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Q. I ordered something from Amazon, which I have used before with no problems. But I ordered a Nintendo DSi for my daughter, then bought one on Black Friday for $50 less. I went to return the one back to Amazon, but it was from a third party. I had no idea! And they are charging me 10% to re-stock, and I have to pay to have it insured and returned! Is there anything I can do?
-- Mary WoodA. Unfortunately, there really isn't. Michele Glisson, senior manager of corporate communications for Amazon, says that Amazon's policy allows sellers to issue full or partial refunds for an order. "If a new item is returned opened, or an item is returned as unwanted -- not defective -- the seller may deduct a reasonable restocking fee from your refund." (You can read the full policy here, if you'd like.)
Amazon can be confusing, I understand, because there are variety of sellers on the site. Some items are sold by Amazon directly, but it also has partners, such as Target. Then there are third party sellers, including those in the Amazon Marketplace, where even used items are available.
Next time you're shopping, I'd be very careful to look at who is selling the item you're interested in, and go over their particular return policy carefully, because it may vary from Amazon's. You can typically identify who the seller is by looking at the product page: It will say "Ships from and sold by Amazon.com" or "Ships from and sold by Target.com" -- whoever the merchant is -- in smaller print near the price. If the return policy or seller isn't clear, pick up the phone and call Amazon directly with your questions.
Finally, sellers on Amazon have feedback ratings, much like what you'd find at eBay. It always pays to check those, because past buyers will rate the seller and leave comments about their customer service. It's a good way to find out information that isn't clear from the seller's policies –- if they take a long time to ship out orders, for instance, or charge a restocking fee, you can bet that someone will comment about it on their feedback page.
Consumer Ally problem solver Jean Chatzky is the "Today Show" financial adviser, a longtime financial journalist and best-selling author.
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