I discover a bug in CVS’s return policy. Unfortunately, it took my credit card company to implement a fix.
Several weeks ago, I catch on the deal chatter that CVS is selling DTV handheld televisions for only $20. I figured these would be low-quality, Chinese designed-and-built units. But, for the price, I figured why not?
Went to a CVS near where I was traveling, and to my surprise, I find there are a few left. I pick up two handheld units, and one larger unit, all three were $20 each. With the California Recycling Fees, California Sales Tax, and Municipal Sales Tax, the total spiraled up to well over $80 out the door.
Still, not a bad deal. That is, until I got home.
I power up the TVs, after a brutal charging process (these units clearly had no form of intelligent charging circuit, simply a lithium-ion battery strapped to a DC circuit), I am finally able to power them up.
And, they find absolutely no channels. None. Thinking you-get-what-you-pay-for, I actually drove out to a local television transponder a few miles away, and find that, even at the station, I get no signal. None. Going online, I discover these issues are widespread.
Okay, so the units are bad. I can return them right? The CVS policy makes no exception to electronics. I drive back to CVS, with the TV sets repacked meticulously. I get to the counter at the store, and start the return.
“Oh, sir, see that asterisk on the receipt? That means it’s a closeout item, we can’t accept it.”
“And how, pray tell, would I have known it was a close out item.”
“There may have been a sign at the time, near the item. I can’t tell you for sure.”
CVS is clearly screwing up their receipts. They place a asterisk, with no explanation, next to an item, and then send you on your merry way. Only when you return to the store, with the broken pile of junk, do they tell you what that asterisk means.
Clearly it’s a lie of omission. It would only take a few dots of ink to add * = CLOSEOUT ITEM, NO RETURNS ACCEPTED. To the receipt. But they don’t. Retailers use asterisks on receipts all the time, they can be used to denote items on sale, sold for less than the internal cost, or yes, as a clearance/closeout item.
But, CVS does not make that distinction to the customer. Credit card dispute time!
I document everything, and email Chase with my dispute. To my surprise, I get a call back, from America! A helpful Chase rep informs me that she’s going to work with me the entire way. She actually called CVS’s corporate office on my behalf, and they came up with a fix… return the item!
Wait, I tried that already. Befuddled, Chase’s rep tells me to try again. I do. It does not go well.
Chase emails CVS back (apparently, they don’t actually call, they just email disputes to the accounting office at CVS, as I later learned). Weeks pass. CVS ultimately did not respond to Chase, leaving Chase no choice but to close the dispute on my behalf.
I can’t fathom how many people have been turned away, at the door, and told just to forget it. How many millions of dollars has CVS made from falsely denying these returns?
I can tell you I cut up my CVS rewards card, and won’t be back any time soon.
P.S. Nowhere was there even a price tag where I found the portable TVs, in the CVS. The store was so poorly sorted, they were on some back shelf that just had stuff piled on top of other stuff. No way in the world I was informed this was a closeout item.