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What is your store's return policy, and how often do you utilize it after the holidays?

In September, we asked hobby retailers what their store's return policy is and how often they utilize it after the holidays. To read more, check out the November 2013 issue of Model Retailer.
Published: October 10, 2013
Michael Magee, Hub City Hobby, Hattiesburg, Miss., said:
“We accept returns only on unused merchandise in resalable condition, and then only for store credit. Warranty service is handled either through repair or replacement. We've been pleasantly surprised at how few items we've had returned for any reason the last several Christmases. We actually had more people who wanted to trade towards an upgraded item than we did warranty exchanges last year!”

Tony Waterman, HobbyTown USA, West Allis, Wis., replied:

“We have a written policy of taking returns only on unopened, unused merchandise within two weeks of the date of purchase and we will generally only return on a credit card (unless the dollar amount is very low). We tend to be fairly flexible on this, especially if we know we can deal with the return through our distributor or the manufacturer. We also tend to stretch the return policy from the start of November through mid-January. Quite frankly, it is not worth the headaches of dealing with an irate customer than dealing with the return. Positive feedback goes a lot farther than negative!”

Jake Rosen, Jake's Performance Hobbies, Rohnert Park, Calif., responded:
“We spend a lot of time with each sale and try very hard to fit the right product to the given situation. Occasionally, we need to do an exchange for another item, an exchange for store credit, or a return.”

Paul Scopetski, The Spare Time Shop, Marlboro, Mass., said:

“For 40 years, it has been the same: No cash refund; merchandise credit only. The boss has the final say. This is posted in three spots: the register, the door and at the back of the store. This covers us, according to Massachusetts retail laws. As long as it is visible, we can alter it per individual. So, now, as more than 70 percent of sales are credit cards, we allow 'credit' refunds if item is intact and unopened, with our price tag and receipt. We will refund same-day exchanges by the same salesperson. Lately, post-holiday exchanges have been minimal since the youth have disappeared from our industry, and most all adults hoard their purchases.”

Roy Ballard, Loose Caboose Hobbies, Napa, Calif., had this to say:
“30 days to return any unopened item with receipt for full store credit, refund with previous authorization. During the holidays, the 30-day return period starts on January 1st, because some people buy early for Christmas. And considering overall sales, we don't get many returns. I'd like to think that is because we talk to each customer, listening to their needs, and help them pick the right product to begin with. We also give them plenty of contact information for product support. Usually, the only reason for returns is because an item is defective. We try to handle that as quickly as possible, even if it means opening a new item to swap the defective part. We prevent some of that by avoiding products that have a poor reputation for reliability.

“Remember to smile when you see someone bringing something back. Years ago, I saw a customer through the front window bringing back a large train set. I was not happy, because in the early days of the store every half penny counted. I gave a sigh and braced myself (I must have looked terrible). The customer plopped the set on the counter and said, 'This set is great! I need more track and cars.' So every time I see someone bringing something back, I smile. Can you think of a better way to show a customer another good reason to shop at your store than by quickly making something right?”

Vernon Morseman, Ventura Hobbies, Ventura, Calif., said:
“Store credit only. No returns after 30 days. All sale items are final. All collector kit sales are final. Items are subject to a 15 percent restocking fee. Every Christmas season, I make up a return policy sheet that explains the store policy, and we staple it to every receipt. This has greatly reduced my returns.”

Pat Barcello, Columbus Trains & Hobbies, Columbus, N.J., had this to say:
“I take anything back within 10–14 days of purchase with full cash refund as long as it is not opened or damaged. No questions asked. I will take things back if they have been opened as long as the packaging is not destroyed and can be resealed for store credit or exchange. I also exchange or repair any defective items on the spot as long as I have it in stock or can get it within a reasonable time frame. Anything to keep the customer coming back, and when i give a no-hassle refund they usually buy something else.”
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