Would you alienate 1% of your customers on purpose? It appears Best Buy and some other retainers have done that with a service that checks ‘frequent returners’. If you happen to be a person who buys and returns purchases, even with a receipt, you can get a black mark on your name that will limit your ability to return or exchange products at retailers for 90 days.

The Hartford Current published an article titled: After Best Buy Swipes His Driver’s License: No Returns For 90 Days, which describes this Best Buy policy. The service that checks ‘frequent returners’ is provided by a California company,  The Retail Equation,  that verifies return authorizations by tracking consumers’ return-exchange behavior at participating stores.

The rationale for this policy is to stop those who misuse the return policy by buying a product, using it for a time and then returning it. The example given in this situation, is someone who buys a TV on the Friday before the Super Bowl game, and then uses it to watch the game and then returns it.  These kinds of customers are may look like return fraud or abuse and maybe there are some who do. But what about legitimate cases where the TV doesn’t fit in the room, or is defective or just doesn’t work well in the customer’s configuration.  Are they all fraud and abuse? Who decides?

The Retail Equation is being used in 20,000 stores across the US. That means it isn’t just Best Buy that is using them. (I found complaints on the web about Home Depot, and The Children’s Place).

Are Retailer’s using this  service abusing customers?

1. First, Best Buy and the other stores that use The Retail Equation should notify customers that they have this ‘limited’ return policy. Apparently it is included in Best Buy’s  ‘returns and exchange policy’.  How well known is this? Is its on the receipt you receive? Or is a consumer expected to consult a computer before they buy? I tried finding Best Buy’s returns and exchange policy on my iPhone using their mobile site and couldn’t find it.

2. Exchanges for the same product should not be included in this program. If you have a defective movie, or a defective piece of equipment, you should be able to return it for a replacement. If it fails repeatedly, then you should be able to pick another brand of the same product. Exchange based on a defect in the product should not be counted.

3. Anyone designated on the black list of The Retail Equation should be able to challenge their status. The Retail Equation does have an email address to send a complaint to and they will call you back. Is this a new designation you need to keep track of, like your credit reports? Could The Retail Equation be ‘evil’? Could they abuse their position? Who decides?

4. Store personnel and managers should be able to override The Retail Equation’s designation. in extenuating circumstances.

As this rolls out and becomes more commonly used,  will consumers now avoid those retailers that use this service? Will it inhibit buyers from trying new things in their homes or environment? Will consumers refuse to buy something unless an independent agency has designated that the product has high quality, low return rates and high levels of customer satisfaction?

Or will government legislation be created to limit this kind of service’s use or misuse. Another article on this subject can be found at ‘Retailers are Watching You with a New Tracking Program‘.

According to Hartford Current, Best Buy recently announced it would lay off 400 workers and close 50 stores. Their president, Brian Dunn, recently resigned. There is speculation that Best Buy may go out of business. Is alienating customers   another step along that road?

What do you think will happen?


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Adele Berenstein

Adele Berenstein is an Experienced Customer Satisfaction Executive, recently retired from a Large Global IT Organization after a long productive management career including Sales, Marketing, Services, teaching and education center management and most recently, 19 years in customer satisfaction management. She turned around divisions with customer satisfaction problems, implemented measurable improvements and management systems, and implemented programs to prevent problems from ever affecting customers.

4 Responses to “Best Buy limits Returns and Exchanges: Angers Consumers”

  1. Jerome Says:

    I agree with this. Customers who have legitimate reasons and receipts should be able to return items. This happened to me as a response I will not shop at best buy and do my business somewhere else. Now who looses not me right? Best Buy might re-consider this policy. For people returning items that are can be re-sold should not be included. For others that return items that can no longer be sold should be included in this 90-day ban.

  2. John Says:

    Here in Sacramento the rule is 3 returns = banned for a YEAR. 3 months I can kind of see but a YEAR? I don’t do business with them anymore either.

  3. Cee Tee Says:

    Bestbuy should be ashamed of how they are treating long time loyal customers like. They alienate customers like me right before Christmas when I would be gearing up to do my holiday shopping with them like I always do. Not anymore ever! This is a sign to me that they are having financial problems and could possibly be close to going under. This reminds me of how Circuit City suddenly got stupid with its return policy right before they closed all theirs stores and went out of business!

  4. Cee Tee Says:

    On Sept 16, 2015, I was the recipient of a “warning” from Bestbuy informing me I could not return or exchange anything for 90 days. I was shocked and insulted and upset!!! I have been shopping at Bestbuy for years – it’s been my primary electronics store for EVERYTHING (tvs, iPads, iPhones, printers, inks, phone & tablet accessories, Bluetooth keyboards – EVERYTHING)! How dare they tell me I can’t return $2 cords, $4 phone cases because they are crap or anything else within the return period!! Most of the expensive items are not returned unless I decide I want somethings else that may cost more money.

    I do a lot of price matching – which Bestbuy allows. All of my returns are within the 14 or 15 days return and all are with a receipt. All purchases are on a credit card or debit card. All returns were legitimate returns. WTF??!!!!

    Because of this insulting treatment, I will be shopping elsewhere for ALL of my electronics needs.

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