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How to Avoid Nasty Restocking Fees
T’S THE HIDDEN fee of retail returns: the evil “restocking fee.”
Chances are, restocking fees are the last thing on your mind when you make a big purchase. But you’ll feel the pain when you decide that must-have was just a big mistake. Depending on the retailer, restocking fees may reduce your refund by as much as 50%.In the past, restocking fees have typically been charged when returning electronic equipment. Charging the fee is understandable — at least from the retailer’s point of view. After all, once electronics have been used, they can no longer be sold as new, notes Tom Merritt, executive editor for CNET, an electronics review web site. Retailers must test electronics and remove any personal data (say, software from computers or call histories from cellphones) before the item can be returned to the shelves as refurbished.
But lately retailers have begun using restocking fees to fill a different role — dissuading customers from returning at all. “A lot of boutiques — not really the major department stores yet — are charging for restocking,” says Kathryn Finney, author of “How to Be a Budget Fashionista.”Auto makers are also getting in on the act. Chrysler’s well-advertised 30-Day Return Program includes a restocking fee of 5% of the vehicle’s sticker price. On a 2007 Chrysler Pacifica (MSRP $24,160), you’d lose $1,208.
Here’s how to avoid nasty restocking fees:
Avoid impulse buys.
You sure those heels will match your red dress? That that stereo will fit in your entertainment center? “All of that needs to be determined before you buy, not after,” says Jean Anne Fox, director of consumer protection for the Consumer Federation of America, a consumer advocate.
Know the company policy.
Before you slap down that plastic, ask about the store’s return policy, and specifically whether you’d face a restocking fee should you return your purchase. Policies vary. Best Buy waives the fee if you were sent the wrong item, while Sharper Image charges a restocking fee on all open items — even when the product hasn’t been used.
Be sure to factor in restocking fees when considering which retailer to buy from. DivaShop, a pet supply boutique, charges a whopping 50% restocking fee on all items. Also, be aware that bricks-and-mortar chains are less likely to charge this fee. According to a June survey by PC World, 10% of online electronics buyers were charged restocking fees, compared with only 3% of in-store customers.
Here’s what a few big-name retailers charge:
Amazon.com 15% on any opened laptop or desktop computer. N/A
Best Buy 15% for open-box returns of notebook computers, projectors, camcorders, digital cameras, radar detectors, GPS/navigation and in-car video systems.25% restocking fee on special order products, including appliances. Same as online.
Circuit City 15% for open-box returns of digital cameras, camcorders, desktop and notebook PCs, printers, scanners, projectors, PDAs, mobile video, GPS and radar detectors. Same as online.
Home Depot No restocking fees. No restocking fees.
Overstock.com Restocking fee of $4.95 per item
15% for items from the “Bulk Buys & Business Supplies” category, as well as electronics and computers.
25% for oversized items such as televisions and furniture. N/A
Target 15% for camcorders, digital cameras, portable DVD players, portable electronics, framed art, gas-powered scooters and hot tubs Same as online.
Wal-Mart No restocking fees. No restocking fees.
Author2006-09-07 at 11:16:00 am
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