Red Cross Stores Refund Policies

Hi
Please see below an email I have sent to Red Cross Stores Customer Service email address.
Am I being unreasonable? Are their conditions within Australian Consumer Law?
Thanks for your comments.

"I recently purchased a watch for $35 at your Swan St Richmond store. It was sold to me in working condition. After a few days before I had even worn it I wound the watch up and found that it did not work. It would work for about 10 seconds and then stop.

I purchased the watch while I was in Richmond visiting a friend.

I took the watch and receipt to my local Carnegie Red Cross and was told I have to take it back to Richmond store to get a refund.

It will cost me about $10 in train fares to go into Richmond and back to return the watch.

I was also informed that I have to return it within 7 days if I want to get a refund.

Can you tell my if these requirement meet Australian Consumer Law.

I would have thought if I bought the item from a Chain or Franchise store every store in the Chain or Franchise would have to honour the refund.

Also is it legal to put a return date of 7 days? I know it is on your receipts at the bottom but not a lot of people read the fine print.

I’m sure a system could be worked out to manually record returns at one store and pass it on to the other store. Also I’m not sure why it is so important. I know you would want to track the performance of each store but refunds would probably even out over all stores in the long run.

Also what happens if I purchase something while I’m on holiday in Perth and when I get home I find it doesn’t work do I have to fly back to Perth to get a refund.

l think that if these rules are legal under Australian Consumer Law you should have a big printed sign behind the cash register so that all customers can see it.

Or you ask your staff to tell each customer.

I will check with the ACCC to see if these conditions are legal.

In the meantime I will wait for your response.

Thanks and regards

Ray"

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That is incorrect as every franchise and chain has its own organisation. One of the more infamous in my mind is Harvey Norman as an example whereby every HN store and the website are each independent businesses. An HN customer is dealing with the particular store or the web site, not with ‘HN the corporation’.

Others such as Bunnings are all ‘company’ whereby one can return things to any shop. The customer is actually dealing with ‘Bunnings’ not just a particular store. Prior to being acquired by JBHiFi The Good Guys had some company stores and some individually owned franchises so depending on which shop one bought from one might have had to return it to the shop they bought it from, and in other cases another shop may have assisted. JB is ‘the company’ and while one may have a better or worse experience at any one of them, one can usually return any product at any JB. Bottom line, it varies widely.

Your experience is unfortunate but the broad brush you expect to apply is not ‘business as it is’.

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I was under the impression I was buying from "Red Cross Stores Australia "
If I’m not that should be advertised prominently at each store.

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@Raybies
The following is from the T&C on the Red Cross website. It does not mention 7 days nor having to return to the same shop (although I can understand that policy as items are from donations).
They mention paying for postage, maybe it could be sent to the store?

I am not satisfied with a product I received.

Australian Red Cross is committed to providing quality products to our customers.

If your item is significantly different to what was described in the listing or is broken or faulty, you can request an exchange or refund and we will cover the full cost of postage.

Exchanges or refunds are available providing:

  • proof of purchase is supplied
  • original tags and labels are still attached to the item
  • the item is in the original packaging and/or same condition as you received it.

For all exchanges or returns please contact us at shop@redcross.org.au

Feedback and complaints

Who can I contact if I have feedback or a complaint?
Australian Red Cross welcomes feedback and attends to all complaints promptly. Please email shop@redcross.org.au

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Is that referencing the online site, which is the only reference I could find? There is another page that is fairly specific re being about the online site and does not reference bricks and mortar stores..

It appears the URL you reference is here.

A clue is the phrase

The web site does not make it clear about how the bricks and mortar shops relate to Red Cross (as a company) or to each other.

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It’s from Terms and conditions | Australian Red Cross

I accessed it through https://shop.redcross.org.au>help
Unfortunately won’t generate a Onebox link.

The offer to pay for postage can be helpful if one is away from the store the item was bought from.

Those are ones I linked. The first appears to be expressly for the online site. To wit:

Online shopping terms and conditions

I did not see a reference to being ‘away from the store’ on the ‘help’ pages using a page search on ‘postage’. Would you quote it please? Return postage issues seem to be related to the online store?

Looking online through the op-shops (even the one in Richmond Vic) the only reference to T&C is for online purchases, I thought that would be their general policy as it does not set out terms & conditions if bought in store, maybe there’s info on the receipt?

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Not sure that the refund policy of the online store is anyway germane to the refund policy of the Op shops.

The goods sold are mostly second-hand at appropriately low second-hand prices. The stores are largely staffed by volunteers, and if a watch appeared to work then offer it for sale. If not, toss it out.

I think it would be very uncharitable to expect one of these Op shops to pay for postage to return an item, whether it was a change of mind or due to fault.

Just go back to the store it was bought from. Or just consider it to be a donation to a worthy cause.

Some might shop at charity stores because of necessity, it’s not fair to expect them to just ‘forget’ about a faulty/not working item, nor to be expected to pay for postage on any returns.

How is the average volunteer (almost all op-shops run mainly on volunteer labour) in that situation going to check every bit of tech that comes their way including subtle things like nearly dead internal batteries that can only be discovered over time? It isn’t really practical. They have a quick look at second hand clothes and other simple goods and anything too worn is tossed but that isn’t possible with all goods.

With most secondhand goods it is caveat emptor all the way.

In the case of the watch why would you not wind it in the store, set the time and watch the hands go round for a few seconds and see if it at least passes that simple test. But that will not tell you if it loses an hour a day and the shop assistant would not be able to tell you that either.

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We recently went to our local salvo store and they appear to have similar wording on the bottom of their receipts:

image

but is relates to exchanging purchased items for say a change of mind. In such case they can set conditions such as returning it to the store of purchase.

For faults, the Australian Consumer Law would apply and what a reasonable person would consider is reasonable in relation to the return of a faulty product. As each Red Cross store has the same owner (Red Cross), one would reasonably expect that a faulty product could be returned to any store for resolution under the ACL.

As OP shop stores are manned by volunteers, it is possible that store personnel don’t know the difference between exchanges (such as change of mind) and faulty products under the ACL. Each store should have a manager, which may be an employee of Red Cross, and I would be asking for the manager to resolve the faulty watch under the ACL.

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That’s true and very discouraging for anyone who shops there out of necessity. I would think that’s when a refund comes in?

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From a legal advice page for businesses:

A consumer who can examine goods before purchasing them, and is consequently able to identify any defects, cannot rely on the consumer guarantee of acceptable quality. This exclusion is important for businesses selling second-hand goods at a traditional ‘brick and mortar’ shop.

That is ambiguous whether @Raybies assured/tested it was working at the time purchased and it failed to work ‘after a few days’, or a worker said the watch worked but reality was it would only go for 10 seconds at a time. If the latter it might be construed as misrepresentation even if innocently done. In either case it appears buying second hand at a shop is indeed caveat emptor.

Something not addressed on the Red Cross web is whether the op shops are each independent volunteer organisations, are staffed by one or more Red Cross employees, and if they have a contracted [business] relationships with the Red Cross.

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That advice doesn’t apply. The watch wind failed after a few days. Not something which could be readily identify by looking at it for defects. It was sold ‘in working condition’ so one wouldn’t be winding it up in store if it was working.

Other advice about buying second hand is relevant such as one needs to consider it isn’t new, the history of the product is unknown and reasonable time of being fault free is dependent on the price paid (compared to new price).

Paying $35 for a second hand watch, unless it is a premium Swiss brand costing many $1000s new, one would expect to last more than until first wind. As a result the ACL for a major fault applies.

It is worth noting that if it was a premium Swiss brand and bought for $35, a reasonable person would immediately think “what is wrong with it”. At such price it would possibly have spare parts value.

Unless of course, the fault was caused by the user such as overwinding or pulling the winder with excessive force causing it to break off. In such case it would be classed as misuse and resolution under the ACL would not apply.

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Since neither of us were there and the details are ambiguous we do not know whether that was established by ‘advertising’ such as being tagged ‘working watch’, verbal claims from a staff, personally testing the watch, or an inference it worked because the watch was for sale.

The issue posted was about the requirement to return it to the shop where it was purchased.

It is implied if the watch was returned to the shop of sale it would be taken care of but other shops have no responsibility. A key seems to be how the Red Cross shops are owned and operated and staffed that is not clear.

It seems there are two variations implied by the store finder but neither is qualified as to ownership/operation issues however the Swan St shop is identified as a ‘Red Cross Shop’.

My view, seemingly different from yours, is we do not know enough to make an authoritative conclusion using the ‘evidence’ at hand.

They aren’t ambiguous. Do you honestly think Red Cross or another op shop would knowingly sell a customer a watch that didn’t work - and fail to disclose this at the time of purchase.

Under the ACL, if a store sells a watch and the condition isn’t disclosed at the time of selling (viz. watch doesn’t work), a reasonable consumer would expect it to be in working order even if it wasn’t labelled as such.

If we assume the watch should be labelled as working, where are the labels on every second hand or demonstration goods sold indicating it is in working order. The contrary occurs where sellers disclose condition if second hand items such as bumps, knocks, scratches, missing something, doesn’t work etc.

And that was fully addressed in my first post.

Not if they were aware but how it went down, as I posted, is unclear.

As has been my contention we do not know enough to personally adjudicate.

As with @Raybies I would be unhappy with the situation and what appears to be a charitable support collection of shops, be they professional or amateur, paid or volunteer, could not do what seems like the right thing and just refund it. While going OT if all the net proceeds from a shop go to the Red Cross why $35 would make a difference to any one of them is curious as it has obviously caused them reputational damage for at least one person.

I’ll step back from this topic now hoping @Raybies will provide an update when he can.

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It is very clear under the ACL.

It wasn’t labelled as not working. It was bought in ‘working condition’. Under the ACL, ‘it is in working condition’ doesn’t need to be communicated as a reasonable person would expect anything sold to be ‘in working condition’. The only time it wouldn’t be expected to be in 'working condition is if it was otherwise clearly advised - this was not the case as @Raybies said it was sold as being ‘in working condition’.

There is more than enough information.

Red Cross Op shops are owned and operated by the Australian Red Cross. As indicated in my first post, a reasonable person would expect a faulty product could be returned to any Red Cross store for resolution under the ACL… or the Australian Red Cross would cover postage if they wanted it returned elsewhere.

For exchanges, such as change in minds, Australian Red Cross can nominate conditions such as ‘return to store of purchase’. This doesn’t apply in this case as the issue is a fault under the ACL, not a change in mind.

If the watch was subject to misuse, it is neither covered by the ACL nor Australian Red Cross exchange policy and @Raybies would be responsible for its repair. There is no indication this is the case either.

The solution since the watch was sold in working order, it had a major fault on first winding a few days after purchase and Australian Red Cross own and operate all their stores, is to take it back to a local Red Cross store and ask for resolution under the ACL. I would be speaking to the store manager rather than volunteers.

If they refuse to deal with resolution under the ACL, I would be escalating it to Australian Red Cross head office.

Whether they are a charity, family run business struggling with ever increasing running costs or big multinational business is irrelevant. The ACL doesn’t differentiate between these sellers and the same consumer guarantees apply.

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An update:
I rang the Richmond store and was told that I would have to bring the watch back within 7 days for a refund so I drove back in on the Sunday (about 40 minutes one way). The manager I spoke to had left instructions for the casual staff that I was coming. He politely did the refund. I saw another watch there for $20 (they are my weakness) which i bought. As I was walking back to my car I put the watch on and the band keeper broke and I also noticed that the hands on the 3 smaller dails were just painted on and the impressive buttons on the side were just ornamental. I walked back to the store, explained the problem and he happily refunded me again. I was very happy with my experience.
A few days later I received an email which was a reply to my email explaining what had happened in the first instance from an Store Area Manager.
She told me that there was no time limit on returning faulty goods and if I had purchased the watch on the condition that it was working then I was within my rights to return it.
She also said they were working on a system so items could be returned to any store. I understand that a charitable organisation like the Red Cross would not have the money to invest in a computer system that links all their stores up but I’m sure that an analogue system via post would do a good job if they need to keep account of returns.
I am a regular customer of op shops and a regular donor. If I find suitable items dumped on the footpath I will often pick them up before they get wet and take them to an op shop.
The other good news is that she organised for a shopping voucher for me to pick-up from my local Red Cross.
Now that is customer service.
Thanks for your comments :slightly_smiling_face:

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