Apple’s Rotten Returns Policy & Why It Could Be So Much Sweeter

 In Ecommerce, Product Returns

It’s impossible to avoid the tech giants that rule the retail landscape right now. In some cases, you don’t want to avoid them because their products have made daily life easier. For example, “Google” is now a verb, and it’s the easiest way to access information via just a few keywords. And Microsoft may very well be the provider of your office’s email and instant messaging systems.

Yup, the world has been on a tech-fueled fever pitch, the likes of which hasn’t been seen before. At the forefront is industry leader, Apple, one of the most valuable companies in the world; and the purveyor of some of the most advanced gadgets.


Apple has created products that are used and celebrated by raving enthusiasts worldwide. Recent reports conclude that 1.3 billion Apple devices are currently in use today, from its line of award-winning smartphones and tablets to its high-speed laptops and top-notch desktop computers. Without a doubt, Apple has etched a name for itself by consistently creating user-friendly products that have enabled it to amass a huge following.

(FYI… Here at ReadyCloud, we are definitely part of that following.)

Apple makes a fantastic product and is an amazing company, but we have just one bone to pick with them on behalf of frustrated customers everywhere.

What is that bone? It’s Apple’s rotten return policy.

Here’s why it should be sweeter:

The Bite-Sized Story

It’s well known that Apple’s history spans more than 40 years, growing from a garage-based business to a $1 trillion company, the first ever to surpass the one-trillion mark. In an odd coincidence, Amazon followed a month later, in September of 2018, and also grew into a multinational conglomerate after being started out of a garage in Silicon Valley. Certainly, neither is each other’s doppelganger, and the similarities might end there, were it not for Amazon’s award-winning, hassle-free returns policy, as compared to Apple’s less than robust policy.

Apple’s initial brainchild was to make the computer, a brand-new technology at the time, more accessible to the masses, so people could have them in their homes or offices. The very first Apple computers were sold without monitors or keyboards, but co-founders Steve Jobs and Mark Wozniak later added them on to create a complete home computer solution. They pioneered color graphics as part of an evolving Graphical User Interface (GUI) and modernized desktop publishing with the help of Adobe. As a result, Apple became the pioneer of innovation in the computer, portable electronic, smartphone, mobile application and music industries.

Today, there is no need to explain what Apple is doing. The company is a powerhouse.

World’s Most User-Friendly Product

Apple products are known for their sleek design, inviting interface and easy adaptation. Even the average tech-averse grandfather has an iPhone now because it’s so simple to use, something that is intended by design.

The operations are fast, and usage is simple to personalize. Just about anyone, including a child, can learn Apple’s user-friendly interface and navigate like a pro in just minutes. It’s really that easy.

Returns at Apple Are Rotten to the Core

While in-store returns at any Apple Store are a painless process, aside from traveling to a location near you, the online return process is considerably more difficult.

You might want to check the return policy (if you’re not one of 66% of consumers who already does this) to see if the item you want to return is eligible.

As of Fall 2018, these items are not eligible for return:

  • Opened software that has been downloaded onto a computer
  • Electronic Software Downloads
  • Software Up-to-Date Program Products (software upgrades)
  • Apple Store Gift Cards
  • Apple Developer products (membership, technical support incidents and WWDC tickets)
  • Apple Print Products

This aside, you have a relatively short window of time to complete all the steps to return your product, which you may only do if it is in new condition.

In short: It’s hard to return a pricey product from an industry leader whose core mission is to create the most usable and friendly tech products on earth.

So what gives?

The Time Frame

The most stressful part of returning to Apple.com is the window of opportunity. In 2014, Apple changed their policy from 30-days to just 14-days from date of purchase. While this policy is extended over the holidays, giving shoppers an extra week for items bought between Black Friday and Christmas, it’s still far from the ease by which you’d return a product to, say, Amazon, Target, Walmart, Best Buy or Fry’s Electronics.

How do you return a product to Apple online?

Here’s the steps you’ll need to take:

Step 1: Find Your Order

When you visit Apple.com, you must first scroll down to the very bottom of the page to find “Sales and Refunds” with Apple’s privacy policy and other information.

You are then taken to an “Order Status” page, where you are asked to log-in using your Apple ID and associated password.

As you can see, Apple can find your order via your account or via your order number, which is delivered upon placing the order through their site. This is a plus, but it is also the first of many steps.

Step 2: Start Your Return

Once you’ve located the necessary information, you’ll be taken to a screen where you can begin your return. Choose from one of two options, “Standard Return” or “Gift Return,” to begin processing your online product return at Apple.

Step 3: Print Your Return Label

If you have multiple items you’d like to return and hope to do it in one fell swoop, you’re out of luck. Each item requires its own shipping label and its own box. Hopefully you kept the original packaging because it is recommended for returning computers, but either way, you’ll have to supply the packaging.

The return shipping label is free, if you choose standard shipping, but expedited shipping comes with an added out-of-pocket fee. The difference between the two, you might be wondering, is that with expedited shipping, your return will be processed faster, resulting in either a credit being issued to your Apple ID or your money being refunded faster.

Still — expect some time, namely the amount of time it takes for Apple to receive your return, to see any sort of reversal of charges, and that’s bearing on the fact that your return is accepted and processed, as opposed to be rejected for one of the aforementioned reasons. Once accepted, refunds are issued immediately.

According to Apple:

There are a few important things to keep in mind when returning a product you purchased online from Apple:

  • You have 14 calendar days to return an item from the date you received it.
  • Only items that have been purchased directly from Apple, either online or at an Apple Retail Store, can be returned to Apple.

If you’re worried about being outside of this return window, ensuring that your return is postmarked by the return date is all you’ll need as proof you followed the rules.

Step 4: Ship the Return Back

You can choose between either FedEx or UPS as your carrier when returning an Apple product. When making an online return, you pick from traveling to the carrier’s location closest you or scheduling a courier to pick up your return from you. The latter is certainly more convenient for shoppers whose schedules match postal workers’ hours.

You can also head to the nearest Pack-and-Ship location that offers these carrier services to get your return back on its way to Apple, too. Either way, the package will need to be scheduled and picked up from your home or office or dropped off at a shipping services location.

Step 5: Pay the Restocking Fee

55% of customers don’t want restocking fees, but that might be part of the deal when returning an Apple product online. Different regions (such as Singapore) have different rules, but you could be subjected to a 25% open box fee on iPhones and iPads if you want to return them.

In most cases, however, Apple will honor your return, provided you send the package back in the allotted window of time, and provided that you’ve followed their return instructions and your product is eligible.

As Forbes points out: Apple has a very pro-consumer return policy, which gives you 14-days to return your Mac for any reason – or for no reason (albeit there are some restrictions). Moreover, Apple no longer assesses a restocking fee on returns. So if you find yourself unhappy with your new Mac, don’t hesitate to return it for a full refund. If you find yourself with a Mac that’s defective from the start and you’re still within Apple’s 14-day return period, take it in and ask for a complete replacement.

Apple Should Toss #RottenReturns

If we’re being honest, this isn’t the worst returns policy out there, but Apple should be held to a higher standard for its sheer size and volume. And as of right now, their returns policy favors those who will trek to a brick and mortar location. Consumers shop online for the convenience, but over 80% of them desire a hassle-free returns experience.

Does this mean Apple is losing any customers, perhaps consumers located in rural areas? It’s not the craziest theory.

Apple panders to its customer base in just about every way—now it’s time for the tech behemoth take reexamine their online product return policy. Why?

Here’s why:

About 66% of the time, consumers return a product that was ordered online due to the fault of the online retailer.

How does that break down?

  • 22% of the time its due to a defective product.
  • 22% of the time it’s due to the wrong product being shipped.
  • 22% of the time, it’s due to the product be significantly different than advertised.

What’s more, most consumers want a fast and streamlined way to make a return. This is where Apple can borrow a page from its trillion-dollar tech cousin, Amazon, in revamping its returns.

Amazon’s return policy for electronics is simple: As long as you bought it, you can return it in 30-days.

Provided you have not damaged the product, you can send that computer or smartphone back in just a few clicks. All you need to do is login to your Amazon account, click a few buttons and print a return label.

You don’t need to be home or drop your package off at a carrier, either. Instead, you can find the nearest Amazon Locker, one that is likely in convenient proximity of your daily commute, and simply drop the package off. In some cases, you can drop it off at a Whole Foods (owned by Amazon) or the nearest Kohl’s for added convenience.

Once that return label has been scanned and received, you get an immediate refund. In days, not weeks, with no questions asked.

In truth, we can all borrow a page from Amazon’s return policy. And while Apple certainly isn’t hurting for cash, it’s hard to ignore these hard facts about easy returns and profits: A Science Daily report finds that offering hassle-free returns can improve profits by as much as 25% following just six months of implementation.

So there’s the hard data for you, Apple: Easy returns could make your company worth $1.25 trillion in just six months, giving you the edge on Amazon and dethroning them from being ranked as the world’s most valuable tech company.

But hey, who’s counting? Actually, your consumers are… and so are your rivals.

In parting, it’s not just Apple that has a crummy return policy, if you’ve ever lovingly strapped on a pair of Doc Martens, find out why they need to Give The Boot to Bad Returns, too.

Ready to Transform Your Return Policy?

Take a look at this detailed infographic we’ve created. It delivers seven helpful steps you can take right now to make your return policy shopper-friendly.

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