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Old 8th September 2009, 12:40 PM
psychopixi psychopixi is offline
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Question Returns and Refunds - A Shop Perspective

Hi,

I work in a shop whose refund policy has recently changed, and HO have not been clear in communicating exactly how we are to deal with faulty returns now.

I was hoping someone here could clarify a few points for me?

Firstly, if a customer wishes to return a faulty item, do they have to have a proof of purchase? I have had customers quoting 'sale of goods act' to me, but as far as I'm aware, the burden of responsibility is on them to prove they a) bought it within the past six months and b) bought it from our company (not a different company who buys from us and sells on, or an ebay sale). Am I right?

Secondly, I've read that 'proof of purchase' can be a bank statement instead of a receipt. Given that we sell many items at the same price, and a customer may buy more than one item in a transaction, am I allowed to refuse a return with a bank statement as proof of purchase as there is no way for me to determine that the charge on the statement was for the particular item the customer wishes to return?

Thank you in advance for your help!

- Pixi
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  #2  
Old 8th September 2009, 01:17 PM
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Default Re: Returns and Refunds - A Shop Perspective

A great post Pixi! As someone that has worked in retail and understand the need to have a fairly decent understanding of consumer law, I applaud your efforts to understand the law better.

Proof of purchase can be many things, which as you show could be a bank statement. Obviously it isn't unusual for people to purchase more than one thing in one transaction. However, I do know that when I worked for Tesco we had the ability to search transactions.

So if, for example, someone told us that they purchased something on August 1st, we were able to search (using information such as their bank card details) the transaction and pull it up. There should be a record somewhere, and if a company values service they should attempt to find the transaction in my opinion. Even if you on the shop floor don't have access (which I wouldn't expect you to) someone a little higher up should.

Here is what this site says about the issue here:

Proof of purchase?

Quote:
Shops will often tell you they will only give a refund on production of proof of purchase. Don’t be mislead into thinking this must be a till receipt. It can be a bank or credit card statement, although you may run into difficulties if it is for a different amount than that of the item you are trying to return.

If the item is damaged, the shop cannot say they will only refund on the basis of a till receipt. However you must have proof of purchase of some kind – particularly if it was bought recently and you want to show that the damage wasn’t caused by continued use or wear and tear over time.
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Old 8th September 2009, 01:31 PM
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Default Re: Returns and Refunds - A Shop Perspective

Thank you for your quick response!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chutzpah View Post
Proof of purchase can be many things, which as you show could be a bank statement. Obviously it isn't unusual for people to purchase more than one thing in one transaction. However, I do know that when I worked for Tesco we had the ability to search transactions.
I hadn't thought of this, but you're right - I'm sure there is a way to cross reference on the back office computer what was bought by a customer with a particular card on a particular date. Thank you for solving this problem for me!

I think this will partly solve my first problem as well - if a customer has no proof of purchase, but paid by card and remembers roughly when they bought the item, we could also try and find the transaction on the computer, couldn't we?

I assume then that for a faulty item with no proof of purchase, and a cash transaction, there really isn't anything I can do for the customer?
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Old 8th September 2009, 01:39 PM
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Default Re: Returns and Refunds - A Shop Perspective

You could definitely find information even with sketchy details, it would just involve a bit of fun detective work. Most customers (especially if they're genuine) would understand that you would need to do some digging so would understand you might not be able to give them an answer that second and may have to come back.

As for cash purchases, that's where a lot of "benefit of the doubt" comes into it. If it's an own-brand item it could be relatively obvious to guess they did get it from your store.

However, you obviously have to be wary that some people do shoplift and return items to get the cash. This is a judgement call that should really be made by a manager in my opinion. However, most genuine customers will want the item repaired or replaced, not refunded. In my experience most shoplifters will just say "it wasn't wanted" or "it was a present and I don't like it". Getting them to fill their details out and keeping an eye out for "the usual suspects" should also keep a lid on this sort of activity.

In short, most genuine people just want something rectified. They won't come in threatening legal action straight away, or demanding their money back. They'll just want their purchase fixed, and it's with these people that you can probably justify some discretion.

And look at it this way, if you solve their problem they'll be more likely to return in the future!
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Old 8th September 2009, 02:12 PM
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Default Re: Returns and Refunds - A Shop Perspective

Thanks again Chutzpah!

My problem isn't so much with shoplifters, as with people buying our products from other stores; there are two other businesses in the area who buy from our company, but sell at their own prices. In the past we've experienced people buying from them, and then coming to us for a refund as a way to make a quick fiver (or more if the other store has a promotion on).

Additionally, in the past we operated a no time limit returns policy - no receipt needed, and it didn't matter how long the customer had had the item. This led to a few people returning items which had obviously been 'well loved' for several years before breaking down due to fair wear and tear.

With the current economic situation, I suppose HO feel they need to tighten the strings a bit. It's the few who have spoilt things for the many, by taking advantage of a policy that I think was designed to give our customers peace of mind and faith in the quality of our products.

I do pride myself on giving a high level of customer service, but I now feel that I'm either risking positive relations with our customers, or possibly getting in trouble with HO as I don't know exactly where I stand.
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Old 8th September 2009, 04:18 PM
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Default Re: Returns and Refunds - A Shop Perspective

Well, don't forget that refunds are very much at your discretion. The law states that you do not have to refund anyone just because they "changed their mind", and ignore anyone that quotes the sales of goods act at you for this.

As long as you deal fairly and legally with them you shouldn't risk too many positive relations - those who give you grief for stuff that is beyond the law anyway are customers you'll never please anyway.
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Old 8th September 2009, 10:12 PM
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Default Re: Returns and Refunds - A Shop Perspective

On the subject of proof of purchase as it is a civil matter 'balance of probability' is all that is required rather than 'beyond reasonable doubt' as in criminal cases. This assumes that it goes to court, but it means that absolutely anything could be used as proof of purchase - Bank statement, stamped warranty card, loyalty scheme records etc.

Anyway, great post. I will sticky it.

Tony
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Old 9th September 2009, 11:49 AM
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Default Re: Returns and Refunds - A Shop Perspective

Quote:
Originally Posted by psychopixi View Post
I assume then that for a faulty item with no proof of purchase, and a cash transaction, there really isn't anything I can do for the customer?
Unless they can remember when they came in and it was recently enough to still be on your CCTV tapes/drives, no, I don't think there's much you can do for them.

However, goodwill is always worth considering not just because it helps keep regular customers happy but also because people do talk about this stuff and it does enhance the reputation of the shop.
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Old 9th September 2009, 11:55 AM
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Default Re: Returns and Refunds - A Shop Perspective

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chutzpah View Post
As long as you deal fairly and legally with them you shouldn't risk too many positive relations - those who give you grief for stuff that is beyond the law anyway are customers you'll never please anyway.

Exactly, some customers are no great loss if you never see them again. I remember I was working a late shift in the shop I used to work at and a guy came in, about 50 years old, to complain about some cheese. It was a bit mouldy so I said fair enough and offered him a replacement or a refund. He got pretty angry and started banging on about trading standards and that I should check all the other pieces of cheese. I pointed out that the cheese was in a coloured packet that you couldn't see through, so the only way to check them would be to open them, rendering them illegal to sell, and that he was the only person who'd had a problem with that item so it was likely a one-off. I offered him his refund again, he wandered off down the shop. A couple of minutes later he turns up with his mouldy cheese and a pack of super-expensive premium ham that was about twice the price. I tried to explain to him that I could refund his money but I couldn't just give away stock. He started blathering about trading standards again and stormed out, taking his cheese but leaving his refund.

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Old 9th September 2009, 12:11 PM
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Default Re: Returns and Refunds - A Shop Perspective

I used to have that when I did customer services at Tesco - people wandering off and picking up items that they believed was adequate 'compensation' for the horrific misdeameanour of some fresh food going off.

Nice to see it didn't just happen to me!
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