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 5.9% of all returns, according to the National Retail Federation's "Consumer Returns in the Retail Industry 2020" report.
A few years ago, 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 returned an item, TRE's algorithms went to work to see if it was likely that you were abusing the return program. If the algorithm thought you were a risk, your return might have been denied — or you could have been barred from returning items in the future, no matter what the return policy says.
As of May 20, 2019, Best Buy social media specialists were still sending unsatisfied customers to The Retail Equation for more information on why their return was denied. Fast forward to February 2, 2020, and a Best Buy senior social media specialist states that Best Buy is no longer working with The Retail Equation. And then, on July 7, 2020, Best Buy was named in a lawsuit, along with The Retail Equation and 11 other retailers, alleging invasion of privacy and violations of the California Consumer Privacy Act, among other claims.
Just because Best Buy isn't using The Retail Equation, that doesn't mean that Best Buy isn't still tracking your shopping behavior and flagging suspicious returns. We reached out to Best Buy about their current practices regarding return fraud (including whether they’re using another third party like The Retail Equation), but as of publication, they had not responded.
The Wall Street Journal identified seven things that could impact your chances of being flagged for a fraudulent return:
- making too many returns in a short timeframe
- returning items without a receipt
- returning items that are often stolen
- returning items after a certain period of time
- returning items at store closing time
- returning high-value items
- returning a large percentage of your total purchases
Before you buy, be sure you're familiar with Best Buy's return policy. Most products are subject to a 15-day return window, with cell phones, cellular tablets, and cellular wearables having a 14-day window.
For opened items, Best Buy tacks on a return fee of $45 for cell phones, cellular tablets, and cellular wearables (like smartwatches). Drones, DSLR cameras and lenses, mirrorless cameras and lenses, leg and body recovery systems, premium camcorders, projectors, projector screens, and special-order products all have a return fee equal to 15 percent of the item purchase price.
Finally, keep in mind that Best Buy's return policy is under constant evaluation. As the Best Buy site states, "Best Buy may run tests of the Return and Exchange Promise in select locations and may amend these terms at any time."
[Editor's note: 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.]
Updated on 2/4/2021 with current Best Buy return policy information.
[Image credit: Best Buy store via BigStockPhoto]