The holiday season is always a busy one for shopping, which means it’s a busy one for both shipping and returns as well. But this is a year unlike any other, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you ventured out for Black Friday, chances are you didn’t see nearly as many people as usual.
Smaller crowds doesn’t mean holiday shopping has gone away entirely, though. Yes, there will likely be a small drop in overall holiday shopping volume thanks to the economic downturn that has accompanied the pandemic, but the bigger takeaway is just how much holiday shopping is moving from physical to online this year.
Companies have taken note, and many are updating their holiday shipping and return policies to accommodate these changes.
Overview of Shipping and Return Policy Changes
As far as shipping goes, many retailers are offering free or reduced shipping in more generous ways than the rest of the year. Additionally, thanks to increased shipping volumes, you should be prepared for shipping times that are longer than what’s typical. Many items will still arrive quickly, but it’s something of which to be aware.
And if your purchases fail to wow? Good news: many retailers are extending the returns period for items purchased during the holiday season (roughly end of October through end of December) to spread out the in-store returns crowd. In the middle of a pandemic, brick and mortar businesses don’t want long lines of customers waiting on returns.
Of course, specifics vary from company to company. See below for shipping and return details for five top retailers.
Amazon is the king of quick shipping, and this should continue (with some exceptions) through the holidays. Prime members can expect their usual level of service: free two-day, one-day, or even same-day shipping (for orders over $35) on most items depending on where they live. If you’re not a Prime member, shipping times and rates vary, but free standard (read: not two-day) shipping is available on many orders over $25.
All Amazon customers have the same holiday returns policy. Amazon allows returns until January 31 for anything shipped between October 1 and December 31.
One caveat with Amazon: look carefully at promised shipping times as well as sellers. Amazon hosts thousands of third-party sellers. Some play by their own rules: they don’t participate in Prime, they don’t promise speedy shipping times, and returns can work differently.
Home Depot might not top your mental list of holiday shopping destinations, but in reality, the hardware megaretailer does significant holiday business. This year, Home Depot isn’t making any specific changes for holiday shipping or returns. That said, their existing policy is quite generous.
Most Home Depot items can be returned for an impressive 180 days from the purchase date. Certain categories (gas-powered equipment, rugs, and furniture) have a shorter, 30-day return window.
Home Depot offers free shipping on most orders over $45 and on appliances over $396. Their most in-demand items are available with two-day delivery.
Many Macy’s items have a 90-day return window, with some exceptions. For the holidays this year, Macy’s has extended their holiday return window through January 31, 2021, for all holiday purchases made through December 31. If your purchase has a 90-day return window that lasts beyond January 31, the longer window remains valid.
As far as shipping, Macy’s differs from other retailers. Their website lays out an array of rates as well as a holiday shipping calendar. Orders over $99 ship free for everyone in the continental U.S. Orders under $99 cost $10.95 for standard shipping unless you’re a Platinum or Gold Macy’s Cardmember. Note: this is for standard shipping, which takes three to six days.
Faster shipping methods are available on most orders for a decent fee.
Macy’s also recommends ordering most in-stock merchandise by December 18 at the latest for arrival by December 25.
Target isn’t making any specific adjustments for the holidays as far as we can find. That said, their standard shipping and returns policies are pretty great. On the shipping end, everything ships free and arrives in two days if you use your RedCard (Target’s store credit card) or if you spend at least $35.
As far as returns go, Target will take just about any item for 90 days after purchase as long as the item is unopened. Target-branded items have a much more generous policy: they can be returned for a full year from purchase date.
There are, of course, a few exceptions to this generous returns policy. One great thing about Target is that they specify these exceptions on the sales receipt.
Walmart now offers free next-day or two-day delivery in many ZIP codes on most orders over $35, which continues through the holidays. If you don’t live in a ZIP code that qualifies for either of those categories, Walmart will still offer free standard shipping on orders over $35.
Walmart’s holiday returns policy has several layers to it. For purchases from October 16 through December 25, most items have a returns extension. Those that would have had a 14-day window may be returned through January 8. Those with a 30-day window get extended to January 24, and those with a 60-day window get pushed to February 23.
Note that third-party Marketplace sellers aren’t included in the above dates.
‘Tis the Season to Orchestrate your Parcel Shipping
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