With so much shopping on our to-do lists this holiday season, good customer service will be essential to smooth spending. To help, here are some of the big names topping Consumer Reports’ 2012 list of Naughty & Nice retailers.
“It’s kind of a collection of policies and practices among big companies that we kind of like, or that we’re not so fond of, based on how consumer-friendly they are,” says Tod Marks, senior projects editor at Consumer Reports.
First up, the naughty: Popular clothing merchant Forever 21 has inconsistent return policies for online and in-store returns, which can create a hassle. According to Marks, at Forever 21, if you order something online but want to return it to the store, you can only get an exchange of merchandise credit. But if you want to mail it back, it will be credited in the form you paid.
Next, if you choose to take in a show or concert this holiday season, just beware of pesky booking fees, particularly at one well-known vendor. Consumer Reports says Ticketmaster charges $2.50 to download and print tickets for some events. It’s free to receive them by mail, but that could take 10 to 14 days - much too long if you’re buying last minute.
“Your other alternative might be to actually get expedited shipping would could cost as much as, or start around, $14,” Marks says. “There may be other vehicles available but the bottom line is that if you want to download your tickets and print them out yourself, there shouldn’t be a fee for that.”
Now, if you have any electronics on your shopping list, watch out for unexpected return fees, which aren’t that rare, but Consumer Reports does highlight one exceptional culprit. Restocking fees have been around for years, but Tiger Direct’s return policy can be especially unpredictable. The e-retailer inspects every return and charges up to 25% at its sole discretion, so there’s no way to know how much you’ll pay before submitting a return.
The next naughty retailer, a telephone service provider, is also known for its misleading fees. Vonage customers pay a “Regulatory, Compliance and Intellectual Property Fee,” which sounds like a government-mandated tax, but it’s not. It’s actually a charge created by the company.
“In all fairness, they do disclose that at some point, but to the average consumer, you have to look really hard to determine what a particular fee is,” says Marks. “And Vonage is certainly not alone in this. A lot of companies do this. It’s a matter of understandability.”
Now, topping Consumer Reports list of nice retailers is department store chain Kohl’s, known for its stand-out return policy. The merchant boasts a “no questions asked, hassle-free” return policy for all purchases – online and off – no matter when you bought it.
Next, if you’re looking for a new car to squeeze under the tree this year Honda made the nice list for making rear-view cameras standard on 94% of their new year models. Other automakers charge extra for this safety feature.
Also voted nice was a supermarket that promises fresh and delicious produce or your money back. Whether it’s a mushy eggplant or bland avocado, Safeway Supermarket’s 1,700 stores will gladly take back your purchases with refund or replacement.
Finally, while a new fridge or dishwasher makes a thoughtful gift, knowing how and where to dispose the old appliance can be tricky. But one home improvement store goes the extra mile. “Home Depot made our nice list because they will actually haul away your old appliance. And not only that, they’ll deliver, uncrate, set up, level and test out your new major appliance.”
As always, we want to hear from you. What’s a retailer whose policy you find naughty or nice? Connect with me on Twitter @Farnoosh and use the hashtag #finfit.