NEW YORK (CBS 2) — Hang on to those gift receipts this holiday season, because retailers are tightening up their return policies.
Some stores are even getting personal, asking for more than just a receipt. CBS 2’s Kristine Johnson has more information on why that could mean a not-so-happy return for consumers.
When Mike Eshelman bought a chair, he said it came with two left arm rests. He tried to return it, but without his receipt, the store manager demanded to see his ID.
“Finally, she said, ‘we’ll approve it this one time without a receipt, but we need your driver’s license,’” Eshelman said.
He wanted to know why, and he was shocked by the store manager’s reply.
“She said, ‘we want to make sure you don’t do this again,’ as if I was doing something wrong,” Eshelman said.
“Oftentimes if you don’t have a receipt, that’s when the store is going to ask you to hand over your driver’s license or other personal information, to really better track that return,” Kelli Grant, of Smartmoney.com, said.
A recent undercover investigation found some stores make returns a swap – they’ll take back your items if you give them your personal information.
“They keep track of how much you’re returning, how much returns you’re doing, how much refunds they’re giving you,” retail and marketing expert Robert Smith said.
The National Retail Federation confirms the practice.
“Do stores need to take a firm stance on policies once, sometimes? Absolutely,” Joe LaRocca, of the NRF, said. “Are they right 100 percent of the time? Unfortunately, they’re not.”
Consumers themselves, though, are partly to blame. Four percent of returns with receipts, and 14 percent of returns without receipts, are fraudulent.
“[Customers] will make near-perfect replicas of sales receipts to do those returns,” LaRocca said.
If stores have the customer’s contact information, they can summon the police to investigate.
“The goal of all of this is to prevent consumers from acting in illegal or unethical ways of taking advantage of retailers which, ultimately, you and I as consumers will pay a higher price at the cash register,” LaRocca said.
Grant said it’s up to you to decide what’s more important – safeguarding your personal information, or getting a refund.
“You have the right to tell them you don’t want to present your license, but then they have the right to tell you that you can’t return the item,” Grant said.
Experts say that if you feel uncomfortable giving out your information, you should ask to speak to a store manager. Customer information is typically kept in the same system where your credit card information is stored, and is secure.