BBB: Know the seller’s return policy

Caller to the Better Business Bureau: “I want to file a complaint. I was doing my Christmas shopping early and bought two sweaters from an online company. When they arrived, I was very unhappy with them and called to complain. They said that they guarantee their merchandise and that if I return them they will give me credit for future purchases. I didn’t want credit, I want my money back – but they say that they don’t give refunds, only credit. Yes, the website says that, but I think that is illegal. Don’t they have to give refunds?”

BBB says no, sellers do not have to give cash refunds. All companies have the right to set their own policies on returns. They can offer cash back, or credit, or they can even have a policy of “all sales final” and not accept returns at all. The important rule is that their policy needs to be clearly disclosed. You acknowledge that it was disclosed, so unless the product was deceptively offered, you are obligated to receive a credit and shop with them for other merchandise.

BBB urges shoppers to make certain they know the seller’s return policy, whether buying on the internet or from a local store. Is a receipt required with returns? Is there a time limit? If you bought on the internet, who pays for the return shipping? Must you get return authorization? Every company makes its own policy, so be sure you keep track of your holiday purchases.

Caller to BBB: “I got a phone call that I could save big money on my phone bill. It said that Spectrum and Apple have arranged a new cell phone service that costs half of what I am paying for my phone now. If I pay now for a year in advance, I will save over $500. To take advantage of the deal I need to go to the supermarket and buy $450 in Apple gift cards. Then I photo the numbers on the back and send them to the company. What do you think, BBB?”

BBB says it’s a scam. No legitimate business asks you to pay them in gift cards. The crooks love gift cards because, as soon as they get the numbers on the back, they can cash them in for merchandise. There is no “deal” with Spectrum and Apple (who have never heard of these guys) but you will pay hundreds of dollars for the gift cards and receive nothing.

These are a just a few of the common gift card scams:

· The caller has a “great deal” but he asks you to pay with gift cards.

· The electric or gas company is going to shut off your home or business, but you can prevent it by sending them payment in gift cards.

· You are in trouble with the IRS or Social Security but can avoid being arrested or prosecuted if you send them gift card payments.

· You can be a “secret shopper” if you buy gift cards from major stores like Walmart and send the card numbers to your “employer.”

Legitimate businesses don’t do this. If someone wants payment by gift cards, the deal is probably a scam.

Before you hire or buy, get a BBB report on the company. Go to or call 419-531-3116 or 800-743-4222.