Two week exchange and return policy is too short

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from  Kansas City, MO
| October 3, 2013

So, you just came home with your brand spanking new smartphone. You're excited and ready to roll with your new device. The rep at the store tells you that you have 14 days to return your device or do a one time exchange, but in the back of your head you've already been so certain that this was the device for you that you don't even consider returning or exchanging an option. This device is perfect in every way, and nothing will ever change your mind. In a lot of cases, this is true. You get a new phone and that's it, nothing more comes of it. You spend the next two years of your life happily together. The end.

But it's not always so simple.

I've pretty much always been fortunate in the fact that whatever phone I got worked just fine, even well after the initial trial period, which is usually about 14 days for most carriers. Two weeks to figure out whether this is really the device you want to have and to hold for the next two years or so. It's a big commitment, which is why I think that 14 days isn't enough for people to be absolutely sure that whatever phone they initialy chose is the one phone to rule them all.

I had left Sprint initially sometime back in 2010 to go explore what other carriers had to offer, but signal issues eventually led me back to Sprint. By the time I came back to Sprint, their return and exchange policy had changed. Instead of the normal two week return and exchange policy, Sprint had extended the amount of time you could return or do an exchange to 30 days. All of the same rules still applied: if the device was damaged (due to user error) you couldn't return or exchange it, and you could only exchange it once within the 30-day period. Nothing had changed other than Sprint was just nice enough at the time to extend that window, which was nice considering I had been having signal issues with companies in my new apartment at the time. It actually ended up being beneficial to me to have had that because about three weeks in I was having a lot of issues with the phone I had initially decided to go with. With a 14-day window, I would have been SOL or out a lot of money for an early termination fee.

And what's more is that I didn't feel so pressured to vigorously test out every feature I thought I would use to see how my phone could handle it. I don't know what it is, because on paper 14 days seems like a long time. But in reality, it flies by rather quickly and when the 14th day passes I still end up questioning whether I was able to test out everything important in order to ensure it was to my liking. After 30 days I feel a bit more settled in with my device and more confident that this was the right decision. If I'm happy with it after a month, then I can take it from there.

Since then, however, Sprint reverted back to the 14-day return policy, which was a shame because the 30-day thing seemed to be working out pretty well for them from a competitive standpoint. From a search on the subject, it also seemed as if Verizon and AT&T went through similar changes and reverts (14-day exchange, then 30-day exchange, then back to 14-day).

It seems like a petty thing to talk about, but the more I thought about the more I wondered why phones, which can get pretty expensive now-a-days even when they've been subsidized, are different than other electronics. Most electronics that I've purchased have some sort of 30-day return policy, but not phones. And obviously, since most major carriers in the U.S. have already given the option to exchange within 30-days as oppose to 14 it is entirely possible, they just don't want to do it. Companies who are confident in their products and services give more leeway when it comes to returns or cancellations. What does that say about our carriers?

Readers, what are your thoughts on the 14-day return and exchange policy? Did you prefer it when it was 30-days, or did you not notice a difference either way? Let us know your opinion in the comments!

Image via Android Police