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[ The PC Guide | The PC Buyer's Guide | Purchasing PCs and Components | Vendor and Order Problems and Solutions | Common Vendor and Order Problems ]

Inappropriate Restocking Fees

In another section I described in detail my views on restocking fees. In particular, I supported my opinion that restocking fees are not the "pure evil" that some make them out to be. When fairly implemented by a reasonable vendor they serve a useful purpose: they keep down prices by discouraging frivolous returns.

Unfortunately, sometimes vendors aren't reasonable about charging restocking fees. There's an easy litmus test you can use to determine if a restocking fee is being charged inappropriately: if the return is due to a mistake you made in ordering that was your fault, then the restocking fee may be appropriate. If the return is due to anything that is not your fault, you should not be charged a restocking fee, regardless of "company policy". It's as simple as that. In theory, anyway. :^)

In the real world, inappropriate restocking fees have grown to epidemic proportions, particularly among smaller, less reputable online companies. These unscrupulous firms try to use the threat of a restocking fee to try to gain advantage over customers who have legitimate reasons for returns. In some cases they do not make any effort to notify the buyer at the time of the purchase that a restocking fee will apply to returns. Here are some specific situations in which you should never pay a restocking fee:

  • If the company sends the wrong item to you.
  • If you are canceling an order for a normally-stocked item before it has shipped. If the item was a special order then you should expect to pay a fee if the order is cancelled, because the vendor may have to wait a long time before they can resell that special product.
  • If the product sent to you is defective (unless the vendor specifically and clearly notified you in advance that the item was being sold "as is").
  • If you were sold an item based on information provided by one of the vendor's salespeople regarding specifications or compatibility, that turned out to be incorrect.

Getting restocking fees waived is often as simple as being firm but insistent on the phone. If this fails you may have to escalate the matter or take action against the firm.

Next: Dealing With Difficult Vendors and Order Problems

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