Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Give me my money back........please

Hello. This dropped in my email box recently. I don't know the exact answer to the readers questions, so perhaps you could help me. I can only write as I see it, I am not the encyclopedia of all knowledge, ha ha.
Edited to include the key points. Text speak removed and replaced.

Hi ilona
I write to ask if you could answer some questions re returns as you covered this in one post.

I have bought a number of items from charity shops including clothes, electrical,  dvds. When things don't work eg a dvd wont play, an electrical item fault, zip broke on clothing first time worn.

I have a number of charity shops refusing to refund money even with proof of purchase for these things. What would you do in these circumstances and do you know if there is a right to refund the same as High Street shops?

I am frustrated by this I have lost money. I have also bought boots from a charity shop but the buckle broke on first use and not fixable. They were for formal occasions so cant wear them broken. Should charities refund?

Charities also differ in their guarantees on electrics. Some say they tested them themselves so wont hear of a fault and refund, some say 28 days if faulty,  other 6 months. I thought by law you automatically got 1 yr guarantee. Or does this differ on second hand goods?

Finally, the receipt does not specify the exact item. Eg it will just say 'electrical', not iron or hairdryer etc. I've had High Street shops refuse refunds saying 'I could have bought the item anywhere' and they cant identify it as theirs, so refuse refund. What would you do here? Money scare and I need refunds !

Is unopened food refundable? Eg tins of tomatoes over bought from supermarket if have receipt?
Thanks for your help.

Hi Anon.
My own personal view on this is that if I had checked the goods I was buying at the shop and all seemed in order, and the price was right, and I found that something was wrong with it when I got it home, I would take it back to the shop if it was more than a couple of quid, and expect a refund. If it was a cheapo purchase I would give it back to the charity shop as a donation.

The trouble with returning faulty goods is that they may not believe your story. If they left the shop in good order, how did they become faulty. It might be an idea to get them to plug in an electrical item before you leave the shop so you can see that it works. Zips in clothing do break, but shouldn't with normal handling. I think I have only had a couple of zips break on me in thirty odd years.

I can't comment on guarantees, best to ask at the counter at the time of buying. Make a mental note of the person who served you so you can mention them when you go back.

About your boots. It depends how much they cost, are they fashion boots, did you walk a long way in them, and could you take them to a cobbler for repair? Electrical items from a charity shop should work because it is the law that they should be PAT tested.

I am pretty sure a shop doesn't have to give a refund if you have bought too many tins of tomatoes, and there is nothing wrong with them. Put them in the cupboard they will get used eventually. Next time you food shop make a list before you go so you don't overbuy.

I think to be successful at getting refunds is down to being polite, but firm. Not storming in, plonking something on the counter, and demanding money back. Attitude plays a big part in this. Give the assistant as much information as you can. What exactly happened, describe the circumstances leading up to the failure of said item doing what it is supposed to do.

Whether you take something back or not is between you and your conscience. Neglect on the shops side should result in a refund, neglect on the customers side (talking about me), I would cut my losses and chalk it up to experience. I would take responsibility and say I messed up, I couldn't lie to gain a refund.

There is a lot of information out there on charity shop refunds, it is discussed a lot on forums. I think the short answer is that they do have to give refunds on faulty goods, the same as an ordinary shop. But they may impose time restrictions, so that if you have been using something for six months and it finally breaks they can question you on how often the item was used during that time.

I've found these links for you.
Which consumer rights on second hand clothes. 
NetMums. Taking an item back to a charity shop
MSE Forum. Charity shop returns
Gov UK giving refunds.
Age UK. Shopping on the High street. Your rights. 
Choose. Buying second hand.
Charity Retail Association

That's some reading to be going on with. If anyone else has any views on returning goods to charity shops. please post a comment. Summing up, it looks like they do legally have to give a refund, but it's not always clear cut. A lot depends on the shops own refund policy, which should be made clear at the time of purchase.

Thanks for popping in, I have stuff to do. We'll catch up soon.
Toodle pip


  1. It is essential to know the shop's return policy, often in writing, posted near the check out stand. That said, buyer beware. Do your due diligence in assessing the condition of the item to be purchased. Here (USA) they often have a place to try electrical items, a spare light bulb to check lamps. Overbought? no, you should just plan on using the items soon.

  2. Personally wouldn't buy electricals from charity shops, if I did I would plug them in the shop to make sure before leaving even then I would be wary. I certainly wouldn't expect a years guarantee on them, as they were second hand anyway. Food occasionally I will give the Tesco delivery man something back that has just come that is wrong or I have bought wrong, but I wouldn't take food back to a shop unless there is a problem with it. would anyone want to buy tins that have been bought and brought back to the shop and possibly could have been tampered with, its not in the shops interest or insurance to do this I don't think. If I buy clothing or shoes from a charity shop, I check, I try on, if I like I check and double check back front, under the arms, hems etc before buying, I have often found a pull rip or tear or bleach mark etc and thus put it back without buying, telling the lady if need be. Handbags always try the handles where it meets the bag, it they are worn don't bother buying, same with shoes, buckles etc. its common sense really, charity shops are second hand shops, they will come with goods that have something wrong with them, slightly out of shape, bobbles, wear and tear, its up to the person buying to make sure whatever it is is acceptable to them.

  3. I worked in the same charity shop for over 20 years and our policy was no refunds. We had a large notice by the till saying this. Sometimes we would let a customer take something home to try on and if it did not fit they could bring it back while we were winking in the shop, but thus did not happen very often for we always suggested the Custer tried the item on. We never sold any electrical goods.
    Hazel c uk

  4. On charity shop purchases -I do not return unless to return as a donation.If it was quite an expensive item however I think I may explain the fault and hope they would refund my money.I have found that charity shops are quite particular in receiving electrical goods and furniture for safety.Some charity shops have even said to me only recently when I bought an item of clothing-bring it back for a refund if you change your mind-I think this was an accept ion though.Too many time though and I would just slowly use myself x

  5. I think that you should try shopping around if possible and buy new but cheap, clothing wise. It's possible to get good quality from seondhand shops (charity etc) but you need to be prepared to replace a zip, fix a hem etc - items have already had some wear and nothing lasts forever. On other goods the shop's policy should be displayed, if not, then ask what they do about items which break down soon after purchase, and ask them to write on your receipt what you bought there. You need to bear in mind that the shop has no idea how much use any item has had, a lot of good will is required on both sides. Overbought food? Get imaginative and use it up and buy more carefully in future. I do know that most charity shops will refund on jigsaws which are incomplete - since this is something which cannot usually be checked, having said that, I usually look on these purchases as donations to the charity. If you're really struggling, try and improve on your skills so that you can make or fix things yourself if possible, don't feel that returning something is the only option, when I was desperate I made a point of buying certain things from new (shoes and underwear), and either making everything else - or doing without. I had very few clothes and only 2 pairs of shoes, I also had no food for 2 days each week, even though I shopped and ate pretty much as Ilona now does (ie no rubbish bought). I know this is slightly off the subject, but I think you'd feel better if you had more options than feeling miserable because you can't get your money back.

    1. This is such a sensible and caring response to this reader's question. I think if you are willing to buy from charity shops (I do, too) you should be willing to try to fix the small problems that crop up. I don't understand how a shoe buckle is not fixable. Did you ask a shoe repair shop if they could fix it? You know going in that the goods are used, and to me, that suggests that you do your best to determine if the things you want to buy are usable. As with the buckle, new zips can be put into garments for less than it would cost you to buy that garment new, and you are still many pounds to the good, if it was a nice garment to start with. As for the canned toms, they last for a long time, and unless you have absolutely no space to store them until you can use them up (under the bed?) I really don't see the problem.
      I have found so many lovely garments languishing in charity shops (for example, a beautiful Aran cardigan, in perfect condition and offered for a fraction of its value). Perhaps it would help if you thought of trips to charity shops as expeditions--what might I find here?--rather than as a trip to a high street shop.

  6. can't imagine trying to get a refund from a charity shop... I always consider my purchases as a donation to the charity. I also don't ask for a tax form when I donate used items.

  7. I can only state my experience so here goes. If I purchase from a charity shop, I ask at the time if I can return it if I change my mind or it doesn't suit/match/or is for a third person. Some charity shops give you a month, some two weeks. All except one gives a refund, the other will only exchange. They do stipulate that you need to keep your receipt and that the shop price tag must still be attached. I am always polite, and make sure of my rights before I leave the shop. I have only ever bought one electrical item, a lamp, it had a pat tested label on it and has worked perfectly for about two years now, and is still going fine. I once bought a brand new jacket for my husband and it was too snug, no problem, I got a refund. I don't know about guarantees, as perhaps second hand shops have different rules to high street retail. If something breaks with a week or two, the shop may be reasonable if you approach them correctly. They may offer an exchange if not cash. My approach is make sure of their policy on the day you buy. Ask for the manager if you want to be sure. As for food, I have never seen that in a charity shop with the exception of our RSPCA charity shop which stocks pet food. I doubt very much if any store will accept food returns, even supermarkets, due to possible tampering. The only reason I have found in retail shops is if something is rotten when opened like a tin or an egg. Hope this helps. Jean

  8. Without reading any of the links, I would assume that second-hand goods bought from a charity shop would be bought ''as is'' and s such wouldn't qualify for a refund?

  9. Ilona I think your reply is very thorough. I also use for sound advice. I use charity shops all the time for clothes and household goods; electrical goods not so much. I donate back anything that doesn't fit or suit me when I've tried them at home. Lately I've noticed people trying to haggle for a lower price in charity shops which to me misses the point of these brilliant places.

  10. Used items in the USA are sold 'as is'. As CTMOM points out the return policy is posted at the check-out counter and most signs say 'all sales are final'. The onus is on you to check to see if everything is in working order before you pluck your money down, i.e. Caveat Emptor or buyer beware.

    You over bought? Really!? You are never going to use another can of whatever in your cooking, ever again!?

    I have a Master's Degree in Life, most of it earned at the School of Hard Knocks. So I question your motives here. Sounds to me like you are trying to scrap up enough cash to get yourself out of some kind of financial bind. Maybe what you really need to do is, step back, reflect on your spending habits and make some adjustments, like, "Is this purchase a 'want' or a real honest-to-goodness 'need'?" You probably will discover most of it is not a 'need' and you can keep your money in your pocket. Just my two cents worth.

    1. My thoughts as well! Who returns their food stockpile?

    2. Well said! On all points.


  11. I volunteer in a charity shop and regularly buy clothing and other items there and in other charity shops too. It is good advice to basically check the item over carefully before purchasing. I am a sewer so a missing button or dodgy seam is not a problem to me - I am happy to repair a good quality garment that still has years if life in it if properly looked after. The charity I volunteer for does not take electrical items - in common with many other shops. As far as I know it is the law that anything electrical has to be tested and this is probably beyond the budget of many charities. Everything we are able to sell is checked over by the volunteers - some items are marked "as seen" to alert the customer to a less than perfect item. For eg, we regularly sell old towels to people who use them for pets or for dusters. The shop doesn't give refunds except in exceptional circumstances, but we always offer a credit note. Imo you can't really apply the same rules to second hand items as you can with brand new, simply because one person's unuseable might be perfectly acceptable to someone else. I am always amazed at the amount of donations we receive - a lot of people would be astounded if they could see the piles of black bags in the rooms beyond the shop. That is a lot of sorting but we do endeavour to check everything and do our best to be as honest as possible. Only rarely have I felt I wanted to take something back, but I just redonate if not happy. I can only advise this lady to just be careful when buying and make sure the item is in the level of condition she is looking for. I have only returned foodstuffs to supermarkets if they have gone off. If I've over bought or make a mistake I find a way to use it up or will pass it on to a friend. Some supermarkets also have bins where you can donate to food banks and so on.

    Please also remember that the people behind the counter in the charity shops are volunteers, who might never have worked in a shop before. As with the normal shops, it is not fair to berate the person on the till, who is probably working part time hours and cannot be held personally responsible for every issue. I did nearly twenty years in retail and have seen it all, if you're not careful it can really sour you of the general public!!

  12. Shops vary. I live in Colorado, in the Denver area. Our local 'Treasures in the Park' will take it back, but offers store credit, instead of cash. I think the local Goodwill does the same thing. But you can solve a lot of problems by being very careful to check items over thoroughly before you purchase. If the price is still good -- say, your angora sweater has a stain on it, and you think you can get it out -- then it may be worth the risk. If you're not sure... don't.
    We've purchased imported, expensive coffeemakers for a few bucks at Salvation Army, then fixed them with $10 or so of parts. Our current coffeemaker just broke down, after 8 or so years of daily service, and we're looking for another one. (Using a french press right now, until we find the right appliance.)
    That, IMHO, is a good buy. Although I wish the coffeemaker would have lasted another decade or so!

  13. This is a joke. When you buy anything from a shop it is covered by the Sale of Goods Act that it should be fit for purpose and of merchantable quality. I do think that buying second hand from a charity shop is slightly different. Get a grip.

  14. It's a difficult one this - they don't advertise the products as not working do they? So it would be reasonable to expect items to work. I personally would expect an electrical item to work or be advertised as in need of repair - it would be disappointing otherwise. As for clothes well what you see is what you get I would have thought.🤔🤔

  15. I buy from a charity shop quite often.

    re electrical items, the customer is encouraged to plug it in before purchase. (many don't/I do). However one can still get stung. I bought a toaster, plugged in, heated up...Got home and used few times...yes it heated up, but WAY TOO HOT, regardless of setting. I figured I had done well (in bargains) and put it in the recycle garbage bin.

    Recently I purchased a pair of brand new shoes at the charity shop. Lucky I noticed before purchase, that all brand new looking, (and quite a high price), the "fasten" buckles on both shoes were broken off. Must have happened first time the old owner put them on. I figured if I took them to a shoe maker, it would pretty much cost the (over priced label) as much as they were labeled at. I asked to speak to a superviser..After going through my estimate of cost to repair, she at first would only reduce them by she said they looked new. I kept point out, that looks aside, they were pretty much useless, as they could not be worn without doing up strap. and, would be a costly fix. Finally she agreed and marked them down to a pittance. To be honest, I am going to attempt a home fix, (basically no cost)..This may work or may not, we'll see.

  16. To me, buying in a charity shop is the same as buying at a flea market. ''Buyer beware, you bought it, it's your problem now.''[no complaints and refunds!]. I think it's unfair to expect any shop to refund something that broke after you used it. Maybe the LW should avoid charity shops altogether?
    Not sure if you have WalMart in UK but I was recently told they will take back and refund groceries even frozen foods etc! That was new, and news, to me. I guess LW [letter writer] could ask nicely at his/her supermarket, who knows?


  17. The electrical items should be in working order, it doesn't make sense otherwise. Besides, it's the person who donates the item who is being charitable, not necessarily the purchaser. I donated some electrical items (due to bereavement) which were in perfect working order, I seem to remember they tested them in the shop before they accepted them. Seems reasonable to me. Karen.

  18. The charity shop I work at (UK) sells electricals and they are the only items where we offer a cash refund, for anything else we offer a credit note or exchange. In terms of electrical items the items are tested before put out for sale - there should be a sticker with a number on the plug of the item so that can be checked alongside the log held at the shop if there is a query about the item in question.

  19. Hmmm...there is a certain amount of luck with charity shops because they are selling used items so you don't know how long they are going to last. Inspect things carefully, use some common sense and usually it will be fine. On the odd occasion things have been a dud I just bin it and forget about it and see it as a cash donation to charity. If it is a great source of frustration for you I would buy less but buy new.

    My daughter works in a charity shop and I am amazed at the amount of returns that come in, usually for the pettiest of reasons for a £2 item. There are also a lot of people try and bring things back without tags so there is no way of knowing if it is that item or not. But genuine people with reasonable faults are given a refund. Hope that helps.

  20. There is no 'hard sell' in charity shops so just be mindful that you are buying second hand goods. I treat it as a donation to charity with a gift thrown in and a nice chat to one of the volunteers who are giving up their time to sell items which are also donated freely. If I do buy something that is not fit for purpose which we have all done it goes into a recycling bin. Sharon

  21. I'm inclined to agree with Sharon although I know I am lucky in that I choose to buy th8ngs in charity shops: I'm not driven by necessity. I can quite see that you might feel you need your money back on faulty goods if you are on a tight budget.

    Coincidentally, we have an Age UK Outlet in my home town where everything is 29p, 49p or 99p. I bought a skirt the other day and the assistant insisted that I take the receipt for my 49p purchase "becuase it's only a bargain if you like it when you get it home."

  22. This week I have had a bad experience with a local charity shop, the sane one I donated lots of good items to last week! I work in a library down the opposite end of the High Street to the shop. On Monday one of our regulars came in with a DVD he had just bought from the shop for £2. It was new and obviously a library DVD. It had our printed library barcode and a lockable case. We have been having a spate of thefts recently, and our customer said there was another one of ours in the shop. He kindly went back, as we were busy, and expainec to the staff that the DVD was stolen from the library. How they couldn't work this out for themselves, with all the library labelling, was beyond me. Anyway, they wouldn't let him have it unless he paid £2 ( we obviously gave it back to him) so hows that for supporting your local community thieves?

  23. In my area, any library item that is no longer used in the collections has had its barcode crossed out & otherwise stamped "DISCARD" if possible...
    Perhaps the charity shop didn't check all items before putting them up for sale...sloppy work on their parts.