The Return Wars Continue

Consumer groups are making their lists and checking them twice, to see which store return policies are naughty or nice. It's a delicate balancing act, with lax return policies are a huge source of fraud but strict return policies a major disincentive for purchases, especially gift purchases. The typical retail answer has been to "have a strict policy but don't tell anyone."

ConsumerWorld.org on Monday tried to shed a little light on those merchants, with Sears, CircuitCity and BestBuy on the naughty list for aggressive restocking fees, Amazon got a lump of coal for keeping as much as half of the purchase price for post-30-day returns and--my personal favorite--the site Grinched Buy.com's "Easy Returns" policy for being more than 1,400 words long.

On the nice list--which included some of the same merchants--the site listed retailers who have liberalized their return policy into January but who inexplicably have not prominently announced this. The site did them the courtesy of announcing it for them. Moral of the story: If a retailer feels the need to keep a policy quiet, there's a wonderful chance it's not a policy it should have.