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Shoppers up in arms over Woolworths’ ongoing Covid policy

Brooke Rolfe
·News Reporter
·3-min read

Customers are up in arms over a “confusing” Woolworths policy still in place despite a dramatic decrease in coronavirus panic buying.

The supermarket stopped allowing customers to return items for a refund due to a change of mind to keep people from bringing back stock they over-purchased during the coronavirus pandemic.

Previously, shoppers would have been given a full refund or been able to exchange unused products, so long as they had evidence of their purchase.

Woolworths from September 1 however begun banning customers from receiving refunds on unwanted items they brought back to the store.

The supermarket announced that until further notice it would “not provide a refund where you have simply changed your mind about products purchased from Woolworths”.

Instead, those with surplus supplies were encouraged to donate them to “those in need, in particular the elderly and most vulnerable”.

Photo shows Woolworths signs inside a store.
Woolworths' change of mind policy has raised questions among customers. Source: Getty Images

According to the retailer’s policies, exchanges will continue to be allowed for items that are returned by a customer who changed their mind about wanting them. They simply had to return it with a receipt within 30 days of it being bought, in its original packaging and condition, unused and within two days of expiring.

Woolworths in March stopped accepting “change of mind” returns on a list of products like toilet paper and paper towels due to coronavirus panic buying.

Now, some customers have claimed to experience issues with exchanging products they mistakenly purchased.

One shopper, from Melbourne, said she purchased a $4 air freshener, only to get home and realise her housemate had already bought one.

She returned hers to the store, hoping to exchange the air freshener for something different, but claimed in a post to the Woolworths Facebook page her request was denied.

Photo shows Woolworths carrying a basket of groceries.
Shoppers were left confused over the policy, introduced to combat panic buying. Source: Getty Images

“I was refused an exchange because apparently my reason of ‘my housemate already brought one’ falls into the category of ‘panic buying’ and did not qualify as a ‘change of mind’,” her post read.

“If people are truly panic buying, they’re not going to be attempting to return the item the next day. COVID’s not leaving our midst that fast.”

Another customer, based in Western Australia, said she tried returning an unopened knife but was told she couldn’t “get a credit or a refund until the ‘no return’ rule was lifted”.

While the current policy doesn’t allow for a refund to be offered, she should have been eligible to exchange the product for something else.

In a later comment to her post, the customer said she had since gone to a different Woolworths store and was refunded her money “quite happily”.

What can be refunded and exchanged

A Woolworths spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia customers should be allowed to exchange products they accidentally bought or changed their mind about.

“Following a change to our policy, change of mind refunds are not available on purchases made from 1 September 2020. This brings us in line with broader supermarket industry practice on change of mind refunds,” they said in a statement.

“Of course, we’ll happily refund or replace any products that are faulty or of poor quality. We still offer our customers the option to exchange products when they’ve had a change of mind or made a mistake, and we know this flexibility is important to them.”

Coles suspended its change-of-mind refund policy on March 13 to discourage “over-purchasing” spurred by panic buying amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The supermarket encouraged customers with items they no longer wanted to donate them to community organisations or struggling neighbours.

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