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Williams Sonoma Return Policy on Food [moved from General Topics]

I was surprised to learn yesterday that WS does not allow returns on opened food products, particularly since this is not listed anywhere on their website or receipts. Instead, per the website, it simply says "if you are not completely satisfied with a Williams-Sonoma purchase or gift for any reason, please return it for exchange or merchandise credit."

Here's what happened. In my many years of shopping at WS, I've returned two (well, now three) opened food products: some smores cookies and a bottle of oil I didn't like. I tried to take back an instant tea powder yesterday and was practically sneered at when the SA saw it had been opened. I was told that it's generally understood that you can't return opened food products anywhere, including the grocery store (which just isn't true in my area). The SA proceeded to tell me that he'd be reported by his boss and fired for doing so. In the end, after arguing about it, they took the offending item back. Frankly, if the policy is that you can't return something, then I think it should be clearly stated at the time of purchase (either in writing or verbally).

What really bothers me about this is how the SA (and later, the customer service person I spoke to on the phone) acted like returning open food is something disgusting and dangerous. It's not like I had taken a bite out of something and tried to give it back to them. Given that they've taken back items before and that other high-end establishments will take back food, I don't think I'm so out of line in asking them to take it back. Like I said, if the policy is that it's forbidden, fine, but enough with the attitude.

Any thoughts? I'm sure that most places don't take back opened food products; I just had no idea that some employees at WS found it so offensive.

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  1. With that stated policy, I don't see how they have a leg to stand on, arguing against allowing such returns. You should have told the clerk, "no, it would be disgusting if you tried to sell it again, but that's your problem, not mine." LOL

    It would be one thing if the policy were return-for-defect, but a blanket "happiness guarantee" is what it is... and at those prices, it certainly ought to be a blanket policy.

    1. Trader Joe's will happily refund your money for any item in their store - if it had gone bad, if you didn't like it - whatever. So the W-S CS rep was wrong in saying that "it's generally understood that most opened food products cannot be returned."

      However, in W-S defense, their policy is to accept returns for merchandise credit. So you *can* return it - you just can't get your actual money back. Did you ask for your money back instead of a merch credit? That could have been the issue.

      1. I say WS is too sooty for their own good.
        We have a Lowes Foods (grocery chain, don't know where it is based) here in NC that has a 200% guarantee, which I have used twice, once for shrimp that smelled like ammonia and once for cheese that molded prematurely. The customer service desk (with or without a receipt!) will give you cash, then print a voucher that you give to the cashier for a free replacement.
        Beat that.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Tee

          harris teeter, bakery items stale? 200% purchase price back in cash!

        2. I had a run in with a clerk at Cost Plus last year. I bought some cocktails mixers for a party and didn't end up using them, so I returned them UNopened.

          The clerk at the register made a big deal and told me they couldn't take back food because of health issues. I pointed to their return policy posted at the register and asked her to show me where it was written. "Well it's not written, but we can't do it." O...K....

          She finally ended up calling a manager and was told, "Of course we accept food, we just can't re-shelve it for health reasons. Just throw it away."

          My impression is that ANY foods returned, opened or unopened, get written off and pitched in the trash for health reasons.

          1. I would write a letter to the company... at the very least, hopefully they will post some kind of a policy if that is the case and you can save someone from the trouble that you went through. I'm big on writing letters, both if I have a good experience and a bad experience.