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The Jewish Ethicist: Money-Back Guarantee

The Jewish Ethicist: Money-Back Guarantee

I'm no longer "completely satisfied" with the now-frayed sweater I purchased two years ago. Can I return it?


Q. A mail order clothing company promises: "If you are not completely satisfied with any item you buy from us, at any time during your use of it, return it and we will refund your full purchase price." Can I return items that are no longer wearable because of normal conditions such as stains and fraying? KS, USA

A. Under Jewish law, every seller provides an unlimited money-back guarantee! Any object with a significant deficiency that was hidden from the purchaser can be returned whenever the deficiency is revealed – even after a period of years. The reason is that the entire sale is void, since the purchaser never intended to buy a defective item.

However, as soon as the defect is discovered, and the customer learns that the purchase was in error, he must stop using the object. Since he has decided the sale is void, the item doesn't belong to him! Using the item after the defect is discovered, or could easily have been discovered, implies that the purchaser doesn't mind this particular deficiency.

The mail-order seller you mention goes beyond the letter of the law. The company doesn't merely promise that the merchandise is free of defects; it guarantees that you will be completely satisfied with it. This means that if you discover something that you really don't like about the garment, even after a long time, you can still return it. For instance, if you bought a coat because you mistakenly thought it was waterproof but you don't get stuck in the rain with it until months later, you could still return it to this company.

However, a person doesn't regret buying a garment just because it eventually wears out! Therefore, you may not return something that is "not wearable because of normal conditions".

Even if there is a genuine source of dissatisfaction, you shouldn't use the garment after you decide to return it.

SOURCE: Shulchan Arukh Choshen Mishpat 332:3 and commentaries.

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The Jewish Ethicist presents some general principles of Jewish law. For specific questions and direct application, please consult a qualified Rabbi.

The Jewish Ethicist is a joint project of and the Center for Business Ethics, Jerusalem College of Technology. To find out more about business ethics and Jewish values for the workplace, visit the JCT Center for Business Ethics website at

JCT Center For Business Ethics

Copyright © JCT Center for Business Ethics.

July 14, 2001

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Visitor Comments: 3

(3) TALIA G, July 19, 2001 12:00 AM

everyone does it!

The sad truth about society (at least American) is that many people are returning items after years of use and saying they don't like them. I used to work as a customer service manager for a large depatment store. I had someone exchange a frying pan after using it for a year because it wobbled when she sat it on the counter! (she still had the reciept to prove she had it a full year!!) Samething with the smoky smelling shower curtain we took back. According to Jewish law this isn't permitted, but the stores are to blame for this because they have an open "return anything" policy. We took the frying pan and shower curtain for a full credit exchange- and with a smile on our faces!!

(2) Ellen Rosen, July 16, 2001 12:00 AM

What incredible gall!!

I'm speechless. I had to re-read the question to believe my eyes. What ethical vacuum does this person live in to grossly distort the meaning of "satisfaction guaranteed" and to try to take advantage of a company's good faith policy? I commend Rabbi Meir's restrained answer in not passing judgment on the nature of the question. I think this inquirer has too much time on his hands to be sitting around dreaming up schemes such as this. What's next? Filing an insurance claim for an item not really stolen? Returning an item bought on sale and trying to get a refund for the full price? Hey buddy, here's a guideline if you want to know the answer to your dilemma: what would happen if everyone did what I'm doing?

(1) Anonymous, July 16, 2001 12:00 AM

After 2 years return a garment

I tremble in fear from the retribution both of G-d and Man for the letter which results in descrecation of G-d's Name. How could a Jew even think of doing something like that? What would we think of anyone acting like that; what should we think of a jew, with the spiritual elevation that name--JEW--should imply, doing so? If the company rep saw such a complaint with a request for full refund, from someone with an obvious jewish name that would be Chilchul Hashem - a desecration of G-d's name - of the greatest magnitude. Your response to her should have been much stronger

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