Archived — Shopping for Satisfaction

Archived information is provided for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please contact us to request a format other than those available.

Have you ever bought a cool pair of sunglasses and after getting home decided you really couldn’t afford them?

Or have you ever purchased a gift for your best friend — only to realize she just received the same watch from someone else?

Maybe you bought some trendy new item of clothing and arrived home to discover it didn’t go with anything else you own?

So what do you do when this happens to you?

Find information for different jurisdictions through the following links:

Refunds and Exchanges

When dealing with refunds and exchanges, the rule of thumb is 'Ask before you buy.' Otherwise, you may not be able to return or exchange the purchase you now regret!

Contrary to popular belief, stores are not required by law to take back goods. Legally, you — the consumer — are responsible for checking refund and exchange policies before handing over your money.

While no legal obligation exists for businesses to accept returned items, it’s generally accepted that offering refunds or exchanges is a big part of developing and maintaining good customer relations. Chances are you’ll head back to Joe’s shop if he treats you well.

But make sure you do your part and ask questions like these:

  • Does the store give full or partial refunds, exchanges or credit notes?
  • Are certain personal items, such as jewellery or lingerie, excluded from the policy?
  • Is a sales slip, cancelled cheque or the original packaging needed as proof of purchase?
  • May only unopened or clearly unused merchandise be returned?

Look around. Most stores post a sign that explains their return/exchange policy. It’s often written on the receipt too. If you don’t see it, ask the clerk to write down the details for you.

During the holiday season or when things are on sale, it’s a particularly good idea to double-check return and exchange policies because they may be different from the norm.

Warranties

Some contracts come with a warranty and warranties can be tricky, so make sure you take the time to read them and understand exactly what they’re telling you.

  • Make sure you know what’s covered and for how long. Also find out what’s not covered.
  • Handle with care — the way you use the item and take care of it might affect your warranty rights.
  • If the product doesn’t work properly, don’t try to fix it yourself — that might cancel your right to service under the warranty. Contact the business right away.
  • No luck? If you have a problem, check with your consumer protection office to find out about the warranty rights in your province or territory.

Deposits and Layaways

Yes, putting down a deposit or having an item put on layaway is generally done before your purchase. However, here’s something you need to know before taking that first step: Not all stores will let customers change their minds after they’ve put deposits on items or arranged to purchase through layaway plans.

If you’re considering putting down a deposit or layaway payment, make sure you fully understand the seller’s policy before entering the contract.

Door-to-Door Sales

Although this method of selling is not as popular now as it once was, many goods and services are still sold door-to-door.

If a door-to-door salesperson knocks on your door, remember these tips:

  • Ask to see the salesperson’s personal identification, licence or registration. Make note of his or her name, the name and address of the company, and whether the salesperson carries proper identification.
  • Don’t fall for the sales pitch! Don’t buy anything until you’ve completely thought it through and asked yourself if you really want the item.
  • Watch for these warning signs: an offer of a 'free gift' if you buy a product, an offer that’s only good for that day, or a claim that a neighbour just made a purchase.
  • Ask for sales literature and then contact local stores that sell the same merchandise to compare prices. It’s the perfect way to find out if the door-to-door product is overpriced.
  • Never leave the person unattended in any room of your home. If you feel the least bit threatened or intimidated, ask the person to leave immediately. If you’re suspicious of the person, report the incident to police right away.