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Consumer Alert

Paying attention to return policies can save hassle, money

Q. I purchased a Nook Simple Touch with Glow Light in the Hingham Barnes & Noble. I purchased it to use during recovery from scheduled surgery, and I asked the cashier if it was possible to return it should I decide it was not for me. He told me I had two weeks, so I tossed the receipt in the bag. I never even opened the bag, let alone the package, during the first two weeks. I have tried to return it and was told that because the return policy is two weeks, there’s nothing that can be done at the store. They suggested I contact corporate. I spent hours on hold, being passed from supervisor to supervisor. E-mails I sent received only standard replies.

A. Because you’ve been trying so hard for so long to make this return, I figured the least I could do was ask the folks at Barnes & Noble if they would extend some consideration.

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The result was a quick and happy ending.

“This has been resolved,” Barnes & Noble spokeswoman Mary Ellen Keating said. “We’re sending the customer a return label via e-mail. She’s returning the device to us, and we’ll issue her a gift card.”

She noted that the rules did have to be bent.

“We did learn from talking to the customer that she tried to return the device to our store past the 14-day return policy and she was refused,” Keating said. “We are very clear about our return policy, but given [the fact] that she is a longtime customer and her medical situation, we’re making an exception.”

Since your goal was getting a merchandise credit, we can count this as a win for the consumer. But it was by no means a slam dunk. As noted, the receipt was clear about when a return should have been made and the company made an exception.

Indeed, as long as retailers are clear about return policies, they can make them whatever they feel like — including accepting no returns at all. So, good news this time, but a lesson for other consumers to pay attention to the terms you’re agreeing to when you make your purchase.

Mitch Lipka has been helping consumers out of jams for the past two decades. He lives in Worcester and also writes the Consumer Alert blog on Boston.com. Mitch can be reached at ConsumerNews@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @mitchlipka.

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