haven't done your homework and seen them on CNBC or Foxnews last week. Truely one of the better stories in retail.

Adam Kalsey
December 28, 2008 3:07 PM

Actually, I owned a retail store for 3 years, worked my way through school managing retail, and spent 5 years as an ecommerce consultant helping retailers ranging from Bevmo and Adidas to small businesses figure out how to do business online. Toys R Us is a private company and doesn't have to report quarterly earnings, so no current earnings data is available. However, their 2007 profits were [down $40 million from 2006](http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune500/2008/snapshots/2689.html). They closed 15% of their stores over the last few years and converted several more to baby clothing stores. Stores can place any rules they want on returns. But rules like this will drive consumers away.

Amber
December 30, 2008 9:18 AM

Although I do not have as an impressive resume as you mr. kalsey, I must say this appears to be bad business. I have worked both sides of the desk on this matter and absolutely base my business on the manner in which returns and customers are handled. I am not surprised to see an increasing number of customers leave the sale and cart the minute they catch wind an item will be difficult to return...even if it is exactly what they want. Although you can't take every item back and satisfy everyone, you can present your policy in manner which makes it look like you will take the time out to personally address the situation. This should be common sense for what not to do.

Dave
January 7, 2009 1:31 PM

Adam I think you said it best in one of the above posts, and that is "Stores can place any rules they want on returns. But rules like this will drive consumers away." This very true, and partly the reason Toy's R Us is rumored to be heading for bankruptcy. It continues to amaze me how stores who can not compete in the market place try to make up for it by stiffing their consumers, what few of them are left. Especially a store tailored towards children, it just seems odd that they would enforce a non-customer friendly policy such as their no receipt, no return policy. Lesson learned here is we as consumers choose who stays i business and if Toy's R Us wants to continue to operate they may want to change some policies. Dave PS Even though it may not be worth it you should still try to call up corporate, and give them a piece of your mind.

Phillipe Nise
January 19, 2009 6:12 PM

Did your son cry about it too or just his daddy?

Brent
February 20, 2009 5:29 PM

It frustrates me immensely when a consumer facing company cannot even do the most integral part of running such a business... making the consumer experience a positive one.

This discussion has been closed.

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