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Consumer Alert

Return policy should be stated before a sale takes place

Q. My 13-year-old daughter and her friends were shopping at the Burlington Mall looking at iPhone cases at the Street Talk kiosk. The sales lady subjected her to an aggressive sales pitch, and my daughter ended up purchasing a case worth about $1 and a screen protector worth about 2 cents for $40. As soon as she paid, she changed her mind because she never really wanted the case and protector, but felt pressured. She was told she could only exchange the items for something else and could not get her money back. It is true that the receipt says “no refunds” at the bottom, but that important piece of information should have been clearly stated verbally by the salesperson at the time of the transaction, or there should have been a prominent sign at the checkout counter. - VILNIS KREISMANIAS, READING

A. What an unfortunate way for a young consumer to learn not all stores are created equal when it comes to returning items.

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Massachusetts law is pretty clear on the issue of returns. Sellers can set whatever policy they’d like as long as it is clearly and prominently disclosed prior to the sale taking place. That means a note on a receipt is not acceptable as a disclosure, since that comes after the purchase.

I was unable to reach anyone by phone at the Street Talk stand in the Burlington Mall, but folks at their corporate office were quick to respond. Street Talk’s Nahum Zak said, generally, the company’s outlets allow exchanges for seven days after the purchase, but not returns.

However, he apologized for the situation and promised your daughter would both receive a refund and get a $50 merchandise credit. “We are a family business that pride ourselves on our customer relationships and will do whatever is in our power to ensure a positive customer experience,” Zak said.

When you’re buying, be clear about what will happen if you bring back the product. If there’s no posted policy and you get hassled, contact the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation.

May you all have many happy returns.

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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