Gift Returns and Your Rights

Gift Returns and Your Rights
By: Holly Brantley

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. --It's a story we've all been talking about.  A Perryville couple opened the package of their new camcorder and pulled out a jar of spaghetti sauce instead.

The couple says Sony plans to send them a new camcorder that should be in their hands on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Best Buy feels the issue has been resolved. The company discovered no camcorders of the same model were returned to the store, so they feel it's impossible a switched happened in the store.

Jim and Melisa Rittenberg never imagined something so strange could happen. But, it did.

So, what happens if you come home from shopping and discover you didn't get what you paid for.  And how often are stores faced with this kind of dilemma?  Retailers say it hardly ever happens, but every once in a while it does.

That's why for every purchase big and small there are laws protecting consumers.  Most of the time, if you're unhappy with something, return is as simple as bringing the item and receipt to the store.  But, would you know what to do if you opened a box expecting a camcorder and got a jar of spaghetti sauce instead?

"I've never had anything close to that happen to me," said Nancy Morris of Jackson.

The law calls it misrepresentation, or fraud.  According to retailers, if a box says there's a television inside, there should be.  Folks who deal with consumer complaints agree they hardly ever hear a story like this one, because stores nearly always give consumers the benefit of the doubt.

"I think I would probably camp out until they made it right," said Morris. "If I had done nothing wrong and they didn't believe me that would be very upsetting."

Experts say companies don't inspect all merchandise that comes from a distributor and this spaghetti sauce could be a perfect example of a switch made in a warehouse.

Bottom line, if you really want to protect yourself, have a sales person take the item out of the box and show it to you.  Most say they'd be happy to do so.

If you feel your rights have been violated, you should contact the consumer complaints department at your state's Attorney General's Office.  Filing a complaint is free, and every complaint is investigated.