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Costco, LL Bean, and other stores with the best — and worst — return policies, according to a consumer analyst

In 2020, Home Depot doubled its 90-day return policy. This year it's back at three months.

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This holiday season, it's likely you'll receive a gift or two you don't like or just won't use. Instead of letting it go to waste, you'll probably consider exchanging the item or returning it for a refund. This is easier said than done though, says Edgar Dworsky, founder of Consumer World.

"Return policies are more complex this year," Dworsky says. Last year, many retailers relaxed their return policies even more than they typically do around the holiday season due to Covid. And while some are remaining lax about returns, others are not. In 2020, for example, Home Depot doubled its 90-day return policy. This year it's back at three months, according to the company website.

Dworsky examined the return policies at a dozen stores, including Amazon, Walmart, and Target, and says the fine print "in Word Doc, comes out to about 75 pages." A policy might say most items can be returned within 30 days, but the fine print will specify that some product categories must be returned earlier, or some items can be exchanged but not refunded.

Some retailers make returns easy. Costco, for example, has one of the "best" policies, says Julie Ramhold, a consumer analyst with DealNews.com: "Most items can be returned at any time." And "some electronics may be restricted, but many of those will have a 90-day return window, which is still generous."

Others aren't than lenient. Apple, for example, has one of the "worst" return policies, Ramhold says. Usually, items must be returned within two weeks and they must be repackaged with all the cords, adapters, and documents. Items purchased between November 1 and December 25 can be returned through January 8.

Stores with more generous return policies

Bath & Body Works

You can return anything, at any time, for any reason, according to the company website.

Costco

Most products, including groceries and food, can be returned any time, as Ramhold notes. Electronics, including televisions, major appliances and cellphones must be returned within 90 days. Products with "limited useful life expectancy" such as tires or batteries "may be sold with a product-specific limited warranty," according to the company website.

Cigarettes and alcohol cannot be returned and diamonds can be returned with "all original paperwork."

L.L. Bean

You may return any item within one year of your purchase, according to the company website.

REI

Most items can be returned within a year, according to the company website. Outdoor electronics, however, such as activity monitors and GPS devices, must be returned within 90 days.

Target

Most unopened items can be returned within 90 days, according to the company website.

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Stores with less generous return policies

Apple

Typically, products must me returned within 14 days, according to the company website. During the holidays, products bought between November 1 and December 25 can be returned through January 8, 2022.

All items must be repackaged with all the cords, adapters, and documents.

Some item are ineligible for returns, including opened software and Apple gift cards.

Barnes and Noble

Products must be returned within 30 days and in original condition, according to the company website. Anything that was shrink-wrapped must be returned still wrapped.

Nook devices must be returned within 14 days. Purchases made between November 1 and December 31 can be returned through January 31, 2022.

Plus, anything purchased in a BOGO sale can only be exchanged, not refunded, Ramhold says.

Amazon

Amazon has a 30-day return policy on most items, according to the company website. This, however, does not apply to third-party sellers. So if you're buying something from a third-party seller, check its return policy.

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