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You Can Be Banned from Making Returns at Best Buy

by on March 19, 2018
in Shopping, News, Blog :: 22 comments

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Best Buy's return policy says most products can be returned within 15 days for a refund or exchange, but the company doesn't always follow its own policy. The problem is return fraud, where a customer might return a used or even stolen item for a refund, abusing a retailer's return policies — a problem that affects 11% of all returns. Some companies handle fraud by curtailing their return policies: L.L. Bean is a notable recent example. The store, which has long offered a generous "no questions asked" return policy, had to drop the policy to prevent shoppers from using it as a lifetime product replacement program.

Best Buy found an answer to return fraud in a third party company called The Retail Equation, which analyzes return behavior to detect fraud. Whenever you return an item, TRE's algorithms go to work to see if it's likely that you're abusing the return program. If the algorithm thinks you're a risk, your return may be denied — or you could be barred from returning items in the future, no matter what the return policy says.

Sometimes that's a problem even for legitimate customers. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, a California man found himself banned from making returns at Best Buy for a year after he tried to return three cell phone cases. He bought cases in several colors as gifts for his kids, assuming he could return the unwanted colors within Best Buy's return window — but his return was red flagged by The Retail Equation. When he asked about the problem, Best Buy referred him to TRE, but he didn't get satisfaction. He's not the only one: unhappy customers have been taking to Yelp to complain about TRE denying their returns and then giving them the run-around when they complain.

The problem with the "shadow" return policy enforced by TRE is that no one knows what it is. TRE won't tell you why your account is flagged or under what conditions it could be flagged. But the Wall Street Journal identified seven things that could impact your chances of being flagged:

  1. making too many returns in a short timeframe
  2. returning items without a receipt
  3. returning items that are often stolen
  4. returning items after a certain period of time
  5. returning items at store closing time
  6. returning high-value items
  7. returning a large percentage of your total purchases

Shoppers don't realize their information is being shared or know how it's being used — and once TRE decides to flag you, you may not be able to get unflagged. That usually means no more returns at your favorite stores.

The Retail Equation is used by 34,000 stores nationwide, including Best Buy, CVS, Dick's Sporting Goods, Home Depot, JCPenny, Sephora and Victoria's Secret. Each store uses the service differently — for example, Home Depot only uses it for returns without a receipt — and each may have a different policy about banning returns. Despite posted return policies, any store using The Retail Equation could deny your returns without explanation.

Best Buy has responded to the controversy by opening a hotline to call if your return has been denied. While that's more helpful than being told to call TRE, it's still a frustrating extra phone call to make after you've already been to the store to make a return. If you feel your return at Best Buy has been denied without cause, you can call them at 866-764-6979 to (hopefully) sort things out.

In the meanwhile, be sure you're familiar with a store's return policies before you buy. They give you an idea of what to expect. And if you can, try to avoid returns that may look suspicious to The Retail Equation's algorithms, such as returns without receipts. That's still no guarantee your return won't be denied, but it may help.

[Editor's note 3/27/19: Certain credit cards, such as many from American Express, offer return protection plans. If the retailer refuses to take a product back, American Express will refund the purchase price, up to $300 per item (with some restrictions). If you've already made a purchase from Best Buy and has a return refused, you may want to see what protections your credit card offers. And if it doesn't offer protection, you may want to consider Amex for future purchases from Best Buy.]

[Image credit: Best Buy store via BigStockPhoto]



Discussion loading

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Makes sense to me

From Mike on March 19, 2018 :: 11:46 am

If you’re going to something like Mr. California did and buy a bunch of stuff you KNOW you’re going to return - KEEP THE RECIEPT.  If you have the receipt, the company SHOULD allow a full refund - except for the last item on the WSJ list - appears to be just sound business sense.

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No much of a hassle

From John W on March 19, 2018 :: 1:44 pm

I think I will just avoid the mess and shop elsewhere.

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The fraud exists

From Nancy on March 22, 2018 :: 1:21 pm

I purchased a bulk shipment of returns and closeouts to sell on eBay a year ago. One thing that was included was about 20 sticks of RAM that had been returned to Staples as defective. However, when I looked at them, it was apparent that their return clerks don’t know anything about RAM. The packages were mostly for well-known brands of RAM, but what was actually in the package did not match… People were upgrading their RAM and then returning their castoffs, e.g., an off-brand 256mb stick was in a good brand 1gb package. So the people were getting free RAM because the clerks don’t know how to catch the fraud.  Maybe that’s one reason Staples has financial issues and closed a bunch of stores.

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ituneslogin

From Theateran on March 23, 2018 :: 4:55 am

You will certainly be need to enter your id and   https://ituneslogin.us/itunes-sign-up/  fill all the information in the enrollment kind and also you have actually done.

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It's a hoax how Best Buy pretends to wash its hands

From Old Poor Richard on May 27, 2018 :: 11:35 pm

These rules are set by Best Buy.  TRE isn’t some shadowy and independent company that Best Buy has no control over.  Best Buy writes the rules and TRE is simply a subcontractor that implements them.  None of those seven triggers listed is any indication of fraud.  The only “abusive” practice is return of expensive items which you’ve already used.  This can be cured by simply charging a restocking fee for all electronics that are opened.

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Small Claims Court

From Donald L. Parrot on August 16, 2018 :: 5:12 pm

I had purchased four laptop/tablet computers and each one had a fatal flaw.  When I tried to return the last one, it was denied.  I am now filing a claim in small claims court.  Part of my argument is that this flagging practice is not described anywhere on the Best Buy website or the receipt.  We’ll see what happens in court.  Wish me luck!

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Good luck!

From Josh Kirschner on August 17, 2018 :: 9:34 am

If everyone who was denied a legitimate claim took Best Buy to court, maybe these poorly/undisclosed return policies would go away. Let us know how it goes.

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OK Josh. I am

From Donald L. Parrot on August 17, 2018 :: 2:43 pm

OK Josh.  I am filing on Monday.  It will probably be scheduled for mid-September.  The court requires a pre-hearing arbitration and 75% of the time, it is resolved at that level.

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besybuy

From Jean on October 22, 2018 :: 3:38 pm

Bought ipad never opened tried to return within 14 day time period with receipt they refused gave the tpc phone last bought item in JAn 2018.
any corporate phones to call

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Best Buy Update

From Donald L Parrot on October 25, 2018 :: 10:00 am

Yesterday, I had my small claims court date for my case against Best Buy.  The judge asked us to mediate and we tried.  I asked for full reimbursement of the computer cost plus tax and reimbursement for the $132 in filing/service fees I incurred.  The Best Buy rep was the sales manager for the Parker, CO store.  He refused to include the $132 reimbursement, so we went back before the judge.

A number of interesting comments/questions ensued.  But it can best be summed up when the judge said, ” So let me get this straight.  If I buy three items over a month or so and return them, I will get blacklisted and cannot return any future items?”  The Best Buy rep responded that the decision is beyond Best Buy’s control since it is made by a third party.  The judge wasn’t buying that.  The judge also noted that Best Buy’s published return policies do not describe this 3 strikes and out policy and the Best Buy rep agreed.

The judge then found in my favor and ordered Best Buy to fully reimburse me (including legal costs) within 5 days.  I will then return the computer.

Please spread the word any way you can (email, facebook, twitter, etc.) about Best Buy’s 3 strikes policy.  The only way for customers to protect themselves is to pay cash and remain anonymous.

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That's great news

From Josh Kirschner on October 25, 2018 :: 2:02 pm

Glad you were able to get a refund AND get your legal costs covered. Would love to hear from other readers who have gone this route and how they fared.

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good to know

From rich lewis on October 26, 2018 :: 1:28 pm

I was banned after 3 returns too with a receipt on my last return saying that you will not be able to return anything after this. i wonder how long this ban lasts for though

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Can we ban together

From Jan on December 19, 2018 :: 12:36 pm

Can we all ban together and sue the company? What for keeping our information in a data base and using it against us. TRE should be out of business for following people and keeping their personal information without consent. And the big corporations should be sued for participating in a form of discrimination. Since it is hidden as to why you are denied. It’s not like a credit report that you are able to see. No checks and balances. And even if they say we consent a report should be given and knowledge how to get that and why should be given with denials. Otherwise all forms of discrimination could be used against you and never know. Why. You won this case but it would be nice to stop this all together.

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According to Elizabeth Harper's

From Donald L Parrot on October 26, 2018 :: 2:03 pm

According to Elizabeth Harper’s article (above, quoting from the Wall Street Journal), one year.

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Different Companies

From Julius on March 08, 2019 :: 3:03 am

Hey, there what about others? If they do so as it has been described are they really gone ban them too? Making return is not an easy process it is a process like done form long-term investment. You will certainly like to read more by visiting me at
https://www.reddit.com/user/juliusskinner.

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TRE Best Buy

From Karen on March 09, 2019 :: 10:55 pm

This is absolutely wrong. Over the past two weeks I have purchased items to make my home a smart home an a mesh system. Best Buy came out to my home to access my home and my needs. I then went to BB to purchase my products. When the Geek Squad came to my home to install my mesh router (eero) said it was overkill and to buy the google mesh. He sold it to me from his truck and told me to return the eero system. In our conversation we went over the ring doorbell and the Chamberlain garage door opener.  He recommended the ring pro doorbell and the smart garage door opener.  So I purchased those as well. Then I went back to the store for a mounting kit for the doorbell and the lady told me to get the ring two because the kit was in the box and if it was hard wired I would not need to worry about the battery. So, I exchanged it again. I had to go to Home Depot to buy a light bulb for my Wemo that I also purchased from Best Buy.  They told me they did not sell the bracket and I needed the pro doorbell. I then called Ring to get all the cirrrct answers. I brought the rung two back to get the original door bell that I purchased. 
The moral to my story is their employees need to be more informed on products they sell. I would not have had ALL these returns if they knew what they were doing. Now I’m not allowed to return the garage door opener because I was FLAGGED. I called the number on my receipt. They were rude. Told me someone would call back in 24/48 hours. Called Corp, they sent me back to the same number. Finally got the RM email and sent him a piece of my mind. No response from anyone. Now I’m stuck with things I do not need. These were all done on my BB credit card and I am and elite member.
I will never buy from them again.  Small claims court might be the way to go or even a class action towards TRE or BB and the lies.

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I stopped purchasing items at

From Vrolla Russo on March 21, 2019 :: 12:07 pm

I stopped purchasing items at Best Buy years ago because of defective products. Three different occasions something eventually would breakdown not long after purchase. Fast forward 15 years later I am now painfully reminded of why I discontinued being a consumer at this retailer. I was shopping for headphones to use with my tv and heavily relied on the employees’ expertise as I am not as tech. literate as I would like to be. That was my first mistake. I was told if something I purchased did not work out I could just exchange/return it as long as it was within 15 days per their store policy. Apparently, trying to find a pair of wired headphones with volume control was like asking the impossible. I ended up with no options. Although I had receipts with each return and all merchandise intact, I was denied my last return and told to contact TRE. BB manager claimed he had no power to approve my return at this point. Well, calling TRE just angered me more. Evidently, they are located in another country as there was a language barrier. And when I asked If I could speak with someone who spoke English I was told there was no one I could be transferred to. He only kept repeating the same policy script over and over when I tried to explain my situation. I would have never even considered spending my money here in the first place if this policy was fully disclosed. What did I expect coming from a store that sells inferior merchandise in the first place? Fool me twice…............

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This is my experience

From Anonymous on April 01, 2019 :: 4:56 pm

I purchased $4500 worth of electronics over the last 6 months, none being returned. My last two purchases valued at $70 and $35 were returned.

I was given a warning note at the time of my second return saying my future returns may be rejected. No one knows why.

I am scared to buy from them because they can say they warned me and just reject a return.

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Buy from Amazon

From Josh Kirschner on April 01, 2019 :: 5:04 pm

I don’t blame you for being scared - I would be, too. Buy from Amazon.com, instead. They have a huge selection of electronics and often better prices than Best Buy. Or, see our note above about getting return protection with your credit card.

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Just got "the warning" today. I spend $1k/month, and they don't want my business?

From Zanthexter on April 02, 2019 :: 10:18 pm

I’m Elite+, I’d Elite+++ if they had it, I spent $10k last year and was on track to hit $12-15K this year at Best Buy.

Got “Future Returns May Be Declined” today. I’m reading that as, “We do not want your future business.”

So far this year, $2,500 spent, and a minimum of another $2,100 in already planned smart thermostat purchases. (We’re opening 7 new locations) Another $5k+ is pretty likely just to replace a dead laptop hear, a broken TV there, etc.

And I can buy it all elsewhere if I can’t feel safe shopping at Best Buy.

Bye Bye Best Buy.

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You've been warned!

From Dave Bryant on June 25, 2019 :: 11:39 pm

I too have been the unlucky recipient of the Best Buy / TRE “too many returns” warning, one of them fairly recently.  One way to get around it: if you purchase online and pick up at the store, you will have the option to return it via UPS or a similar carrier.  I’ve done this several times (all legitimate returns, mind you) and never had any problems. 

You shouldn’t HAVE to do this, but if you find yourself stuck with an item, it might help.

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Update

From Zanthexter on June 28, 2019 :: 5:22 pm

I was offended enough to spend time on this and eventually got someone at corporate willing to listen. They supposedly “unbanned” me.

But I still feel like returns are a gamble, so I’ve shifted what I can elsewhere. Slightly less convenient, sometimes a day delay before Amazon or Staples can deliver, but I’d rather wait a day than get stuck.

I do get that return abuse/fraud is a problem. Seems like there are better ways to handle it, including investigating why someone might have several returns BEFORE kicking them to the curb.

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