• I swear that one day in JC Penny’s, I was stuck behind a lady that did a “buy 1 get 1 50%off” deal. She was arguing that she was returning the “buy 1” item, not the “50% off” item.

  • From reading the linked story, her point, as trivial as it may be, seems to be valid. Her coupon was $5 off on orders of $50 or more. She purchased over $100 of stuff, applied the coupon to that total and a week later returned $20 worth of that merchandise. Her total after the return was still well over $50, and she is therefore still entitled to the full benefit of the $5 coupon. But then the store reduced the refund by $0.80 as a partial recoupment of the coupon. I think they’re wrong.

    Should this be a $5M class action? Different question.

  • I wonder if a more appropriate approach to such cases, where the defendant’s conduct is wrong but large damages seem excessive, would be a return to specific performance, requiring the company to modify its practice, compensation for the actual loss, in this case 50 cents, and some modest amount for the trouble of bringing the suit, plus legal reasonable legal fees.

  • cgage: Having served time worked as a retail clerk for a while, I can give you at least one reason why some retailers use this policy. If you offer a $5-off-$50-or-more coupon, then some customers who otherwise would have spent $25 will instead spend $50 to qualify for the coupon. That’s the scenario the store is hoping for. But some other customers — the sort of customers who tend to abuse the returns system in the first place — will buy $150 worth of items, keep them for a couple of weeks, decide what they “really want”, then return $100 worth of items (often after the coupon promotion is over) and still expect the full $5 discount. So the store winds up losing in this scenario; instead of generating additional sales, the coupon just winds up generating additional returns. The “We’ll reduce the discount if you return some items” policy discourages this abose of the coupon, and I think it’s fair to everybody involved (especially since the customer can always ask some items to be rung up separately).

    But of course, in order to be fair to both sides, the policy has to be communicated to the consumer at the time of purchase — and that’s where the store may (or may not) have failed. I recently bought about $150 of murder simulations videogames at Best Buy on a buy-$100-get-a-$10-gift-card coupon, and the receipt did this very well; it showed exactly how much of the gift card balance was tied to each item, so I knew exactly how much I’d lose if I returned something.

  • MPhaedrus:

    I, too, worked in the salt mines of retail, but back in the days when the receipts were carved on stone tablets (they looked remarkably like tombstones).

    $5 was a large sum back then (almost the cost of a carton of cigarettes), so there weren’t too many $5 coupons floating around. I have absolutely no memory of their policy on returns where coupons had been used.