Shoppers Face Stricter Return Policies

New York City Shoppers should expect some headaches when returning gifts after Christmas, according to consumer education Web site ConsumerWorld.org.

"Stores' return policy remains strict and complicated," said Edward Dworsky, founder of the resource guide.

This year, Costco Wholesale Corp. tightened its return policy that had been open-ended for all but computers. It is now 90 days for TVs, computers, cameras and other electronics.

Sears, Roebuck and Co. maintains a broad 15% restocking fee, introduced in 2005 on select items including home appliances, electronics, and sporting goods not returned unused with full packaging. Plenty of stores also track customers' returns, blacklisting "serial returners."

Dworsky noted that bucking the trend was the nation's leading consumer-electronics chain Best Buy Co., which liberalized its holiday returns policy this year. It now allows returns on all goods until Jan. 31.

Previously, computers were excluded, some other items needed to be returned by Jan. 8 and still others by Jan. 24.