Is It Right Because It’s Lawful?

With only a few exceptions, Costco’s return policy is limited only by the customers’ conscious. If you’re interested in reading it, it can be found here. It will open in a new tab. It’s actually pretty short; only a few paragraphs.

I think it’s admirable that they have such a liberal return policy. If you’ve ever tried to return something to another retailer, you know how frustrating, even maddening it can be.

Try doing it with an item you bought 10 years ago. Even with a receipt, you’d be hard pressed to get them to refund your money. Usually, they want it in the original packaging. If you don’t have a receipt, you can pretty much forget it.

Not so for Costco. If you bought it there, they have a record of it. You don’t need a receipt to make the return. You don’t have to have the original box. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve had it, how much you’ve used it, or what condition it comes back in. I’ve things from muddy and broken sidewalk lights to water coolers. I also heard of a local woman who returned a 15 year old refrigerator and got a refund.

I don’t know about you, but this is gaming the system to me. It’s been argued that it’s Costco’s fault if people take advantage of their return policy. They set up the rules and people are operating within them.

Can something be within the rules and still be wrong?

Just look at the tax code.

Most people would sat that it is inherently unfair. Those with the most seem to get the biggest breaks, while those of us in the middle class don’t make enough to take advantage of the shelters and loopholes. We can’t afford to hire the lawyers and accountants that it takes. They’re operating within the rules established by law, but most people would say that it’s wrong.

Monopolistic utilities. There’s usually only one source of electricity, gas, and water. They can charge just about whatever they want within certain regulations. You can’t dump them and pickup with a competitor. My mother, who lives in an adjoining city less than three miles from my house, pays a far higher rate for her water than I do. Why does that city charge a higher rate? They’re operating within the confines of the law, but it just doesn’t seem right.

Apparently Costco doesn’t have a problem with people abusing their return policy. That probably means that I shouldn’t either. But it offends my sensibilities nonetheless.

I’m not passing judgement, and I don’t think anyone who takes advantage of the rules is evil or that it’s always wrong. I’ve done it a time or two in my life and gained an advantage that was outside of the scope of the spirit of the rules. But I think we should examine our motives before we exercise some of these rights. Are we trying to get one over on someone else, or just better our position? What is the cost to ourselves and other people?

What do you think about it?

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