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Hawaii News

Stores discourage hurricane returns

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Jodi Nishida and Sam Delovio of Kaimuki buy plywood at City Mill on Waialae Avenue. City Mill got modest returns, possibly because of the chance of other storms.

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A Don Quijote employee Monday stood at a return policy sign to greet customers and answer their questions.

Some retailers took pre-emptive measures to avoid a flood of returns following the rush to buy water and other hurricane-related supplies as Hurricane Lane approached the islands.

Stores, including big-box giants Costco and Sam’s Club, ran out of water and other items last week as customers prepared their hurricane kits ahead of the storm.

Now some retailers are deterring certain returns.

City Mill Ltd. is not taking back bottled water, lumber that had been cut or generators that were full of gas.

“You don’t know if someone’s opened it, if that cap is really on and sealed. Grocery stores are not taking it back,” City Mill Vice President Carol Ai May said of the dozens of cases of bottled water the company sold last week. “That’s a safety issue as well.”

City Mill did get some returns, but “not a crazy amount because people know there are two more hurricanes coming our way,” Ai May said, adding that the company more than doubled sales Aug. 21 and Wednesday compared with a typical day.

“Our goal was not so much to make money, but to provide the supplies that people needed,” she said. The store ran out of tarps, rope, butane, stoves, plywood, flashlights, lanterns, batteries, buckets, coolers, propane and tape. “We were actually rushing in our vendors.”

Don Quijote posted its return policy early on last week: “All sales final on water, batteries, butane gas. No refunds or credit will be given.”

“There’s always the concern with taking products of that type back because you don’t know if it was tampered with,” said Liza Garcia-Mitchell, Don Quijote’s advertising manager. “Our policy was put up during this period in hopes that people would not hoard. During this period getting replenishment would be difficult. We just want to make sure people didn’t over-purchase. For this particular (policy) with butane and batteries, that was due to the situation.”

“Foodland has not seen an unusual amount of returns yet at its stores, but its policy allows customers to return products that they are not satisfied with for a full refund (with receipt) or merchandise credit (no receipt),” said spokeswoman Sheryl Toda.

At Costco some members were taking advantage of the liberal return policy following the storm, an employee said. The policy allows members to return just about anything at any time for a full refund. Electronics have a stricter return policy.

“We got, like, the best return policy here,” the employee said.

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