How to return almost anything without a receipt

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This is not one of those “how tos” that starts of with, “Make sure you save your receipts.” If you did, you would not be reading this, thank you.

My husband is a prolific consumer. If he finds something of quality at a good, or reduced price, then quantity becomes an added value. However if something does not work, is not up to par, or not the value he thought it would be, then it goes back. Even if it is fruit from the grocery store, or a Tiffany candlestick. Even if it’s used, and he has no receipt. Even if there is no warranty, or out of warranty. Even if he doesn’t remember where it was purchased, or if it was a gift. Even if it is 2 years old. It goes back for a replacement. Here’s proven methodology and several good examples.

1. Return items to places where you are a good customer. Most quality merchants are eager to make good on something that did not turn out quite right. If they know you at the store, they know you as a good customer, and will be happy to keep the relationship on an excellent basis. If you have an established relationship with a sales associate, then you are ahead of the game. If you do not know anyone at the store, it helps if you have a credit card from the place.

2. Make sure the item in question is available at the particular store to which you plan its return, even if it did not come from there in the first place.

3. It helps greatly to return things on the same day that you also happen to be buying something from the same store, ideally of greater value. If you’ve been in the market for a flat screen TV, for instance, “I need you to show me some HDTVs, but first, I have this Espresso maker thing that I got for my birthday and have absolutely no use for. Can you take if off my hands? It was a gift but I’m pretty sure it came from here. They know I love this store.”

4. Be polite and emphatic of the person at the receiving end of your return. Remember, the person at customer service is probably drained, so show compassion to them and they will show compassion to you.

5. Be charming. (For the same reason as #4), but authoritative (You must know what your are talking about). Real Life Example: “Good afternoon, I’d like to interest you in my problem. My wife and I received these Tiffany candlesticks on our 5th anniversary. As I was lighting them yesterday evening for our 7th anniversary dinner, the top of the crystal stick cracked clear of the base on one of them. Obviously there was a weak point in the crystal. My wife is quite heartbroken. She loved these so much that every time there is a wedding in the family she presents the couple with the same candlesticks– why I’m sure Tiffany has a record of such things and can see how many candlesticks and other items we have purchased over the years. In fact. all out baby gifts are from Tiffany as well. Can you possibly replace it? I am sure the factory will want to examine this one.”

6. It helps greatly to be as honest as possible. (Everything above was true except the bit about it being our 7th anniversary dinner).

7. Be absolutely firm if quality is the issue. It is your money, and you have the right to a quality product. Most stores will simply return the faulty product back to the manufacturer.  If it is the store’s own brand, liken the product to a superior brand, but show dismay that the quality is not the same. “I absolutely love these pillow cases, the cotton is almost as soft as that of my (other similar manufacturer), but I am extremely dismayed that the cotton, while soft, is of such poor quality that the cloth has started to shred, and even develop holes after washing. These are only 2 years old! I’ve had (other manufacturer’s) bed linens for over 10 years. and I would expect (Name of Manufacturer) to be of the same quality and standard. Surely (the manufacturer) will want these back in order to solve the problem.”

8. Learn to love store credit. In some cases, your return may not yield an even exchange, or a credit issued to your credit card. But store credit is the next best thing to an even exchange or credit back to your credit card, especially if you took into account Step 3.


  • Dress well. You want to be taken seriously.
  • Dates matter. If you don’t mind standing in line a little longer, the days after the holidays are best for returning things, as you will likely get less resistance.
  • Assess the value of the item and act accordingly. The more valuable the item, the the better the chances are of a successful return.
  • Don’t be embarrassed to return bad groceries- spoiled milk, bad fruit, flowers that die the next day. Your neighborhood grocer, where you buy regularly will be eager to make good on the bad items.
  • Losing your temper will lose positive result


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