Are all sales really final?

Today I visited the local K-Mart. Posted around the store were numerous signs reading “Store Closing - All Sales Final - No Exchanges - No Refunds”.

I bought a thing (for our purposes it doesn’t matter what), took it home, discovered I got the wrong one, brought it back within two hours. They made a few noises about there being no returns, but took it back anyway, and I got my money refunded. Maybe they were just being nice. But I seem to recall hearing somewhere that, legally, there’s no such thing as “all sales final” - a retailer must always offer a refund for goods which are defective, damaged or otherwise not as advertised. In particular, the words “sold as is” are meaningless insofar as consumer protection laws always offer redress for at least some reasonable claims of misrepresentation (if you buy a car, they can’t just point to the “sold as is” sticker when you notice the engine is missing).

So I guess the question is, does K-Mart or anyone else have a legal leg to stand on in putting up those signs? In regard to returns, where’s the line between store policy and the requirements of the law? Please, no guessing; I want the straight dope!


There are a number of retailers that have an “all sales are final” policy and stick to it. Burlington Coat Factory is one, they will do exchanges but charge a 10% restocking fee. There is a small chain of stores in the Seattle area called Dumb Prices is another. Someone at that particular store was being nice, they did not have to give you any money back.

I am fairly sure it is different in Australia. Someone will correct me if I am wrong. The shops here should not be putting up those signs. But they do. If the goods are defective, or differ from the box,ad etc in a significant way, they must refund.

Blinkingblinking is right. In Australia, the Trade Practices Act and the Sale of Goods Act all basically state that if you sell something and it’s not fit for the intended purpose, different from how it was described, doesn’t do what it’s supposed to, or is simply defective, you can take it back and the store MUST refund your money or exchange the item.

Obviously, there are time limits- 30 days, I think, unless a warranty exists for a longer period.

Australia also has stronger Consumer Protection laws than the US, AFAIK.

Just for the record, the UK sounds similar to Australia; consumer rights cannot be simply overriden by notices such as ‘no refunds given’. Such notices are not, AFAIK, illegal to post, they’re just not enforcable. Of course, stores continue to use them because not everyone knows this.

Caveat Emptor!

You had fair notice and chose to disregard it.
Lucky you to get a refund.

In Massachusetts, retailers are required to “conspicuously post” their return/refund policies. “No returns or refunds” is a perfectly legal policy, except for defective merchandise, which a retailer is required to take back and refund your purchase price. However, “I took this lamp home and realized just how ugly it is” != “Defective.” From here

It appears that the law in the U.S. is not that much different than the law in Australia or the U.K. A merchant can’t sell you a defective item and then point to a “No returns” sign. They can refuse to take back an item if you just decide you don’t like it, but they can’t refuse to take back or replace a defective item.

The one and only time we went to Burlington Coat Factory, I was astonished to find that they had a “no returns” policy.

Great policy on their part, as far as I’m concerned. :rolleyes: We’ve never been back.

Right. And wrong. A store can generally say “as is, no returns” and be on good legal ground.

The implied warranty of merchantability is a basic provision of the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. Info below in Times Roman is from A Businessperson’s Guide to Federal Warranty Law.

The implied warranty of merchantability is a merchant’s basic promise that the goods sold will do what they are supposed to do and that there is nothing significantly wrong with them. In other words, it is an implied promise that the goods are fit to be sold. The law says that merchants make this promise automatically every time they sell a product they are in business to sell. (italics mine)

Unless you explicitly tell them in writing: It must be clear to consumers that the entire product risk falls on them. You must specifically indicate that you do not warrant “merchantability,” or you must use a phrase such as “with all faults,” or “as is.”

Some states do not allow “as-is” sales. At this time, these states are Alabama, Connecticut, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

So, if the OP is not in one of those excluded states, and the store had signs all over saying “As is, no returns” they got very lucky that the store took the item back.

Here’s a related question: It’s become standard for stores that sell music or software to refuse to allow the disc to be returned if the seal has been broken. Obviously, this is meant to fight piracy. But it seems to me that this policy is rarely ever “conspicuously posted.” It seems like eveyone just assumes that you know this. Does this violate the consumer protection laws? Are music and software in a special category? Or is this just one of those things that you’re supposed to know?

It’s “conspicuously posted” at Wal-Mart, along with all of the other details of their return and exchange policy.

My return mojo is excellent; I was mostly asking for the benefit of those without my good looks and easy charm, which do seem to give me an unfair advantage.

Anyway, my advice: be honest about your reason for the return, even if it’s just because you changed your mind. Nobody likes a BS’er.