One Woman in California Successfully Returned a Dead Christmas Tree to Costco

published Jan 12, 2018
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(Image credit: John Arehart)

We love Costco — and its famously generous return policy — but is there a point at which consumers abuse their rights to, well, always be right? Does a woman in California returning her dead Christmas tree in January fall into the category of shameless retail returns that should not be refunded?

That’s just the stuff of debate this week, as fellow shopper Scott Bentley outed the entire Costco returns incident on his Facebook page, according to the New York Post, along with an edited-for-privacy photo of the woman and the long-brittle and “battered fir” being successfully returned for a refund on January 4th.

If you think this is a brazen abuse of retail consumer rights, you’re not alone. But, as the Costco Reddit channel and its Costco employee-contributors illuminates, this isn’t even close to the most out there things people have returned to the wholesale club.

A few other ridiculous things they’ve seen returned by Costco customers:

An empty bottle of wine returned because it gave a woman “a headache.”

A huge safe bought online returned reeking of marijuana. (Police were called.)

[An] 8 year old electric toothbrush.

Costco is far from alone among retailers dealing with the big business of customer returns (and the absurd business of abusing their return policies, as this archived Reddit AMA with actual retail workers points out). A recent holiday recap piece on CNN Money also figures that consumers return approximately $380 billion worth of goods each year, much of which winds up in the landfill. Yes, seriously.

So even the majority of those returns that are well within your rights and fully legit in terms of using store return policies with good intention — like one from a hospitality industry veteran, who pointed out the common practice of buying extra booze for a party or restaurant and then returning booze that hasn’t been opened for a refund — most likely results in the product being destroyed, and costing the retailer money. Which may or may not then result in the cost of goods sold being driven up for the rest of us, so caveat returnor everybody.