Moving into a New Studio Space
Deciding your Return Policies for Retail Purchase

What is a "Return Policy"?

Return-Policy-Sign_harriete-estel-berman900 copyDear ASK Harriete,
What is your return policy and how did you come to it?
Concerned about Returns. 

Dear Concerned about Returns,

The subject of Return Policies is a great question and a huge topic. To break this down into manageable portions, I am going to make several entries in this blog on the topic over the next few days. There are many situations in which an artist may need a Return Policy including retail purchase, online retail selling,  open studio situations, craft shows, and wholesale accounts. Flexible Return Policies by large stores have led the consumers to assume that all retailers are equally flexible but for the small retailer, such as an artist, offering complete credit for Returns can be problematic.Lifesavers72_2

Personally, I never even thought about the concept of Return Policies until relatively recently since I only sold work through galleries.  In those situations, the Return Policy is determined by the gallery and represents the relationship the gallery has with the client.  It is rarely an issue discussed between the artist and the gallery.

With my recent adventures into retail selling on a number of online sites I started thinking about Return Policies, too. Almondkisses72_3

Your first consideration should be to look at your state law about Return Policies. Thank goodness for the internet. Tonight I just typed in  - Return Policy in California -  and the results for this search were easily found. Here is the link in case you live in California.

Return-Policy-Sign_harriete-estel-berman900 copyI have included some of this information on Return Policies below. Look online for the law on Return Policies in whatever state or country you live in. The most important premise of a Return Policy is that it is clear and available to the consumer at (or before) the point of purchase.  You can have ANY Return Policy you want as long as the customer knows what your Return Policy is before they buy.

The most challenging issue about developing your own Return Policy is developing a policy that is considered reasonable by the client, encourages purchases, and is relatively easy for the artist to implement.

In future blogs, I am going to cover additional information about Return Policies including:



Most retail sellers allow a customer to return purchased merchandise within a reasonable time for a full refund or credit, or for an equal exchange. In fact, these refund policies are so common that customers have come to expect them when retail sellers do not post a notice to the contrary.

However, some retail sellers impose conditions on accepting returned merchandise or do not accept returns at all. The California law requires retail sellers to post their refund policy if the policy does not meet certain common expectations. These common expectations are:

  • The retail seller gives a full cash or credit refund, and equal exchange, or some combination of these, and
  • The customer may return the merchandise for at least seven days following purchase if it is returned with proof of purchase.

When Return Policy Must Be Displayed

If a retail seller has a return policy that does not meet these common expectations, the seller must conspicuously display its refund policy as described in the next section. This conspicuous display requirement applies to any retail seller which sells goods to the public in this state whose return policy as to any of those goods does not meet these common expectations.


This post was updated on Janurary 9, 2022