Bamboozled: Toys “R” Us policy turns simple exchange into an ordeal

Ed Jackson wanted to give his niece a nice gift for her sixth birthday.BB branding

He headed to the Livingston Toys “R” Us, and went to town. Over the course of two weeks, he spent about $300 on Sony Playstation 3 games and a new joystick for the system so he and his niece could play the new games together, or against each other.

Instead, Jackson ended up pitted against Toys “R” Us.

It all came down to an innocent mistake that was not discovered until the gifts were opened.

“I told her to open it up,” Jackson said of his niece. “She was so excited that she just opened everything. What 6-year-old won’t?”

8210The birthday girl was especially excited to play her new Toy Story game, so the next package was as good as actual icing on the birthday cake: an extra joystick, needed so she and Jackson could play together.

She tried to plug in the joystick.

“She tells me the joystick doesn’t fit the machine. I look at it and it’s a Sony PlayStation 2 joystick,” Jackson said.

He told his niece he’d return to the store and exchange the joystick for the correct one. Then they’d have a rematch.

Not so easy.

It was only days after the joystick was purchased, and at the store, the clerk told him no. They can’t take back electronics that have been opened. Jackson showed his receipts, all for PlayStation 3 games. He wanted to show he wasn’t trying to pull a scam on the store, but he made a simple mistake and chose the wrong joystick from the shelf.

He asked to speak to a manager.

No, the manager told him. If the package was opened, and there was a defect, they’d take the item back. But not for an innocent mistake.

“I told him, ‘So you’re going to keep my $24.99 and have me keep a joystick I will not use or need? Plus have me buy a $56.99 joystick that I do need?’ ” Jackson said.

Angry, Jackson left the store — leaving the unneeded joystick with the manager — and he called the 800 number for customer service.

“The 800 service says there is nothing they can do but write a report and corporate will review it, and when time comes to change policies, if this is one of the issues they review, it would be up for discussion,” Jackson said.

But what about this customer’s problem?

Sorry, he was told.

Jackson tried another approach with the customer service rep.

What if, he asked, you go to Bloomingdales. You buy a dress and realize it’s the wrong size. When you try to return it, the clerk says, sorry, they can’t take it back because there are no tears, marks, rips or anything wrong with it. But had there been something wrong with it, they’d take it back? Makes no sense, he argued, but the rep didn’t budge.

It’s store policy, he was told.

He wondered how other retailers would handle this type of error. Jackson said he talked to Game Stop, Best Buy and Target, and they all said they would have taken the joystick back given that so many other PlayStation 3 games were purchased — evidence that the joystick was bought in error.

He then filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.

Next, he called Bamboozled.


We called Toys “R” Us to see if something could be done for this long-time customer.

Toys “R” Us policy on the return of electronics is rather strict. It reads: We will accept returns of the following items within 45 days from the date of purchase: Video games, accessories, and systems; computer software; VHS cassettes; DVDs; music; electronics; radio-control items; trading cards; collectibles and consumer electronics. The original, dated receipt is required for a refund or exchange, and the item must be returned in its unopened and factory-sealed package. If the item has been opened, it can only be exchanged for an identical item. Refunds and exchanges will not be given without a dated receipt.

Of course, stores have to take steps to protect merchandise from would-be counterfeiters who might illegally copy DVDs or computer software, only to return the items later. But for a piece of equipment that can’t be copied? For hardware? There’s not much counterfeiting there. And it leaves no room for customer error.

“The store did act in accordance with our policy,” said spokeswoman Katie Reczek. “But in this case, we’re going to make this exception and allow him to return the item.”

Reczek said the company evaluates complaints like this on a case-by-case basis, and in this case they decided to act in favor of the customer. Specifically why, she wouldn’t say.

But Jackson wanted to know: Did they allow the exchange based on the merits of his case, or because Bamboozled called?

Curious, when Jackson received a call from a customer service rep telling him he could return to the store for this one-time exchange, he asked the question.

“I asked if it was because of the paper or what, and she said Toys “R” Us did not appreciate or like the fact that I went to the paper or the Better Business Bureau,” he said. “It’s kind of insulting. The only reason they did anything is because I went to the paper. Otherwise they wouldn’t have cared about me.”

Whatever the reason, we’re glad the store reconsidered.

Jackson returned to the Livingston store and made the exchange, but he was still frustrated that the company’s proper channels for consumer complaints got him nowhere.

And for that reason, he said, he’ll take his future business elsewhere.