Consumer Alert: Read this before you shop for Christmas! These are retailers with the best and worst return policies.

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — We’ve been telling you how important it is this year to start your Christmas shopping now. But before you buy, you need to take a look at their return policies.

My recent experience with a company called Light in the Box is clear evidence of that. I recently made a silly impulse buy. Light in the box pops up often on my computer because, like you, I’m being tracked by Google while browsing using its Chrome browser.

The dress I ordered looked beautiful and elegant on the website.

But the dress that arrived on my porch was so poorly constructed I laughed out loud when I pulled it out of the package. It’s made out of thin, cheap polyester that puckered badly at along every seam. To really get the sense of how cheaply made this dress is, you need to click on the video.

It was an impulse buy, a mistake I tell consumers not to make. When I researched the return policies I was stunned. If you can’t prove the item was damaged, you have only seven days to begin the process.

And you have to pay for the shipping back to China. Yep, that’s right. In print so small you practically need a microscope to decifer it, I found the company address on the page outlining the terms of use.

And yes, to return I’d have to shell out no less than $16 to mail a package to China by USPS.

So I did exactly what I’ve advised you to do. First I submitted my claim. And when they offered me only a partial refund, I made my case publicly on a consumer site I knew the company monitored. In the end, they gave me my money back and told me to keep the dress. Perhaps I’ll wear it as a nightgown. I certainly wouldn’t wear it out in public.

I tell you this story to share how valuable this research is that was done by U.S. News and World Report. Their journalists researched the return policies of scores of retailers and made lists of the best and the worst of the bunch.

Here are their picks for the retailers with the best return policies

  • Costco
  • Nordstrom
  • L.L. Bean
  • Zappos
  • Target
  • M.S. Rau

These all landed on the top six list because they have a lengthy return window, often can look up your item without a receipt, and have few exceptions to the return policy.

According to Us News and World Report, these retailers have the worst return policies.

  • Apple
  • Barnes and Noble
  • Best Buy
  • Office Depot/OfficeMax
  • Amazon
  • Resale sites

They landed on the list because either the store has a short return window, or it has a 30-day window with lots of exceptions. That’s the case with Amazon that has a lot of third party sellers with differing policies. For a complete explanation of each retailer’s policies click here.

The FDA’s warning concerning Artnaturals Hand Sanitizer

Now to follow up on the FDA warning about Artnaturals hand sanitizer. Wednesday I told you the FDA said it found cancer-causing chemicals in the product. But my research revealed that Walmart and Amazon were still selling it at the end of the business day on Wednesday.

Walmart leaders wrote back immediately saying the retailer was investigating the matter. While the retailer didn’t answer my follow-up question, it had taken Artnaturals products off the website by the next day. Amazon leaders assured me the company would remove the sanitizer, but it was still on their site at the end of the business day on Thursday.