Rant & Rave: Return Policies

Share: Tell us what you love and hate about Return Policies!

my answer: I absolutely love when stores have generous return policies AND they don’t give their customers a questioning glare when they make a return. It’s just as a customer, you shouldn’t abuse the policy!


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Cortni Avatar

One of the girls I always buy from at the MAC counter told me that they usually just tell the person to do an exchange without receipt it they absolutely hate the product.

xamyx Avatar

The idea is if you can go into a store, you can test it *before* you buy. Online is a different matter, as you can’t swatch a product before. Also, there’s the matter of different department stores that have MAC counters, so it’s hard to keep track where things were purchased.

Ellen Morris Avatar

I just did a return to Ulta yesterday (tried some of their Ulta brand products and was dissapointed) and it was quick and easy and they put it all right back on my card! Very nice!

Ellen Morris Avatar

Also I do return to drugstores with no issue (CVS is my store). I don’t feel bad about it becasue there’s no way to test things in-store and they’ve always accepted them cheerfully.

Terri Avatar

I used to shop A LOT at Sephora, and then they put an ULTA in right around the corner from my house and I never thought I’d say this but……I like ULTA better. They are just nicer. The store is cleaner and I haven’t returned much at all but I have never had a problem. Plus, they have both high and low end stuff and frequent little sales so it’s really a great place. I would absolutely try them if I were you.

oh.no.pepper Avatar

I have been ordering from Nordstrom for ages now and have never taken advantage of their return policy (by mail) until recently. I can say it has gone so well, and they process my returns relatively quickly without a bunch if rigmarole. Since I have been freed from the fear of being stuck with a wrong color or lack luster product I am ordering and spending a lot more money and in turn keeping approximately 90% of what I am buying. I haven’t tried it with Sephora, I’m looking forward to reading more comments from other readers.

n8iveBeauT Avatar

I love that a lot of companies have a nice return policy. I am not one to abuse it, however sometimes samples that are given out sometimes isn’t enough. Or if you’re trying out an eyeshadow, blush, or lipstick those can’t be given out as samples so you have to swatch them on your hand, and if you like the color hope for the best if you decide to buy it. Lipsticks, you can try them on but can’t tell the longevity of it just by wearing it for 10 minutes in the store. So for those products I do buy if I like the swatch, and the feel of them. However sometimes when I get home it’s a different story. If it’s just not working for me, pigmentation isn’t the same on my lid as it was on the back of my hand, my skin reacts, or a lipstick dries out my lips really bad and wears off within an hour then I return the item. Sometimes I dread it because you have some of those employees that give you that look and start quizzing you, “Well did you try it this way? What about that way?” Then as you’re going through the return transaction it feels like you’re there forever surrounded by the negativity. Other’s simply say, “I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you. If you need help finding something different I will be happy to help.”

koolchicken Avatar

The reason some places do that is because they’re trained to do so. I was a beauty advisor for CVS and we were trained to “educate” the customer on how to properly use the product. Because if it wasn’t working out it couldn’t possibly be the fault of the product- eye roll…

N8iveBeauT Avatar

Well I’ll let them know that I’ve tried with different primers if it was a foundation, different brushes or sponges and application. I get it if they were trying to help me with advise, but if I let them know I’ve tried different methods then it should be that it’s just not working with my skin for whatever reason. I will read a bunch of reviews from the site of the brand itself, them I’ll go to bloggers and also Youtube videos before I’ll go check out a product myself. I don’t impulsively try things out on a whim.

VickyM Avatar

Well at least you can return the beauty item, where I live is impossible to return a product like makeup or skincare. The only items that can be exchanged are clothes, and even then you can´t get your money back, only a different size or color of the cloth you bought. I had to once exchange a top a friend had bought me and I got alot of hate from the employees even though it wasn´t my fault that the top was too large as a size for me.

Caroline Avatar

I’ve never really used cosmetic return policies because I feel bad doing it at the drugstore and so I’ll give it to someone who it might work better for (usually foundations, where even the lightest is too dark)
But I have to compliment amazon on their returns. I recently bought something that didn’t work out, I returned it, and they processed it two days after I mailed it out, wow! Full return on my card and everything!

stacey Avatar

It’s really weird. I have to put my name and email again. Sometimes I forget, then I write this entire comment only to have to write it again…and then if it is a long comment, it is grueling.

Return policies should not be abuse. It is one of the reasons for prices going up. Just for the mere fact that “it doesnt suit you” or “buyer’s remorse” should not be returned. Try it out or get a sample at the store. And yes, I dont buy online, unless I am buying the item again. If you get an allergy from it, that is a good reason. That is why I dont buy drugstore brands often because I cannot test it out.

xamyx Avatar

Exactly! There are way too many opportunities to try first, buy later. Unless I’m 100% sure that a product will work for me, I will not buy online. I do believe it is a different situation for those who *cannot* try in-store, because it is literally impossible (not simply “inconvenient”), but for the vast majority, this is not the case. Even if you want to buy from one store online, there is usually a way to find a product at a counter or another store.

furandlace Avatar

All I know is I spend a lot more money buying things from places that have a good return policy i.e. Sephora! I find that while you can return things to Shoppers Drug Mart, somehow I sense a little bit of disapproval from the employees there so I try to avoid buying drugstore makeup for that reason. Especially with no testers, I know that the chances of me returning are higher and I just don’t want to deal with it. Shoppers does carry high end brands too but again, I’ll go to Sephora for those things before I’d ever buy them from Shoppers.

I also find that MAC tend to give you a bit of attitude when you’re returning.

I wonder if Sephora is slowly changing though. The last couple of times I returned something, they seemed to ask more questions than usual and the girls even opened up the product to see how much was left in it and just overall seemed to really examine it (I returned a week after purchasing so barely anything was used).

Kendra Avatar

I was told by a Sephora employee the reason they examine items so carefully is because some people try to return items that are almost completely used. This drives me crazy that people are abusing the return policy because it makes others have a much tougher time returning items for legitimate reasons.

Vee Avatar

This is exactly why we examine it. So many people try to return nearly empty product. Also, if the item is legitimately unused then it can be reshelved, but we’ve been burned before; people lie. I know a lot of people are resentful that we check the product, require receipts or seem put out, but honestly we are lied to more often than not. And it sucks; for us and for honest customers. We have a fantastic policy, but because of dishonesty and chronic offenders we are seriously cracking down. The policies haven’t changed, we’re just finally having to adhere to them in the strictest of senses.

We have huge appreciation for those that don’t sbuse our policies. To those of you that comply with polices and return for reasons better than “my husband got mad at me”, we salute you!

Terri Avatar

Well, that just makes sense. I mean, you have to have some sort of place where you draw the line. Seriously, when I get something and I don’t like it, if it’s not back in a week or two I just feel wrong. It does NOT take a long time to know if something works on you. So although I am disliking my local Sephora more and more (rude, dismissive, uninformed staff), I think that policy is MORE than fair. Returning something that is almost all gone? I think that’s called stealing.

katrina Avatar

I’ve recently had the same experience at Sephora! Before they would return things no problem, and they usually were primers or foundations that just didn’t work. Now, they open up each product (which is fine, they were barely used), but once they had to call over a manager to see if they could return it! Strange, and this is only recent for me.

xamyx Avatar

Sephora also puts your info into a database every time you return; if it appears you are abusing the policy, they reserve the right to deny a return (at least that’s what I’ve been told, although I’ve only returned 2 products that irritated my eyes so badly I couldn’t wear makeup for several days).

furandlace Avatar

Interesting! I thought I was imagining the subtle change in attitude from Sephora employees recently. I hope they don’t change though because I shop A LOT from them (and they can see this from my points!) and my MAIN reason for doing so is that I feel ‘safe’ to spend a lot of money knowing that if something doesn’t work, I can return or exchange it.

Danielle Avatar

I feel like return policies have gotten more lenient than they used to be, which I like. The only one that is annoying is MAC because you only have 30 days. I like the 3 month return policy.

koolchicken Avatar

I usually won’t buy from a company unless they have a good return policy. I live on an island with almost no stores, so it’s not like I can return things in store, everything has to be shipped back. So before I even start browsing on a new site I check the shipping and return page, if there aren’t free returns I leave the site. So far I like Sephora and I love Nordstrom (although Nordie’s returns ship package services so it means they won’t receive my return for a month or more coming from here). I hate Ulta, the charge ridiculous shipping fees and free ship promos don’t apply to Hawaii and they want me to pay to ship items back. No way will I ever be lured in with a sale from them again.

Susie J Avatar

In the UK, if it’s opened (even sometimes if it is still sealed!) then there is no return. Which sucks because prices are generally much higher over here for cosmetics anyway.

VickyM Avatar

Actually, I´m pretty sure most of the world doesn´t have return policies. Europe doesn´t have time, Latin America doesn´t have them and probably most nations of the world overall don´t have return policies, at least for makeup or skincare.

Nicoco Chanel Avatar

What’s even sillier is when they don’t let you return nail polish because “you might have used it” when people are stood right behind you swatching the same polish. Yes, I see making sure everything’s in condition is a *top* priority of yours.

CatherineM Avatar

I actually have been able to return a face moisturizer and a lipstick to a drugstore here in Germany. The moisturizer really didn’t work out for me, although it was formulated for my combination skin. I got dry patches and even some redness, and the people in store took it back with a full refund after I explained my problem, even though I have been using it for almost two weeks. With the lipstick I didn’t check in store whether it was still unused (some girls simply will try out things, although there are always testers around here in Germany). When I opened it the next day I saw that it was obviously used and brought it back immediately. Again, no problem with the return. The salesperson seemed to already know that particular problem.

Tegan Avatar

As someone who works at a department store with a very lenient return policy, there are pros and cons to it. If a product doesn’t work out, and return it within a couple of weeks, it’s understandable, and I like it. But some women use the entire product and DEMAND to get a refund. Obviously it wasn’t too terrible if you made it through the entire product. Alas, we still refund them because the last thing a manager wants to deal with is a screaming harpy. Honestly, all places should employ a 30 to 60 day return policy. If you can’t figure out if you like a product by then, your loss.

Wwendalynne Avatar

I rarely return cosmetics or anything for that matter. But, when I want to return something, I expect a company to stand behind their policy and attitude should never be part of it. The best companies are the on-line businesses that include auto return shipping envelopes with their shipments. Brilliant! So if something doesn’t work, you simply pop it back into the envelope and done.

But let’s face it, there are tons of less than scrupulous people out there who will push the envelope, think nothing of wearing a dress for an evening, and then have the audacity to return it as new. So with that in mind, how is any given retailer to know if you are one of the good guys or not? I stick to a number of retailers I use frequently and my track record with them should speak volumes. Any returns should never be a hassle as a positive relationship has been established through regular and repeat business.

NeenaJ Avatar

I am pretty selective where I shop for this reason. Sephora and Nordstrom are excellent. I’ve returned to Sephora a few times like when a foundation broke me out during continuous use or a lipstick severely dried out my lips (Tarte pencils, I’m looking at you!). The staff were perfectly friendly and asked the reason for the return.

While I haven’t ever returned anything to DermStore, they give you a 90 day return window which is plenty of time to figure out if you’ve had a reaction or can’t tolerate the product. Paula’s Choice also have a terrific return and refund policy.

BriBri Avatar

I’m totally with you. Love Nordstrom and Sephora’s no guilt trip policies. So easy it just makes me want to keep shopping there. And Paula’s Choice DOES have a great return policy, as well as the best customer service team in the universe. Super knowledgeable and very sweet.

t_zwiggy Avatar

In Norway we’re not allowed to return any beauty products, not even unopened ones. It really sucks. You definitely need to make sure that you’re buying the right shade of foundation and concealer, because you’ll be stuck with it.

blueraccoon Avatar

I make it a point to buy from companies with good return policies and avoid ones that have crappy policies. I’m a Nordstrom’s customer for life because I’ve gone in to return things sometimes months after I bought them (a bra I hadn’t worn at all) and they’ve taken it back, no questions asked. I had to exchange cosmetics once, too, and again, no problem at all, just fixed it and got me the right shade.

I had to return something to Ulta once and I didn’t have a receipt, and they did take it back but they gave me a hard time about it and basically told me next time I wouldn’t be so lucky. I get that they need the receipt to prove you bought the product there (or bought it in the first place) but maybe it was a gift, or maybe my wallet got stolen, or maybe the dog ate it, or…receipts aren’t always easy to hang on to, and a lot of times I throw mine away before I realize if I’m going to need to return the product. Maybe that’s my fault, but I’d still rather shop places where they don’t require a receipt and won’t give me a hassle about returning things (which I don’t do very often, tbh).

blueraccoon Avatar

I should add Nordstrom’s really won my customer loyalty at one point even when they couldn’t give me a return–I had broken the powder in my Meteorites compact, and I took it to the Guerlain counter to see if I could just buy a powder insert or return it or something, and they were very apologetic but told me I had to buy a new compact. Which was what I’d expected, so it wasn’t a big deal, but the SA was really nice about it and gave me a really nice GWP they’d been giving out that weekend. Had skincare samples and a mini Shine Automatique and a cute bag. I love that store. I don’t buy bras anywhere else and I generally don’t buy shoes anywhere else either. (Sadly, I can’t afford to buy all my clothes there 😛 )

Terri Avatar

Nordstrom’s is the best, period. Clean stores, helpful staff (and enough of them!) and everyone’s just so darn pleasant!! I can feel the stress roll off me when I walk through the door from the mall. My daughter bought a pair of sneakers there a year ago and the SA sent her a greeting card at home asking her how she liked the shoes? Tell me who else does that?
I returned a chanel lip product last week (just not right color) and not only where they LOVELY about it, then entire thing took about 30 seconds.
Oh, and a shoe department that treats you well when you ask for a pair in your size!!!! I thought that was a thing of the past. LOVE IT!!!

Bella Avatar

Sephora has the best policy where you can return anything unless it’s obvious you used like half of it. Walgreens is great for drugstores as well, they don’t question. Target will not take opened makeup back no matter what!

Lisa Avatar

Sephora is the BEST! I used to wear a lot of MAC makeup until they made it impossible to return items. It had to be in the box and they wouldn’t allow me to return something I bought at a counter at the actual store. Super annoying. Sephora all the way!

Niki Avatar

Nordstrom is definitely the best – as an ex-employee of Nordstrom’s cosmetics section, I’d say its almost TOO forgiving. We’d get people returning a completely empty jar of 100+ dollar pricey moisturizer because it ‘didnt work for them’. If it didnt work, why on earth did you use the whole jar before returning it? They would then repeat the same trick over and over and over. People also constantly returned stuff that was obviously purchased at macy’s or sephora. The ridiculous amount of return fraud that went on at Nordstrom drove me up a wall.

Emy Shin Avatar

I have only returned to Nordstrom once (a foundation I couldn’t try out in person and did not work for me), and have been very impressed. I can’t believe there are those who would do what you’ve described. It’s awful, and will eventually make things so much harder for the rest of us.

Martha Avatar

I believe stores should have a good return policy, It is difficult to try absolutely everything while in the store. Sometimes allergies don’t show up right away. Also different lighting makes a huge difference. I also believe all stores should offer samples. This make actually reduce returns and keep people interested and wanting to try new items. I also believe the customers should not take advantage of the return policy.

VickyM Avatar

We don´t have any kind of return policies in makeup in my country, doesn´t matter if high end, mid end or drugstore, no returns, for any reason, even if something gave you an allergic reaction, you simply have to throw it away yourself, no returns of your money and no exchanges. Even in clothes is hard to exchange an item, not impossible like in makeup, but difficult, within a certain time range, and generally only for the same model in a different size. Lol we have no luck.

Yellowlantern Avatar

I’ve only returned something once to Sephora in store and it was a very nice experience. No hassle, no questions, just someone helping me make a return which is exactly what I want as a consumer.

Elle Avatar

Body Shop lost me as a customer permanently due to a terrible returns experience. I bought a set of bronzing pearls for my sister for Christmas from the store. They came in a little tin. She opened them on Christmas morning and tested them out – they were INSANELY frosty. Like a glitter ball. The sample in the store had basically been worn down due to testing and so looked normal. She closed the tin, and I returned it with the receipt on Dec 27th.

You’d have thought I’d peed in the store. They started blaming *me* for not using it correctly. Terse words were exchanged. I explained that I’m not buying a product that I can’t use out of the box and that maybe the tester should do a better job of representing the product. I also explained that bronzer should impact a subtle glow, not dip you in glitter. And the bronzer was clearly new and untouched. Several employees came over to try to join in and intimidate me into not returning the product. It was CRAZY.

I left and that was the last time I ever went into that store. Over the last year, I’ve really gotten into makeup and bought tons – probably over $600 worth. Body Shop has gotten $0 and will continue to do so. Customer service IS your business. If I wanted a lecture from a bunch of rude snotty …witches, I’d attend my high school reunion. 😉

RM Avatar

So… you tried to pass off a used product as unused? And a product which was specifically marketed as shimmery was too shimmery? Gotta say, not a great case. Not defending bad customer service, but sounds like you went in looking for a fight and got exactly that.

cassie Avatar

I agree that Nordstrom has an amazing return policy. A SA once told me that I can return anything any time really, even if I don’t have a receipt. A SA at Macys told me the same, but I have never had to do it.
Sephora can be hit or miss with the reception you get when you return. Ive had SA’s quiz me rudely, asking me why I don’t like it, telling me they give samples for a reason, etc. Ive also had SA’s quietly process my return, but I just *feel* their disapproval. I do try to take samples, I walk outside malls with colors all over my hand so I can see it in the sunlight etc, but sometimes something just doesn’t work!
I try to buy all drugstore makeup at Target because they have an awesome return policy, with receipt, sometimes without, if you have the credit card you made your purchase with.

I do tend to avoid stores with bad return policies, going as far to buy MAC from Nordstrom or Macys, because I know I can return if necessary!

Terri Avatar

Oh my God!! Sephora gives out samples IN STORE? Mine doesn’t so I shop almost exclusively on line to get my reward points and free stuff. Plus I don’t have to deal with the cranky, eye rolling staff. Love the manger though. Weird.

k Avatar

Sephora’s has been really good to me, I had a Kat Von D lipstick I loved I bought half a year ago, and one day the bullet came loose and fell out onto the floor of my car and got covered in dirt and stuff. They replaced it without question, even though I no longer had a receipt. I was very happy.

Liz Avatar

I like that you can buy on Sephora.com and return in the store. The few times I have shipped the items back to Sephora, I had to wait forever for the credit to my card. Macy’s has a wonderful policy too.

I haven’t had too many poor experiences with returning. I once went to a drugstore that didn’t realize they have a money-back guarantee. The manager got involved and gave me back my money.

I’m not try to be controversial, but I strongly disagree with the whole you should be forced to keep the item ideology. What about allergic reactions? What about colors that look great in the store, but strange in natural lighting (especially foundation)? What about products that don’t do what they claim (like a product claiming to be waterproof when it is not)?

A Nordstrom Employee Avatar

As a current Nordstrom employee, I have to say the return policies at other stores to keep me shopping ‘at home’ at my own store … the hassle I’ve seen people go through to return unworn, tagged items at other retailers is atrocious. While Nordy’s policy can be upsetting when the salesperson’s commission is lost with the return, it is part of the game, so to speak. Employees know that preserving the relationship with the customer for life is worth the loss of the sale, and is often an opportunity to learn which products to avoid for their client in the future.

EmmaL Avatar

I have never had a awful return experience until I needed to return to MAC. The employees were rude and degrading to say the least! MAC lost a long-time customer after my return experience.

Ulta and Sephora have always been lovely about returns though.

Hana Avatar

I love places like Nordstrom or Sephora because of their generous return policy. Most of the stuff I tend to return are gifts from birthdays or Christmas that aren’t my taste or don’t suit me and it’s nice to have the option to exchange them for something I really want. 🙂

Suzanne Avatar

I love when companies let you return items that have been opened/used. I have so many dud products that I bought based off of someone else’s review or experience that didn’t work for me. I think I’m going to just start doing a monthly “misses” roundup on my blog of all the products I’ve wasted my money on. 🙁

Keen Janine Avatar

I love a generous return policy. Sephora and Nordstrom especially have great return policies. MAC has a good one too but you have to pay for return shipping if your purchase online. Most companies seem to have pretty decent return policies nowadays. As a customer, I totally appreciate not being given the 3rd degree about a return.

Mónica Avatar

In Spain we can’t return any makeup or skincare product, even in Sephora. I have a collection of foundations with the wrong shade and I’m becoming an expert to mix them to match my skintone.

Yesenia Pena Avatar

Rave: Nordstrom! I’ve had the best experience with them taking back items I forgot a year ago about.

Worst: Sephora! I hate that they won’t lookup card info and they will only give store credit only. Usually I didn’t care, but when I forget my receipts I’m hoping that they will atleast look up card info. But they gave me a weak response by saying, “you could have bought it and have multiples and trying to take it back, so we give store credit” What? lame.

missTJ Avatar

I have to admit I’m a big returner. Cosmetic prices are too high to be stuck with something that I am unhappy with. Like many previous commenters said sometimes you try a sample, or swatch on your hand and by the time you get the full-sized product it’s just not the same. I think I return 1 for every 6 things at Sephora I purchase. Most recently (and sadly) was a YSL rouge volupte lipstick.I loved it but for $40 I felt like my Maybelline Color Whispers were similar and it was just too extravagant. I think the “too expensive, BF got mad at me” excuse is a dumb one but I have used it. I’ve returned the Naked palette twice to Sephora, a Tarte primer (unopened) and various things.
The companies budget for the loss and I’ve kept so many high-end items from Sephora that have made them and NARS and Too Faced thousands of dollars.

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