Is Costco’s Lifetime Return Policy a Scam?

This article is about my experience with Costco’s purported lifetime return policy. But first let’s review. Last week Michael published an article about how he stole $45 from Costco. He felt terrible about what he had done and wanted readers’ views on the situation. Most people felt he did the wrong thing, myself included. But what was particularly surprising to me was the venom in a few of the comments. Here are two examples:

Coward. I am unsubscribing from your blog because I will not seek financial advice from someone of questionable character. That’s what this is about. Not $45. Not whether or not Costco will miss the money. Not to whom you should donate the money to atone for your misdeed. Not how lucky you are for this “found” money. Knowing the truth, you intentionally deceived Costco in order to avoid paying for those goods. That was the point that you crossed the line. You can still make things right, but you are choosing not to do so because you are embarrassed. Your principles are compromised. . . . May the dishonesty you’ve demonstrated be returned upon you 1,000 times. Coward.

As a senior manager it is very depressing to see your lack of anonymity towards the cashier and member service employee you embarrassed. I can not immagine how they must feel. The sad part is you knowingly walked out with unpaid merchandise and failed to make it right. To make matters worse we know who you are Every time you shop your card will be flagged (beware of possible theft). At no point will you be approached. Yet, we will be watching you from this point forward no matter which Costco you shop. Thnak you for the heads up XXXXX

So if a $45 error gets people this upset at Michael, then the story I’m about to tell will really upset them.

Costco’s Lifetime Return Policy

A little over two years ago we bought our son an electric piano from Costco. It cost about $1,300. Earlier this year he told me he wanted a different piano, and he asked if he could return the piano to Costco and buy a new one. When I explained that it had been nearly two years since we bought the piano from Costco, he told me they have a lifetime return policy. To be honest, I didn’t believe him.

So I called Costco. Sure enough, with some exceptions Costco has a lifetime return guarantee. At least that’s what the Costco representative told me on the phone. So I went to costco.com to check out the return policy, and here’s what it says:

Merchandise: We guarantee your satisfaction on every product we sell with a full refund. The following must be returned within 90 days of purchase for a refund: televisions, projectors, computers, cameras, camcorders, iPOD / MP3 players and cellular phones.

Sure enough, there is no time limit on returns except for a few electronics listed above. So the next day I called back to start the return process. The Costco representative pulled up my purchase, confirmed that it was eligible for return, and told me somebody would contact me in the next 7 to 10 days to schedule a pickup of the piano. Later that day we ordered his new electric piano from Amazon.

And then I received the following e-mail:

Costco is dedicated to offering the best products at the best prices to our members. We recognize that in rare instances there are defects in products that we sell, or a member may decide that they purchased the wrong item for their needs. Our return policy is the most lenient in the marketplace to accommodate our members in these instances. Several conditions are evaluated when considering a return of purchase; reason for return, membership history, return history, date of purchase and price of purchase.

Recently, you contacted us to request a return for the item listed above. We make every effort to accommodate the needs of our members, however based on your original purchase date and the reasons listed above, we will be unable to honor this request.

Sincerely,
COSTCO WHOLESALE

I’ve left out the name of the Costco representative who signed the e-mail. The most interesting part of this e-mail is the following: “Several conditions are evaluated when considering a return of purchase; reason for return, membership history, return history, date of purchase and price of purchase.” Compare that sentence to Costco’s return policy and you’ll see a stark difference. I guess they tell you one thing when you are buying stuff from them and another thing when you are returning stuff to them.

Quite annoyingly, no phone number was included in the e-mail so I have no way of calling the person who sent the message. So instead I call back the number used for returns. The Costco representative tells me that returns older than 2 years are not accepted. I pointed out that (1) that’s not what I was told when I first called to inquire about Costco’s return policy, (2) that’s not what I was told when the representative processed my return, (3) that’s not what Costco’s return policy says, and (4) the piano was purchased less than two years ago (by just a few days).

She had no response and told me my only recourse was to respond to the e-mail Costco had sent me. So I replied to the e-mail six days ago. So far I’ve received no response.

Now, it seems utterly crazy that a company would have a lifetime return policy. But with a few exceptions, that’s the business policy Costco has decided to adopt. It no doubt is part of a business strategy that is very consumer friendly. But when you don’t honor your own policy, what started out as consumer-friendly becomes just the opposite.

So my question is simple–what should I do?

Published or Updated: April 21, 2014
About Rob Berger

Rob founded the Dough Roller in 2007. A litigation attorney in the securities industry, he lives in Northern Virginia with his wife, their two teenagers, and the family mascot, a shih tzu named Sophie.

Comments

  1. anon says:

    Call Corporate offices.

  2. Jenny says:

    I find this post very disturbing. You *know* that returning the piano that your son has gotten two years’ worth of use out of is ethically wrong, but you’re justifying your (attempted) actions based on a loophole in Costco’s generous returns policy. Essentially, you’re saying that it’s Costco’s responsibility to ensure that its customers behave ethically — and the only way to do so is by creating a new strict returns policy that punishes other (ethical) users. You’re actually asking for assistance on how to abuse the existing policy successfully?

    If your son’s piano had stopped working after 6 months, Costco (unlike every other business) would have taken it back. They do this because they stand behind their products and it’s part of the reason why I love Costco. It’s not a no-interest, no-charge lease program so that spoiled teens and their contemptible parents can have the latest in musical instruments, sofas, bicycles, golf clubs, etc. Bravo, Costco, for turning you down.

    • DR says:

      Jenny, I don’t think it’s ethically wrong or a loophole. It’s Costco’s policy, and its prices undoubtedly reflect the cost of that policy. Costco could very easily change the lifetime policy to apply only to products that break, but they haven’t done that. In fact, what I find ethically wrong is a company that publishes a lifetime return policy but then refuses to honor it.

      • Jenny says:

        Sorry, DR, but I have to agree with Rebecca’s post below (much better worded than my own). Your argument that Costco’s prices are reflected in the policy is specious. If every Costco member acted as you are trying to, the business would fold in weeks. Costco treats its employees well, sells quality products at reasonable prices, and generally tries not to be evil (see this article for details: http://abcnews.go.com/2020/Business/story?id=1362779).

        Are you hoping to see the returns policy changed? I think Costco SHOULD be allowed to make a judgment call about whether or not returns are valid — it has a well-earned reputation for accepting returned merchandise, but that’s no reason to treat them like suckers. I think you know that you are violating the spirit of the returns policy — you wouldn’t be incredulous that the policy exists otherwise.

        I remain disturbed that you don’t find it ethically wrong to ask a retailer to absorb the cost of a luxury item because your family got bored of it.

        • F says:

          No offense, but the suggestion that this return is ethically wrong is ridiculous! The OP was honest from the beginning about his purchases, and 100% honest when he contacted Costco about the return. He never misled them about anything.

          Costco themselves decided to develop a lifetime return policy. They are not required to do that. But if they do, then they are legally and morally required to honor it. It is fraudulent for them to advertise a “lifetime return” policy with no intention of honoring it except for customers who have a certain “membership history” with them.

  3. Karen says:

    You can return any item bought in store or online at any Costco at any time you are unsatisfied. With the exception of electronics.

    • McG says:

      Um, that’s not what they said:

      “Merchandise: We guarantee your satisfaction on every product we sell with a full refund. The following must be returned within 90 days of purchase for a refund: televisions, projectors, computers, cameras, camcorders, iPOD / MP3 players and cellular phones.”

      A piano does not fall under any of “the following”.

  4. Chris says:

    You should not attempt to return it after two years. If your son was going to keep it, and it was defective, that would be a different story. But you are just getting a different piano after two years of having the old one, which STILL WORKS. It is unethical to return it at this point.

    • DR says:

      As I noted above, I don’t see anything unethical here at all. I do find Costco’s stated return policy very surprising. But what is unethical about (1) telling Costco upfront exactly why we are returning the piano (which we did), and (2) expecting Costco to live up to its published return policy?

      • noname says:

        it is 2013 now! anyways. why should it be a matter of ethics? any ethical matter is subjective. I am not dating costco’s ceo; I am having a simple business transaction. why can’t castco be specific about its return policies?

        • me says:

          I fully agree here that the ethics here is on Costco’s end. The OP did nothing more than follow the rules. It’s not his fault that costco has this policy. I agree with OP that costco is acting unethical since they are the one that says they have a lifetime return policy but doesn’t honor it.

  5. Rebecca says:

    I don’t think the reasoning “because I want a different ‘insert name of item here’ after two years” is valid. It would be different if the piano didn’t work correctly. It does. Where do you draw the line?

    If I bought an LCD TV two years ago, and now a 1080P version of the same TV is available with new features, should Costco (or any other company) take back my two year old TV, which I’ve used extensively, and replace it with a new model? The answer is no. Based on this business model, no company could stay in business very long.

    Returns cost money. If an item is defective, Costco can charge back the original supplier and recoup some or all of the original wholesale cost. If not, the original supplier may not allow credit to Costco, so essentially Costco has sold two units for the price of one.

    Yes, Costco’s written policy technically allows for this return. However, in the spirit of fairness to the retailer, did it really take 2 years for you to be unsatisfied? Or is it just a case of wanting the latest and greatest, and not wanting to pay for it?

    • F says:

      Why shouldn’t the onus be on Costco to clearly specify the rules up front about when returns are and are not allowed? Every other retailer in the business specifies these rules without a problem. Why should Costco alone be allowed to advertise to customers that they offer “lifetime returns” when they really only mean returns under certain circumstances?

      I just don’t see why Costco can’t have a standard return policy with set time limits like every other retailer has.

  6. Leigh says:

    I would say Costco has every right to disallow the return of this item. Moreover, I’m surprised DR considers his actions ethical behavior. The item functioned as expected for two years and now can be resold as used to someone who will appreciate it. It shouldn’t be Costco’s responsibility to finance a buyer’s regret or need to upgrade. Returning items and forcing a company to eat the cost only results in a company raising prices on new items for others and for yourself.

    Based on this article and the previous one where the author was aware he had stolen, I too will be unsubscribing from the RSS feed to DoughRoller. While we all want be money wise, we also want to be financially ethical. If the best advice offered here is illegal and unethical, I’m happy to move on. I can only hope DR’s self-serving behaviors do not spread, as soon we will all be paying a premium for the five-fingered discounts such people feel they deserve.

    • Jenny says:

      Absolutely agreed. Count me among the newly unsubscribed.

    • F says:

      Heh, I’m sorry, Leigh, but can I unsubscribe to your comments? There is a huge difference between literally stealing an item from Costco and asking them to honor a policy that they themselves promulgated. Maybe they think that lifetime returns generate more customer loyalty than the cost of the occasional return of a long-ago purchased item. That’s their business decision to make.

      If they think that’s too costly, here’s a simple solution: DON’T OFFER A LIFETIME RETURN POLICY. Specify simple time limits like every other retailer in the market does. If they want to make occasional exceptions just for people who are a few days over the time limits, that’s fine too. They just shouldn’t mislead people into thinking they offer lifetime returns if they don’t really want to do that.

      By the way, you say, “the best advice offer here is illegal.” I don’t think you have any basis whatsoever for claiming that anything the OP did here was illegal.

  7. Michael says:

    DR, I’m disappointed.

    Not in your article, or in your decision, rather the second failed attempt to discuss business ethics and morals. The comments left for my article may be slightly more “venomous” but give it time.

    That said, I don’t understand why Costco would create a policy like this, then not honor it. It would annoy me even more to have scheduled a pick-up, only to receive an email as vague as the one you have.

    Unfortunately, I’m not sure what can be done from this point on. Yes, the business return policy is flawed and I would feel slighted but you have to pick your battles and considering the use you’ve already received out of this piano, and that it works, I would considering selling it yourself rather than a continued effort to return it.

  8. Stephanie says:

    What disturbs me is something no one has mentioned yet. What are you teaching your son? You’re teaching him that he can have whatever he wants because he becomes bored with something else. Whether it is worded properly or not, you know that’s not the spirit in which Costco’s policy was written. You should also consider that if many more people like you tried to return things that weren’t really defective, for which they can’t get a refund from the manufacturer, you can bet that some employee will lose his job in order to make up for the money they are losing by processing bogus returns. Is that okay? That because your kid was bored with his “toy” someone will lose his job and his own kid will go without? That is very NOT okay. Also what you’ve done is now spread this to all your readers, so the not-so-ethical readers, and perhaps their non-ethical acquaintances will try and do the same thing. Thanks for that, too. I am very disappointed in these past few blog topics. What’s going on with you people?

  9. Jeni says:

    Wow, stumbled onto this blog by mistake, and will certainly not read it again! It’s questionable morals like this that make children think it’s ok to steal…your seriously that close to crossing the line! And the sad part is you can’t even see it! I will continue to support Costco in it’s efforts to take back BROKEN or DEFECTIVE items and not just items some people have gotten BORED with, please! I am so sorry for you that you don’t see the difference.

  10. Wil says:

    Talk about ethically challenged— I can’t imagine even considering returning a working 2 year old product for my own convenience. No wonder so many retailers have return policies so convoluted that it takes a lawyer to understand them. It’s people like YOU!

  11. DR says:

    Wow! I must confess I’m surprised by many of these comments. Let me respond to some of the points being raised:

    1. Why did we want to return the piano? Many have assumed we wanted to return the piano because my son was “bored” with it or just for our “convenience.” I’m not sure why some have reached this conclusion; the article doesn’t really say why we wanted to return it. I left that out of the article because under Costco’s return policy, it doesn’t matter. For what it’s worth, the reason was because while the piano is supposed to be able to connect to a computer, it is incompatible with Apple computers and PCs running the latest version of Windows. I’m not sure this will change the views already expressed, but I wanted to set the record straight. Of course, that raises the question of why we didn’t try to return the piano sooner. The answer to that question would fill another entire article, but part of the answer is because we didn’t learn of Costco’s lifetime return policy until about a year after we purchased the piano. And that leads me to the next point.

    2. Costco’s lifetime return policy. About 1 year after we bought the piano, my wife and son were at Costco and a Costco employee was playing a grand piano to promote the pianos. She let my son play for a few minutes, and then asked my wife if she was interested in buying one of the very expensive grand pianos. My wife explained that we had already bought a Costco piano about a year earlier. In response, the Costco employee said that Costco has a no-questions-asked lifetime return policy. We could return the piano, get the cash, and apply it to a new grand piano. That’s how my son first learned of the return policy.

    3. What if everybody returned items after 2 years. Several comments suggested that Costco would be out of business if everybody did what we tried to do. I think this is a fair point, but we need to look at a complete picture, not just one transaction. If everybody did what we do, that means they would spend thousands of dollars every year (car tires, food, tools, paper products, etc.) at Costco and hardly ever return anything. In fact, I don’t recall ever returning anything to Costco except this piano, and we haven’t even successfully returned it.

    4. What am I teaching my son? This is another great point, and something my wife and I struggled with. We’ve talked about this as a family, and not all of us have the same view. In the end, we concluded that we would call Costco and if they returned the piano, great. And if not, we’d let it go. They said they would accept the return, we bought the new piano, and you know the rest of the story.

    5. I’m not at all surprised by the comments stating that we shouldn’t try to return an item after two years. We struggled with that question. But what does surprise me is that nobody is frustrated with (1) Costco’s acceptance of the return followed by an e-mail rejecting the return, or (2) that Costco won’t abide by its own published return policy. Doesn’t it upset anybody that Costco’s published policy is unlimited (with some exceptions), but that they won’t actually live up to this policy that they wrote?

    6. Finally, a number of comments have stated that they will unsubscribe or stop reading this blog because of this post. One thing I value here is the expression of divergent views. So long as comments are respectful of other viewpoints, I keep them up even if they disagree with my views. I could have easily deleted those comments, but I never do. For those that want to unsubscribe, a respect your conviction and wish you well.

    • Mark says:

      DR,

      First off, wonderful blog and I think it’s too bad that some people want to unsubscribe just because they disagree with you. Part of learning and interacting is dealing with opinions different than your own and how can you do that if you run away every time you disagree with something? You gotta be informed on both sides of an issue to make the best decision. I don’t always agree with you (heck, I don’t always agree with my wife) but I’m not gonna just unsubscribe from your blog or ignore my wife…neither would help the situation.

      As to the ethical issues with returning the piano these are my thoughts. Costco has a lifetime return policy as stated on their website as well as by a number of employees, they should honor it. If it is such an issue with people returning stuff that they are losing money I am sure Costco will change their policy, companies are all about the money, if the return policy is bad for business I am sure they would change it but until they do they should honor it.

      For you personally I think that if you can return the piano and not feel guilty and are able to sleep at night go for it.

      As a side note you say the computer does not work with the recent new operating systems released for both Mac and Windows. Have you tried contacting the piano manufacturer to see if there is maybe a software up date or a patch? I don’t know how the piano works but if you install software on your computer to interface with it that may be an option.

      • DR says:

        Mark, good point on contacting the manufacturer. We didn’t do that, and at this point, I think it’s water under the bridge. We did review the manual and get online for information on new drivers, which they didn’t have.

        • Moni says:

          DR,
          I agree with you that Costco should honor your return. After all their return policy is a contract between customers and them. They cannot leave it up to store descretion- that’s an absurd! All other stores have clear return policy, usually written on their receipts. Costco does not have it on the receipts and did not inform about the change (up to the store manager). They informed about the 90-day electronics retun policy change so why didn’t they tell about the new store discretion thing???I wanted to return rose bushes today after 2 years. They said that they accept plants up to 1 year. Nobody inform me about that change. The roses were terrible in the first year but I postponed the return keeping in mind the lifetime satistaction crap policy. You can return plants at Home Depot or at Lowe’s within 1 year, too! They said they base their decision on a reasoning. Hey! Everyone has different reasoning, it’s very subjective. It’s ok if they change policy but they need to communicate it with the public, and accept items bought on the old terms. Changing return policy like that seems unlawful. I am thinking about filing a case againts them. They attracted all customers thanks to their lifetime policy, they used it as a bite and now they’re backing away. Anyone can make any contract as long as both parties agree to it.( even if it sounds unreasonably or silly like the lifetime satisfaction…) The contract was that we can return items with no time restriction. Now they broke the contract. That’s unfair and unlawful. Dr, if you want we could file a claim together? :)
          thanks

  12. Annie Mack says:

    DR, I agree that it is customers such as you that cause customer-friendly companies to amend their policies to deal with the unscrupulous consumers. When a company offers ‘your satisfaction guaranteed or double your money back’, there is a segment of the population who could be totally satisfied with the product but will still try to get double their money back. What is Costco to do with an electric piano that is two years old, used, and apparently outdated? I assume it still works with the exception of not being compatible with the operating system you are using on your computers. I have sat here for quite a while trying to take your side in this debate and I can’t. I’m sorry. You and your co-worker who stole, yes I believe he stole, from Costco should join BJs or Sam’s Club. Maybe they will be more to your liking. Please leave Costco alone. They are fair, reasonably priced, and customer-friendly. I’d hate either of you to change that because your moral compasses are broken.

    • DR says:

      Annie, what confuses me here is what is the point of a lifetime return policy? If you think returning something after 2 years is wrong, why does Costco have such a policy, and why do its employees promote the policy? They could limit the policy just to defective products, but they’ve chosen not to. What if we returned the piano after 18 months? 12 months? 6 months? At what point should we say sure they have a lifetime return policy, but after X months it’s just not right to take advantage of it? How many months is too many?

  13. reinkefj says:

    CASE#1

    I do think that walking out with stuff you knew you didn’t pay for is theft. I expect the cashier not to screw me and give me the advertised price, the shelf price, or the “full moon on sale” price. By the same token, taking advantage of a blunder is immoral. And, there is the law of Karma to deal with. Can’t cheat an honest man. Everything evens up in the end.

    CASE#2

    imho, if the policy is “lifetime for any reason”, then they should honor it. By the same token, I personally would not abuse their generous terms. I think that they can’t have it both ways — one policy on sale and a more restrictive one when you try to use it. Clearly, they need to “tune up” their policy.

    Case #1, the Customer is wrong. Case #2, the Customer is right.

  14. Vince Von says:

    After reading all of these posts, I would like to add my 2 cents.

    1) After reading the return policy that was copied and pasted above, I fail to read anything that states there is a “LIFETIME RETURN POLICY”. I believe it states the guarantee satisfaction with a refund. It seems as though in this case that the consumer was “Satisfied” with the product for 2 years therefore I believe Costco has held up their end of the transaction.

    2) As with any company I would think that Costco has a right (and frankly a duty) to be able to review any and all returns and practice reasonable discretion upon them. Wanting to return a product for these reasons after this amount of time seems to me to be unreasonable, and I believe that the email that was sent to the consumer reflects that.

    Seems pretty black and white.

  15. Mike Gibson says:

    Interesting debate. I too made a return to Costco after an extended period, and I did wrestle with it a little. Several years ago I was going through a difficult divorce, and I had just bought a new place. I needed a vacuum, and I bought one of those expensive Dyson vacuums at Costco (about $500). I got buyers remorse about spending $500 on a vacuum the minute I got it home, before I even took it out of the box. I decided to get a much less expensive vacuum at Walmart, and my intention was to return the Dyson to Costco. Again, I never even took it out of the box or used it once. The bottom line is that I had boxes everywhere, so I moved the Dyson into a storage room to get it out of the way, again, fully intending to return it within a few days. You can probably see where this is heading…….I moved some boxes into the storage room, it covered up the vacuum cleaner, and I forgot about it. It wasn’t that I didn’t need the $500 back, I just had so much going on in my life with the divorce that I forgot about it! It wasn’t until I was moving out of that house into another that found the Dyson again. It was almost 4 years later! I called Costco, and they said they would take it back, and they did!

    If I had used the vacuum, or just grown tired of it, or just wanted the latest model, I wouldn’t have even considered returning it. I have bought literally tens of thousands of dollars of merchandise from Costco over the years, and I have never returned a used item because I wanted something different or better. This was unused, and still in the sealed box. I thought about it for a little bit, but then I figured that if this wasn’t a case where the lifetime return policy was justified, what was?

  16. Smitty says:

    The real issue from an ethical point of view is whether or not your two years of use of the product constituted your “satisfaction,” which is Costco’s implicitly stated objective in their return policy. As mentioned previously, Costco doesn’t mention or advertise a “lifetime return” policy. That’s your (and your son’s) interpretation.

    Clearly, the fact that you kept the product for two years and used it throughout that time indicates that you were satisfied with your purchase, which is all that Costco’s return policy guarantees you.

    I find it humorous that you employ such a clearly unethical approach to questioning Costco’s ethics.

    • DR says:

      Smitty, let’s make sure we have our facts straight. The lifetime return policy was NOT my interpretation. As noted in the article and comments, a Costco employee first alerted us to the lifetime return policy when she encouraged us to take advantage of it to buy a more expensive piano about a year after our purchase. When I called Costco to see if they would take the piano back, Costco confirmed the lifetime return policy. When I then called the next day to initiate the return, they again confirmed the policy and accepted the return. It was only after a bought a new piano the next day that they contacted me to refuse the return. So this wasn’t my interpretation, it was Costco’s.

      • Jon says:

        I would hazard to say she wasnt an employ of costco. Costco routinely has roadshows with people from other companies showcasing their items in order to garner a larger customer base. They would not fully understand the policy and may have misspoke, basing your grievance off of such is no way to make your case imho

  17. Mr says:

    I was reading this post and agree that there is no ethical issue here.
    However, Costco has stated a time limit on certain electronics ie tv computer ipod cell phones ect. which is 90 days. Everything else would be under there original return policy which had no indication of a time limit. This is a good advertising stategy and is what the membership fee is for. As a member your entitled to perks you wouldnt get anywhere else. The fee for membership is the key here. Sounds like an insurance agreement/contract as long a the dues are paid.

  18. Mario Brothers says:

    I think that there is absolutely an ethical issue here, no matter how the author tries to justify otherwise. But at the same time, if the author wants to return the item, Costco should honor their policy, no matter how they try to justify otherwise.

  19. Hugh says:

    these arguments made me think of our financial crisis and how we did not let the big banks fail but kept giving them tax payers money eventually in vain. when the banks made the decision to partake in something risky, they ended up not having to face the consequence. costco chose to advertise its lifetime satisfaction guarantee return policy, yet when it did not want to stick with that policy, people chose to side with costco so that costco didn’t have to face the consequence of it’s own policy. this is like these days when all the banks let home buyers apply for additional mortgages even though the buyers may have shady credit history. the banks did not care. they just wanted to make the money out of the customers. now if you are the moral buyer will you, after you have been spending your own salary on mortgage payment for the last six months for a house that had severely depreciated recently, you are not having enough to feed your kids, but will you choose to foreclose your house? if you do, it would mean you have had lived there for free for the last few years! and if you do, whose fault is it that the bank will end up with a house that had been used? is it the bank’s fault? or is it your fault? rules are rules. policies are policies. if companies are allowed to not follow policies set by themselves, what trust can we still have in those companies?

  20. KM says:

    I’d like to respond to the author of the post as well as those who believe that what he did was “ethical” because it didn’t actually violate Costco’s return policy. I am concerned that so many of you don’t seem to understand the concept of ethics. Ethical behavior has nothing to do with laws or rules or policies but is rather based on the principles or morality and pertains to right or wrong conduct. Trying to return an item after using it for two years is conduct that is ethically wrong, regardless of Costco’s return policy.

  21. Joe consumer says:

    Where are Costco’s ethics when they steal billions of dollars in sales from other retailers using a return policy that they do not honor.
    I smell CLASS ACTION!
    Put that in your scrapbook and pass it on…

    • jack says:

      Class Action is what this is calling for. Many people are questing author, but they don’t seem to understand how much business this “liberal” return policy got for Costco. Costco could have added a simple timelimit (like a year or two year) to their policy. But they consciously (and deceptively) choose not to do so to give false sense of satisfaction to the customers. Then instead of corporate office put anything in writing, they always leave it to “Store” personnel. Thats a sneaky way of having a cake and eating it too. I bet there are informal (or internal) policies restricting “Store” personnel from accepting returns over certain value or certain time period. Its time someone file class action and call their deception.

      • Alex says:

        I agree with you Jack. I’ve also had trouble returning items to Costco, who doesn’t honor their return policy and they do try to have their cake and eat it too. Class action lawsuit against Costco should be brought forth and I’ll be the first one to join. Here is what Costco should do: put a time limit and/or a price limit on their policy or simply state exactly how they currently accept returns: on a case by case basis!

      • Lacey says:

        I have been consistently bullied by Costco because I have taken them up over the past few decades on their return policy. Anyone remember PriceClub when you had to own a business to shop there? They wanted to expand to the general public to generate more revenue, obviously, and their expanse from business owners to general public has proved their plan corrupt. They are not honoring the words legally binding them to their customers and there should be a class action. So how can we begin?

    • Ben says:

      I agree with you, there should be a class action law suit for this. It does not make sence that Costco would offer a Life time satisfaction guarantee and now say it is up for interpretation. It is almost like a marriage you may be satisfied at first, but if something goes wrong what happens, you become unsatisfied and get a divorce. I just found this out myself. The new Costco policy is up for interpretation now also.

  22. Holly says:

    If Costco has a policy they should abide by it. They no doubt aren’t stupid and their legal department approved this “vision” of customer satisfaction. In addition they realize that such liberal caveat would bring in more customers who would spend freely and not take the time to return things. They are undoubtedly unethical to refuse anyone who takes them up on their very well-thought out return policy. They are a retailer who charges a membership in order to shop. They aren’t always as competitive as they’d like you to think, and as time’s gone by their deals are hardly worth buying in bulk anyway. Make sure Corporate returns the piano for you, and then go ahead and suggest they stop trying to suck you into false promises. Any ethical retailer wouldn’t lie to you like Costco does.

  23. Eric says:

    This post dates to August 8th. It would be great to see a follow up from DR. What actually is costco’s return policy? Can you escalate the service request?

    For instance, I’d like to buy a roomba from there but they tend to break and the batteries tend to die after a couple years. Is that covered? I have no idea.

    I’m amazed by the people that are pinning morality issues on DR for trying to get costco to honor their stated policies. I agree their policy is too generous, but instead of arbitrarily backing out of it they should get one of their legion of lawyers to write out what the real policy is. They are a huge corporation, not some mom and pop shop, and the piano return was rejected as part of some internal return assessment procedure that they just haven’t made public for some reason. They should make that procedure public.

    • DR says:

      Eric, the piano still sits in my house. When I call Costco, the representative tells me I need to reply to the email I received denying the return. I reply and reply and Costco just ignores it. I could of course escalate this matter, but haven’t done so. Frankly, I’m more disappointed in how Costco handled this matter (encouraging me to return it, telling me I can, and then denying the return and not responding to inquiries), than I am in Costco’s refusal to honor its return policy. As for future purchases, I have no idea what Costco’s real return policy is. We all know what they say it is, but that apparently doesn’t mean much.

      • Marc Dermenjian says:

        If the piano was defective, broken etc., then based on Costco policy it should have been replaced or refunded. It is abusive and yes unethical to try to turn in a good product in for a more advanced product. As far as everone saying yes bring it back, should have discussed it with Costco store personell (not the piano player) , and had them write the authorization.

        Also, when I find i have merchandise that was missed during checkout, I have a second transaction to pay for it. No second thought. I can’t believe those of you trying to pin Costco. I’m going to get a big prime rib, eat it and then tell them it sucks and get my money back…

  24. TY says:

    I had some unpleasant experiences in returning stuff to Costco too. I think Costco may be liable for advertisement fraud. They clearly advertise in their return policy that customers can return whenever they want. This gives Costco a competitive edge over their competitors. If it was not for the worry free return policy, I would have bought them from elsewhere with a better price. But they refused to honor their return policy later. I call this false advertisements.

  25. SC says:

    I buy my clothes from LLBean because they guarantee lifetime satisfaction too. I returned after many months clothes the ripped, and clothes I used but did not like. They refunded no questions asked. I did discard two pairs of cheap LLBean shoes that ripped in one year instead of returning them. Currently I wear two pairs of expensive shoes from LLBean, and I will return them if they don’t last at least five years! If LLBean ever fails me in their return policy, I will cancel their card and shop where they don’t pretend to anything. But I trust LLBean is better than Costco in this respect! Any problems with returns at LLBean?

  26. Teri says:

    Yes they do, hypothetically. I’ve worked there for almost six years and you would be amazed at what people return. Half eaten cakes, rusty grills, dirty refrigerators, etc. Before they changed the return policy on TV’s in (I believe) 2007, there were people bringing back TVs that were 5 years old and just upgrading it. Costco does guarantee everything including your membership. However, the warehouse manager has the right to make the call based on the situation. If it looks like your working the system, they may deny it. You may have spoken to a membership employee first and then called back and got a manager. I would call a corporate number, or right an email. You will probably get a positive response from that. We had a lady get mad over a meat lovers pizza not having enough meat, and was not happy with the way the warehouse manager dealt with it and so she called corporate and got 3 free meat lover pizzas that they had to put triple toppings on. We don’t offer warranties on pianos because of our return policy, you should be able to do the return. But if you called up there saying you just want to upgrade it, then I can see why they said no. If you were to have a crack in one of the legs or it were to happen to break, it would be a different story. Good luck in your quest! Don’t let this ruin your Costco experience, it really is a wonderful company!

  27. Costco says:

    Costco needs to specify exactly what their return policy is like any other store. If it is 1 year then they NEED to write down it is 1 year. Right now they are saying there is a lifetime satisfaction guarantee but they do not mention this is up to interpretation. I hope an attorney challenges Costco on their false advertising!

  28. Gianni Mirandola says:

    The policy states: “We guarantee your satisfaction on every product we sell with a full refund” No time limit is implied, but nether is the term “lifetime” used. Your satisfaction was established well within the two years that you used the product. It is well within their rights to determine when a customer is abusing the return policy. Sad to see people like you want to ruin a legitamitly excellent return policy. This type of abuse is what led to the 90 day return policy on the other electronics.

    • Marc Dermenjian says:

      Thank you.

  29. ruben says:


    Dear Ruben,

    Thank you for your e-mail to Costco Wholesale. All orders or items over two years old is up to the discretion of the warehouse or online Returns department. Since these orders are past the 2 year time frame they would be denied.

    Thank you,

    Tryfena
    Costco Wholesale Corporation

    Date: 12-29-2010

  30. Kathie says:

    Karma, KARMA

  31. D-mon says:

    (assuming you re in CA) Cal State law requires retailers to post a copy of any return policy, in it’s entirety, at a location within the store that is in public view. The in-store posting states: ” We guarantee your satisfaction on every product we sell with a full refund…”. On-line the identical language is used, and on the page where you are sent to when clicking the “for more information about returns-click here” button they further state:

    “How do I return an item?

    For an immediate refund (including shipping and handling), Costco.com offers convenient returns at any one of our Costco warehouses worldwide. To expedite the return process, please have your order confirmation email with you. Click here to find the Costco warehouse closest to you.

    If you are unable to return your order at one of our warehouses, please contact us at customer service or call our customer service center at 1-800-955-2292 for assistance. To expedite the processing of your return, please reference your order number.

    We guarantee your satisfaction on every product we sell with a full refund. The following must be returned within 90 days of purchase for a refund: televisions, projectors, computers, cameras, camcorders, iPOD / MP3 players and cellular phones.”

    The language above could not be more clear: not satisfied = full refund.

    Here’s what I’d do, If I were in your sitch. with Costco:

    Contact corporate; if you speak with a receptionist…ask her how her day is going, tell her that you would like to have a chat with the District Manager who over sees the ___(insert your Costco here)___ warehouse about your increasingly negative experience with the piano. You should get a call within 24 hours, the DM will probably satisfy you and you’ll intend to thank me, but you will forget all about me!! If after a reasonable discussion you find yourself still in possession of a piano, you then write a letter to ” W. Craig Jelinek – President and COO”, demanding that they honor their return policy because by not doing so they are in violation of several ca laws, such as provisions pertaining to unfair business practices, consumer protections contracts, etc. -RAN OUTTA ROOM!!!!

    • d-MON says:

      -continued- if you get no or a negative response from your letter then I’d sue them. Forget “class action” suits – they really only benefit the lawyers involved, and will have WAY too much out of pocket expense. I would file a breach of contract/tortuous business practices action against them as a pro per in Superior Court (a small claims suit will be fought by them, but a full civil trial will cost them substantially more that the piano is worth- and will result in a settlement in your favor)

      Here’s a couple of direct numbers at Costco Corporate:

      CONTACTS:
      Costco Wholesale Corporation
      Richard Galanti
      425/313-8203
      Bob Nelson
      425/313-8255
      Jeff Elliott
      425/313-8264

      Good luck from North Hollywood!
      D

  32. GMNightmare says:

    1) Your electric piano constitutes as a computer, and it is therefore completely valid for them to decline your return even barring what I’m about to continue with. Yes, under layman terms the computer is often just used to mean laptop or desktop, but technically computers are a far more vast category.

    Their return policy was changed 3 years ago because unethical people like yourself kept abusing it, so now it doesn’t include electronics. Furthermore, what you are reading on the site isn’t necessarily the actual legally binding version, which simply uses the word electronics. Nor is it actually legally binding at all.

    2) Even should it be legally binding (they honor it most of the time anyways, because it’s good business sense), it does not say you get a refund for any reason, it stipulates satisfaction. Not only is it easy to see that you did gain some satisfaction from it, but the term satisfaction itself is arbitrary.

    And let’s make this clear right now… just because some employee said something doesn’t mean squat. Holy hell, some minimum paid worker didn’t know every specific little thing about the company… Often, it is the lower workers that first do things, and higher more knowledgeable review it to ensure it. You got an acceptance from a patsy, but the legal team revoked that. Also, it is no doubt that the original box most likely had the OS requirements on it when you bought it.

    3) Ethics. With your constant comments denying any wrongdoing, I guess you don’t understand what ethics are. Ethics doesn’t mean, that just because you can do it, means you are ethical in doing it. Understand? You know your actions were unethical, but you saw financial gains and a win for yourself, your greed won over your ethics. You sat at the table and discussed it, but the answer was because you could do it it was right. No. No it is not. You keep trying to defend yourself, “Well, it’s THEIR fault that they have that policy…” It is not their fault for you trying to abuse their goodwill. That’s blaming the victim.

    Consumers need to abide by a code of ethics too. Just because you have a right to do something doesn’t mean it’s right to do it.

  33. Doc says:

    I have gone through similar problems as you with an RO unit i have, (still), I purchased an RO unit from them a few years back, It started leaking 2 weeks ago, I looked at Costco.com they still stocked my unit, I checked the local store,(less then a 1/4 mile from my house), they did not have the one I had. I checked Home Depot down the street I had a new unit in the cart and was walking through the store, I called the Costco store and talked to the customer service/returns girl there. I asked if there was anything they could do, about it leaking, She told me that I could return it for a full refund and order the one online if I wanted. I told her it was at least 3-5 years old, she said it doesn’t matter as long as it was not more then 10 years. I was like really? She then said, and even if it has been more then 10 years it doesn’t mean if can’t be returned, it just means that a manager has to be involved. I left the unit in the cart at Home Depot and drove home. I ordered the new unit from Costco.com, (it arrived the next day) a week later after installing the new unit, we made our bi-weekly Costco run, I stopped at the returns desk and told the girl there what was wrong with it. She looked it up and found that it was 7 years old. I was like OK well I was told that was not a problem. She called an ass-istant manager and he looked at the paper work, I told him my story, he said he had to talk to some one. I waited 15 minutes for him to come back. He had been out on the floor and pulled a owners manual from the unit there, he showed me the manufactures warranty page, which stated 3 years. He then said you got 7 years from it. What do you want from me. I told him what does your Satisfaction Guarantee on the wall behind you mean then? The only reason I purchased the new one from them (which cost more then the Home Depot version) was they were replacing the faulty product, it was still working at the time I pulled it, it was just leaking, and was not repairable due to the design.
    He then got loud and started berating me in front of me son and telling me that I had the audacity to bring some thing in to return it after I had used it for 7 years. I told him that the only reason I did was because HIS employee told me to, and that it was not a problem. I was LIVID. I have not done anything with it yet. It is still in the back of the car. I am thinking since looking into it and finding it is up to the individual stores, that I will call another store see what they say, there are 6 stores around me….

  34. jake says:

    I am a member of Costco and have returned several items after more than a year. The last item, a tube type TV, was more than 5 years old. The manager was called and tried to pin me down on why I’m no longer satisfied, but he eventually gave me my refund. He specifically said that is wasn’t a lifetime warranty, but a satisfaction guarantee. I buy items from Costco because of their lifetime satisfaction guarantee. The company gets new members as a result of their advertising the lifetime satisfaction guarantee. Costco gets new members as a result of Consumer Report touting their guarantee. If it’s not a lifetime satisfaction or warranty then what is it? Unlike Sam’s Club, Costco does not provide extended warranties. When I buy an item from Sam’s, I often buy the extended warranty that Sam’s offers. My desire would be for a competing company to sue Costco for unfair business practice.

    • Christine says:

      I read this posting because we are planning on taking our dyson back to costco after having it a little over two years. It broke and there is a 5 year manufacturer’s warranty. We spend at least 3,000 a year at costco and that’s without major purchases. We buy everything we can there because of their awesome return policy. I think this business knows what they are doing. They offer the return policy because it makes good business sense. The amount of things we’ve bought from them and never returned I think definitely makes up for what we’ve needed to return. This is exactly why we buy so much from them. They should definitely honor what they say and the 90 day stipulation on certain electronics help protect them from most people that would turn something back in just to get the latest model. If this company did do away with the return policy they would suffer because people like me wouldn’t buy from them as frequently.

  35. Eddie Lang says:

    Amazing thread, really. Who on earth would think that the clear, simple language of the Costco policy on returns was open to so much interpretation.

    Satisfaction cannot be inferred by a customer having retained an item an unspecified amount of time. The behavior (of Costco) reported above is shocking, irrespective of the supposed ethical issues relating to this particular person’s motive for making a return. I am astonished to find so much opprobrium directed to the customer in this situation.

    If a seller publishes a policy relating to return for refund, then it is the seller’s responsibility to adhere to it. That piano should go right back there.

  36. GMan says:

    First, LL Bean has an unlimited return policy, and I have never had an issue. I have returned items after many years, and customer service has never so much as batted an eye. The benefit to them is that I am a dedicated LL Bean customer for life, and I purchase significantly more than I return. Hammacher Schlemmer has a similar policy.

    For Costco, my recommendation would be to bring the piano to a Costco store with your original receipt (if you still have it), and just tell them you want to return it. Don’t tell them the rest of your story, and don’t mention when you purchased it. If they decide to deny your return, just start complaining in a loud, irate manner. Be sure other shoppers can overhear you (but don’t make it too obvious that you’re trying to do that). Point out that the only reason why you shop at Costco rather than BJ’s or Sam’s Club is because of their return policy, etc.

    The only reason why I would advocate this is because of the way they phrase their return policy. They know full well that people will be more likely to patronize their stores if they feel like they can return the merchandise at any time. Otherwise they would spell out the time limit for returns.

  37. Joseph says:

    Some of the products of Costco and Sams club are discontinued ,overstock, products that didnt pass stringent qualitycontrol. If you look closely , They are items that dont sell at other stores. I am not saying that “ALL” products but majority of them. The other thing is that Costco,Sams,Home Depot, Lowes ,Walmarts ,etc,etc do not put up capital to purchase these items. 99% goods are on consignment. When merchandise sells the manufacture will get paid. Checks are sent out weekly. If it doesnt they will ask to be marked down. These companies also have to agree with the return policy. A lot of companies are refusing to refund after they agree to terms. Some companies are no longer open. Im sure Costco knows that some of the items are junk and had concience. Thats why you see it go on sell and doesnt come back to the store. Look at boxes, notice that they are always damaged, repackaged and didnt make the cut. Costco sold Honda lawnmowers with spiderwebbed aluminum engine blocks that were poorly casted . If a company wants to liquidate their shitty products they know Sams and Costco will be last resort “better buy it or you’ll never see it again”. They are dumping grounds for businesses.

  38. H says:

    I bought a small appliance (about $150) for a relative. It didn’t work and later found said appliance unused in their shed. Asked costco.com if I could return it (more than one year has gone by but not quite two) and the answer was NO! I think if they have a time limit, they should put it in writing. Instead they make people mistakenly think they have a long satisfaction guarantee. In my case the appliance is new-just not working. I think this is deception by Costco.

  39. james says:

    well its costcos fault for not incorporating a more thorough clearer policy, not the members that pay to shop there. the fact is that BESIDES certain items that can only bereturned within 90 days, there is NO i repeat there is NO restrictions on all of the other items. so therefore if i buy an air conditioner and 2 years from now im not satisfied i want my money back or an equal exchange. if you dont like it change your policy!! use your head people the company is shit and is too cheap and stupid to update their return policy, so if thats a member loophole so be it

  40. Preece1221 says:

    It is amazing to me what people are willing to do to take advantage of a great company. Joseph, Costco does not sell “discontinued ,overstock, products that didnt pass stringent quality control”. Perhaps you should look into Costco products a little more closely before you post untrue information. Satisfaction Guaranteed is much different than a Lifetime Guarantee.

    Costco Return Policy:

    “How do I return an item?

    For an immediate refund (including shipping and handling), Costco.com offers convenient returns at any one of our Costco warehouses worldwide. To expedite the return process, please have your order confirmation email with you. Click here to find the Costco warehouse closest to you.

    If you are unable to return your order at one of our warehouses, please contact us at customer service or call our customer service center at 1-800-955-2292 for assistance. To expedite the processing of your return, please reference your order number.

    We guarantee your satisfaction on every product we sell with a full refund. The following must be returned within 90 days of purchase for a refund: televisions, projectors, computers, cameras, camcorders, iPOD / MP3 players and cellular phones.”

    At the beginning of your statement you said your son did not want the piano any longer….it had nothing to do with not being satisfied with your purchase. Interesting how you changed your story later on about not being compatible with your computer.

  41. john says:

    Today my local costco had just invented a new plant policy for 30 days. What a great company! Walmart doesn’t even look at my receipts at the exit.

  42. Sales Guy says:

    Wow, do you really think Costco takes a hit when something is returned? They ship it back to the supplier at the suppliers expense and get a full refund for the item that THEY sold with a lifetime return policy. You would not believe the condition of things that people return things after years of satisfied use. Many go and buy a “new” version with their refund. Manufacturers go into this eyes open in the hope that volume makes up for return losses. Unfortunately, some find out two years later that they did not make a dime selling their products through Costco and may face a future, business closing loss.

    It reminds me of the Credit card companies portraying themselves as heroes when you do not recognize a charge. They simply remove it from you bill, just like that with no questions. Guess what. The poor merchant is charged in full by the credit card company and in many cases has to wait weeks to get their money, even if the dispute is resolved. Some criminal types work this system for free merchandise. If they just keep disputing the charge, the merchant needs to put up $500.00 to have the situation looked at by a person. Who is going to risk that additional loss? The next time that you do not recognize a charge, take a minute to see if the charge was yours by calling the company on your card statement.

    As far as ethics goes here, yeah they offer the policy but I could not return a worn out item with a clear conscience. Some folks have no concept of fairness.

  43. CosmosHuman says:

    Last month I purchased the “Smart For Life” two month supply cookie diet from costco.com for $199.99. You eat six cookies a day and then eat a small meal…protein and veggies and no fruit. I have been on the program and not losing anything despite following the porgram 100%. The cookies taste horrible, trust me, they do! I called costco and they said “bring it into the store”, which is a lot easier that shipping it back since I don’t have the box anymore. I told the CS rep I ate some of the product, but i really want to give it more time to work, albeit suffering with the taste!. he again said no problem.

    I think if I would have bought this anywhere else I’d be out of luck.

    So in about a weeks time, I’ll be shlepping this back to the store.

  44. James says:

    I tried to do this in high school with my laptop, you know what my mom said? “No, you will not return that laptop because you want a new one. You will use it till you can afford a new one because i will not be humiliated by you returning a laptop over a year old.” She explained why and I knew myself that it felt wrong so I saved up and sold the old one a few months later and bought a new one with the proceeds.

    I think we’ve all returned something at costco one time or another that was a little too long after the purchase date. However, your piano case is a sheer abuse of the policy. They put that policy in place in case something really happens to the purchased item for ex. ps3 won’t eject game anymore after 8 months of use. I feel that would be a justifiable return but 2 years and after your son has gotten much use out of it? Why dont you be a parent and tell your son if your not happy with this one tough get a job and save for a new one instead of promoting the abuse of the policy. It is cases like this that made them change the lifetime return policy for everything to 90 days for electronics. Costco may have that policy plastered but they are hoping that their members aren’t a bunch of tricksters and swindlers

  45. joe says:

    Costco is FALSELY advertising their return policy that it is a “lifetime” return policy. This is not true. This is false advertisement. I hope an attorney can chime in here because there should be a class action lawsuit about this.

  46. lgordon says:

    I think if you take it to them they may have a different response.

  47. Newly unhappy costco member says:

    I’ve filed a complaint with the FTC and in small claims court because Costco is not honoring their policy. I’ve bought 4 computers from them and have returned 5. Three crashed repeatedly and their tech support told me to return them and would not consistently read discs and 2 dropped in price within 30 days after I bought them and the Costco rep told me they couldn’t credit the difference but I could return the ‘old’ one and purchase a new one at the lower price. When I went to return the last one which would not read discs I was told that my purchase to return ratio was too high. Mind you all were returned within 90 days per the receipt. Costco is engaging in deceptive practices and failing to honor the contract we have with them. I totaled my amex bills for my 10 years as a Costco member and I’ve purchased in that time $231,584.92 and have credits of $11,725.22.
    I’d would very much like to see a class action lawsuit against them. I had no problem when Costco changed their policy on some electronics, and I’ve honored my part of the agreement, but Costco has not and they will be punished if they fail to honor the agreement. I’ve also contacted my state attorney general and they’ve already contacted me back wanting additional details as they’ve had other complaints. One of their paralegals told me that if Costco is doing this, then they are violating state consumer protection laws and the potential fine can be $10,000 per incident. I’m ready to go out and buy 10 more laptops to return for them to tell me no just to get their fine over $100,000. Maybe that will get thru to someone to either publicly change their policy or truly honor it.

  48. corporationssuck says:

    Totally not unethical. The return policy they state they need to enforced – not a different one. It just depends ont the tiny type.

    false advertising… You can take them to court for that.

    If costco says that to get people in the store they need to honor it. if not they are the ones acting unethically.

    Costco is unethical to begin with. they take business away from local stores. that is why we don;t have any mom and pop shops around anymore and instead we have shitty costco and walmart and starbucks.

    When i read these posts about what is unethical i have to say that they ar posted by people hired by the company to say these things. Big corporattions, and even little ones hire a team of people do google search the web for things that will hurt thier business. Then in the guise of regular consumers they post things talking about ehtics to bend public opinion. I know they do this because i used to work for a company who did this.

    so ignore ost of these things. it is not unethical. Stop thinking about it. Just return shit whenever you want. I advise taking it to the store instead. they can;t say no to your face. i take back computers every 3 months.

    I also enjoy ripping off bed bath an beyond. You buy something with a %20 off coupon and then take it back for store credit without a reciept. tell them you paid cash so they can;t look up your credit card. try to stick to the same product though and keep saying it is defective… when you change products it looks suspicious… Stick to mechanical things like blenders and stuff cause you can see when things are wrong with pans and such…

    Another good one to rip off is REI. You can actually mail the returns in. after years of use.

    i’m still trying to figure out how to get free coffee at starbucks.

    but remember the rule is to Never never never rip off a moma nd pop shop.

    take care and hope you just take teh piano in. Doit for the good of the country. Rip off these corporate chains to no end please. it i is not unethical. What is unethical is corporate personhood.

  49. Fightthepower says:

    Agreed, totally not unethical. The return policy they state they need to enforce – not a different one. It just depends ont the tiny type.

    If costco says that to get people in the store they need to honor it. if not they are the ones acting unethically.

    Costco is unethical to begin with. they take business away from local stores. that is why we don;t have any mom and pop shops around anymore and instead we have shitty costco and walmart and starbucks.

    When i read these posts about what is unethical i have to say that they ar posted by people hired by the company to say these things. Big corporattions, and even little ones hire a team of people do google search the web for things that will hurt thier business. Then in the guise of regular consumers they post things talking about ehtics to bend public opinion. I know they do this because i used to work for a company who did this.

    so ignore ost of these things. it is not unethical. Stop thinking about it. Just return shit whenever you want. I advise taking it to the store instead. they can;t say no to your face. i take back computers every 3 months.

    I also enjoy ripping off bed bath an beyond. You buy something with a %20 off coupon and then take it back for store credit without a reciept. tell them you paid cash so they can;t look up your credit card. try to stick to the same product though and keep saying it is defective… when you change products it looks suspicious… Stick to mechanical things like blenders and stuff cause you can see when things are wrong with pans and such…

    Another good one to rip off is REI. You can actually mail the returns in. after years of use.

    i’m still trying to figure out how to get free coffee at starbucks.

    but remember the rule is to Never never never rip off a moma nd pop shop.

    take care and hope you just take teh piano in. Doit for the good of the country. Rip off these corporate chains to no end please. it i is not unethical. What is unethical is corporate personhood.

  50. Sandy Yasser says:

    I bought some GEF Flooring (Bamboo) from Costco. The flooring arrived here in Vancouver in damaged boxes. I contacted the manufacturer via email, no response. I called and they gave me the run around for a few months. They finally sent me the flooring but charged me for shipping…I installed remaining the flooring it cracked over the past 2 months. Tried to contact them again and they told me to go through their other online company floortarget.com? What the *** does that have to do with anything? The main company has 3 names, supexbond, mga group canada and golden elite wood floors. Probably to hide behind many aliases in order to avoid fixing a claim. I have consulted an attorney regarding my disastrous floors and the manufacturers negligence to acknowledge the problem. Stay away from this crap!” – Doorknob Ilia Orkin

  51. Derek J says:

    I buy $20k+ per year from Costco purely based on their forever return policy. My house is filled with Costco stuff. If they did not have this policy, I would not pay their sometimes outrageous prices. The yearly fee is worth it to get this type of “insurance”.

    They shouldn’t make a policy they don’t intent to fully keep. How can one be ‘abusing’ what the policy actually is? If they ever remove this policy or flat out deny to honor it with me, I will promptly be returning over $100k of stuff on the premise of their broken agreement and the fact I would never never purchased there if this agreement hadn’t existed. (I’ve kept every receipt.)

    Cheers!

    • Maria says:

      I so agree. That is what their policy states. They seem to want the best of both worlds. They must honor what their signs state, or wouldn’t a lawsuit be in order?

  52. Derek J says:

    I buy $20k+ per year from Costco purely based on their forever return policy. My house is filled with Costco stuff. If they did not have this policy, I would not pay their sometimes outrageous prices. The yearly fee is worth it to get this type of “insurance”.

    They shouldn’t make a policy they don’t intent to fully keep. How can one be ‘abusing’ what the policy actually is? If they ever remove this policy or flat out deny to honor it with me, I will promptly be returning over $100k of stuff on the premise of their broken agreement and the fact I would never have purchased there if this agreement hadn’t existed. (I’ve kept every receipt.)

    Cheers!

  53. Amy says:

    So Costco’s Return policy is based on the whim of whatever manager is there that day. It’s now called the “Whim Policy”. Target 90 day policy is better than that. I think I will start making all my major purchases at KOHLS, Bed Bath and Beyond, and JCP for their rock solid return policy. There is no point in going to Costco anymore when you can get the same price point on food items at Aldi and you don’t have to buy in bulk or pay a membership fee. Sorry Costco you lose.

    Dear Amy,

    We appreciate you taking the time to email Costco Wholesale.

    We apologize for the confusion. Our full return policy is this:

    “With few exceptions, Costco has a 100% guarantee on all of our merchandise.
    If you are not completely satisfied with your purchase, simply return the product and packaging, along with the receipt, if possible, to your local Costco warehouse.

    Exceptions:

    Televisions, projectors, computers, cameras, camcorders, touch screen tablets, iPod/MP3 players, cellular phones, and any item that is restricted by law. Please visit your local membership counter for details.”

    What Lorinda is referring to is that while our policy is obviously liberal in it’s scope, there are times when the location will exersize descretion on some returns when needed based on the context of the return itself. In other words, our local warehouse managers are vested with substantial discretion to accommodate member requests in a wide variety of contexts based on the facts and circumstances. Our policies help guide the exercise of that discretion but do not strictly dictate all outcomes.

    I hope this helps.

    Thank you,

    Doug
    Costco Wholesale Corporation

  54. Maria says:

    I believe your signs beg to differ. So, what is the policy? I believe that it is time to take a whole new look at Costco.

  55. Ben says:

    While I happened across this discussion by accident, I must say, playing devils advocate, that the item in question is electronic and falls within the description of the items included in their “forever return policy”. Have you checked state law on the return of electronics? You could sell the piano on Craigslist or trade it in at someplace like the Guitar Center. They might not give you what you want for it, but let’s face it, it’s not a Roland, Yamaha, Kurzweill or a Norton. If you want your child to learn to play the piano then I would suggest rental until he’s serious about it and you can then purchase any number of real acoustic instruments for not much more than the cost of the electronic keyboard, and unless it’s abused or not maintained with regular tuning you have an instrument for life. Just my thoughts and not really related to a truly bizarre warranty policy.

  56. Kimberly Fenelon Justus says:

    I was at Costco tonight asking to return ribbon that I had purchased which remains unopened and unused although it has, admittedly, been 4 years since purchase (this is what they told me. I asked them to check my friend’s account because it may have been purchased within the last 18 mos under her name…they wouldn’t check it but told me that they did find 33 rolls purchased on my account 4 yrs ago). It is Christmas Ribbon so it’s not like they won’t carry similar again this year. I have purchased over 60 rolls within the last 3 years for various projects and this 8 rolls of ribbon was surplus that was not needed. I was told tonight that I could not return it. So their “satisfaction guaranteed” 100% return policy apparently doesn’t apply to a $10 roll of unopened ribbon either.

    • John Williams says:

      Why would you think you can return a roll from 4 years ago or anything from that long . 100% Satisfaction guaranteed means what it says. You should be satisfied with a product over 3 years old. And u mention its only a $10 roll then why not just keep it? People abuse the policy all the time. and yes they will carry similar items but never the exact same so costco would lose that $10. If you can find a store that will take back something over 3 years i want to be the first to know. Also ive seen used underwear returned after a year of being worn.

      • maureen says:

        YaY FINALLY a comment not so self absorbed .. did you nice folks ever think that the “policy” is so flipping abused it’s disgusting !!! and wasteful . i worked as a vendor in costco and was appalled at some of the returns . people buy BIG screen tv’s for super bowl, just to return once the game is over .. i’ve seen large shrubbery come back with the EARTH it was planted in still intact .. like they were putting there house on market and wanted to “pretty” it up . house sold rip out landscape .. return it to costco .. ANOTHER HUGE return item are BBQ grills .. what a flipping joke .. they use the grill all summer long and return it the fall ..
        SORRY YOU SIMPLE MINDED consumers … if something is ligit and not working/broke, that’s different .. but even to consider returning something YEARS later to TAKE ADVANTAGE (the operative word ADVANTAGE in a negative way ) of their return policy .. shame on you !!!

    • Mark says:

      Yes people like you abuse the policy. I used to work returns and we took back products that didnt exist. People would come in the store and stay I had a bad chicken but threw it away and we would return it. So people who question this policy are mental because they take back 2 yr old sneakers, used underwear,socks, half eaten cakes. Anything but over 3 years is a managers call and if i were the manager i wouldnt take anything back over 3 years. I onced returned a pack of 48 batterys with only 3 in there. the guy said “they didnt work”. Thats policy abuse.

      • Rob Berger says:

        Mark, there’s no question that one shouldn’t be able to return something they have consumed, like missing batteries. But that’s not the problem. The problem is that Costco advertises a lifetime return policy, but doesn’t not honor it. Your comment proves the point, as you say that returns over 3 years old are up to the manager’s discretion. That’s not what Costco’s policy states. If they don’t want to offer a lifetime return policy, they shouldn’t advertise one.

        • Doug says:

          Well, the policy doesn’t actually state “Lifetime Return Policy.” It says they guarantee satisfaction on every product with a full refund, but neglects to specify for how long.

          That “how long” ends up being significantly longer than most retailers. Sure it’s nebulous. But CostCo does take back the items. I’d hardly call not taking back a piano that’s been used for two years, and is still fully functional, because of your son’s whim, disingenuous. If anything, your son, and you, are trying to abuse a very generous system. And if enough people get as uppity as you have, you all could screw the pooch for everybody.

          Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

          CostCo’s a great corporation. They pay their employees well, and are well benefitted. Their pharmacy only marks up 15% over cost, while other pharmacies will often charge upwards of 200-300%. Pharmacy. You’re talking about people who are sick, or dying, and they’re doing the right thing.

          I love CostCo’s return policy. I’ve return two vacuums to them in the past two years, because I wanted to try a Roomba, and Roomba’s warranties (and reputation for quality) are notoriously poor. Bought the first one, it died a few months later, thought maybe I got a crappy one, bought another, it died less than a year after that. CostCo gave me the confidence to buy a bigger ticket item than I normally would, both in that case and in others. Sometimes it has worked out, sometimes it hasn’t, but either way, it’s a great incentive.

          There actually is no problem with CostCo’s policy. You say yourself “there’s no question that one shouldn’t be able to return something they have consumed.” The problem only occurs customers are being unreasonable and entitled. Does trying to return a piano after two years when there’s nothing wrong with the product pass the smell test? No, it doesn’t. That’s where the conversation between your son and you should have stopped.

  57. Lee says:

    I sincerely believe that a class action lawsuit needs to be filed against costco for the fact that they falsely advertise this return policy and do not honor it, and exactly as stated by previous comments, it is based on managers whim. It is pure false advertising plain and simple and they cash in big from it, but don’t want to take the loss from it- even an unopened roll of $10 ribbon.
    I hope someone with the ability to do something about this unlawful situation will start something up.
    Lee

  58. Mark says:

    Your proving my point nowhere in Costco does it say lifetime guarantee Rob it states satisfaction now if ur not satisfied in 3 years time then that’s your problem and a manager needs to deal with you. And 98% of the time they take it back so people who complain about the Policy are abusers

    • Rob Berger says:

      Mark, while you are correct the word “lifetime” does not appear in Costco’s return policy, it’s clearly intended:

      “We guarantee your satisfaction on every product we sell with a full refund. The following must be returned within 90 days of purchase for a refund: televisions, projectors, computers, cameras, camcorders, touch screen tablets, MP3 players and cellular phones.”

      Also, as my article details, Costco confirmed to me that the policy is a lifetime return policy except for the listed items that must be returned within 90 days and that we could return our piano. Frankly, I was stunned that they had such a liberal policy, but impressed at the same time. Costco then tried to sell us a much more expensive piano, which we seriously considered buying. But when we decided not to, they all of a sudden refused the return.

      I agree that some people abuse the policy. But I also believe that sometimes Costco fails to live up to its own policy.

      • Mark says:

        Agreed but that varies by warehouse also warehouse
        Managers control that. My managers policy was take back everything and anything no matter what

  59. Chris says:

    File a law suite see who wins you people are funny. Mark is right find another store who returns like Costco. At anytime you can cancel your membership for a full refund so go ahead. Satisfaction does not mean lifetime otherwise they would write lifetime. It means satisfied. If you have a fan from 10ys ago it did its job and you should be Satisfied. Costco is not rent a center

  60. Bob says:

    I have a hard time with people who try to scam the system- “don’t want to use it anymore” is NOT the same as unsatisfied. If the piano didn’t perform 2 years later then you can be unsatisfied. but they’re offering a warranty on the piano, not your state of mind. I don’t see how the piano failed to perform- I do see how your mind failed to perform.

    Maybe God should offer a warrantee.

  61. Anthony says:

    In Spokane, Washington, they honor every return except electronics outside of 90 days. Period. While there may be a “Whim Rule,” my warehouse does not use it.

    I’d hazard a guess that the farther away from corporate in Issaquah, WA, the less lenient the return policy becomes. It’s always worth a try though; when in doubt, try another store.

  62. Vidclickr says:

    I was so taken aback by this post that I felt I needed to comment, but Bob above says just about everything I would say.

    The lifetime guarantee is not absolute, but conditional. What’s the condition? “IF you are not satisfied…”

    Your son used the piano with such satisfaction over two years that he wanted to move up to a more advanced model. How did Costco in any way fail to live up to their guarantee?

  63. JohnW says:

    Where do I begin. We had a 4 yr old Vizio TV that went on the fritz. It was purchased under old return policy. At time of purchase we were told we could return it “even years later” though we never thought at the time that would come into play. But we weren’t going to throw the $900 TV out. Schaumburg IL Costco refused return, the returns mgr berated & mocked us and accused us of running some scam. She told us “TVs don’t last more than 5 yrs”. HUH? Says WHO? YOU? They also said the “We guarantee your satisfaction on every product we sell with a full refund” policy didn’t apply, since WE MUST HAVE BEEN SATISFIED AT SOME TIME. WHAT? So, once you exit the store the satisfaction guaranteed policy no longer applies? We were pissed.

    Mt Prospect IL Costco took it back same day, full refund. I wrote letters to Costco corporate complaining of subjective interpretation of return policy and verbal abuse/inflammatory behavior of Schaumburg employees. Next Sat. morning one of the Costco Sr VPs in Washington called me & we spoke for 1/2 hr. He was upset about the Schaumburg incident & promised to send a regional VP there *that day* to retrain them all. Seems the store mgr & returns mrg took it upon themselves to reinterpret policy & training instrs. Fact is, they offered to repair the TV but I said NO, I didn’t trust it. At that time they were to honor the return policy but did not. **THAT IS WHAT SR VP TOLD ME**. Long story short they give you the run-around at the store, but ultimately they must refund your money. If they can prove you abuse the policy I guess that’s another matter. We spend about $7K yr there. Also FYI DO NOT TRUST COSTCO TIRE DEPT they will also jerk you around at every chance they get. Their policies are very consumer-unfriendly.

    Bottomw line: stick to your guns with Costco returns, make a lot of noise, and you will get results.

  64. JohnW says:

    “What Lorinda is referring to is that while our policy is obviously liberal in it’s scope, there are times when the location will exersize descretion on some returns when needed based on the context of the return itself. In other words, our local warehouse managers are vested with substantial discretion to accommodate member requests in a wide variety of contexts based on the facts and circumstances. Our policies help guide the exercise of that discretion but do not strictly dictate all outcomes.”

    POLICY IS POLICY. You bought the item under a certain specific written policy, stated in clear language, with expectations on both sides of transaction. Buyer will pay for item, and Costco will back that purchase witht heir store policies. The policy doesn’t say ” we may decide later not to honor what our sign says, depending on if the store mgr. had a fight with their spouse that morning or is hung over or whatever”.

    If you are not satisfied, that pretty much is it. No time limit is established in their policy. You may be satisfied now, but if in the future that changes, then YOU ARE NOT SATISFIED. Hard to argue otherwise. Without a time frame stated, Costco’s efforts to restrict returns, based on date of purchase and/or subjective discretions of store mgrs. are without merit. POLICY IS POLICY.

  65. File a BBB complaint, and see if headquarters takes a second look. If they respond telling you to jump off a cliff, file a claim in small claims court.

  66. John Pittaway says:

    Let me see if I have this straight, your son used a electric piano for two years and then decided he wanted a different one. So you expected a refund of your money so you could buy him a newer one. Well, that sounds very much like abuse to me.

  67. John Davidson says:

    My case is different. I actually bought a diamond ring worth over $30,000 from Costco in 2006, before they limited their previous ‘unlimited’ return policy in 2007. In other words, I had what I was told by the Costco store rep as being a ‘covered item’. I was living under the false confidence of their lifetime guarantee, when I read something online that made me decide to have the diamond certified (by the leading company — GIA), to verify its cut, clarity, color and carat weight (4 C’s). I paid $130 approximately for the service from the worlds most respected gemologist company. I even paid again to have it rechecked with some extra high-tech scanning service and it came out the same, which was essentially a poorer grade diamond that what I paid for. Since the loss in diamond value was significant (over $10,000), I decided that I would take Costco up on their Lifetime guarantee offer. I took it to their store and they accepted it and told me that they would contact me, because something that valuable had to be approved by the top, whatever that meant. Anyway, it sounded logical I guess, because it was so much money. They did not contact me for a week, so I began following up and was told to keep waiting. Weeks went by and finally they called to tell me that the return was declined and asked me to pick up the diamond. Finally, I realized that they didn’t care about their return policy, but instead that keeping the sale was more important. One feels powerless in this sort of situation and starts thinking of lawyers and lawsuits, but due to major health issues, I just let it go. Obviously, this is what Costco was banking on, when they decline returns. I did threaten to sue them, but it didn’t make any difference.
    The biggest mistake I made was not taking the diamond to GIA labs right after I bought it. Maybe that would have helped. Bear in mind, the diamond was laser micro-etched with a serial number too, so there was no question from Costco of the diamond’s authenticity, as being the one I purchased. They simply do not guarantee the grades that they give their diamonds, despite what they tell you when you shell out all that money.

  68. j doe says:

    Sue Costco if they don’t honor their own policy. Don’t just threaten to sue. The BBB does no good either. Some might even say that the BBB is a company with sketchy business pratices and unreliable paid-for ratings.

    The Costco return policy is what they state it as. Costco can’t have the best of both worlds if they don’t choose to be specific.

    All Costco stores must follow the corporate policy. No such thing as the return policy is up to the ‘discretion’ of the Costco store manager. They only tell you that to make their lives easier because most of the time people will believe it and let things go. Unless you get a super honest customer service representative who will fight your cause because they are not scared of losing their job, they will often times just send any “crazy” return request into the void.

  69. RuLEoF2 says:

    All returns are simple. IT DOESN’T WORK RIGHT!!! Costco returns are no different. “It doesn’t work right” and that’s why you’re NOT SATISFIED. Most places won’t even ask you what’s wrong with it. Half the time, even if you tell them it’s completely defective they put it back on the shelf anyway. Then it’s the next customer’s problem.

    If you tell them that “it doesn’t work right”, that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s there’s anything wrong with it. It just means that by your interpretation, it doesn’t do what you think it should. It could be defective or maybe the product description was vague or exaggerated. Either way, it’s very difficult to argue with it. If you flat-out tell them that the only reason you want to return the item is because you want to upgrade, OF COARSE they’re going to scrutinize. Especially if there’s shipping involved. It’s satisfaction guaranteed, not upgrades guaranteed.

    The policy is intended to protect you from defects or purchases that didn’t fulfill your needs. Defects are one thing, but If you had it for nearly 2 years, you certainly knew a long, long time ago whether it was what you needed or not. “it doesn’t work right” is a gray term that falls right in the middle of those two.

  70. annonymous says:

    I actually work at costco refunds. I dont know which costcos you go to but we were told to pretty much return anything. We have this one lady that returns alot of goods weekly after eating half of the food because she says its bad. We take it back everytime. Weve ran it by our manager but we are tokd just to take it back. I think it depends on the warehouse manager and managers working. Were all about customer satisfaction and i dont know how a store can tell you that you cannot return something when we turn tons of items daily at my store. Maybe instead of returning it through the pick up service head to a store and make them return it. We returned a five year old playstation 3 the other day. Its easier to return it then to make someone angry enough to cancel their membership.

  71. Elwood says:

    I am most interested in the part where you say “told me somebody would contact me in the next 7 to 10 days to schedule a pickup of the piano” I have never heard of Costco coming to get your returns from you.

  72. Jim says:

    Im confused. Where in Costco’s return policy does it state “lifetime”?

  73. former customer says:

    1. Yea–the only reason I bought from Costco is because of the hassle free warranty.

    2. I just brought in a malfunctioning sonic tooth brush, bought in July ’12.

    3. The girl at the counter said she would, ” be doing be a favor” if she gave
    me store credit?

    4. I didn’t argue. That is the only reason I buy most of the crap Costco sells.
    I never had to worry about a return.

    5. If Costco reads this, I’ve put up with the cheap knock off items. I’ve paid
    more for two items packaged together, because I was too lazy to walk to Target.

    6. I put up with employees who have been there too long.

    7. I put up with Managers drunk with power. Where else could a high school drop out “rise” to manager, and take out their. insecurities on Everyone?

    8. My days of shopping are over, except maybe for the pharmacy.

    9. I hope the CEO is smart enough to bring back customers–because many
    are not renewing that card.

    Marin County Dude

  74. Chris says:

    I returned my refrigerator today. It was 10 years old, and died on my yesterday. I called first, and talked to two managers at the store. They kept telling me no because of the age of the refrigerator. They tried to make the argument that it was too old, and how long did I expect it to last, etc. I told them that’s not the point. If Costco Corp felt that was the true argument, then they would change their warranty. 10 years ago I bought from Costco knowing that this day would come, and it did. Their argument was weak, because we all expect our computers to last more than 90 days too, but they won’t accept a return after that. I told the warehouse manager that I would take this to the corporate level, and from there I would go the “class action lawsuit” route if I needed to. He then told me he would call me back. Clearly he called up the food chain and there was a change of thinking, and they gave in. I rented a truck from Home Depot, and brought it back to them. I intended to buy another one from the, but they didn’t have any available. I walked out with $972.

    The reality is this. Costco has this policy because it’s a brilliant marketing policy, especially as they continue to become more irrelevant in the market place. People buy from them because of this policy, but rarely make use of it. It is the sole reason that I bought from them in the 1st place. I did not abuse the system. I benefited their clear cut marketing of their warranty policy.

  75. Kim says:

    Just ran into this yesterday. I returned some new items with receipt from late 2011 yesterday and the lady informed me they would do it this time, but not again. I asked where it said there was a time limit and she said that it is satisfaction guaranteed and they expect that you will know if you are satisfied within a year. I call bull on this and say if there is a time limit, they need to make that clear. Very disappointed in Costco. I understand that people abuse the policy, but I went through a very tough time late-2011 through 2012 and I didn’t stress myself out to return these new items because of their “satisfaction guaranteed.” policy. Very disappointed in Costco.

  76. Not a Swindler says:

    I am in utter shock at the low-life mentality of most of you people. Costco and all other stores should just give you your money back because you are such a magnificent being you shouldn’t have to pay for anything in the long run. Not only that, but you then planned to spend your undeserved refund somewhere else! Try to get a refund from Amazon! What a quality lesson you’ve taught your son. Can’t wait til he grows up and screws over countless people thanks to the example you’ve set. You expect something for nothing. I’ll guess you’re also the same scumbags who buy books at Costco and try to return them at Barnes and Noble for a higher price and you’re probably the same assholes who let their kids run wild in the children’s department and read all the magazines you want for free and leave them strewn about the store for someone else to pick up.

    So sad the United States is now a nation full of coddled, spoiled, take-no-responsibility assholes.

    • Trudi says:

      Not a swindler, when you purchase an item, you enter into a legal contract. If the contract includes a clause of “lifetime guarantee” without a time limit and without having to state a reason, then customers have every right under the law to expect that Costco accepts the return.

      So your tirade aimed against customers returning goods and expecting a refund is misplaced.

      I live in Australia and yesterday, an employee at the local Costco store tried to justify an overpriced printer by saying that Costco offered a superior warranty. Given that Costco claims to be a wholesale warehouse and with considerably more purchasing power than any Australian company, one can reasonably expect that their prices would reflect this.

      Instead, Costco prices are consistently higher than most retailers.

  77. Rob says:

    Here is my recent experience: About 3 years ago I purchased a kitchen faucet at a Costco warehouse. Yesterday, the handle broke off and there is no apparent way to fix it. Knowing that I bought it at Costco, I thought to myself: “great, i’ll just get a new one!” But before I spent 45 minutes under the sink un-hooking the old one and bringing it in to return, I thought I’d call and check first. Well, turns out because I have gotten a “resonable amount of use” out of the product for 3 years, despite the product itself having a “lifetime warranty”, apparently Costco feels that is good enough and only offered to refund 30% of the original price (around $100). So now, I either have to go a week or more with a non-working faucet while I call the manufacturer and hope they live up to their warranty and ship me a replacement, or settle for a 1/3 refund from Costco to offset the cost of a new faucet. This was certainly not my understanding of the intent behind Costco’s “satisfaction” policy. Clearly, I’m not satisfied that the product broke. I made the conscious decision to buy this item at a Costco versus say Home Depot because I wanted that peace of mind that I could bypass dealing with the manufacturer in the event a replacement was needed. Turns out this was wrong assumption. I dunno, am I such a jerk for thinking this? No, because I am not going to raise a stink and will just buy another faucet, but the point is: I think their intentionally vague policy creates a false sense of security for customers. To be fair: they really should amend it to state something like: “For products returned after (X period of time) we reserve the right to decline or pro-rate the refund amount”. Because that’s what they do anyways. Tell the truth, Costco. Oh yeah, and I pay extra for their “Executive” membership. Pfft.

    • anonymous says:

      Rob, it is not unreasonable for you to expect a full refund of a faucet where its handle broke off after only 3 years, especially considering the “lifetime warranty” and Costco’s advertised return policy. Who expects a faucet to last only 3 years?! My house was built over 60 years ago and had all its original faucets before I renovated and replaced them.

      It’s a problem because Costco is misrepresenting themselves. They advertise their return policy, and many of us pay their membership fee with the thought in mind that we can shop with confidence. Consumers are misled. If it weren’t for their advertised return policy, I wouldn’t have been a member all these years. As more stories such as yours goes around and the truth comes out, I have no doubt Costco will lose market share b/c their return policy is what sets them apart from many retailers, and that is a huge part of why people are willing to pay for a membership to shop there.

  78. Jennifer says:

    Just discovered today about the store management discretion return policy, concerning defective computer game accessories that were bought 3 years ago and finally used. One was still in box. (They were gifts put away in storage, finally used and found to be defective.)
    The store manager scolded me about returning the product after 3 years, as I stood beneath the return policy sign that specified customer satisfaction at any time. Though I received the refund, it was a very unpleasant and condescending interaction, and I will reconsider future purchases made at Costco due to their deceptive customer satisfaction guarantee.
    Hope it was worth alienating a long time executive member for $30 return.

    • anonymous says:

      Jennifer, the same thing happened to me over olive oil that costed under $20. Just like your scenario, I stood just two feet away from their very large return policy sign which indicated there would be no problem. I had recently found out that one of the brands they sell was found to be adulterated with cheaper oils and was not in fact what they advertised, so I wanted to return the one remaining unopened bottle I had (after I had already used many other bottles of fraudulently labeled oil which I will never get the money for).

      It was expired, so the lady literally yelled at me loudly on purpose in front of the long line of customers like I was a stupid little child or trash for wanting to return expired food, as if I were trying to put one over on them, even though I was the one who had been cheated by them all these years. There is even a lawsuit filed over the fraudulent misrepresentation, which you can easily find on the internet.

      The brand I had been buying for over a decade from Costco is among those brands (Filippo Berio). It took talking to two other supervisors after she refused the return to finally get my return, after being treated horrendously in front of the long line of other customers waiting to return things. I was tempted to yell back loudly so that other customers can hear that they were selling fraudulently labeled extra virgin olive oil, but I just could not lower myself to that level.

      I am not one to abuse their store policy. I’ve heard stories of people returning half-eaten food and electronics they’ve already used, and I’ve never done anything like that, even though those people aren’t doing anything wrong according to their return policy. The only restriction posted is their 90-day limit on electronics. The one time I try to return something because it was fraudulently labeled, I get condescended to by an unprofessional employee with an attitude. My husband and I mainly went to Costco that day to purchase new luggage for a move and were planning on spending nearly $1000 on new luggage that day. However, after that episode, I decided not to buy the luggage at Costco due to the treatment I received, and due to the realization that I cannot buy the hard-sided luggage with confidence b/c Costco does NOT in fact stand behind their own prominently posted return policy.

      I e-mailed Costco about the treatment I received, and depending on their response, I may be canceling my membership and will not hesitate to talk about my experience to others. One of the biggest reasons I’ve been a member for over a decade is that I thought I could shop with confidence. If that is not in fact the case, and considering I’ve been a good customer for so long only to be treated with such incredible disrespect, it is foolish for me to continue to pay for the “privilege” to shop there.

  79. Sara says:

    Bought a Mario Brothers Wall Decals package from Costco 1 yr ago for $20. I did not want to use it because I realized after purchasing it that decals can be torn off the wall whereas if i were to paint my son’s room instead, that would not be an issue.

    So I never opened it but intended to return it right away. We then moved and just recently found it.

    When I brought it to Costco, the returns department rep hassled me about the return because she did not want to look it up since I had lost the receipt.

    She had me waiting 30 minutes while she interrogated me about why I hadn’t returned it sooner than a year and telling me that they would have to throw it away if they do decide to graciously let me return it since it is too old.

    Yes, I stood there like a doofus while she suggested that I was trying to scam Costco and that I was abusing the return policy.

    She also spent time poring over my account history in its entirety (20 year member). She spent time tracking down a manager to get approval as well. She finally got approval and typed in notes on my account in the system telling me that from now on, I am banned from returning anything to Costco without a receipt.

    I pay $100 a year to shop at a place where I spend $20,000 a year (even bought my wife’s $25,000 engagement ring there) to be raked over the coals and treated like poo when I go to return an unopened package of stickers that costs $20 purchased 13 months ago.

    Really? Really Costco??????????
    Now she will be processing my membership cancellation refund and Sam’s Club will be getting my $20,000 a year instead.

  80. James Watson says:

    The abuse is not from the consumers, but from Costco’s intentional and calculated act of making consumer think that there is no limit on returns. Think about it. I open a restaurant, and I put a big sign on the door – $10, all you can eat. Next door, my competitor serves the same food, but it’s not all you can eat. Consumers will flock to my restaurant at the expense of the other restaurant. But when a consumer eats too much, I breach my advertised promise, by either being rude to them, or outright refuse to serve more food. My restaurant is the one wanting to have the cake and eat it too, not the customer who insists on my abiding by my advertised promise. I promise the sky, and I don’t make good on my promise. If Costco genuinely does not want to do that, they can easily revise their policy and state clearly – e.g. – Return must be made within 6 months for all items, items opened or used cannot be return, etc. All other retailers like Walmart, etc have explicitly written policies. Why does Costco not do that? Because they know if their put explicitly limits on returns, consumers would be more hesitant to make impulse purchases, since things would be returnable only after a certain time frame. Again, it is Costco that is promising the sky, and if Costco refuses to make good on the promise, it is Costco that is putting out false and misleading advertisement. One of these days, Costco could get a class action and FTC sanction if they start giving customers a hard time about return things after they have promised unconditional no time returns.

  81. dave says:

    The return policy is absurd. Hearing stories of people returning old TV’s for new make me cringe. The policy benefits all the unethical people out there.

  82. Jason says:

    Ethical?
    where in their policy is ethics mentioned?
    Who is to judge ethics?
    Does holding or using it for 2 years mean that we are satisfied with the purchase?

    “Merchandise: We guarantee your satisfaction on every product we sell with a full refund. The following must be returned within 90 days of purchase for a refund: televisions, projectors, computers, cameras, camcorders, iPOD / MP3 players and cellular phones.”

    Costco helps that we wont return it because we feel it is not right. Do they have any fine print? that’s says it is under their discretion to accept or not accept returns? and lets face it, is their fine print in their “membership terms”?

    If you put yourself out there to the public as accepting returns with this policy then you accept them, no questions asked.

  83. Spookley says:

    This is easy to resolve. Tell them it goes off and on randomly, but not every time… something hard to validate but a defect. They would’ve then taken it back. If they don’t want to take products back, then they should change the policy. What idiot would pay pay to shop at a store anyway? Does it make you feel special? If everyone quit buying the “membership” and was not willing to be treated like cattle, waiting 45 minutes in line to buy your crap from China, then they’d change their policy and do away with the stupid card system.

  84. kevin says:

    The Costco policy states that you will be satisfied with the product or they will refund. Where you satisfied? Sounds like you were…….. however you and some others have interpreted “Being satisfied” as meaning your purchase is really just borrowing the merchandise for free and using it until some other merchant can offer you more satisfaction…..

    Most Costco members wish Costco would revoke your membership as they have the right and you have the right to go somewhere else………please

    • Kevin says:

      Wow! Love how people want to stand up and defend successful corporate billionaires. Wal-mart, Sams, Costco, Home Depot, etc have successfully made it difficult if not impossible for the small “mom and pop store” to make it. They should uphold their own policy regardless of how ridiculous it is. If they are willing to use a ridiculous return policy to entice customers, then they need to stand behind it when customers call them on it. No double standards.

  85. Trudi says:

    I live in Canberra, Australia, where we have had a Costco store for several years now. I do have membership, though I find that Costco prices are inflated for the majority of products – especially electronics, tv sets, kitchen appliances, fruit and vegetables, etc., so my shopping cart contains just a few items that are actually better priced than elsewhere. Whether this justifies the A$60 membership fee remains questionable, though I admit I like their hot dogs and pizza.

    They are currently advertising a little hp printer with a regular price of $214.99 for $199.99. Interestingly, I visited an electronics retailer who is selling this particular printer at a regular price of $169.00. When I pointed out to a Costco employee that their “wholesale” price after the reduction is still $30.00 higher than the retail price offered by another dealer, I was told that their prices are higher because they offer a “lifetime” guarantee.

    Lifetime guarantee? What is the lifetime of a printer? Reading your commentary, it appears that this so-called lifetime guarantee expires the moment a customer wishes to return an item.

    I then noticed a pack of 8 boxes of Kleenex Aloe Vera tissues for sale at $18.99, which works out at $2.37 per box. As I had purchased a couple of boxes of Kleenex Aloe Vera boxes at my local Aldi Supermarket, I knew that the Aldi price was just $1.90 per box.

    Last year, before embarking on a holiday in Europe, I purchased a camera at Costco, only to see an idential camera at the airport in Sydney for $200 less! I paid about $450 for the camera and reducing this amount by the 10% tax component, one would expect to pay $410 for the item, however, I could have purchased the camera for just $250 at the airport! Given that cameras don’t even fall under the Costco “lifetime” guarantee, I consider their pricing outrageous!

    Given that Costco are, what we call “rip-off merchants”, I do not see that the chap who underpaid his purchase by $45 should have to feel guilty at all. Certainly here in Australia, the company is taking the money right out of their customers pockets and feel no shame about it. So if Costco decided to leave our shores (unlikely seeing they are making huge profits through overpricing and customers falsely believing that buying in bulk means buying cheaper), I would not shed a tear.

  86. Sean says:

    DR, So where is your piano now after almost 4 years from the start of this blog?

    • Rob Berger says:

      Sitting in our living room!

  87. Jr says:

    What can I add that hasn’t been said already, only my own personal experience from 6/1/14.

    Taken directly from the Costco website:
    COSTCO’S RISK FREE 100% SATISFACTION GUARANTEE
    Merchandise: We guarantee your satisfaction on every product we sell with a full refund. For an immediate refund (including shipping and handling), simply return your purchase at any one of our Costco warehouses worldwide

    As we do with every Sunday morning, we arrived just as the doors of our local Costco opened. We first filled up our car at the Costco gas pumps then proceeded to the Returns counter to bring our Keurig coffee maker in for a refund. The lady asks how long ago did you purchase and my wife wasn’t sure. The lady looks it up in the computer and says with attitude “this is 4 years old”. I say “your point is”? That’s when the hassling started by the return lady. She didn’t want to refund the money (which we planned on using to purchase a new one). The lady tells me the manufacture warranty is 1 year, to which i reply “the Costco warranty says if I’m not satisfied I can return for a refund”. She tells me that she’s not aware of this policy, I tell her it’s not one of the excluded items that only carries a 90 day refund window. She calls her manager on the phone and tells him that its 4 years old and gets off the phone and tells us this is the LAST TIME they will accept the return since we returned one prior (that one the electrical went out after 6 months). I told her I would just contact Corporate and let them know what happened. She didn’t care nor change her attitude.

    I was irritated the entire time we were doing our weekly shopping. We have been members for 10 years, Executive, carry the Costco True Earnings AMEX card, spend roughly $250 per week on groceries, fill both our vehicles at Costco, etc… We know employees by name and when we were checking out I was asked how it was going. I informed of our hassling at the return counter. The checker immediately calls over a manager who asks for my story and then tells me it was him that was on the other end of the phone approving the return of our Keurig coffee maker. He informs me that when an item is over 2 years of age, managers have discretion on accepting the return. They look up the account history, membership tenure, refunds issued, and then decide if they will accept the return for a refund.

    Don’t be fooled, Costco practices something different then what their Return Policy states – Merchandise: We guarantee your satisfaction on every product we sell with a full refund. For an immediate refund (including shipping and handling), simply return your purchase at any one of our Costco warehouses worldwide.

    This experience definitely makes me reconsider my relationship with Costco and the $100,000+ I’ve spent there. I expect to be able to return anything at anytime if I’m dissatisfied for any reason, excluding the clearly stated items that only carry a 90 day refund window.

    I didn’t write their return policy, I only purchase by it.

  88. Alex Stone says:

    Here is my story and I have no idea what to do next. I bought “88 Rue Du Rhone Men’s Watch” on line in December 2013 as a Hanukah gift for myself. Two month ago I observed that the watch started malfunctioning. There were no any kind of abuse to make it happened. Several days ago I went to local Costco to return the watch. I explained to the lady at return why I return the watch. It was taken and refund was issued. No problem. Lated that day I ordered another watch on line for about $750 and got the mail that the order was taken. Next morning I looked at my account on line and found that the order was canceled. I ordered it again and again my order was canceled by some unknown external force. Anyhow. I called them and someone in a very vague terms explained me that the security COSTCO department blocked me of buying anything on line from a jewelry department. Meaning no watches, no rings I can buy on line. Period. I tested their system several times and the ban standed. My attempt to talk again regarding that was unsuccessful. They promised that someone from the management team would call me but nobody called. Needless to say that the totality ammount of my purchasing per year at COSTCO quite high. Any suggestions?

  89. JD says:

    I hope that some of you are business owners and deal with these issues yourselves on a daily basis. Despite your return policy you would be very aggravated if somebody purchased a product from you kept it for over a year and then returned it because they lost interest. That is not a real reason for a return. Maybe if it was a week or two after you bought due to remorse etc but several months or more is just abusive. You are totally screwing the system and raising prices for the rest of us who aren’t petty and unrealistic. Having worked for a company who was a vendor of Costco I can tell you that its not Costco who gets hurt by your return, its the vendor. There are plenty of Costco vendor’s who are not huge business but rather are small business looking for a chance to grow. When you casually return something that you “no longer want” after using it for years, Costco bills the vendor back. As the vendor’s return rates go up, the vendor has to adjust the prices to cover the losses from returns. So in the end people you are no better than those who free load off of the welfare system. When you return something unnecessarily so you can use it for free for a while, its the rest of us that have to pay the price….. literally! So when you go to Costco next time and wonder why certain things are more expensive than they use to be, consider that some other group of members abused the system and now you have to pay for it.

    Finally, so you all understand where Costco makes its money. Roughly 65% of Costco’s revenue is generated from Membership fees. About 5-10% is made in actual product sales and lastly a small percentage is made from selling advertisement spots to vendors in their catalogs/ mailers and website. So what are you paying for as a customer when you get your membership? 1 of 2 things. Either you are getting roughly up to 20% off the retail price compared to most other retail stores or you are getting free accessories/ larger volumes bundled in to add value to your Costco purchase.

    Reading through some of these comments, I am happy to discover that Costco is being proactive about blocking abusive shoppers from buying again. If you have a warranty issue deal with the manufacturer and give them a chance to resolve the situation. Don’t just go returning the product because you need the money or want the newer version on someone else’s dime. Have some dignity and take responsibility for your purchases!

  90. Costco Shopper says:

    To me there are two issues with this tale:

    1. Is Costco’s return policy enforced as stated by them?

    2. Would a reasonable person think it’s okay to use an expensive item for years and then return it for a full refund?

    Obviously the answer to #1 is no. I think most would argue that the answer to #2 is also no.

    My guess is that if you tried to return an inexpensive item (say a shirt) after a couple of years they wouldn’t be happy but would take it.

    I think the ultimate question isn’t whether they should take the piano back (of course not), but should Costco have to amend their return policy terms to cover all possible cases? I don’t know. Maybe they need a clause saying returns are ultimately up to management’s discretion.

    Like so many other people I am more than happy with Costco’s return policy as it is. Who else will let you buy a laptop and then return it 2 months later no questions asked after a pixel goes out?

  91. G Hasi says:

    This is the reason they have amended their policy… I had purchased flat screen TV from costco early 2006/2007… and after few year working with out any issues I had a dead pixel row (actually couple of rows)… I went to costco to findout how could I get it repaired? (this is in 2010) at that time they mentioned that I had purchased TV when they had full satisfaction on all items…

    he also mentioned that lot of people were buying electronics (specifically TV’s, laptop and digital cameras) and returning when newer model comes out.. That’s why they were forced to change policy on certain electronic items…

    I am costco member for last 10 years and I am completely satisfied with their return policy.

  92. Himejii says:

    What Costco “guarantees” is your satisfaction. If you kept it for 2 years without complaints, then obviously you were satisfied with the product. The fact that your son is spoiled and wants the newest and greatest, two years down the road, does not mean he was not satisfied with the piano he bought two years ago.

    I’m facing a similar dilemma with a Dyson I bought 18 months ago. New carpets, long pile, and it doesn’t work on them. I’d like to return it, not because I just changed my mind and want a new vacuum, but because it does not work as advertised (automatically adjusting to all carpet types). But for 18 months with shorter carpets, I was very satisfied with the vacuum, and I don’t want to be a jerk.

    • Rob Berger says:

      I haven’t responded to comments on this post for a long time, but I must respond to this one. It’s perfectly fine to have an opinion on this topic. But please don’t presume to know anything about my son. The spoiled son you refer to is currently at Parris Island for 13 weeks. You either know what that means or you don’t. But rest assured, he is anything but spoiled.

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