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VERIFY: Yes, early Black Friday sales usually mean extended holiday return policies

Between shipping delays and supply shortages, retailers are offering big gift deals way before Black Friday. What does that mean for returns this holiday season?

ST. LOUIS — Officially, Black Friday happens on the day after Thanksgiving every year in the U.S. But as of mid-October, retailers started announcing Black Friday deals for the 2021 holiday season.

Supply chain issues and shipping delays are making gift deliveries less reliable this year, so stores and economists have encouraged shoppers to buy presents early.

For gift-givers who will be holding onto their purchases all the way to December or the New Year, they may spend that time wondering whether they should have waited in order to have the option to return an unpopular, or wrong-sized, gift.

THE QUESTION

Theresa asked the 5 On Your Side VERIFY team:

"With all of the retailers recommending that we shop early for Christmas, will they extend their return policy?"

THE SOURCES

Spokespersons at Target, Costco, Walmart and Best Buy

Plus online return policies for those retailers and Amazon

THE ANSWER

   

This is true.

Many of the nation's top retailers have announced changes to their return policies that take effect around the time their Black Friday deals start. Read on for specifics.

WHAT WE FOUND

Retailers that have already made temporary changes to their return policies include Target, Walmart, Best Buy and Amazon.

There's an important caveat for online purchases at many of those stores, however: return policies can vary significantly for sellers using the retailer's site as a platform. More on that below.

Target

The extended holiday return policy for Target says:

For Electronics and Entertainment items purchased October 1 through December 25, the refund period will begin on December 26.  

  • For all electronics and entertainment items (excluding Apple® products) purchased between Oct. 1-Dec. 25, the 30-day refund period will start on Dec. 26 and must be returned by Jan. 24. 
  • For all Apple® products (excluding mobile phones) purchased between Oct. 1-Dec. 25, the 15-day refund period will start on Dec. 26 and must be returned by Jan. 9.
  • For mobile phones purchased in-store or online via Order Pickup between Oct. 1-Dec. 25, the 14-day refund window starts on Dec. 26 and must be returned by Jan. 8.

Information about exceptions to the return policy, online returns, opened products, and more are available on the Target website.

Costco

When asked about any changes to their return policies, a Costco spokesperson wrote, "no comment."

The VERIFY team looked at their return policy online and there was no mention of extended holiday returns.

Walmart

Walmart directed the VERIFY team to their current return policy online.

It states that "most items** with less than a 90-day return window purchased or delivered from November 1st through December 25th begin the return period on December 26th."

Those asterisks point to the footnote that sellers on the Walmart Online Marketplace may have different return policies, so it's always recommended to check the "details" portion of the item listing.

Best Buy

When asked about early holiday shopping, Best Buy's spokesperson listed Black Friday deals that started Oct. 19 and "second chance" deals starting Nov. 1.

As a result, the window for their extended holiday returns began Oct. 18.

"Purchases made Oct. 18 through Jan. 2, have an extended return period through Jan. 16," the spokesperson wrote.

Return windows for devices that can be activated (like cell phones and hotspots) or holiday decorations and lights are different. Those details can be seen on the Best Buy returns page.

Amazon

The returns policies page on Amazon says, "For the 2021 holiday season, most of the items purchased between October 1 and December 31 can be returned until January 31, 2022."

Third-party sellers who fulfill and ship their own inventory have their own returns and refunds policies listed on their seller profile pages. They might be different from Amazon's policy and might not include an extended return policy for the holiday.

Details about return policies for categories of items are available on the Amazon website.

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