Two days from now come Black Friday, millions upon millions of shoppers will be hitting the stores bright and early in order to try and score deep discounts offered only once per year on all sorts of merchandise. For many people, waiting in long lines and fighting crowds seems smart because of the massive price cuts. Well, not really.
For people in the market for cameras (or any other expensive electronic gear), going out so far ahead of time may not be the best idea. Why? Return policies. A single store may have different return policies for different types of merchandise. When it comes to restrictive policies, electronics (cameras included) lead the pack.
No matter where you shop, there is a good chance that any electronic gear will be subject to a restocking fee if it has been opened (unless the item is broken and the store employee determines that the device broke on its own due to manufacturer defect). That in itself can work against you when it comes to getting your money back or exchanging the item.
Next is the return window itself. While many stores will allow up to 90 days between the date of purchase and return of most items, when it comes to electronics, the time frame is often much tighter, sometimes as short as 14 days. Now, it doesn’t take a mathematician to figure this out: Black Friday is November 25, Christmas is December 25, that’s a month. So if the return policy states that items can only be returned for 14 days from the time of purchase, by the time Christmas rolls around, it’s too late to return a defective gift.
That stinks because people buy on Black Friday and store things away for Christmas. High tech gear with all its complexities has a lot of room for bugs. Personally, I bought a Canon 85mm f1.8 USM lens a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, it only worked right on my Canon 30D camera and not my older 300D/Digital Rebel. Fortunately, as I bought it for myself, I caught the problem and sent it back without trouble. Now, if this had been a gift stored away, problem unknown, in excess of the often short return window, making a return would have been like pulling teeth.
So if you’re going to go out on Black Friday or in the next two weeks to buy someone a high tech toy, read the return policy. It may just be better to wait until later. After all, there is the Internet.
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