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In the dead of winter you bought a swimsuit imagining a new you by summer. Now the hot season is nearly here but you're still not ready. You want to return the swimsuit. Can you?
Returns are a cornerstone of American commerce -- they make us confident consumers. We commit without committing by buying while reserving the right to return, and everyone wins, buyer and seller alike. But there are exceptions -- some things you buy cannot be exchanged or returned. Let's look at shopping law, keeping in mind that each state has its own legislation.
State laws vary, so research the law in your locale before you buy something you can't return. Still, we can look at the law in California as an example of return policy legislation. Let's see what it covers, exceptions, and notice, or where you find out the policy.
California Civil Code Section 1723 is the state's law on returns. It requires retailers to inform consumers of the return policy in prominent signs in the store, but only if the policy is in any way an exception to a general seven day policy allowing them. The phrasing is a little confusing but this is how it's put in the statute (emphasis added):
Every retail seller which sells goods to the public in this state that has a policy as to any of those goods of not giving full cash or credit refunds, or of not allowing equal exchanges, or any combination thereof, for at least seven days following purchase of the goods if they are returned and proof of their purchase is presented, shall conspicuously display that policy either on signs posted at each cash register and sales counter, at each public entrance, on tags attached to each item sold under that policy, or on the retail seller's order forms, if any.
The statute goes on to outline exceptions to the blanket return policy for certain types of perishable items, and there does not seem to be a limitation on the ability to mark any particular item 'no returns accepted.' It also states that a store in violation of this law is liable to the consumer for the purchase if return is attempted within 30 days. So what does this mean for your swimsuit?
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You will have to check the return policy at the store where you purchased your suit, as well as state law. See whether there is any specific prohibition on returning that type of item.
As the California law seems to indicate, a store can decide to deny returns on a certain purchase as long as the buyer had notice of the limitation. If you were notified of a prohibition on returning swimsuits and you just missed it then trying to return yours may prove as futile as swimming upstream.