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When Stores Refuse to Accept Returns

Q. I bought a new toaster oven that didn’t heat properly. But when I tried to return it to the store (with the receipt), I was told I had to send it to the manufacturer at my own expense for a replacement. Can they do that?

A. More stores and even manufacturers are trying to shift returns away from retailers, even placing notices saying “do not return to store” inside the packaging or with the sales receipt. Still, if a new product proves defective out of the box, the retailer should replace it, no matter what the return policy states.

Ask for a manager and mention the phrase “implied warranty of merchantability”—that is, a seller’s basic promise that goods it sells will do what they are supposed to do. Better yet, present a printout of this federal law. An exception may be items sold (and clearly marked) “as is” or those purchased during liquidation sales.

If the store insists it isn’t liable for manufacturing defects (and technically, it isn’t), tell the retailer you want to return it for a refund, or at least store credit. If everything fails and you must deal with the manufacturer, insist on free shipping and getting a new replacement, not one that is refurbished or remanufactured.

Sid Kirchheimer writes about consumer and health issues.

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