17 American companies that offer great guarantees

By Features Consumer Reports

What separates a good company from a great one? Often, it’s the way it treats its customers and its willingness to go the extra mile to keep them content. At a time of shorter and stingier product warranties and stricter return policies, we identified several dozen companies that bucked the trend. And they put their pledges in writing, without loopholes or fine print.

Continue Reading Below

Why are some companies reluctant to offer unconditional satisfaction guarantees? “A policy like this absolutely depends on ethical customers,” the customer service consultant and author Micah Solomon said. “When my daughter outgrew her ice skates, we didn't return them to L.L. Bean because it would have been wrong. Now, certainly, some customers aren't ethical, and many customers aren't ethical once in a while.  But these companies have determined that it is a worthwhile policy to keep their good customers comfortable with their brands. And as long as they mostly have good customers, it works for them.”

Here’s our list, and the pledge.

Unconditional returns

Lands’ End. From sheets to slacks, if you're dissatisfied with any item, simply return it to us at any time for an exchange or refund of its purchase price. We mean every word of it. Whatever. Whenever. Always. But to make sure this is perfectly clear, we've decided to simplify it further: Guaranteed. Period.”

L.L. Bean. The outdoorsy clothier says: “Our products are guaranteed to give 100% satisfaction in every way. Return anything purchased from us at any time if it proves otherwise.”

Continue Reading Below

Orvis. Like Bean and Lands’ End, Orvis says: “We will refund your money on any purchase that isn’t 100% satisfactory. Anytime, for any reason. It’s that simple.

Eddie Bauer. "Every item we sell will give you complete satisfaction or you may return it for a full refund.”

Costco. The warehouse club, which has one of the most liberal return policies of any mass merchant, says: “100% satisfaction guaranteed. We guarantee your satisfaction on every product we sell with a full refund. We will refund your membership fee ($55) in full at any time if you are dissatisfied.”

Oxo. The innovative housewares designer backs everything it makes with a refund or replace satisfaction guarantee.

Craftsman. Sears' venerable hand-tool line comes with a full warranty that states: “If this hand tool ever fails to provide complete satisfaction, it will be repaired or replaced free of charge."

Sweetness guarantee

Sam’s Club. Walmart’s warehouse membership club has a novel guarantee on its perishables—fresh meat, produce, and baked goods.  If you don’t love the food, the chain will give you double your money back or exchange the product and still refund the purchase price.

Safeway. The supermarket chain also stands behind the flavor of its produce, guaranteeing that the peaches are sweet and the apples crisp, with a money-back guarantee.

Shipping’s on us

Nordstrom. “Free shipping, free returns. All the time.” No minimum purchase required.

Zappos. Free shipping on all domestic orders and free prepaid returns.

You can't lose if you don't snooze

Hampton Inn, Garden Inn, Embassy Suites. These Hilton family brands “promise to do whatever it takes to ensure you’re satisfied, or you don’t pay,” the Garden Inn says. “Guests will receive high-quality accommodations, clean, comfortable surroundings, and friendly, efficient service,” according to Embassy Suites. “If guests aren’t completely satisfied, they are not expected to pay for the night," Hampton Inn says, “Our 100% Hampton Guarantee is boldly etched on our front desk so that it is constantly visible to our employees and our guests.”

Try before you buy

Red Wing Shoes. Returning footwear can be a problem because most companies require the shoes to be unworn or in like-new condition. Red Wing gives customers 30 days to break in a pair and return them for “whatever reason, no questions asked” for refund or exchange if accompanied by a receipt.

Bonus refund

Dawn dishwashing liquid. Money-back refunds are one thing but Dawn, manufactured by Procter & Gamble, says if you’re unhappy with the cleaner’s grease-fighting power, the company will give you two times what you paid for it.

Hannaford, Giant Eagle, and Bi-Lo supermarkets. These grocery chains are so confident in the quality of their store brand products that they offer customers twice their money back if they fail to meet expectations.

—Tod Marks

Copyright © 2005-2014 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission. Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this site.