Sam's Club, the warehouse club division of Wal-Mart Stores, has reduced its open-ended return policy to three months for consumer electronics.
The move mirrors a similar change made less than two years ago by No. 1 warehouse club Costco, which lost tens of millions of dollars on returns of large-screen TVs that consumers either couldn't operate or exchanged for better and cheaper models as prices fell.
A Sam's Club spokesperson said the new policy was both a “business decision” and a way of “better meeting club members' needs.”
Indeed, like Costco, Sam's Club will supplement the limited returns window with a range of new support services. Its Sam's Club Tech Expert program, a broad pilot that was soft-launched earlier this year, will be formally introduced nationwide on Nov. 1. Customers will be encouraged to call (877) PLUGD-IN toll-free, or visit www.samsclub.com/installations, to receive free technical support for any electronics device, regardless of where it was purchased.
The program, comprised of third-party suppliers plus support from vendors, will address such issues as installation, setup and troubleshooting, the company said.
The program will additionally provide delivery and installation services nationwide through NEW's network of some 11,000 certified and insured installers. Prices start at $50 for home delivery and $89 for basic TV setup.
“The Sam's Club Tech Expert support program has been received positively by our members, and we are excited to be making it more widely available,” said Steve Dacus, Sam's Club's senior electronics and technology senior VP. “We believe the new program and changes are in line with our other member services, and allow us to continue to invest in offering high-quality leading name-brand electronics at superior values.”
The 90-day return window applies to such items as TVs, computers, cameras, camcorders, projectors and iPods. Sam's Club said the overwhelming majority of respondents in a survey of more than 5,000 current club members found the three-month return limit “acceptable.”
All CE purchases made prior to Nov. 1, 2009, will be grandfathered under the existing return policy, the company said.