The timing of refunds got worse for 14 of 25 of online retailers in a recent study.(Photo: Thinkstock)
That striped sweater or salt-and-pepper set turn you off? Return it
online to Sears, J.C. Penney or Williams-Sonoma, and you may wait longer
for a refund this year.
That's according to customer-service
company StellaService, which had employees around the country do online
"mystery shopping" to gauge changes in the speed of refunds.
says the timing of refunds got worse for 14 of 25 of the online
retailers in the study. The speed of returns for Sears, Williams-Sonoma
and J.C. Penney were among those that slowed the most since last year.
While Zappos.com improved its time to process refunds by six days, Sears
took 16.7 days longer.
Sears spokesman Brian Hanover says the
timing was "clearly nowhere close to our standards or what we have
definitively tracked for that metric over this time period." He notes
StellaService names Sears.com one of the sites with the best customer
service last year.
Williams-Sonoma and J.C. Penney did not respond to requests seeking comment.
CEO Jordy Leiser says it's usually inefficiency that holds up refunds.
If retailers don't provide return labels, for example, products have to
wind their way through the company.
There's better news for
in-store shoppers - and returners. Most physical stores have kept their
gift-return policies the same this year, says Edgar Dworsky, founder of
Consumer World, and some have actually eased them a bit.
digital cameras and other opened goods may come with restocking fees,
shorter return periods or no refunds at all, Dworsky says. He says
that's in part to discourage buyers from "renting" goods for the weekend
and to help prevent return fraud.
Among the notable return policy changes that Consumer World found:
-- Target tightened its return policy again for computers (including
tablets, netbooks and eReaders), cameras and other electronics such as
game consoles and GPS units, which now must be returned in 30 days.
Opened items may not get a refund or exchange at all.
-- Sears shortened its regular return policy for many product categories from 90 days to 60 days.
Best Buy extended its regular return period to 60 days for some Reward
Zone members, but Best Buy notes the Premier Silver member - not the
gift recipient - must make the return.
-- Toys R Us now accepts electronics and similar items for return even if the package was opened.