Problem with a Purchase

Have you ever bought something that was missing a part? Or that broke the second time you used it? Or didn't work? Here are some tips that will help you if you have a problem with something you bought.

The Simple Return

The blouse doesn't fit. The toy is missing a wheel. You may be able to simply return it. Stores are not required to take returns or give refunds. However, most stores do have some form of refund or return policy. Some stores will give refunds only if you have your receipt and only if you return the item within a certain number of days. Some stores will not give a refund; they may give a store credit or replace the item.

If the item you buy is defective, the store should replace it or give you a refund if you return it within the store's time limit. A store does not have to replace something that was marked "AS IS."

If you pay by check, the store might not refund your money until your check has cleared at the bank. If you pay by credit card, the store will credit your account instead of giving you a cash refund.

The More Difficult Problem

What if your microwave oven stopped working two months after you bought it? Or baby's car seat breaks? These problems may take a little more work. Save sales receipts, warranties, canceled checks, or contract. Put the papers in a box or file. If someone asks you to send them the receipt, check, or contract, give them photocopies; not the original.

Contact the store, company, or salesperson from whom you bought the item. Be calm and give the facts. Tell what the problem is and what you want them to do. If you are writing a letter, tell them how to reach you.

  • Keep a record of what happens.
  • Write down who you talked to and when.
  • Keep a copy of all letters you write or that the company writes to you.
  • Keep complaining until the problem is fixed. If the salesperson can't help you, ask to talk to the manager.
  • Call or write the person who handles complaints at the company's main office.
  • Look for a customer service phone number on the box or label. Or ask your library to check the telephone book for toll-free numbers.
  • Ask for help if you need it. Your town or county may have an office that helps consumers with problems. Some radio stations and newspapers have a column or service that will help. The Attorney General or the post office may also be able to help in some situations.

Office of Attorney General
Consumer Protection Division
100 West Randolph Street
Chicago, IL 60601
(800) 243-0618

Deals with consumer fraud (Request must be in writing)

Chief Postal Inspector
U.S. Postal Service
Washington, D.C. 20260-2100

Helps with mail fraud or sexually offensive mail.

Local department of Consumer Affairs or similar office in Chicago:

Department of Consumer Services
City Hall
121 N. LaSalle St., Room 808
Chicago, IL 60602
(312) 744-9400

Assists any time you have problems with a company doing business in Chicago; accepts complaints and holds hearings to investigate.

Prepared by: Karen Chan, Educator,
Consumer and Family Economics
Chicago Extension Center

Edited by: Katherine J. Reuter
Consumer and Family Economics
Countryside Extension Center



New Features | Home Care | Wellness | Consumer Economics | Foods & Nutrition