Bending The Rules On Shipping & Returns During The Holidays

Holiday shopping can be stressful. Bargain hunters scour the internet for the best deals on the hottest items, and retailers fight for their share of the pot. Shoppers searching for the perfect gift for friends and family need to be able to make purchases in confidence – either that their gift will be well-received or that the recipient will be able to return the item for something else once the season is over.

During the holiday season, retailers may fall into one of three categories: those whose existing shipping and returns policies are customer-friendly (service leaders), those who offer seasonal shipping promotions and extended returns policies to benefit holiday shoppers, and those who keep their practices as-is, offering no additional conveniences to their customers.

Retailers in the first and second categories encourage shoppers to make purchases by offering free shipping (sometimes with a minimum purchase) and flexible returns policies during the most stressful time of year. Below, we’ve provided a list of these key players.

Retailers who have consistently customer-friendly shipping and returns policies that don’t require special updates for the holidays, these guys always offer free standard shipping and have flexible returns policies, if any:

  • Estee Lauder
  • L.L.Bean
  • Neiman Marcus
  • Nordstrom
  • Zappos

Retailers offering shipping promotions as of 12/10:

  • Best Buy: typically has a $35 minimum for free shipping, and its policy states that they do sometimes offer free shipping for select categories as well as sitewide free shipping. during the holidays, the minimum for free shipping will be waived entirely.
  • J.Crew: Free Shipping minimum is typically $150 – check in daily, as they often have limited time, daily offers for free shipping
  • Kohl’s: Though not gone completely, their minimum qualifying purchase dropped from $74.99 to $50 through 12/24
  • Nike: For non-members, the free shipping minimum stays at $150. However, Nike does offer free shipping on all orders for Nike+ account holders, which is free to set up. The benefit is available year-round.
  • Saks Fifth Avenue: Saks is offering a free shipping promotion through Christmas Day via a code at checkout. The promotion also includes free gift wrapping for the ribbon-challenged.
  • Target: The $25 minimum purchase for free shipping has been waived for the holidays
  • Under Armour: As of this post, the retailer was offering free shipping without a minimum purchase with the disclaimer that the promotion ‘ends soon’

 

Retailers who are offering extended returns promotions for the holidays (13):

  • Amazon: typically 30 days, items purchased between 11/1 and 12/31 may be returned through 1/31
  • Apple: typically 14 days, items purchased between 11/1 and 12/25 may be returned through 1/8
  • Best Buy: typically 15 days, items purchased between 11/1 and 12/31 may be returned through 1/15
  • HP: typically 30 days, items purchased between 11/1 and 12/31 may be returned through 1/15
  • Lululemon: typically 14 days, items purchased between 11/6 and 12/25 may be returned through 1/10
  • Nike: typically 30 days, items purchased between 10/31 and 12/22 may be returned within 60 days of the shipping date
  • Pottery Barn: typically 30 days, items purchased between 10/21 and 12/24 may be returned through 1/31
  • QVC: typically 30 days, items purchased through 12/23 may be returned through 1/31
  • Ralph Lauren: typically 60 days, items purchased between 10/20 and 12/24 may be returned through 2/1
  • Saks Fifth Avenue: typically 30 days, items purchased 10/15 or later may be returned through 1/15
  • Sears: typically 30 days, items purchased between 11/8 and 12/24 may be returned through 1/24
  • Under Armour: typically 60 days, items purchased between 11/1 and 12/14 may be returned through 2/29
  • Walmart: though return windows vary item to item (15, 30, or 90 days from purchase, for example), for items purchased 11/1 through 12/25, the return window begins on 12/25

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