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'Not fair as a consumer': Billings shoppers navigate shorter return windows at retailers

Posted at 5:45 PM, Dec 26, 2023

BILLINGS — It’s the season of returns now that Christmas has passed and many retailers have toughened their return policies this year, leaving some shoppers in a lurch.

It was a quick trip for Billings resident Cara Evans as she visited Kohl's at Shiloh Crossing Shopping Center on Tuesday.

“I’m making a return, of course, we have the returns to do at Christmas,” Evans said.

However, she was met with a rude awakening at several stores.

Cara Evans

“On some receipts, it says 14 days and you have to have a receipt,” said Evans.

It’s not just happening here.

“The return windows aren’t quite as long, and you may need to pay for shipping or pay a restocking fee,” said Consumer Reports spokesperson Samantha Gordon.

According to a survey by goTRG, 42% of retailers have shortened their return windows this year making it tough for working Billings mom Monica Belmonte.

“I think it’s not fair as a consumer because we spend so much time and money here and there’s still a lot of options to go to other places,” Belmonte said.

There's a silver lining.

“For the holidays, a lot of retailers extend their return windows in January," said Gordon.

Monica Belmonte and her daughter

Lucky for shoppers like Evans and Belmonte, Kohl's, along with Eddie Bauer and L.L. Bean, have some of the longest return windows.

Electronic retailers have the shortest.

“And that’s especially true at Apple and Best Buy who only give you 14 to 15 days to make those returns,” Gordon said.

It’s why Billings shoppers like Natasha Norby always double-check when out and about.

“I always look to see if they are returnable and how much time I do have, and if I got the full refund back,” said Norby.

The return process doesn’t have to be painful. One tip is to refrain from opening the box.

“Do not remove any tags, try to not take things out of the original packing,” Gordan said.

Make sure those receipts are kept safe in case a return needs to be made.

If you missed the return window or have questions, it never hurts to reach out to customer service.

One thing that is certain is that the change isn’t welcome.

“If you don't you know extend a little courtesy to us then we won’t want to come back,” Belmonte said.