After facing a tough year due to COVID-19 guidelines, some local businesses are still adjusting their return policies.

Many local businesses, such as Athens Underground, have not adjusted their no-return policy. However, others had to adjust their policies completely. One such business is Uptown Dog T-shirts, the printing arm of 10 West Clothing Co.

Mary Cheadle, the owner of Uptown Dog, has typically required customers to have the tags intact on merchandise and the receipt on them when making an exchange or return.

“Our policy was pretty strict,” Cheadle said. “Obviously with COVID, we’re trying to do anything we can, not only to get business and maintain business, but to help others out when they’re in a pinch as well.”

Local businesses have also turned to the internet realm in an attempt to boost sales, however shipping delays also led to leniency in return policies. At Uptown Dog, the staff has accepted items ordered online without the receipt.

“It has changed and it often changes after the holidays anyway because of the online sales,” Cheadle said. “You have to have some wiggle room because somebody who maybe received a gift wouldn’t necessarily have the receipt and they need to be able to exchange if that’s the case.”

Seeing as local businesses still saw their usual rush around the holidays, some exchanges were bound to begin earlier.

“I had to return a textbook at the end of fall semester and waiting in line was a worse experience than actually returning it,” Tessa Mullins, an undecided freshman said in an email. “Considering it was Christmas time, everyone seemed to be trying to send items and it was very hectic.”

Although they no longer require tags intact and a receipt, there is still a standard as to how items should be returned. Garments are the majority of the product sold at Uptown Dog, so employees have to be sure that the item wasn’t worn or isn’t outdated. After owning the business for almost 25 years, Cheadle has seen her fair share of worn returns.

“You would be surprised how many times someone will buy something, wear it, then want to return it as if it’s new,” Cheadle said.

This puts businesses in a hard position. They have to consider if there’s any way that the product could transfer germs or other bacteria. On the other hand, owners have to figure out whether it’s a material that can be disinfected or laundered. For Cheadle, some garment items could be laundered after being returned. Then they sell it as a used product, or what they call “nearly new”, Cheadle said.

“We’re even prepared to do that for a couple of weeks just to be sure that we’re not returning products to the floor during any particular time that it might be dangerous,” Cheadle said. “I’m all about doing whatever we can to make sure that we’re part of the solution, not the problem.”

The Better Business Bureau said that many stores have become more lenient due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The BBB recommends that you know the store policy before making a purchase, keep your receipt and any packaging and make any returns in a timely fashion. 

Cheadle recommends checking websites or calling the stores themselves before trying to make a return.