Do 30-Day Return Policies Change Under Shelter-in-Place?

By FindLaw Staff on April 16, 2020

By the time this blog publishes, I bet every store will have a policy in place for the pandemic. Most stores are shut down for the time being, though many still have employees working from home or warehouses handling online orders. It raises the question: what happens if you have returns approaching the return window?

It can be concerning to have money tied up in online orders that have not arrived yet and returns that can take a week or two to process. As rent and other bill due dates approach, that money would be helpful back in the bank account – especially for those facing job losses.

Many Retailers Are Extending Return Policies

First, check the retailer's website. Chances are they have a big warning window telling you about any new return policies, or they address the issue on a return policy webpage.

It is standard for brands to offer one-week to 30-day extensions as shelter-in-place rules take hold. Many are even saying returns will not be an option until May. While this is frustrating to not have your money back right away, it is helpful to know you will not be penalized and can complete the return in the future.

Some Are Stopping In-Store Returns For Weeks

Retailers like Target are open but stopping all in-store returns for a couple of weeks. This may help cut down on unnecessary foot traffic in stores and let employees focus on other tasks within the store.

UPS and USPS Remain Open

If you desperately need the return sent and the money back, most stores give the option for mailed returns. You could be charged shipping, so tread carefully. The United States Postal Service and United Parcel Service (in the U.S.) are planning to keep functioning through the pandemic. However, delivery times may be slower than usual.

Be sure you are not violating any local or state rules about unnecessary travel if you venture to one of these locations.

Contact Customer Service If You Are Nervous

In a worst-case scenario, a call or email to a company can go a long way. Many retailers understand that people don't have the ability to handle a return right now. Just as companies need understanding for being short-staffed and processing returns at a slower rate.

If a return has an issue over the coming weeks, you do have rights under consumer laws. Defective productsconsumer transactions, and returns do have regulations.

Be Careful: COVID-19 Can Live on Cardboard

New research shows that cardboard, grocery bags, and other surfaces can keep some viruses alive for a day or more. This is chilling to hear as Amazon boxes have been arriving at an alarming rate since self-isolation started.

Follow the general health and cleanliness guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) when dealing with cardboard and plastic.

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