Walmart passes gift receipt return test

PORTLAND, Ore. - A KATU Problem Solver undercover investigation last month revealed customers were not getting all their money back when they returned merchandise with a gift receipt at Walmart. A new Problem Solver test finds the company may have corrected the problem.

A gift receipt is supposed to get customers the full purchase price back on a return even if the item has since gone on sale. But the Problem Solvers discovered Walmart had some employee training issues that resulted in customers being shorted.

It happened at the Walmart in Cornelius. In November and with gift receipt in hand, the Problem Solvers returned Halloween merchandise they knew would go on sale after the holiday. They spent $92.69 but only walked away with $79.21. Walmart kept $13.48.

It happened in Sacramento, too. A news crew there made three returns to Walmart around Valentine's Day, Saint Patrick's Day and Easter, again buying items they knew would be marked down. Even though they had gift receipts, they were only refunded the sale prices, Walmart pocketing a total of $24.83.

In the summer, Walmart again shorted the Sacramento crew $4.87 on a pair of shorts that had since gone on sale.

Walmart chalked up the incidents to employee error. Ashley Hardie, a Walmart spokeswoman said, "We are reviewing that process to look for ways to make it more efficient and reliable for our customers."

So the KATU Problem Solvers returned to Walmart just before Thanksgiving to see if changes had been made.

At one Walmart, the clerk told the Problem Solvers' undercover customer they'd just been retrained on the returns system. At both Walmarts the Problem Solvers visited, they were given back the correct amounts.

On Tuesday, the Problem Solvers made Christmas returns to three more Walmarts, including the Cornelius store from their very first visit.

While employees in each case seemed a bit unfamiliar with the gift receipt return process, the Problem Solvers were refunded all their money.

On a suggestion from a KATU viewer, the Problem Solvers also tested the Kmart store on Northeast Sandy on Tuesday. And there, too, they were given the correct refund using a gift receipt. Fred Meyer and Target passed the Problem Solvers' previous test as well.

The Federal Trade Commission may be looking into Walmart's past returns. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., renewed her request for an FTC investigation after KATU's story in November.

But the FTC doesn't comment on any investigations, so it is unclear to what extent it is looking into the issue.