Alberta retailers told to consider no-return policy amid COVID-19

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Alberta retailers told to consider no-return policy amid COVID-19
WATCH: Many retail stores are now open in Alberta but just what should their return policies look like during the COVID-19 pandemic? Carolyn Kury de Castillo has more on recommendations from the province that could see stores making all sales final – May 19, 2020

Retail stores in Alberta are now considering changes to return policies in an effort to help stop the spread of COVID-19 — but some consumers aren’t thrilled with the idea.

Kim Nixon has a number of items she bought at Lowe’s in mid-April that she hasn’t been able to return. Like some other retailers, Lowe’s suspended its return policy in April due to COVID-19.

When Nixon saw on the Lowe’s website that returns would be accepted again as of May 19, her husband headed to the store right away. But when he went to the Crowfoot location, he was told he wouldn’t be able to return the items on Tuesday.

“We are starting to get to a point where stores need to make a way to return these things,” said Nixon.

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In a statement to Global News on Tuesday, Lowe’s Canada said Canadian locations are indeed accepting returns again on May 19, except in Saskatchewan. At the Crowfoot location, there was “confusion this morning with one customer” and the location is now accepting returns.

“Like several other retailers, we suspended returns starting April 1 and the applicable return period based on the date of purchase and product type was paused between that date and today. Starting today, all returned items are duly disinfected before being put back on the sales floor, with some items also being quarantined for a 24-[hour]period,” read the Lowe’s statement.

The Alberta government released guidelines for retailers when the relaunch strategy was announced last week.

Among them was a recommendation to update return policies to make all sales final.

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Alberta Health said because the new coronavirus is spread by close contact, eliminating returns can help reduce the chance of exposure for staff and customers.

The Retail Council of Canada said retailers have done a good job with proactive measures but now the concern is making sure stores aren’t a weak link in the chain of defence against COVID-19.

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“It’s important for retailers as individual companies to set policies that make sense and to build confidence in their customers when it comes to returning products,” said John Graham, Prairie region director of government relations for the Retail Council of Canada.

“That they are not having to take a financial risk to buy a product that can’t be returned but equally important is to make sure the products that are returned are cleaned thoroughly if they are hard surface or for soft surface products put in the back room under quarantine for a period of 24 to 48 hours.”

But some consumers say no returns may mean shoppers saying “no thanks” to spending money.

“Really saying, ‘Hey, do I really need this before I buy it?'” said Nixon.

The Home Depot has extended its return policy from 90 days to 180 days and is asking customers to refrain from returning products, if possible.

“This policy remains in place as we continue physical distancing measures in our stores and is applicable in all provinces,” said Paul Berto, director of corporate communications for Home Depot Canada.

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