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Why Aren’t Return Policies On Tech Products All The Same?

I’ve Always Wanted To Know:

Why aren’t return policies on tech products all the same?


Depending on the product and the store where you purchased an item, returns can be easy, difficult, frustrating or refused completely.  Why are there so many have different policies depending on the item you purchased? I’ll try to shed some light into the “why” behind the return policies.

Manufacturer Policy Overrides: These kinds of overrides are common for products from a particular vendor (such as Apple) and require official resellers to agree to a set of return policies and conditions. While the store may offer 30 day returns for all products, there may be asterisk indicating certain products do not apply. This is the first, and most common, reason for exceptions to store-wide policies.

Software: Long ago software was not individually serialized (a serial number issued for each copy sold), so software could be returned and resold if someone wasn’t happy with the product. Today most retail and online stores are resellers, so if a piece of software has been opened they must assume the software has been used and may refuse the return. Most good merchants will warn you on the package or on the receipt if a piece of software can not be returned once opened.

Buy, Use, Return items: These types of products are often used then brought back for a return not due to a product defect, but because the buyer has used the product and doesn’t need it anymore. Cameras, camcorders and other vacation-type items are the most common of this group. Expect for the return policy to include a restocking fee unless you are exchanging a defective unit for a new one. Returns may also be limited to a shorter time period.

User-Damaged Products: These kinds of products include processors, video cards, internal components to electronics and other types of devices which are often installed in another product. Since the store can not confirm if the product, the installation, the connected device or any of a number of other factors caused damage, the return policy may be limited to unopened or exchange-only returns.

Closeout/Used: Closeout, inventory reduction, used or returned products being resold may have special rules, since they’ve already been discounted significantly. Check before you buy any of these if a special rule applies. Most merchants will either refuse returns or accept them back only if they are proven defective.

Just Bad Merchants: If a merchant has a “no returns, period.” policy it’s a good idea to question why. They may be selling on extremely low margin and passing the risk of defective units on to the customer. They may be selling substandard or problematic items which have higher return rates.

The most important thing you can do is to protect yourself by reading the return policy and asking questions if you are not sure. If you assume “we accept returns” means we accept your CPU back if a pin is bent, we’ll give you a refund and you can buy a CD drive instead, you may end up frustrated and out a large sum of money.


P.S. Wondering about WorldStart’s return policy? You can read about our 60 day return policy by clicking here [1].

Do you have a general technology or electronics question you always wanted to know like “How does a Microwave work?” or “Why do LED’s last so long?” Write me at Tim@WorldStart.com [2] and your question may be answered in an upcoming “I Always Wanted To Know.” For specific computer support questions ask our writers by clicking here [3].