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Top 10 Worst Retail Store Company Policies To Be Aware Of When Shopping

By David Bakke

Shopping When caught up in the rush of holiday shopping, it’s easy to make quick decisions about gifts or travel without the normal amount of thought. Whether you have a lot to do, you want to finish fast, or you just love to give the perfect gift, there’s something about this time of year that makes us all a little less responsible with our purchases.

Since most of us will do a great deal of shopping in the coming days, I’ve decided to list some not-so-consumer-friendly retail policies. In my opinion, this list is comprised of the ten worst-of-the-worst when it comes to your holiday retail nightmares. If you haven’t done your due diligence for holiday purchases, hopefully this will recommend some second thought.

Keep in mind that these are specific policies and do not reflect on a company as a whole. With that said, here it goes, my top ten list of crappy consumer retail policies.

1. CompUSA
The CompUSA return policy can impose a restocking fee of “up to 25 percent” of the purchase price on any product the retailer decides doesn’t meet its return criteria. What are the return criteria, and to which items can this potentially be applied? Well, they don’t tell you that. I’d be very careful on this one.

2. Spirit Airlines
This is the carrier that first decided to charge you for everything not bolted down to the plane. Not surprisingly, their charges for carry-on bags are steep: $30 in advance, and better yet, $45 at the gate. As the airline name implies, you should travel light when flying with Spirit. If that’s not an option, I recommend looking into another carrier.

3. Macy’s
Macy’s calculates their shipping charges based on the dollar amount of the item you’re buying, rather than the size and weight of the package. This policy seems to benefit everybody except the holiday shopper. There are plenty of vendors that offer free shipping. I recommend looking for those if you are looking to save.

4. Verizon Wireless
Verizon recently upped their early termination fee to $350 for anyone who cancels their smartphone contract after the thirty day grace period. Wireless contracts are already a headache; this one is costly.

5. Best Buy
Traditionally, Best Buy has offered a mere 14-day grace period for the return of most technology products, including computers, monitors, camcorders, and digital cameras, among other things. And, if the gift has already been opened, be prepared to deal with the possibility of a re-stocking fee. During this holiday season, the normal 14-day grace period has been extended substantially for items purchased after November 1st. However, before you buy from Best Buy, I absolutely recommend that you ask an in-store associate exactly how long you have to return, just to be sure.

6. Dollar Car Rental
Dollar Car Rental insists that customers provide a receipt to prove they filled the tank within ten miles of the drop-off location. Even if you deliver the car with a full tank, failure to produce a gas receipt can cause some pretty substantial fees. Keep this in mind if you’re renting a car for holiday travels, and hold on to that receipt.

7. Buy.com
Buy.com will not accept returns on TVs that are 27 inches and up. If you sign the shipper’s release without inspecting the set, then your only option is to take it up with the manufacturer if there is a problem with your big screen. Ouch.

8. United Airlines
United Airlines offers its customers a deal…with a catch. The good: if you use United’s site to purchase a ticket and later find a lower fare on the site for the same itinerary, they’ll give you the lower fare, plus a voucher good for 20 percent off your next purchase. The (really) bad: If you buy a non-refundable ticket — the kind most people buy — you will incur a $150 administrative fee in order to lower your fare and receive the “deal.”

9. DirecTV
If you add new equipment to your set up, DirecTV will extend your contract for an additional 24 months. If you later want to cancel your contract, you may end up with an unexpected early termination fee as a result of that new equipment and resultant contract extension.

10. SanDisk
This company loves issuing rebates, in the form of gift cards, to promote their products. However, keep in mind that the gift card has no cash value and can only be redeemed for more SanDisk merchandise. In general, be sure to find out all of the details of a rebate incentive to make sure you’re getting an actual deal.

And there you have it — the top ten policies you should know about before you make your holiday purchases. I’m quite sure that this is not an all-inclusive list. If I found these ten, what else is out there? Have you found any not-so-wonderful policies at any other retailers out there? Feel free to share your tips with our loyal readers below.

(photo credit: Elsie esq.)

David Bakke
David started his own personal finance blog, YourFinances101, in June of 2009 and published his first book on ways to save more and spend less called "Don't Be A Mule..." Since then he has been a regular contributor for Money Crashers. He lives just outside Atlanta, GA and most all of his free time is taken up by his amazing three year old son, Nicholas.

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  • Karmella

    Wow – that is really interesting – there are some amazingly bad policies in there.

    I didn’t know about most of those. Also a good reminder to me to always check into the fine print – I probably wouldn’t have drilled down to figure that out about the United or Dollar policies.

    Things like that for me do reflect on the company as a whole – they may have a good product or service, but if they are going to make it a pain for me to use then I can almost always find an equally good product or service somewhere else for a comparable price.

    I may be the exception, but for example even if Spirit were to give a fare a couple hundred dollars cheaper I wouldn’t fly with them just because that carry on policy is insane. I haven’t decided yet if that’s a form of “nose despite my face” or if it’s “voting with dollars” — probably some combination.

  • http://www.moneycrashers.com David/moneycrashers

    Karmella

    Thanks for the input.

    Yes, I was kind of surprised when I uncovered these policies as well.

    And you’re right, the existence of these policies do reflect on the comapny as a whole.

    Thanks again for joining the conversation

  • http://ow.ly/3sHTt Washington Savings Bank

    This is an interesting article with information that all consumers should be aware of. Always check on return policies when shopping for gifts – particularly items with a high return rate like DVDs or CDs. You’ll save money in the long run by checking on this at the beginning of your shopping trip.

    • David Bakke

      Hello there–

      Great input–thanks for joining the conversation

  • http://frozenactivist.net Tonei

    It’s not just United – most airlines will charge you their change fee (usually $150 for domestic flights, but sometimes less) if you want to take advantage of a lower fare after the grace period for changes (typically 24 hours). Alaska and Southwest are the only carriers that I’m aware of that don’t do that. Yapta.com will keep track of airfare prices for you and let you know if the ticket price dips below whatever threshhold is necessary to get an actual refund.

    • David Bakke

      Tonei

      Yes, I probably could have inserted a few different airlines into that particular policy.

      Thanks for joining in!

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