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Return Policies

In the store where I work, we have been having an on-going discussion
about setting policies regarding returns. We have signs
conspicuously posted throughout the shop stating that returns must be
within two weeks and that they are for store credit only. We have run
into difficulty when the customer, returning an item,answers that
they cannot find anything they like in the store. We then offer a
gift certificate. Although this satisfies most customers, there is
always the one that states that they don’t want a gift certificate
either. Let’s suppose that the item was apair of diamond stud
earrings with 1/2 carat stones each ear and that the stones were on
memo from a diamond dealer. We now have the problem that we have
already paid the memo, and must now refund the money to the
dissatisfied customer! Seems like double jeapoardyto me! The last
time this occurred in our shop, the customer waited almost three
months! What say you all? What are the retailer’s rights, or for
that matter, the customer’s rights in this situation?

The ultimate goal for any store is happy customers. Making a
customer accept a gift certificate against his or her wishes does not
make a happy customer, and an unhappy customer is not going to buy
anything significant from you again. Swallow hard, write the refund,
and put the diamond studs into inventory. This refund may well earn
you a customer for life. I would relax a little on this return
policy thing. Conspicuously posted signs about return policy would
hit me wrong in any nice stoRe: too combative. How about something
more discreet on the sales slip? Returns should be easy, they are
just part of running any retail business. If returns are a big
problem, then you are doing something fundamentally wrong. Anthony
Toepfer, Anthony Toepfer Jewelers, Keene, NH

You are stuck with the merchandise. Even if it was bought on memo,
it’s the same as buying outright. Unless you have a written policy
that any goods not in stock, purchased especially for that person is
subject to a return stocking fee. I would then see about returning
the goods to the dealer you purchased it from and offer him this fee
you collected. Here’s a bit of advise on return policy/chargebacks and
your credit card receipts that I got from another network and
installed on my terminal yesterday.

IMMEDIATELY call your merchant service provider and have them program
your machine to read in BIG BOLD letters, “ALL SALES FINAL AND NO
companies, if this notation appears on your credit card slip (ABOVE
THE SIGNATURE LINE),the credit card company cannot do a chargeback.

Jim Mannella
Palm Beach, Fl.

JMalone, Check your city and state statutes, but in most, if not all
states, a sale is final unless there is fraud or misrepresentation of
the product involved. In my store, our policy is clearly posted and
pre-printed on our sales receipts and CC receipts directly ABOVE a
line that the customer signs. It says: “All sales final, no cash
refunds. Exchanges for merchandise or store credit is gladly offered
for 30 days.” With a date and the store address this is a binding
contract. There is NO obligation to make a cash refund to the
customer, although, of course, you need to judge it on a case by case
basis. If the customer is upset and tries to get a charge-back on the
credit card (if used) and you respond promtly to the CC company
pointing out your notice on the receipt the money can NOT be charged
back by law. If you start doing otherwise in your store, the word gets
around, and you will soon be in the jewelry loaning business. Not
good. Also, some customers will purposely take advantage of a refund
policy, and you will NEVER make a sale that sticks. Let these idiots
go to your competition. It’s sometimes wise to “fire” a customer.
Twenty-seven years in retail teaches some good lessons. The first is
that business ia an enterprise conducted for profit.


Wayne Emery
Jewelry Design Studio

I’m sure you will get a wide variety of responses. I myself, having
been in customer service for several years in a number of different
industries, have always liked the “Nordstrom’s” approach. Nordstroms
will take anything back after any amount of time, with or without a
receipt. There is even the story (possibly urban legend, but who
knows) of the time a woman wanted to return four car tires to
Nordstroms. Nordy’s took them back. Interesting since Nordstrom’s does
not even sell tires. The basic idea is that if a customer knows that
you are in their corner to help them, rather than simply to sell them
something, they will buy from you repeatedly and recommend you to
others. The end result being that you get more word-of-mouth
advertising and more business.

Naturally, there is the possibility that someone will try to take
advantage of your good will. However, from my reading and my own
experience, the “one bad apple” doesn’t make a dent in the amount of
business that your customer-oriented policy will generate.

For my company Pearl Exotics, I adopted a modified "Nordstrom’s"
approach. I state my fair and reasonable policies, such as a 30-day
satisfaction guarantee and a lifetime warranty on manufacturer’s
defects. However, if someone comes to me 3 months after they purchase
and want to return something, I will NOT turn them down. I work too
hard building up my company’s good name to have one dissatisfied
customer diss us to their friends. Remember, a satisfied customer MAY
tell 3 friends about their good experience. But a disatisfied
customer WILL (on average) tell 7 friends about a bad experience,
regardless of who was really at fault.

To put my money where my mouth is, last Christmas, we sold an
engagement ring with a large marquis moissanite. In late January, I
received a call from the woman in hysterics. The stone and basket were
gone! Our first thought was that perhaps the solder point between the
basket and the shank had broken loose. We told not to worry, that we
would replace it free of charge. When we received the remaining shank,
the post from the basket was still in the hole where we had soldered
it. Clearly, the woman must have banged the ring so hard that she
sheared the basket and stone right off. Technically, our
manufacturer’s warranty did not apply since it was not shoddy
craftsmanship that caused the damage.

I saw this as an opportunity. We explained to her (very politely)
what had apparently taken place and she agreed that it was not Pearl
Exotics’ fault. Then we explained that we valued her as a customer and
would replace the basket and stone (all together, it was a few hundred
dollars) free of charge anyway. The word “gratitude” doesn’t come
close to her reaction. “Ecstatic” is more like it. Her fiancee then
expressed an interest in buying her a second ring, with a more
flush-set stone, for wearing to work. Would we have done it if it had
been a $3000 diamond instead of a $300 moissanite? You bet! We gained
a customer for life, got some good word-of-mouth publicity and she
learned a lesson on taking better care of her jewelry.

Should you take the 1TKW diamond earrings back and give a refund,
even though the 2-week refund period has lapsed? Unless doing so will
immediately bankrupty your business and unless you want her trashing
your company’s good name to everyone in earshot, absolutely! Because
we all know that the earrings can be sold to someone else AND your
reputation is worth it. Especially because you never know what
connections that customer may have. Maybe her best friend does the
"consumer intervention" segment on the local news. Talk about bad
publicity!!! Ouch!!! And stating your “no-refund” policy won’t put out
the fires!

Okay, I’ve rambled enough. Time to put away my soapbox! Have a great


JoAnna Kelleher, owner
Pearl Exotics Trading Company, LLC
Phoenix, AZ
Phn# 623.845.0998
Fax# 623.845.0917

To J. Malone,

The subject of return policies varies widely around the U.S., as well
as the rest of the world, but I can tell you that here in Michigan,
the law states quite clearly that the policy must be “reasonable” and
available to customers, in writing, and upon request.

Our store will offer cash refunds if returned within seven days, and
exchanges within thirty days. The exchange policy is often extended
if it is obvious that the item does not show wear. The refund policy
is seldom extended, and for the same reasons you mentioned in your
post. I should add that we never refund an item that was special
ordered, or customized for the customer in any way.

Many may not be aware of the problem, however it has become fairly
common that people will “buy” merchandise for special occasions, then
return them for a refund. This includes clothing, jewelry, even
appliances for the kitchen. I have even heard of some who "buy"
furnature for a child’s graduation, then return all the pieces after
the affair. I once had a lady tell me that she regularly charges
fancy dresses on a credit card, attends a seminar which requires the
fancy dress, then returns the items for a full refund. The only
defense a retailer has is a strong return policy, and the backbone
required to enforce it.

Good luck, JMF

JMalone, We have a 30 day return for exchange only policy in our store
as well. We do offer, however, to exchange for anything we do—custom
work, repairs, appraisals, anything within our range of goods and
services. We have a sign posted in the store and all of our receipts
are clearly stamped with the policy. We also insist that our
salespeople all tell customers buying gifts that we don’t give money
back ever and that if they are unsure they should bring the recipient
in first. We have had very few problems over the years.
Unfortunately, occasionally you have to bite the bullet, and in the
name of customer relations, change the policy. If you get one person
really mad at you, they will tell ten people about their bad
experience, who will tell ten more, ad infinitum. If it looks like
they are going to be a real problem we will refund money sometimes (I
think we have done this maybe ten times in 19 years). Before we get
to the refund point we try to offer as many options as possible, even
to the point of making up some basic commercial type stuff that we
wouldn’t normally ever make just to make the customer happy.

As far as buying expensive diamonds (or something similar) to give to
a customer that you then have to take back, you should only try to
sell them something within your normal range of goods. If a customer
wants to give a gift and he wants SI2 clarity, I-J color stones we
won’t get them for him because we don’t sell those in our store
normally. That way if we have to eat the sale for whatever reason we
know that we can put the goods back out and move them. If the
recipient is there and she knows exactly what she is getting then we
would probably get the stones for her. (For those of you who want to
know, our normal range of diamonds that we sell are D-E-F color, SI1
or better {mostly VS2 now}and they are all Lazare Kaplan ideal cuts.)

The real question of course is whether you want to keep them as a
customer. If you think that by taking back something sold and
refunding the money that in a few years they will come back and spend
$5000 in your store it is probably worth it. If they look like they
will never return no matter what then it might be best to stick to
your guns and keep pointing out your signs to the customer.

As far as your rights or the customers’ rights that varies by state.
However we belong to the Boston Better Business Bureau and they offer
a mediation program to their customers (something we have never had to
use–knock on wood). I don’t know if your local one has something
similar but you might look into joining. Daniel R. Spirer, G.G. Spirer
Somes Jewelers 1794 Massachusetts Ave Cambridge, MA 02140 617-491-6000

Just a thought on customer service elicited by this thread:

JoAnna Kelleher noted the story about Nordstrom’s and the returned
tires. While the story may well be fanciful, it seems to be
representative to Nordstrom’s attitude to customer service. One of my
friends liked to recount the time he went into Nordstrom’s to buy a
shirt: He had had a call for a job interview out of the blue, and he
didn’t have any appropriate shirts back from the cleaners, so he
headed for his local Nordstrom’s to buy a shirt. As he paid for his
new dress shirt, he mentioned to the clerk the reason for his
purchase. The clerk proceeded to have the shirt ironed for him on the
spot so he could wear it immediately.

The lesson here is that immediate, responsive customer service earned
Nordstrom’s a customer for life, as well as word-of-mouth that can’t
be beat – my friend not only bought all his shirts there from then
on, but he told the story at every opportunity.

The customer may not always be right, but treating them as if they’re
important and going the extra mile may well pay off, especially in
the current economy where bad service is far, far more common than


Occasionally, we get a customer that wants their paricular finished
products to look a certain way … However, the same customer is so
certain that their models are built correctly and they tell us we
can’t change the model or adjust the sprueing of the casting even if
we tell them that it is incorrectly done by whomever made the model
in the first place( usually the designer). What we do, since we really
want the customer to be satisfied with our production is to make an
rtv mold of the item, make adjustments in the wax, cast up a new
model correctly sprued and with whatever deffects were in the
original design fixed, we create a new model and produce their
samples… then, when they receive the samples , they are so pleased
with the results, that they don’t mind paying for the extra mold/model
work we had to do to give them the results that they really wanted in
the first place. Just another example of good customer service that
can be applied to the jewelry manufacturer… We get a fair amount of
designs from our customers who have used other casters , followed
their ( faulty) advice and gotten lousy products. We believe it is
our job to give them the service and quality they should get even if
it requires us to go the extra mile. Daniel Grandi Casting,finishing in
gold, silver, bronze/brass and pewter for people in the trade

After reading this thread I feel that It should be pointed out that
there are problems with returned merchandise. Specifically how do you
as a merchant deal with the item once it has been returned? Depending
on the legal jurisdiction, the item may or may not be considered to
be USED merchandise. And IF like many you refinish the returned item
and return it to the show case unlabeled as being used you might be
committing fraud.

My best suggestion would be to have your local attorney review both
your return policy, re wright it as necessary, and review the way you
intend to dispose of the merchandise.


WayneM, While always being one to err on the side of caution in legal
matters, I don’t believe that any item purchased and returned within a
store’s normal return policy time period would be considered used. If
that was the case then all the major department stores would be in
huge trouble as they take back millions of dollars in inventory every
month. I have never seen any of them offer that merchandise as used.
If you took back a piece a few years after its purchase and you were
unable to return it to the condition it was originally made in then
you could have a problem but as I recall that is not what this thread
was about. Daniel R. Spirer, G.G. Spirer Somes Jewelers 1794
Massachusetts Ave Cambridge, MA 02140 617-491-6000