How do you bring something back to the store for a refund when the store's not open? You can't, of course, which is one of the reasons that store returns are complicated, if not impossible, while so many retailers are closed because of the coronavirus.
Supermarkets and other stores that remain open during the coronavirus crisis face another complication with returns, because they are doing everything they can to avoid having too many customers waiting in lines, while also limiting the spread of germs as goods are passed from hand to hand.
So how are retailers handling returns during the coronavirus crisis? Some are literally not handling them at all; they've instead temporarily banned returns and instituted "all sales are final" policies. But overall retailer return policies right now can vary widely, based on what kind of goods the store sells and whether retail locations are open or not, among other factors.
For the most part, grocery stores are simply suspending all returns, which probably makes sense given how worried people are about whether it's safe to shop at supermarkets during the pandemic. On the other hand, major chain stores that are closed in the U.S., such as Gap, Macy's, and Apple, are extending return policies to give customers extra time to bring purchases back — which also makes sense.
Other retailers have adjusted their policies to temporarily ban returns on certain goods, while still other stores are operating with normal return procedures in effect. Here are more specifics to take into account if you're wondering how to make a return anytime soon.
Grocery Store Returns
Generally speaking, supermarket chains are not accepting returns right now, to minimize the likelihood of coronavirus spreading. Stores want customers to be able to get in and out as soon as possible, and they most certainly do not want people standing in line in close proximity to each other waiting to return goods for a refund. What's more, because the coronavirus can spread via contact with a contaminated item, returned goods could pose a risk to store employees.
That's why shoppers should expect an "all sales are final" policy to be in effect at grocery stores until the coronavirus crisis subsides. We checked on the return policies at many grocery store chains, including Whole Foods, Publix, ShopRite, Stop & Shop, Hy-Vee, Kroger, and Aldi, and all of them say that they have suspended returns and refunds. Rainchecks are generally not available to shoppers either.
Costco Return Policy
Costco has a 100% satisfaction guarantee that allows returns on most items, including groceries. And yes, Costco is still allowing members to return most grocery purchases for a refund or exchange.
However, Costco has made some adjustments to its normal return policies, and stores are not accepting returns right now on many items in high demand during the coronavirus crisis, including toilet paper, bottled water, sanitizing wipes, paper towels, and rice.
Target Return Policy
Target announced that it suspended in-store product returns and exchanges from March 26 through April 26. If your normal return date for an item fell into this window of time, Target says the return period will be extended to June 15.
Amazon Return Policy
Amazon initially made no adjustment to its return and refund policy. However, Amazon now says that most items sold on the site between March 1 and April 30 can be returned anytime through May 31. That often represents an extension of its normal 30-day return window.
Walmart Return Policy
Most of Walmart's return and refund policies remain unchanged. But the company says it "is temporarily not accepting returns/exchanges in our stores for: food, paper goods, home cleaning supplies, laundry soap, pharmacy, health and beauty, and apparel. If you need to return any item, including those above, and have a receipt, please start your return on the Walmart app or at Walmart.com. It’s easy and may allow you to complete your return without coming to the store."
More Extended Return Policies
You can't return purchases to a store that's closed, of course. The good thing is that many retailers that have closed stores indefinitely because of the coronavirus — including Macy's, Old Navy, H&M, and Apple — have also extended return policies to give shoppers more time to get refunds or exchanges.
Below are just a few examples of retailers that have extended their return windows. While many major retailers are extending return policies because stores are closed, it's best to check out individual retailer websites or social media pages if you need to make a return there.
Also, bear in mind that the policies below may apply only to in-store purchases. Online purchases sometimes have different return rules, and those refund and exchange policies may still be in effect. Things can become even more complicated if you have purchased something online and would like to return it to one of the retailer's physical locations — which is obviously impossible if the store is closed.
Apple: Returns accepted up to 14 days after stores reopen.
Bed Bath & Beyond: Return times extended by 60 days.
Best Buy: Most purchases made from March 1 to April 15 have an extended return period, available through April 29. Returns and exchanges may also be available through your local Best Buy's curbside pickup service.
Footlocker: Returns and exchanges accepted up to 30 days after stores reopen.
GameStop: Refund and exchange policies are being adjusted to give customers "more time to return recent purchases once our stores are fully reopened."
H&M: H&M says it has "extended our in-store return policy indefinitely or until further notice."
Macy's: Return policy extended by 30 days.
Old Navy: Return window for Old Navy and Gap, which are owned by the same company, has been extended to July 1 for all purchases made from January 1 to March 31.
Urban Outfitters: Return policy extended to now allow returns within 60 days of purchase.
Victoria's Secret: Return policy extended by 30 additional days.
What's the Home Depot Return Policy? Where Policies Remain Unchanged
For the most part, physical stores that remain open throughout the coronavirus crisis and are not primarily in the business of selling groceries have not changed their return, exchange, and refund policies.
Among the major retailers that have announced no changes to their return policies are Home Depot, Lowe's, Walgreens, and Staples.
However, these stores are likely to be offering reduced hours right now, and they may be limiting the number of shoppers allowed inside at any given time. Home Depot, for example, closes all stores at 6 p.m. now, while Walmart stores close at 8:30 p.m. daily. Staffing levels may be low inside stores as well, and everyone is being asked to maintain social distancing. You should try to stay at least six feet apart from other people — and please don't crowd anyone waiting in line at the customer service desk.
More from Money.com:
All the Stores With Special Hours for Seniors and Other Vulnerable Customers During the Coronavirus Crisis
Coronavirus and Online Grocery Delivery: Everything You Need to Know
Coronavirus and Online Shopping: What to Know About Delays, Sold-out Items, and Price Gouging